When we think of cannabis and cannabinoids, it’s easy to get too focused on THC. After all, it’s arguably the most notable cannabinoid we feel affecting our body when we consume marijuana.
However, thanks to new research, investigators have found over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, each with their own unique effects. CBG, or cannabigerol, is just one of those cannabinoids, and is proving to have huge medical potential in treating everything from pain and nausea to Huntington’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
WHAT IS CANNABIGEROL?
Cannabigerol, commonly known as CBG, is a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. It is believed to be non-psychoactive as preliminary studies showed it didn’t produce intoxicating THC-like effects in mice and rats.
CBG was first discovered in 1964 as a constituent of hashish. It is formed out of cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, which is actually one of the first cannabinoids to form in the cannabis plant.
As a plant matures, enzymes in the plant convert CBGA into a wide variety of other acidic cannabinoids, including THCA, CBDA and CBCA. Then, by drying, curing, and heating, most of those cannabinoids evolve into non-acidic versions like THC, CBD, and CBC.
CBG is believed to be a mild antagonist of the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. This means that it may inhibit the effects of CB1 agonists, most notably THC, and therefore interfere with the effects of other cannabinoids. CBG is believed to interact with CB2 receptors, but it isn’t entirely clear whether it exerts agonistic or antagonistic effects on this class of receptor.
THE MEDICAL POTENTIAL OF CBG
Research into the medicinal qualities of cannabis are still in their infancy. However, a decent amount of research has been done on CBG over the past years, suggesting this cannabinoid has a wide variety of medicinal benefits.
CBG AND CANCER
CBG is showing immense potential for the treatment of a wide variety of cancers.
A 2014 study by a variety of researchers from Italy showed that CBG interacts with specific targets involved in carcinogenesis, effectively inhibiting the growth of colon cancer.
The researchers studied the growth of cancer cells using an in vivo model with mice with colon cancer. By closely monitoring the growth of cancer cells in mice undergoing a CBG treatment, the researchers found that CBG was able to inhibit the growth of tumours. It does this by working as an antagonist of a specific gene (known as TRPM8) and activating a variety of others (including TRPA1, TRPV1 and TRPV2).
Another study, published in 1996, found CBG had similar effects on melanoma. It found that CBG significantly reduced the growth of melanoma cells in mouse skin. Another study by the same authors conducted in 1998 compared CBG’s anti-cancer effects to a variety of other substances, including geraniol, olivetol, and more. The study found that CBG exhibited the highest growth-inhibitory activity against the cancer cells among all the substances studied.
Finally, a 2011 paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology exploring the medicinal qualities of cannabinoids other than THC goes into great detail about the anti-cancer properties of CBG, citing multiple references that have found the cannabinoid to inhibit tumor formation and growth in breast, prostate, and other cancers.
CBG AS A NEUROPROTECTANT
In 2015, researchers from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, found CBG to have unique neuroprotective properties. The researchers used 2 different in vivo models of Huntington’s Disease in mice which is characterized by a progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
The study found that CBG was very active as a neuroprotectant, improving motor deficits while also preserving neurons. The study also showed that CBG was able to positively influence the expression of some genes linked to Huntington’s disease.
The study, conducted by researchers at Vivacell Biotechnology España, found that cannabigerol was a potent antiinflammatory agent and neuroprotectant. Using an in vivo model, the researchers found that CBG helped mediate the symptoms of MS while also modulating the expression of key genes involved in the disease.
Both studies conclude that CBG shows great promise, both on it’s own or in combination with other cannabinoids/treatments, in helping in the development of drugs and treatment methods both for Huntington’s and multiple sclerosis.
CBG AND PAIN RELIEF
CBG, like other cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, shows promise in helping relieve neuropathic pain.
A 2011 patent by Otsuka Pharmaceutical and GW Pharma claims that cannabigerol as well as other cannabinoids (such as CBC, CBDV, and THCV) help alleviate the symptoms of neuropathic pain induced in mice. Research by the two pharmaceutical giants shows that CBG helped mice recover from pain caused by surgically induced nerve damage.
Since neuropathic pain is generally refractory to treatment with opiates and other drugs, this is a huge step forward in the treatment of this kind of pain. It is also important to note that the research mentioned above found that CBG was most effective at relieving neuropathic pain in the test mice at low doses.
OTHER MEDICAL BENEFITS OF CBG
Apart from the studies mentioned above, there is a lot more evidence alluding to the medicinal benefits of CBG.
A 2009 study, for example, found that CBG reduced intraocular pressure in cats with glaucoma. Rat-based studies also suggest that CBG may help to treat nausea and vomiting, although this research has not been replicated in humans yet. Finally, CBG has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that may help to manage and treat inflammatory bowel disease.
WHERE TO FIND CBG?
Unfortunately, most cannabis is harvested for THC or CBD. This means that it is actually harvested quite late in its flowering cycle and subsequently contains low concentrations of CBG. Most cannabis on the market today contains only about 1% if this cannabinoid.
Research on cannabinoid variations in cannabis suggests that Indian landrace strains may contain higher concentrations of CBG than other varieties. Growers are also recommended to harvest their plants about three-quarters of the way through the flowering cycle for higher CBG content.
In 2013, researchers from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, analysed the cannabinoid content of Bediol, a medicinal strain from Bedrocan BV in The Netherlands. The researchers flowered the strain for a total of 8 weeks and analysed the cannabinoids in the plants every week. CBG content was highest during week 6.
CBG: A NEW MEDICAL POWERHOUSE?
It is quite obvious that cannabigerol has demonstrated huge medical potential. The fact that is a non-psychoactive compound is especially promising, seeing as many people might be put off by the intoxicating effects of THC and other psychotropic cannabinoids.
However, it’s important to remember that this scientific research has it’s limitations. And while this article compiles a wide variety of research about CBG and it’s medical benefits, we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to understanding this powerful cannabinoid.