Cannabis users are likely already familiar with cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two of the most widely publicized and well-studied cannabinoids (the medicinal compounds found only in cannabis).
What often unfortunately goes overlooked, though, is that the cannabis plant contains in excess of 100 naturally-occurring cannabinoid compounds — each of them unique to the species and each potentially carrying its own special health applications.
Much attention has been rightly paid to the various health benefits of CBD and, of course, to the euphoria-inducing activities of THC (the cannabinoid that produces the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use).
In 2020, an underappreciated cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG) has emerged onto the cannabis scene, spurring much interest among medical researchers, cannabis cultivators, patients, and enthusiasts for its potential as a breakthrough therapeutic offering an array of positive health benefits that we will explore later in this article.
After covering how CBG-rich cannabis strains are produced and the relevant health benefits that they offer, we’ll run down the top CBG strains of 2020 on offer to consumers.
How Is CBG Produced?
Researchers documented CBG in the early 1960s, but due to a number of factors that we will explore later, further scientific scrutiny remained unpaid to the cannabinoid until very recently.
In standard cannabis plants typically produced for medicinal purposes, the CBG content is relatively low compared to the other cannabinoids that are more sought after. Wild strains of cannabis are generally low in CBG as well.
Cannabis cultivation, and the science that informs the practice, has advanced markedly in recent years. Prior to the “cannabis revolution” of the last twenty years, nearly all hemp plants contained the default ratios of cannabinoids found in the wild – which, again, are lacking in any significant CBG content.
However, due to the growing public interest in CBG, cultivators now specifically breed their plants to yield ever-larger quantities of CBG.
CBG-rich cannabis breeds are evolved in a manner similar to CBD-rich strains and others – namely, through the careful cultivation of desirable strains that produce large quantities of the compound.
CBG Is More Prevalent in Younger Cannabis Plants
There are two primary ways to produce cannabis that yields higher percentages of CBG. They are:
- Identifying and breeding strains that naturally contain more favorable ratios of CBG to other cannabinoids.
- Harvesting cannabis crops earlier in the process than usual.
The second method — harvesting when the cannabis plant is younger — yields higher quantities of CBG because this particular cannabinoid exists in greater ratios in less-developed plants. As the plants mature, CBG levels decline while the amounts of various other cannabinoids rise.
The fascinating botanical reason for the decline in CBG levels throughout the lifespan of the cannabis plan is that CBG acts as a precursor molecule for the other, better-studied cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
CBG as the “Mother of All Cannabinoids”
Many researchers have colloquially described CBG as a “mother” to other cannabinoids because it is closely involved in the synthesis of these compounds, including CBD and THC, as the plant matures.
Alternately, CBG has been described as a “stem cell” for other cannabinoids.
Regardless of the terminology used, it’s critical to understand CBG’s functional role as a precursor molecule for all other cannabinoids; each of the known cannabinoids, THC and CBD included, are formed from the molecular building blocks supplied by CBG.
Over the lifespan of a cannabis plant, CBG is converted primarily to three cannabinoids:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
CBG-Producing Cannabis Must Be Harvested Early
Due to the conversion of CBG into other cannabinoids described above, cultivators seeking to maximize CBG yield must harvest their crops earlier in their development than they otherwise would when growing crops designed to yield THC or CBD.
Typically, to maximize CBG content, growers must harvest 6 weeks into a standard 8-week flowering cycle in order to maximize the cannabinoid content in the CBG flower.
What Are the Health Benefits of CBG?
The primary reason for the intense interesting surrounding CBG is the compound’s potential medical benefits, both documented and theoretical.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System and CBG
To appreciate the healing potential of CBG, it’s first necessary to explore the human endocannabinoid system and the critical role that it plays in health maintenance.
The types of cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant also occur naturally in the human body. These naturally-occurring cannabinoids are called “endocannabinoids” (“endo” is short for endogenous, meaning “from inside”).
The human endocannabinoid system is comprised of these endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes that break down the molecules.
The under-studied endocannabinoid system carries huge implications for promoting better health. Specifically, endocannabinoids are understood to play significant roles in the following human organs and systems:
- Mental health regulation (i.e., mitigating depression and anxiety).
- Appetite control.
- Pain suppression.
- Reproductive health maintenance.
- Pre-natal development of fetuses.
- Cardiovascular function.
- Immune system activity.
CBG Works on the Endocannabinoid System
Alongside the other cannabinoids sourced from cannabis, CBG exerts its various potential health effects via its interactions with the aforementioned endocannabinoid system.
According to Derek Du Chesne, a top officer at the pioneering cannabis research firm EcoGen Laboratories, “CBG works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Together, CB1 and CB2 receptors regulate neurohormones which actively affect physiological processes including mood, metabolism, pain response, and appetite.” (via Forbes)
CBG as a Neuroprotective Agent
Many people may have heard of the health-promoting properties of antioxidants (cannabinoid molecules functioning as such), but few understand why or how antioxidants promote health and increase lifespan.
Antioxidants help the body cope with oxidative stress (cellular-level damage caused by poor regulation of harmful reactive oxygen species) — a major driver of neurodegeneration.
Neurological deterioration is a major health concern as humans age, leading to a host of debilitating and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative illnesses such as:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dementia (various types).
- Huntington’s disease.
As such, reducing oxidative stress is a key factor in preventing or delaying the onset of the neurodegenerative disorders described above. One of the most promising therapeutic potentials for CBD is its role as a neuroprotective agent via its antioxidant activity in vivo (inside the body).
When co-administered in tandem with CBD, the evidence is now clear the CBG carries exceptional therapeutic value for improving the symptoms associated with age-related cognitive decline and for delaying the onset of various neurodegenerative conditions.
CBG to Improve Eye Function
Endocannabinoid receptors are highly concentrated in the eyes and their supporting tissues and structures.
Glaucoma is a relatively common eye condition in which the pressure in the eyes becomes abnormally elevated and, in turn, damages the nerve fibers that are critical for eyesight. Over time, glaucoma triggers blindness. In fact, glaucoma is a top cause of blindness for aging adults. CBG may successfully prevent and/or treat glaucoma by reducing the intraocular eye pressure that causes the symptoms associated with the condition.
CBG as an Anti-Inflammatory Therapeutic
CBG, in addition to several other well-studied cannabinoids, owes much of its health-promoting activity to its remarkable function as powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
Systemic, uncontrolled inflammation is nothing short of a public health epidemic. Researchers now understand that inflammation is closely linked to the development of virtually every known chronic disease, including:
- Neurodegenerative disorders.
- Metabolic disorders (diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.)
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Autoimmune disorders.
The importance of controlling inflammation, therefore, cannot be understated in terms of maintaining good health and warding off chronic illness.
CBG carries the potential to calm the inflammatory response, thereby mitigating the effects of (or altogether preventing the development of) numerous conditions caused or exacerbated by inflammation that we will explore below. Because both CBD and CBG are thought to play a major role in the reduction of inflammation throughout the body, a combination of both cannabinoids, such as in a 1:1 CBD/CBG tincture could be an incredible effective method of reducing said inflammation and steering the body in the direction of homeostasis.
CBG to Potentially Treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), in addition to other chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive system, is increasingly prevalent among Americans and other populations in the West and throughout the developing world due to poor diet, inactivity, and environmental toxins.
The severity of IBD ranges from mild to severe, at its worst seriously hindering quality of life in affected patients. The primary driver of IBD is unchecked inflammation of the intestines.
The common symptoms of IBD include:
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Bloody stools (in severe cases).
- Abdominal pain.
- Undesired weight loss.
In a study on mice, CBG showed great promise in alleviating the symptoms associated with IBD by tamping down inflammation in the intestines.
CBG as a Potential Anticarcinogen
Cancer is a leading killer in developed nations. The American Cancer Society predicts that, in 2020 alone, “1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States.”
The term “carcinogen” refers to any substance that is known or suspected to induce the growth of cancer cells in otherwise healthy tissues. Unfortunately, in the modern era of air pollution and artificial food additives, carcinogens are ubiquitous and nearly impossible to avoid.
“Anticarcinogens,” on the other hand, are substances known to prevent cancer.
CBG and other cannabinoids may fall into the latter category.
The studies on CBD’s anti-cancer properties are legion. Until recently, though, similar evidence of CBG’s anticarcinogenic potential was sparse. Now, emerging evidence indicates that CBG holds significant potential to prevent the development of cancer. In one mouse study, CBG demonstrated remarkable, clinically significant activity in preventing the growth of colorectal cancer cells.
CBG as a Proven Antibiotic
Clinicians since the mid-20th century have used cannabis formulations as antibiotic tools against pathogenic bacteria. Only recently, though, have the mechanisms behind the plant’s antibiotic therapeutic applications become better understood.
Whether applied topically (i.e., as a cream or lotion) or ingested orally, all of the major cannabinoids, including CBG, exert antibiotic effects.
Many of the most dangerous bacteria for humans have developed a concerning resistance to common antibiotic pharmaceuticals due to their overuse, causing leading public health officials to call for the development of alternative antibiotic remedies.
CBG represents one of those alternative treatment modalities.
CBG for Pain Management
Cannabinoids have been prized for their painkilling benefits for some time. However, most of the clinical attention in this department has been paid to CBD, frequently overlooking similar applications for other cannabinoids like CBG.
Cannabinoids owe their analgesic properties to their activity on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, the receptor sites of the endocannabinoid system that we discussed earlier.
While much of the pain management potential of cannabinoids focuses on the powerful effects of THC and CBD, researchers in the study cited above note that “CBG has more potent analgesic, anti-erythema and lipooxygenase blocking activity than THC, mechanisms that merit further investigation.”
If the preliminary research into CBG for pain management survives further scientific scrutiny, the cannabinoid may offer even more therapeutic usefulness to pain patients than any cannabis constituent yet discovered.
CBG to Treat Anxiety and Depression
In addition to potentially alleviating depression and anxiety by reducing neurological inflammation as we explored earlier, CBG also inhibits serotonin and GABA uptake in the brain, two important neurotransmitters that are closely linked to good mental health.
GABA is primarily responsible for inducing relaxation, so increasing the supply of GABA via the uptake inhibitory effects of CBG likely translate to reduced anxiety levels. The class of pharmaceutical drugs called benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.) alleviate anxiety by this mechanism – namely, increasing GABA activity in the brain.
Likewise, optimizing serotonin levels are critical for treating depression. Due to the proven correlation between serotonin levels and depression, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase serotonin activity, are the most commonly prescribed medications to treat this mental health condition.
Unfortunately, while both benzodiazepines and SSRIs work as intended for many patients, they also carry a significant risk of side effects and diminishing clinical returns, as well as addiction for many patients.
CBG enhances both GABA and SSRI naturally, without the host of detrimental side effects seen in the commonly utilized pharmaceutical drugs intended for the same purposes.
CBG Is Safe and Non-Psychoactive
One of the most attractive features of CBG is its appropriateness for most patients who take it.
In addition to having a favorable safety profile and being well-tolerated in the vast majority of those who utilize the compound, CBG also produces no psychoactive effects (i.e., it produces no “high”).
Furthermore, CBG presents no risk of a positive drug screening, so it’s safe for individuals who must submit to regular drug tests for work or other reasons.
The Top CBG Strains of 2020
As mentioned previously, the race is on to cultivate and bring to market the richest CBG strains possible to meet the growing demand for the cannabinoid.
Here are the most promising new strains that are currently available to cannabis users looking to try out a high-quality CBG product.
Mickey Kush, developed by Tcurtiss, is a hybrid of the renowned Jack the Ripper and Sweet Irish Kush strains.
It is notably high in THC (15-19%) but also contains an unusually high percentage of CBG. In addition, it offers a unique terpene profile heavy in caryophyllene, terpinolene, and limonene.
Magic Jordan, cultivated by Colorado Seed Inc., is another new strain that contains high quantities of CBG. According to reports, it is popular for cannabis users seeking to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, ostensibly due to its high CBG content.
Super-sour Allen Wrench, the child of NYC Diesel and legendary Trainwreck, is a star among sativa enthusiasts for its heady high and noteworthy stimulatory effects. Proponents of Allen Wrench as a “pick-me-up” highly recommend the strain.
Allen Wrench, along with the previous two strains mentioned here, offers a notably high CBG content. Users who enjoy Allen Wrench report its “uplifting” and “energizing” effects as the strain’s most attractive features, in addition to its distinctive aroma.
Destroyer, as the name implies, is not for the faint of heart. The strain is pure, 100% sativa. In addition to its high THC content, it also contains higher-than-average CBG levels.
A word of caution: Destroyer may be a bit too intense for the cannabis novice. Inexperienced cannabis users should consider developing a tolerance to sativa-heavy strains before giving Destroyer a try.
Jack Frost CBG
Jack Frost is an indoor-grown strain with an impressive 13.1% CBG content, making it one of the richest CBG strains available to consumers. The strain has a superior lineage worthy of the term “cannabis royalty,” having been bred from such infamous parent strains as White Widow and Northern Lights #5 over a painstaking 5-year breeding process by the respected cultivators at Goldenseed.
Berkshire CBG registers a respectable CBG rating at 10.14%. The strain contains high quantities of the extremely rare and powerfully medicinal terpene called guaiol, prized for its potent anti-inflammatory activity (a major chronic disease-fighting health benefit of CBG-rich strains that we discussed earlier).
The Berkshire strain also contains extremely low concentrations of THC (0.5%), rendering it ideal for users who want to avoid the “high” commonly associated with cannabis use.
The Final Word on Cannabigerol (CBG)
Modern science has just begun to grasp the many potential health benefits of CBG. Moving forward, we can expect research to shed further light on the many healing modalities of CBG and other cannabinoids yet to be fully exploited.
In addition to the strains described here, several other potent CBG strains are already in widescale cultivation, eventually destined for the booming cannabinoid market. As more cultivators begin to develop high-quality cannabis strains saturated with CBG and the relevant cultivation techniques become further refined, we will likely see them become more affordable and accessible to the average consumer.