Know Your Medicine: CBG and CBGA

Experts report that there are at least 106 phytocannabinoids found in the trichomes of the cannabis flower. Most research has focused on the two most prominent “primary” cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). However, many of the so-called “secondary” cannabinoids are responsible for adding to the therapeutic effects of cannabis as part of the entourage effect, the term used to describe how the many cannabinoid and terpenoid compounds in cannabis work synergistically to deliver beneficial effects.

Cannabinoid Biosynthesis Part 1 – CBG, THC, CBD, and CBC

Cannabinoid Biosynthesis Part 1 – CBG, THC, CBD, and CBC

Cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) are two of the many secondary phytocannabinoids found in the flower of the cannabis plant. The “A” in CBGA refers to the presence of a certain chemical structure called carboxylic acid.  CBG was initially isolated from hash by Israeli researchers in 1964, with subsequent research in Japan elucidating that CBGA was its precursor. CBG is one of the five most common cannabinoids along with THC, CBD, CBN (cannabinol) and CBC (cannabichromene). CBGA plays an extremely important role as the parent compound in the maturing cannabis flower and undergoes a number of changes to create THC, CBD, CBC, and CBG. This process, called biosynthesis, starts when compounds in the maturing flower, geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid, bond together to create CBGA. Next, CBGA is exposed to three different enzymes, with the amount of each enzyme determined by the genetics of the plant.

  • The enzyme THCA synthase converts CBGA to THCA
  • The enzyme CBDA synthase converts CBGA to CBDA
  • The enzyme CBCA synthase converts CBGA to CBCA

As you can see in the chart below, all of the “A” forms are converted in a process called decarboxylation. CBGA itself converts to CBG when heated.  

know-your-medicine-cbga-conversion

There is scant research on the medicinal benefits of CBGA. In the plant, CBGA provides a defense mechanism, along with THCA, as an insecticidal agent. When released from the trichomes of the cannabis plant, CBGA, THCA, CBCA and CBDA can each produce plant cell necrosis which allows for natural fan leaf pruning. This allows for the plant to direct its energy away from the leaves to the flower.

Medicinal Properties of CBG

CBG is non-intoxicating and has the following medicinal properties, demonstrated in laboratory and animal studies:

  • Antifungal
  • Antibacterial with potent inhibition of MRSA
  • Anticancer (skin, prostate, and breast)
  • Antidepressant in animal models
  • Mild antihypertensive (lowers blood pressure)
  • Inhibits growth of certain skin cells that contribute to psoriasis
  • Blocks uptake of GABA, promoting muscle relaxation
  • Lowers intraocular eye pressure
  • Enhanced appetite
  • Neuroprotection

CBG is present in small amounts in the vast majority of drug-variety cannabis plants. However, it is more abundant in fiber variety plants (aka “hemp”). Recent breeding experiments in Europe have resulted in fiber variety cannabis containing a significant predominance of CBG, with content >80% in some. With the widespread legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use underway, growers have the opportunity to focus on breeding CBG-rich varieties of cannabis paralleling the recent explosion of CBD-rich varieties. Having a broad array of products with a variety of dominant cannabinoids will allow for patients to customize their cannabis regimen to suit their individual needs.  


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