Proponents of medical cannabis often hail it as a miracle cure, while prohibitionists ignorantly claim that the herb is “dangerous.” In reality, any of more than 110 cannabinoids may be present in marijuana, the active molecules that provide therapeutic relief to patients and fit seamlessly into the endocannabinoid receptors of the human brain, nervous system, and organs.
Despite a pronounced lack of research, studies to date indicate that cannabinoids interact is a very specialized and complex manner, creating a synergy and homeostasis (balance) that depends on not only which cannabinoids are present, but also their exact ratios. However, most research and attention has been devoted to the major cannabinoids in marijuana, THC and CBD.
Several states have already passed or are considering very limited laws allowing patients to consume cannabis extracts, such as those high in CBD but lacking THC. What about other cannabinoids, however? With dozens having been discovered — but relatively little known about them — what medical relief can be gained from lesser-known cannabinoids?
Cannabigerol, or CBG, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid typically found in low-THC strains. In fact, it is abundant in many types of hemp, the variety of cannabis almost completely lacking THC (to qualify as hemp, a strain must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC).
While federal-level prohibition has prevented much credible research from being conducted, what is known about CBG?
First, due to the manner in which CBG interacts with the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors, it is believed that it may counteract the paranoia that is associated with some strains of high-THC cannabis in some patients. It appears that CBG may act as a buffer, allowing such patients to consume medicine that would otherwise deliver a potentially debilitating psychological side effect. CBG also seems to mimic CBD in that it battles inflammation and reduces anxiety and muscle tension.
In addition, some believe that CBG is key to fighting cancerous tumors. Cannabis strains high in CBG have also been found to be an effective treatment for glaucoma due to the fact that they help decrease pressure in the eye and expedite the drainage of fluids. Among CBG’s most impressive qualities are its anti-inflammatory properties, which could help patients with a variety of ailments — most notably inflammatory bowel disease and maybe even Crohn’s. CBG is also believed to help with depression and act as an anti-oxidant (helping prevent a variety of age-related diseases).
Making it exceptional among all cannabinoids, CBG is believed to play a synergistic role when consumed by humans. Some studies indicate that it helps balance the effects of different cannabinoids, acting as a cannabis efficacy “traffic cop.”
One reason that researchers know relatively little about CBG is because it works behind the scenes and helps determine the potency of other cannabinoids in cannabis. In fact, CBG is the “larval stage” of all other cannabinoids. It appears that most or all cannabinoids begin their lives as CBG and are then converted to other types by specialized enzymes in the plant. This explains why CBG is present in such small amounts in most cannabis strains.
Strains High in CBG
The promise of cannabinoids like CBG is so great that some seed companies are breeding strains of marijuana that are purposefully high in this relatively unknown cannabinoid. However, due to the entourage effect — the idea that cannabinoids and terpenes (terpenoids) work together to deliver medical efficacy — many cannabis breeders are purposefully including THC in the mix.
One example is TGA Genetics Subcool Seeds, a company that has created a cannabis strain that is high in both THC and CBG. Called Mickey Kush, this strain is an effort to measure the value of such strains for a variety of ailments.
Despite ignorance of the functionality of most cannabinoids, one thing is certain: Researchers and doctors are learning that cannabinoids interact synergistically. Isolating particular cannabinoids, although effective in preventing sometimes unwanted side effects such as euphoria, may be an overall poor strategy for patients.
Due to the complex and nuanced interplay of phytocannabinoids (those derived from plants, like cannabis) and the human endocannabinoid system, much more must be learned before breeders and researchers can deliver maximum efficacy to the greatest number of patients.
The CBG cannabinoid:
- reduces inflammation (helpful for inflammatory bowel disease)
- reduces paranoia and anxiety
- decreases the ocular pressure of glaucoma
- reduces or eliminates cancerous tumors
- acts as an anti-bacterial agent
Photo credit: truthonpot
This post was originally published on May 20, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.