Today, you’ll learn about CBD and CBG, specifically the:
- health benefits,
- side effects, and,
- interactions of both.
We reviewed studies that describe the biochemistry and effects of both CBD and CBG.
Both these compounds produce therapeutic benefits by interacting with numerous receptors in the human body.
These compounds can interact with a lot of the same receptor sites. In these cases, CBD and CBG either:
- compete against each other, or,
- enhance each other’s medical benefits.
At the end of this article, you will learn what medical conditions these cannabinoids are effective for, and how their properties differ.
Table of Contents:
What are CBG and CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol) are two naturally occurring substances within Cannabis sativa. They belong to a group of chemical compounds called cannabinoids (CBs).
Currently, 113 CBs have been discovered that are unique to Cannabis plants.
CBG occurs in one other plant genus: Helichrysum (19).
Δ9-THC is the most studied cannabinoid and is well-known to be psychoactive. Neither CBD nor CBG have psychoactive effects.
In other words, neither compound can get you high. CBD can even reduce the side effects of Δ9-THC (8).
- Aside from Δ9-THC, CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid.
- Hemp strains of Cannabis can produce large amounts of CBD.
- CBG normally occurs in relatively low amounts (<1% dry mass) in cannabis strains.
CBG has occasionally been called the ‘mother cannabinoid’ (16) because its acidic precursor, CBGA, is the chemical precursor to both CBDA and Δ9-THCA. And CBDA and Δ9-THCA are the precursors of CBD and THC. It’s also unique in the sense that it acts as a moderator of other cannabinoids (7).
Yet, comparatively little medical research has been done on CBG (19).
Rare chemotypes of Cannabis plants can produce much higher levels of CBG.
These strains have reduced activity of cannabinoid synthesis proteins, which results in far less CBGA being converted into CBDA (11).
Alternatively, CBG can be produced with engineered microbial strains. This method is far less costly than synthetic creation of CBG (14).
Both CBD and CBG interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Two receptors part of the ECS are cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2).
Although only weakly, both CBD and CBG are known to interact with these receptors. Both CBD and CBG’s benefits are thought to be related with receptor system outside the ECS as well (11). These interactions produce a variety of therapeutic effects.
Despite small differences in their chemical structures, the family of cannabinoids can have widely different therapeutic effects in the body.
When CBD and CBG are used in combination, they can interact in these three ways:
- One compound can diminish the other’s effect,
- They enhance each other’s effects, or,
- Neither compound affects each other (8).
Of course, how CBD and CBG act in the body largely depends on the condition that is being treated, but can also depend on dosage (11).
Interested in learning how to dose CBD products? Click here.
What are the similarities between CBG and CBD (effects, benefits, side effects)?
Both CBD and CBG interact with several receptors outside the ECS, including:
- serotonin receptor 5-HT1A,
- transient receptor potential (TRP) channels,
- aldose Reductase (ALR2).
Both of these compounds are considered safe and have relatively minor side effects.
CBD and CBG share two of these reported side effects:
Because both of these compounds are non-psychoactive, they lack rewarding effects and do not result in withdrawals (12).
CBD and CBG share some therapeutic benefits.
Treatment of diabetic complications
Extracts of Cannabis sativa containing either CBD or CBG can greatly reduce ALR2 activity.
The level of reduction depends on the dose, but it can exceed 70%.
Increased activity of this enzyme is linked to diabetic complications, including nerve pain, cataracts, kidney disease and loss of vision.
CBD and CBG may be an option for regulating this enzyme. Most available ALR2 inhibitors are synthetic and can have harmful side effects (18).
Promotes cancer cell death
As we learned earlier:
Both CBD and CBG can regulate TRP channel proteins.
In particular, CBG blocks the TRPM8 channel. This is what makes the compound a potent anticancer agent.
TRPM8 is known to promote cancer cell growth – and its genetic code is expressed in colorectal cancer cells (CRC).
When CBG blocks this channel, it reduces cancer cell growth and even promotes cell death. CBD has similar effects on CRC cells (4).
Reduces reaction oxygen species (ROS) levels
ROS cause oxidative stress, which damages body cells (3).
CBD and CBG are both powerful antioxidants and can reduce ROS levels in the body (13).
Treatment of neurological diseases
Live mice treated with small amounts (2.5 – 5 micromolar) of VCE-003, a derivative of CBG, prevented neuron cell death (10)
Mice are often used in medical studies as model organisms for humans.
The two organisms may look distinct, but biologically we are very similar to mice. The protein-coding regions of the mouse and human genomes are 85 percent identical.
In this study, these mice had Huntington’s – like disease. After CBG treatment, motor function improved, brain inflammation was reduced and its antioxidant defenses were strengthened (6).
CBD is also known to reduce neuroinflammation by blocking receptors that promote neurological and autoimmune disorders.
What are the differences between CBG and CBD (effects, benefits, side effects)?
When CBD and CBG are used for the same medical purpose, for example neuroinflammation, they can amplify each other’s effects (11).
But they do not interact with all of the same receptors, and can even oppose each other at the same receptor in some cases.
For example, CBG is the only cannabinoid that actives the a-2 adrenoreceptor.
This may reduce unwanted cardiovascular symptoms such as hypertension, but this depends on the dose.
High doses of CBG have been reported to cause hypertension (12).
The effects CBD and CBG conflict with each other in some ways:
CBD has an anti-nausea effect and prevents vomiting, but CBG can counteract CBD’s anti-nausea effects.
These opposing effects likely come from how they both interact with the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor:
CBG blocks 5-HT1A, while CBD activates it (16).
CBD and CBG can oppose each other at the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor
Keep in mind that this depends on the dose. Low doses of CBG can actually activate 5-HT2A (7).
These side effects have been reported for either CBG or CBD, but not both:
- CBG side effects: Increased appetite, dry eyes, dry mouth
- CBD side effects: Weight change, diarrhea (9) (16)
Although both of these compounds are relatively safe to use, large-scale clinical trials for CBD and CBG have only recently begun. CBD is known to interact with some medications that target enzymes in the liver.
No CBG products exist that are FDA-approved.
Epidiolex is the only FDA approved CBD product that can be prescribed (7).
CBG vs CBD for Pain
Both of these compounds reduce pain by acting as anti-inflammatory agents. They both reduce the activity of cell signaling proteins that promote pain and inflammation, but they do not always target inflammation in the same way.
For example, CBG is known to reduce inflammation of the nervous tissue (neuroinflammation).
This condition is tied to the development of neurological and autoimmune disorders.
These disorders are known causes of chronic pain.
CBD reduces neuroinflammation by reducing the activity of the TNF- protein.
TNF- promotes inflammation and injury.
TNF- mediates neurological and autoimmune disorders (12).
Both CBD and CBG, antagonize, or activate and desensitize a variety of TRPV (vanilloid) receptors. TRPV receptors mediate pain and inflammation.
Both CBD and CBG may reduce inflammation by acting on these receptors (5).
Related: Using CBD oil for pain
Those who use CBG-predominant products report chronic pain as one of its top uses (17).
CBG can reduce neuroinflammation, especially when combined with CBD.
CBG may also reduce skin inflammation by inhibiting the same protein types.
Although both CBD and CBG have anti-inflammatory properties, the latter appears to be more potent in this regard and may target a wider range of pain conditions (15).
CBG vs CBD for Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the top reported personal uses for CBD.
This compound may reduce subjective anxiety by affecting brain activity in the limbic and paralimbic areas. CBD may also act as an antipsychotic (8).
Research is limited, but available clinical data supports CBD as an anti-anxiety agent.
Preclinical studies support use for anxiety as well as its comorbid conditions. In clinical studies, large doses of CBD can acutely reduce symptoms in those with social anxiety disorder or at a high risk of psychosis.
Studies consistently suggest that a 300 mg dose of CBD is generally effective for relieving anxiety.
In treating anxiety, CBD is thought to target the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor (13).
Initial research into the potential anti-anxiety effects of CBD remains promising. Large-scale clinical trials for CBD treatment of anxiety are currently taking place (13).
Related: CBD oils for anxiety
A survey of CBG-dominant users consistently reported anxiety relief as one of the top positive health effects. Most participants claimed that CBG was a highly effective treatment for this condition (17).
However, there is very little research available that supports CBG as an anti-anxiety agent. Most medical research on CBG has been done on animal models and not on humans (19).
CBD can also treat disorders that are often comorbid with anxiety, including depression and sleep disorders (13).
CBG vs CBD for Sleep
A study was done on Parkinson’s Disease patients that suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD).
RBD causes one to physically act out their dreams.
What did they find?
CBD does not reduce the number of RBD episodes, but in large doses (300 mg) it improves sleep satisfaction (1).
Those with treatment resistant forms of epilepsy (TREs) may find great relief in CBD products, but this may vary with disorder type.
One study found that CBD consumption:
- improved sleep microstructure in children with TRE, and,
- decreased epileptic discharges between seizures.
Sleep and epilepsy are linked through these discharges. Epileptic discharges interfere with brain function during sleep, can cause cognitive impairment, and increase the likelihood of seizures (9).
CBG users consistently report that it helps with insomnia (17), but research into this subject remains in its infancy.
There are no medical studies that have evaluated the effects of CBG on sleep.
Types of CBG Products
Both CBD and CBG products are available in a variety of forms:
- oils and tinctures
- cannabis flower strains dominant in either CB
- water soluble products
- IV (intravenous) fluids
Far less CBG products are currently available compared to CBD, partly because of the lack of medical research on CBG (19).
The most reliable CBG products are those that have been third-party tested.
CBG products typically fall into three categories:
- full-spectrum CBG products,
- broad-spectrum CBG products, and,
- isolate CBG products.
Full-spectrum CBG products contain CBG, plus many other hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD and THC. They can also contain terpenes.
Broad-spectrum CBG products are similar to full-spectrum products, but they’re always free from THC.
Isolate products only contain CBG.
Go to our CBD Hub to learn more about CBD-related topics.
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