What are The Differences Between CBG and CBD?

An illustration of CBD versus CBG
Written by Livvy Ashton | Last updated: November 14, 2023

As researchers continue to discover new health benefits of CBD and THC, consumers are also starting to pay attention to the so-called minor cannabinoids, whose role in the therapeutic properties of cannabis is just as important.

One of these cannabinoids is CBG, also known as the mother of all cannabinoids.

Preclinical studies show that CBG and CBD may share some common properties. Both cannabinoids are known for their analgesic effects. When put together in one extract, they may offer significant wellness benefits — which are more pronounced than if you consumed these compounds alone.

Wondering about the difference between CBD vs. CBG — and how to use these compounds to maximize the health benefits of one another?

Let’s elaborate on this.

What is CBG?

CBG stands for cannabigerol, one of over 100 compounds identified in cannabis plants.

CBG was first synthesized in 1964, and since then, it has been highlighted by numerous studies for its potential health benefits. Although research into CBG is still at a preclinical stage, current findings suggest that this compound holds strong therapeutic potential.

CBG’s ability to alleviate pain may be more potent than that of THC — without getting you high. It also has antidepressant, antibacterial, anti-cancer properties, and boosts energy level.

CBG stems from its chemical precursor cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). In fact, CBGA is the accelerator of other cannabinoids, as it transforms into cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). The more CBG is in your strain, the greater the concentration of other cannabinoids.

Upon decarboxylation — when you heat cannabis — CBGA becomes CBG, enabling it to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in your body. According to studies, CBG is the partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CBD may also act on the pathways that modulate the immune response, sensitivity to heat, and pain perception.

CBG usually appears in low concentrations in cannabis plants, so people consider it a minor cannabinoid. However, thanks to selective breeding techniques, farmers can grow high-CBG cultivars. CBG can also be extracted into a distillate, using large quantities of hemp biomass to obtain CBG-rich liquid.

What is CBD?

CBD oil in a bottle with hemp bud and a leaf on a table

CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, one of the two major cannabinoids in cannabis — and also one of the best-documented ones in the scientific literature.

Researchers first isolated CBD from cannabis in the late 1930 and then abandoned the idea of investigating its therapeutic qualities until the 70s. Since then, it has sparked the attention of medical professionals thanks to its broad range of positive effects on human health.

Since then, research into CBD has considerably evolved. Clinical studies confirmed that pure CBD or its combination with THC could treat drug-resistant epilepsy and muscle spasms and spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis. CBD may also improve immune response, reduce pain signals, help with stress management, enhance focus, and promote healthy sleep.

Numerous studies support the theory that CBD and THC generally show greater therapeutic potential when used in tandem than each of them in isolation. Their effects are even more amplified in the presence of the so-called minor cannabinoids like CBG.

This synergy is referred to as “the entourage effect.”

CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system through a range of physiological targets. It partially interacts with the CB1 receptor and is the agonist of the CB2 receptor, both of which are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

That being said, the complexity of CBD’s interactions reaches far beyond the ECS. The mechanism of action is not yet fully understood, but researchers have already identified more than 60 molecular targets for CBD.

CBD vs. CBG: Explaining the Difference In A Nutshell

Here are the basic differences between CBD vs. CBG:

  • Molecular structure – CBD and CBG have different chemical makeup. Their carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms — which form a cannabinoid — are arranged differently. Their 3D models have different shapes in simple words, and thus, they interact differently with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Their chemical makeup also helps determine their bioavailability.
  • Pharmacology – According to a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, CBD and CBG use a different mechanism for interacting with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. CBD activates this receptor, while CBG is a natural blocker. The study’s findings suggested that using CBG dampened CBD’s anti-nausea effects, concluding they had opposing actions on the said receptor despite binding to the same place.
  • Effects on appetite – A study on rats treated with CBG found that the cannabinoid increased food intake. In another study, CBD didn’t cause any changes in eating patterns, but CBD considerably reduced the total amount of food consumed.

CBD vs. CBG: Legality

Since both compounds are non-intoxicating, they are legal on a federal level. The 2018 Farm Bill declassified hemp from controlled substances; it has returned to its proper classification as an agricultural commodity. Hemp-derived products are legal in all 50 states as long as they contain 0.3% THC or less.

CBD vs CBG: Psychoactivity

This is where things get a bit complicated when it comes to the right terminology.

By its definition, a substance is psychoactive if it affects a person’s mind and behavior. So, when you use this definition to describe psychoactivity, even your friends can be psychoactive because they affect your behavior and how you feel around them.

The proper word to describe the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana consumption is “intoxicating.”

Neither CBD nor CBG interacts directly with the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, meaning they won’t get you high. But since both cannabinoids can affect your emotional being by regulating certain processes in the body, they are, by all means, psychoactive — just not intoxicating.

Does CBG Get You High?

No, CBG won’t get you high. The compound doesn’t directly affect the CB1 receptor in the brain, hence the lack of high. On the contrary, THC is an agonist of the CB1 receptor (it activates it) to induce intoxication.

CBD vs. CBG: Medical Benefits

Doctor holding a CBD oil and hemp on a test tube with cannabis leaves on a table

Earlier in the article, we mentioned that CBD and CBG share some common health benefits, but their unique properties can also enhance their positive effects when consumed alongside each other.

Before we get down to explaining the entourage effect using the example of CBD and CBG, let’s take a look at the health benefits provided by each compound on its own.

Medical Benefits of CBD

CBD is the modulator of the endocannabinoid system, meaning it maintains its optimal functioning through the indirect signaling of its receptors throughout the body.

According to the current body of scientific evidence, using CBD can be beneficial for:

Not all of these properties have been tested in clinical trials, but evidence from preclinical human studies and animal models is promising. As scientists fuel more resources into the medical benefits of CBD, we may soon discover the driving mechanisms behind its effects on the above conditions.

Medical Benefits of CBG

Studies investigating the medical benefits of CBG are few and far between, but after doing some research in PubMed, we can already see some similar properties between these two cannabinoids.

Research suggests that CBG can be used for:

  • Appetite disorders
  • Cancer
  • MRSA bacterial infections
  • Gut inflammation
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Bladder dysfunctions

CBD, too, has been shown to trigger programmed cell death in different types of cancer cell lines. It also has remarkable antibacterial properties and has been shown to support healthy gut functioning through its influence on the immune system. Huntington’s disease, in turn, is a neurodegenerative condition, and both CBD and CBG can protect neurons in the brain against damage and degradation.

Does it mean that CBG, in tandem with CBG, can enhance their health benefits for their common target areas?

Benefits of Using CBD and CBG Together

Neuroscientists and cannabis experts have introduced a concept where all cannabinoids work synergistically to amplify the health benefits of one another and mitigate potentially unwanted side effects. The best example of the entourage effect is the relationship between CBD and THC.

CBD can dampen intoxication from THC, resulting in a less potent high and a lower risk of getting anxious or paranoid. THC, in turn, can enhance the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of CBD on top of adding its own positive effects.

When it comes to CBD and CBG, they, too, can amplify their painkilling, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. However, they balance each other out in some cases, such as nausea and vomiting.

Full-spectrum CBD oils also have terpenes on top of cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic molecules that provide cannabis plants with distinctive fragrances and flavors. They can also modulate the effects of cannabinoids, adding the “character” to the effect profile of hemp extracts.

For example, myrcene, a terpene found in mangoes, can increase the sensitivity of the blood-brain barrier to the other cannabinoids, making them potentially more effective.

Limonene, a compound found in citrus fruits and their zests, can have a calming effect on the user while improving the absorption of other cannabinoids.

Beta-caryophyllene, a terpene produced by broccoli, black pepper, and wood, is known as a “dietary cannabinoid” because it interacts with the cannabinoid receptors and enhances the positive effects CBD and THC.

CBD vs. CBG: Side Effects

a photo of cannabis plants

CBD and CBG also have similar side effects. Although they won’t trigger anxiety and paranoia in high doses — nor can you lethally overdose on them — they can lead to several mild reactions, such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in appetite

CBD can interact with a wide range of pharmaceutical substances by interacting with the liver enzymes responsible for metabolizing those medications. You should consult a doctor if you take any medications before buying CBD oil.

Not much is known about the way CBD interacts with over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins or supplements. Again, a holistic medical professional experienced in cannabis use should guide you on this.

CBD vs. CBG: Drug Testing

Workplace drug tests don’t look for CBG or CBC so that they won’t show up on screening. Taking full-spectrum CBD and CBG oils shouldn’t trigger a false-positive result for THC unless you don’t take more than 1900 mg daily, which is unachievable for most consumers. Just make sure that your product actually contains less than 0.3% of THC — this can be easily checked by reading a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party laboratory.

Key Takeaways on the Difference Between CBD vs. CBG

CBG continues to garner attention from cannabis aficionados. Although studies on its health benefits are still pretty limited, current findings point to CBG as the next important player for cannabis treatments. Researchers are yet to determine its safety and potential side effects in the long run, as well as the risk of interactions with drugs.

Before CBG becomes more accessible and its prices become settled, it might be easier to find high-quality CBD oil that contains higher-than-average levels of CBG. Whichever product you choose, always remember to look for third-party lab reports, and if you take any medication, make an appointment with your doctor first.

Did you try CBG? How do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments!

Reference Links:

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  9. Borrelli, Francesca et al. “Beneficial effect of the non-psychotropic plant cannabinoid cannabigerol on experimental inflammatory bowel disease.” Biochemical pharmacologyvol. 85,9 (2013): 1306-16. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2013.01.017 (4)
  10. Valdeolivas, Sara et al. “Neuroprotective properties of cannabigerol in Huntington’s disease: studies in R6/2 mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned mice.” Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,1 (2015): 185-99. doi:10.1007/s13311-014-0304-z (5)
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Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.

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