The cannabis industry is absolutely booming. As legal restrictions surrounding the plant begin to loosen their grip, our knowledge of cannabinoids grows. Barriers which once prevented research are now being removed. People are finally waking up to the fact that there is more to cannabis than just THC—there’s an entire spectrum to explore.
But where to start? There are dozens of cannabinoids available these days. The choice isn’t easy. Many cannabinoids have totally unique effects, while others appear very similar. For instance, take CBD and CBG, two of the most common cannabinoids found in hemp. They share many of the same characteristics, and are enjoyed for many of the same reasons. Yet, there are still some key differences between CBD and CBG that set them apart.
In this article we’ll go over the various differences between these two cannabinoids, as well as any other information you may need to help you decide whether CBD or CBG is right for you.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that is most abundant in Type II (1:1 CBD/THC) and Type III (CBD dominant) strains of cannabis. Despite the fact that CBD containing cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years, it wasn’t isolated until the early 1940’s. From then on, legal restrictions kept CBD research moving at a snail’s pace. Its chemical structure was only determined in 1963. Although CBD did gain limited recognition during the 80’s and 90’s, it has largely sat outside of the public eye, hidden away from non-researchers.
It wasn’t until the 2018 Farm Bill that CBD was finally given the respect it deserves. The bill legalized hemp on the federal level in America, increasing the availability of CBD, CBG, and other hemp derived cannabinoids. Needless to say, the move was a massive success. CBD began popping up in smoke shops and storefronts all across the country. Many Americans got their first taste of legal cannabis through CBD and other hemp derived products. According to this Gallup poll from 2019, a whopping 14% of Americans admit to using CBD.
Reasons for using CBD vary greatly, but its potential for therapeutic use is widely recognized in the scientific community. There are even FDA approved CBD prescriptions, such as Epidolex, which are prescribed for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex in people 1 year of age or older.
While CBD may center on the therapeutic, it is still a powerful cannabinoid in its own right. Users report it as having a calm, clear, and slightly sedating effect that that can be felt primarily in the body.
What is CBG?
Cannabigerol (CBG), or ‘the mother of all cannabinoids,’ was first synthesized in 1964. Produced during the blooming stages of the plant, it plays a vital role in the maturation of cannabinoids. Its acid form, CBGa, acts as the building block for cannabinoids like CBDa, CBCa, and THCa. This is possible due to specific plant enzymes that break down CBGa and ‘guide it’ towards the conversion of particular cannabinoids.
Unfortunately, this natural phenomenon also makes it hard to harvest CBG, as most of the CBGa is converted into other cannabinoids—similar to a ripening banana. As a workaround, farmers used to harvest their crops while the plants were still in their immature stages. Though Type IV (CBG dominant) flower has been recognized since 1987, available strains were often very low in CBG, containing around 1-2% CBG/CBGa. Thanks to advances in agricultural science, today’s Type IV strains are pushing upwards of 15% CBG/CBGa, though breeders are working constantly to push the boundaries of their strains.
In terms of effects, CBG is comparable to CBD, with some twists. It’s relaxing, but also has a focused, forward, almost stimulating feeling to it. It’s more ‘busy’ than CBD, which makes it a very useful and productive cannabinoid to have on hand.
What is the difference between CBD and CBG?
While these cannabinoids may share many similarities, they have their differences as well. In simple pharmacological terms, CBD and CBG activate the neurons in your brain in distinctive and unique ways. This study, published by Psychopharmacology in 2011, looked into the effects of CBD and CBG (taken in conjunction) at the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. They found that while CBD has a strong anti-emetic (anti-nausea) effect due to its affinity for 5-HT1A, it is at least partially negated by CBG, which acts as an antagonist at this same site, blocking the effects.
CBG also has a hyperphagic effect, meaning it acts as an appetite stimulant. Interestingly, this effect may be countered by CBD, which has been shown to inhibit hyperphagia induced by CB1 and 5-HT1A agonists. Though CBG is indeed a CB1 agonist, the study doesn’t dig deep enough to reach any concrete conclusions on the relationship between CBD, CBG, and hyperphagia. It does however provide us with some insight into how two seemingly similar cannabinoids can have such drastically different effects.
This is further explained when we look at the mechanism of action for these two cannabinoids. CBG utilizes the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are commonly used by other cannabinoids. Surprisingly, CBD doesn’t utilize either of these receptors directly, but instead indirectly activates cannabinoid receptors through the TRPVR1 receptors (also known as the capsaicin and vanilloid receptors). Differences like these are what make cannabinoids special.
Are CBD and CBG psychoactive?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask. There are some who claim that CBD and CBG are not psychoactive, but this is usually said in reference to cannabinoids like THC, which have a strong intoxicating effect that can leave people feeling foggy.
By comparison, CBD and CBG are relatively clearheaded. They produce a slight perceptible change in awareness, but don’t bog the mind and body down with a heavy handed ‘high’ that leaves you stoned or couch locked. The effects of CBD and CBG are smooth and easy to handle, and won’t typically interfere with your day to day activities.
Should I try CBD or CBG?
You should try whichever cannabinoid you feel best fits your needs. The differences between CBD and CBG are both incredibly subtle, and instantly recognizable. If you’re new to hemp derived cannabinoids, or cannabis in general, it may take some time before you find the product that’s right for you. We believe that both CBD and CBG are valuable, worthwhile cannabinoids that are deserving of further exploration and research.