Marijuana and it's cousin Hemp are having a bit of a renaissance these days. Preliminary studies are showing benefits in health and wellness, and advocates are eager for relaxed laws to allow for further testing. Here I'm going to talk about just one of the 113 known different cannabinoids, the one known as the "mother cannabinoid" - Cannabigerol.
Cannabigerol (CBG) was discovered in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam and his team in Israel. The researchers first synthesized THC in that very same laboratory. The importance of CBG lies in the fact that it is the source of several other cannabinoids, namely CBD and THC. This may not seem like a big deal, however thousands of peer-reviewed research studies conducted have identified major potential of this family of molecules for us humans and our pets alike. As a matter of fact all mammals can benefit from CBG and other cannabinoids due to its interaction with the mammalian Endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is complicated. We still aren't clear on exactly how it all works, or all CBG’s potential function, but research has linked the ECS to the following bodily processes:
- Chronic Pain
- Inflammation/Immune Response
- Motor Control
- Sleep (My favorite)
- Cardiovascular System Function
- Muscle Formation
- Bone Remodeling and Growth
- Liver Function
- Reproductive System
- Skin and Nerve Function
All these processes contribute to homeostasis, or the stability and normalcy of your internal systems. Consider your body a self healing machine. If an outside force, for example, pain from an injury or a fever throws your body off this homeostasis, the ECS is activated. This activation is what helps your body return to its ideal functioning form. The ECS is sort of like the reset switch.
Why is this significant? Phytocannabinoids are only found in nature, specifically in the Cannabis plant. CBG, in particular, is of special significance because as the "mother cannabinoid", it is the precursor to tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA). CBG also rivals the potential of its peer cannabinoids and terpenes (more on these another time) in primary areas of analgesia (pain relief), reductions in systemic inflammation, decreased anxiety and nausea, and anti-cancer research.
We don't know as much as we would like to about CBG right at this moment, but what we do know is extremely promising. It has great potential as an antibacterial agent and as an anti inflammatory. CBG is non intoxicating and is thought to affect mood, thanks to its ability to act as a GABA reuptake inhibitor. In addition, CBG boosts anandamide, which is the body's bliss molecule.
Thus far, there have been two animal studies conducted that show CBG may be beneficial for inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. colitis and Crohn's disease) and Huntington's disease, which is an incurable brain disease. Test tube and in vitro studies have also shown CBG to have antibacterial properties that help to prevent colon cancer.
Other benefits of CBG include increased dopamine levels, support for sleep and appetite regulation have been shown, and not to mention help for treating glaucoma, cancer, and MRSA.
Sounds really great, so you might be thinking, "Why haven't I heard about this before?"
Unfortunately, the answer is that CBG is VERY expensive to produce. It takes a ton of biomass to produce just small amounts. Hemp strains vary in the amount of CBD and CBG that they contain. Some strains of Hemp may contain 20% CBD in a harvest, however, the CBG content may only be around 1%. So ultimately, there would be a need for 20 times the biomass for the same yield of CBG, which makes it much less lucrative. As we speak, Hemp companies are currently breeding plants to produce higher yields of CBG as a solution for this cost issue.
An additional problem arises, which includes the breeding of Cannabis/Hemp for high THC and CBD content due to market demand. With the newly passed 2018 Farm Bill, there will be a slow and steady increase in the growing of Hemp across the country. Theoretically this will result in more studies and lower prices. Hopefully this translates into easier and more thorough research in the near future.
In summation, while there is a decent amount of information gathered that indicates the promising benefits of CBG, there is a need for more research and clinical studies before any major conclusions can be drawn. With all the possibilities, and not solely found in just the medical settings, but in general wellness areas as well, we are eager to see what new uses can be found!