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CBD vs CBG - What is the difference?

CBD vs. CBG: What’s the Difference?

CBD has enough name recognition at this point that even your dog has heard of it, but CBG is still a mystery to most people. There’s obviously some connection between the two—just look at the names. Aside from noticing the linguistic link, though, your average person on the street would be hard pressed to name another fact about CBG.

But trends in the natural wellness world, like life itself, come at you pretty fast. And if you don’t stop and look around at all the stories asking “is CBG the new CBD?” in popular outlets like Forbes, Refinery29, and every cannabis-related blog under the sun, you might miss the fact CBG could, in fact, be the new CBD.

What does that even mean, though? We were all just starting to wrap our heads around CBD, and suddenly there’s an entire new chemistry lesson to learn? A lot of us are still a little fuzzy on what CBD actually is—and now we’re supposed to know how to compare it versus CBG?

Relax, for it’s all much simpler than it may seem. Give us five minutes of your time and we’ll make you a CBG expert (that’s a bit of a stretch, yes, but you’ll definitely learn enough to impress your friends and intimidate your enemies).

Let’s start by confirming something you probably already suspected: CBD and CBG are very closely related indeed.

They’re both cannabinoids.

OK, But What Are Cannabinoids?

Scientists call cannabis “the plant of the thousand and one molecules,” and the most important of those molecules are known as cannabinoids. Most of the effects you associate with cannabis—that includes the euphoric high—can be attributed to cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are the molecules that make the magic happen, so to speak.

Research has uncovered over 100 cannabinoids, with new ones being discovered on a semi-regular basis since government restrictions on cannabis-related studies started loosening in recent decades. But scientists are playing catch-up when it comes to cannabinoids, and only a handful of cannabinoids have been studied in any significant detail.

The cannabinoids that have been studied most closely are, predictably, the ones that are most prominent in the cannabis plant (since you’re the kind of person who sought out an article about CBG, we’re going to assume you already knew that the term “cannabis” describes a family of plants that includes both hemp and marijuana). The most prominent and well-known cannabinoid is THC—aka the reason marijuana gets you high.

Hemp, on the other hand, has very low levels of THC (less than 0.3 percent, as outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp at the federal level). Ever since that bill was passed, U.S. hemp production has skyrocketed—our organic farm used to grow hay, for example. Although hemp has next-to-no THC, it does have rich stores of other cannabinoids like CBD and CBG.

And while neither of these are going to get you high, they’re appealing for other reasons. Let’s take a quick look now.

What Is CBD?

CBD (cannabidiol) is the second-most common cannabinoid, and it might have overtaken THC in terms of name recognition over the past year. There are a number of important differences between the two, but the biggest and most relevant one is that CBD doesn’t get you high—which is the reason both for its legality (hemp-derived CBD can be bought and sold in almost every U.S. state, with a handful of exceptions) and its burgeoning appeal.

Given the huge public interest in CBD, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s also one of the best-studied cannabinoids. However, that still doesn’t mean scientists have a particularly deep knowledge well when it comes to CBD. While some huckster types have pitched CBD as a miracle cure for all ailments, there’s only one CBD-based drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it’s only approved for certain forms of childhood epilepsy.

But the huge numbers of anecdotal reports from people singing the praises of CBD have proven too numerous to be ignored. CBD tinctures have become perhaps the most quintessential supplement since fish oil capsules, and dozens of new CBD-infused items from beverages to face creams to pet treats are released every month, as people seek out the benefits hinted at in the scientific studies.

That search has led many to develop an interest in not only CBD, but CBG as well.

What Is CBG?

CBG (cannabigerol) is a cannabinoid like CBD, but it’s a much less common one. This is a little ironic, because CBG is also the source of CBD.

You can think of CBG like a stem cell—i.e. a compound that has the potential to develop into many different forms. In fact, all the cannabinoids of the hemp plant start out in a “CBG soup” before transforming into distinct forms like THC or CBD.

By the time the different cannabinoids have formed, there’s very little CBG remaining. That explains why it hasn’t been studied in much detail up till now. Although researchers have known about CBG for decades, they haven’t been able to get their hands on it with any consistency. As such, “[we] don’t know much about CBG,” as medical cannabis expert Dr. Perry Solomon told Shape.

But that’s starting to change, if only in fits and starts. People who just discovered the appeal of CBD are now wondering if CBG might be worth a try as well, and researchers are rushing to broaden their knowledge of this underappreciated cannabinoid.

Now, let’s take a look at what they know so far.

How Are CBD and CBG Similar?

From the perspective of someone buying a cannabinoid-infused tincture, topical, edible, or other item, CBD and CBG are remarkably similar. CBG tinctures, for example, look identical to CBD tinctures. And in many cases, you’ll find both cannabinoids in the same product (more on that later). There aren’t notable differences in color, aroma, or taste between CBD and CBG, either.

Here are a few more notable similarities between the two cannabinoids:

  • CBD and CBG are both legal. Under U.S. law, THC content is the real measuring stick for the legality of any cannabis-derived anything (whether that’s smokable flower, lip gloss, or a bag of gummies). So long as it has less than 0.3 percent THC, the federal government has no issues with it—regardless of the CBD or CBG content. The logic here is obvious: since CBD and CBG don’t get you high, the powers that be feel no need to regulate it particularly closely.
  • CBD and CBG are non-intoxicating. The reason THC gets you high is because it affects a certain type of cell in your brain: CB1 receptors, to be specific. These receptors are part of your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), and they’re sometimes referred to as “locks” that can be “unlocked” by certain keys, i.e. cannabinoids. When these receptors are “unlocked,” they cause various effects like the famous cannabis high. Think of CBD and CBG as keys that don’t fit the lock of CB1 receptors, and thus don’t get you high.
  • CBD and CBG have some similar effects. Aside from not getting you high, CBD and CBG seem to have other effects in common, according to the (very) limited research available. Perhaps most notably, the antiinflammatory properties of CBG and CBD have caught scientists’ eyes in recent years. They’ve also both demonstrated clinical promise as antibacterial agents, among other things.

How Are CBD and CBG Different?

It’s obvious that CBD and CBG share a close connection—a common origin, even—but they’re not exactly identical twins. It might be more accurate to think of them like two kids from the same parents, with many mutual characteristics but a host of unique aspects as well.

Let’s run through them now:

  • CBG is much less common than CBD. In the average hemp plant, CBD comprises anywhere from 10-20 percent of the molecular composition. By contrast, most hemp plants contain just 1 percent CBG. That makes it much more difficult—and expensive—to extract CBG as opposed to CBD. However, some expert breeders have managed to develop high-CBG strains of flower, with over 15 percent CBG.
  • CBD has been studied more closely than CBG. One of the most commonly cited warnings about CBD-related claims is the relative paucity of human trials. CBD’s effects on humans have been directly examined in a number of experiments related to pain, anxiety, sleep, and other things, but these have tended to be small and limited. CBG has been studied even less—as of 2019, there hadn’t been a single in vitro human trial focusing on CBG. This is likely to change in the near future, but right now our molehill of CBD knowledge dwarfs its even-tinier CBG counterpart.
  • CBG and CBD have some different effects. Because CBG is the “mother of all cannabinoids,” experts think it might interact with the ECS in ways unlike CBG—which is one of the most significant differences between the two. “In terms of how well it connects to CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBG seems to be much more effective and direct than CBD,” as emergency physician Dr. José Torradas told Women’s Health. The applications of this are still being debated by scientists—one study suggested CBG could be a promising appetite stimulant, for one, while CBD is known to have the opposite effect.

So, Which Is Better: CBD or CBG?

While it’s tempting to take Dr. Torradas’ words as a sign that CBG is superior, the reality is a bit more complex. As with most things in the world of cannabis, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer—the “best” option for you depends on a whole range of unique factors.

Plus, the question itself is a bit of a misleading one. Because CBG is usually so much rarer than CBD, most cannabinoid-infused items you buy will contain both. In general, that will mean a whole lot of CBD and a very small amount of CBG—as mentioned before, that’s just the natural ratio in most hemp plants. At Rogue Bear Farms, we’re one of the few hemp growers to specialize in high-CBG strains: we don’t mean to brag here, but there aren’t a whole lot of people doing what we’re doing.

Another thing worth pointing out is that “high-CBG” hemp strains, and the products that are made from them, aren’t necessarily low CBD ones. While there tends to be a bit of a tradeoff to get that CBG content higher, it’s not like you’re getting a tincture devoid of CBD, for example.

In the end, the best cannabinoid for you depends on the issues you want to address, and how you want to address them. If you’re looking to make your own large batches of edibles, for example, you’d probably be better off buying CBD isolate in bulk than hovering over each batch of brownies with that CBG tincture and squeezing a few drops on every pan. On the other hand, if you’re a hemp flower connoisseur and you get a lot of joy from trying new strains (and the sensations they bring), then CBG flower would better suit your needs.

The important thing, regardless of which cannabinoid and delivery method you choose, is to make sure you’re getting a quality product. And that doesn’t mean just choosing the flower with the fanciest-looking packaging, or the tincture that comes in the sparkliest bottle. Instead, what you want to look for is much more mundane: paperwork.

Whether you’re shopping for CBG or CBG, tincture or flower, make sure that you get a certificate of analysis (COA) in return. This is a document from an independent lab that shows the product was inspected by an unbiased outsider, who checked it carefully for purity and potency. A COA isn’t always required by state law, but it’s a sign that you’re getting a quality product from a brand that doesn’t cut corners.

And with that, it’s time to give a final plug for us, Rogue Bear Farms. Ever since we were founded, we’ve been committed to doing the right thing both for the planet and the people who live on it. That means growing all our hemp with organic, sustainable farming practices, and offering detailed lab reports on all our products. You can find most of these directly on our website—and if you have questions about anything, we’d love for you to get in touch. Nothing makes us happier than a chance to talk hemp.

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