CBG vs CBD: What’s the Difference?

Sophia Delphi May 18, 2022 - 8 min read
Fact Checked
CBD and CBG chemical structure comparison

Even those who have only a passing knowledge of weed know there’s more to cannabis than THC.

They may not know exactly what terpenes do, although they may suspect that terps have something to do with bud’s flavor and aroma. They may not know exactly what the cannabinoid CBD is, or what it does. But they’ve certainly seen ads for CBD, and all of the CBD stores that have sprung up across the country.

THC, CBD, and terpenes are probably the only weed components that most users could list. And that leaves out a lot of important compounds.

For example, CBG, CBN, and CBC are just three more of the 100+ cannabinoids found in marijuana. They aren’t as prevalent as THC and CBD, and they may not play enormous roles in weed’s overall effects. They’re important, though.

Let’s look at one of them, CBG, and compare it to the more-familiar CBD.

What Exactly Is CBG?

CBG is the term commonly used to describe the cannabinoid known as cannabigerol. And believe it or not, there would be no THC or CBD without CBG.

That last statement leaves out a few important details that we should include in this discussion.

The Cannabinoids in Weed

The weed plant doesn’t actually contain THC or CBD. It contains their “precursor” cannabinoid acids, THCA and CBDA. Those two acids are converted into THC and CBD through a process called decarboxylation; which happens when they’re heated during smoking, vaping, or dabbing. It’s also why you decarb weed in the oven to make edibles.

Let’s complicate things a bit further. Young weed plants don’t contain THCA or CBDA, either. They only contain CBGA, which is CBG’s precursor acid. As the plants grow, enzymes convert some of the CBGA into THCA and CBDA (as well as CBCA, the precursor to the cannabinoid CBC).

So a mature cannabis plant will eventually contain all of those precursor acids: THCA, CBDA, CBGA, and CBCA. When you consume weed, though, you’ll be putting THC, CBD, CBG and CBC into your body.

The next time you get high — stop for a moment and thank CBG for making it all possible.

(One note before moving on: from this point, we’ll simply refer to THC, CBD, and CBG rather than their precursor acids.)

How CBG Interacts With Our Body

Cannabigerol isn’t psychoactive, so it doesn’t get you high. That’s not unusual. THC is the only cannabinoid that causes psychoactive effects, although CBG’s presence in the body may help boost THC’s efficiency through what’s called the entourage effect.

Mature cannabis only contains about 1% CBG by weight, so cannabigerol isn’t a major player in the complicated dance between weed’s components and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

However, CBG interacts differently with the ECS than THC or CBD; it often blocks ECS receptors instead of binding to them. That means it may provide its medical and health benefits in a different way.

Potential Benefits of CBG

Much more research has been done on the properties and benefits of THC and CBD, than CBG. Even so, the preliminary evidence is promising.

  • Glaucoma Treatment: THC is known for its efficacy against glaucoma, but studies show that CBG may be just as effective without the psychoactive “side effects.”
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Many cannabinoids have been found to fight inflammation, and research indicates that CBG maybe even more effective than CBD (which we’ll discuss shortly) for treating issues like inflammatory bowel disease and skin inflammation.
  • Antibacterial Properties: CBG has been found to be a potentially-potent weapon against drug-resistant bacterial strains like MRSA.
  • Neuroprotective properties: Studies have shown that CBG may be an effective treatment for neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s Disease, and that may have further implications for neuroprotection.

Other research has indicated that CBG may also be effective for treating appetite loss, bladder dysfunction, and the growth of some tumors.

What Is CBD and Its Benefits

You probably know that CBD, the scientific shorthand for cannabidiol, is the most prevalent non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. With proper dosage, it’s believed to be able to temper some of THC’s most severe side effects, like anxiety and paranoia.

Scientists have been aware of CBD for nearly 100 years, but research into its now-proven ability to treat childhood epilepsy began in earnest later in the 20th century. A prescription formulation of CBD is now a government-approved treatment.

Needless to say, CBD is now sold widely throughout America because of its proven or purported benefits. They include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties: CBD has been shown to help fight a number of inflammatory conditions, and assist in battling the oxidative stress that can cause numerous illnesses and diseases.
  • Pain Relief: Research shows CBD has been effective in treating both nerve pain and more serious pain caused by malignant illnesses.
  • Anxiety Relief: Not only has cannabidiol been effective for patients suffering from anxiety and depression, but it has also helped them with anxiety-related sleep difficulties.

And like CBG, CBD has been shown to have antibiotic properties and promise for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer growth.

Which Should You Choose Between CBD vs CBG?

Both CBD and CBG are available at retail outlets nationwide. The supply and variety of CBD products are much greater, though, because they’ve been produced and sold for years.

Also a factor: there’s more CBD than CBG in cannabis, so it’s easier to extract large amounts of CBD for commercial production. High-CBG strains are now being cultivated, so more products with higher CBG concentrations should eventually be available.

There are some conditions for which one or the other may be a better choice. For example, CBD has not been shown to be effective for patients with glaucoma, and CBG hasn’t been found to provide the same ability as CBD to treat seizures or ease anxiety.

However, both cannabinoids appear to be strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents, both seem to be effective for patients with neurodegenerative conditions, and each may have some promise for cancer treatment.

There’s one big difference. There’s been much more extensive research on the benefits of CBD than there has for CBG. That makes CBD a safer bet when dealing with any of the conditions for which both cannabinoids might be effective.


Q: I know that CBD is legal in America, but is CBG?
A: Yes, because it falls into the same legal category. The Hemp Bill passed a few years ago legalized the sale of hemp-derived products as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC — and that describes both CBD and CBG products. The only restrictions at this point are on the way they’re marketed; they can’t be sold as dietary supplements and their producers can’t make any specific health claims.

Q: Does it make sense to take both CBD and CBG?
A: There are no indications that it would hurt, and it might be smart. CBD and CBG work in opposite ways in some circumstances (one attaching to ECS receptors, the other stimulating the body’s production of endocannabinoids), so they could be more helpful when used in combination.

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