CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, is one of many minor cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.
Unsure of what a “cannabinoid” is? These are compounds cannabis produces that interact with a network of receptors in our body, known as the endocannabinoid system.
Performing a protective function for cannabis, CBGA is produced in the plant’s trichomes and triggers targeted plant cell necrosis for natural leaf pruning to allow the plant to maximize energy directed toward the flower.
CBGA is a foundational compound of the cannabis flower. In fact, you might think of CBGA as the “granddaddy” of cannabinoids. Why? Because CBGA is at the top of the cascade reaction that produces the three major cannabinoid lines:
- THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- CBDA (cannabidiolic acid)
- CBCA (cannabichromenic acid)
These eventually become THC, CBD, or CBC, respectively. CBGA may also convert to CBG, but in a majority of strains, CBGA eventually converts into either THC or CBD.
The Discovery of CBGA
Scientists have known about CBG (cannabigerol) for over 50 years. Israeli researchers were the first to isolate the cannabinoid, and 30 years later, Japanese researchers were the first to reveal that CBGA was its precursor. Despite the long history, minimal research has been conducted on CBGA to date.
Most of that CBGA research has focused on sustainable production of THCA for pharmaceutical and research uses. This research specifically has looked at the mechanism of converting CBGA into THCA.
Researchers have demonstrated a consistent way of replicating the cannabinoid in a species of yeast known as Pichia pastoris, one that is widely used for recombinant DNA protein. Research teams have even done computational modeling to optimize production, and in 2019, a California research team published their work on complete synthesis of cannabinoids, including CBGA, from yeast derivatives.
How to Consume CBGa
One way to consume the greatest quantity of CBGa is to ingest raw hemp. Raw hemp refers to freshly harvested Cannabis sativa containing little to no THC. The more recently harvested, the greater the likelihood of a higher quantity of CBGa.
That’s because regular exposure to heat and light, oxidation, and decarboxylation synthesize the acidic forms of cannabinoids into their activated forms. The longer cannabis is exposed to those variables, the less CBGa and the more CBG (and eventually CBN) will be present. Hemp tends to contain more CBGa than cannabis strains which contain higher levels of THC.
It is important to note that there is a lack of research on the risks, benefits, and methods of consuming CBGa.
Consult your doctor before incorporating cannabis/hemp into your diet or health regimen.
The Benefits of CBGa
There have been some fascinating studies on how CBGa affects the various medical conditions. It should be noted that the following studies are some of the first of their kind and do not equate to a scientific consensus. They’re merely interesting and provide a good basis for future research.
We can’t stress enough that you should consult your doctor before you attempt to treat yourself with products containing CBGa.
Current research on CBGA
Despite a lack of research on side effects, some preliminary studies on CBGA’s potential have been conducted.
A study in the journal Fitoterapia looked at the effect of a high-CBGA strain on inhibition of the enzyme aldose reductase—a molecule associated with diabetes complications. Extracts from this strain showed a dose-dependent ability to inhibit the enzyme. The authors of the paper concluded that these cultivars could be used to prepare aldose reductase inhibitors.
CBGA may also play a future modulatory role in metabolism. A 2019 paper in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta details computational and cell research that suggests the cannabinoid acid can bind to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). Through this mechanism, CBGA might be able to help regulate fat tissue storage.
As a non-psychoactive cannabinoid acid, CBGA is legal in many of the same countries as CBD. CBG can be obtained from low-THC hemp crops currently legal in the United States and many European countries.
In studies like this one, CBGA was found in vitro to inhibit an enzyme contributing to oxidative stress, which is a factor in cardiovascular disease and other heart health issues.
IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
A 2013 study showed that mice, when given colitis, experienced positive effects with the introduction of CBG. CBG was shown to reduce the mice’s symptoms, eliminate the production of many new oxidizing agents in their small intestines, and control the production of nitric oxide. Researchers hope to soon see clinical trials in humans for the treatment of IBD.
Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides may also be impacted by CBGA. Using computer simulations, researches have theorized that this special cannabinoid could potentially activate receptors responsible for the stimulation of lipid metabolism and then control the accumulation of these lipids.
CBG is revealing itself to have interesting potential as a cancer treatment. In this study, CBG was shown to block receptors that caused cancer cell growth in mice, thereby slowing the rodents’ colon cancer progression. In that research, CBG inhibited the mice tumors and chemically-induced colon carcinogenesis, and, in doing so demonstrated potential as a therapy for colorectal cancer.
When the researchers looked at cytotoxic effects of CBG extracted from cannabis, they found that not only did CBG kill the mice colon cancer cells, but it also hastened early cancer cell deaths and arrested the cancer cell cycles in the mice. While more research is definitely needed, the researchers were encouraged that the CBG appeared to effectively target the mice colon cancer cells and prevent the growth and proliferation of their polyps.
Huntington’s Disease, a progressive brain disorder that causes loss in cognition, movement and emotional thinking, is one of many neurodegenerative diseases researchers are eyeing for CBG treatment potential. In a recent 2015 study, CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease. CBG, used alone or in combination with other phytocannabinoids or therapies, is an exciting avenue of study for the mitigation of nerve cell degeneration in the brain.
Effects of CBGA Decarb
CBGA and CBG can no longer be ignored. Currently, CBGA and CBG deserve further investigation in both human and animal studies. Both CBGA and CBG are non-psychoactive cannabinoids with lots of promise and now— it’s even more exciting to know CBG can be activated at home!
In our research, we have seen many publications and articles suggest that CBGA primarily turns to THCA or CBDA. Although this is possible, it’s most often the result of the pharmaceutical industry’s synthesization and manipulation of CBGa into other cannabinoids. In fact, CBGA can be reliably converted to the CBG given the right decarb conditions.
We took a CBGA strain and decarboxylated it for one cycle in the Nova –check out the results below. You can see this starting flower had over 12% potential CBG* and, after decarbing, there was full activation of the cannabinoids, with the decarbed flower containing over 12% CBG (120 mg CBG per gram). Very exciting!