Exploring CBGa: The Mother of All Phytocannabinoids


Cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, along with hundreds of other organic molecules, are responsible for the plant’s therapeutic benefits. There are over 480 different compounds present in the cannabis plant, and at least 113 of them are defined as cannabinoids.

The most well-known cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is notorious for its psychoactive effects – making users high – while CBD is known for its health properties. But, there are over 100 other, lesser-known cannabinoids, that also hold some promise in the health and wellness world. Namely, cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) – known as the mother of all phytocannabinoids. Without CBGa, no other cannabinoid would exist.

Cannabinoids are similar to the chemicals the body produces that are involved in memory, pain, movement, and appetite. Research suggests that cannabinoids have the potential to reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation and relieve pain, control nausea, relax tight muscles in people with multiple sclerosis, kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth, among other things.

However, each cannabinoid may be more effective for treating specific ailments than another. For instance, CBD may be more effective in relieving anxiety and paranoia than THC would be. In this article, we will focus on CBGa and how it could be used.

What Is CBGa?

Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) is the precursor of all other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It’s often deemed as being a mother cannabinoid because, without some level of CBGa, no other cannabinoid would exist.

CBGa is formed when geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid, two organic compounds present in the cannabis plant, combine. It’s a critical building block in the formation of cannabinoids, including CBDa, THCa, CBCa, and CBG.

Working as a protective function for cannabis, the plant’s trichomes produce CBGa, which targets plant cell necrosis for natural leaf pruning. This action allows the plant to maximize energy directed toward the flower.

CBGa is basically the foundation of the cannabis flower. It’s at the top of the cascade reaction that produces the three key cannabinoid lines: THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), and CBCA (cannabichromenic acid). Eventually, these become THC, CBD, and CBC, respectively.

CBGa might also convert to CBG, but in most strains, CBGa eventually converts into either CBD or THC.

Scientists have known about the existence of CBG for over 50 years. The first to isolate the cannabinoid were Israeli researchers, and 30 years later, Japanese researchers revealed that CBGa was its precursor. To date, not a lot of research has been done on CBGa.

What’s the Difference Between CBGa & CBG?

Cannabinoids come in two very distinct types; acids and non-acids. CBD and THC are both non-acid forms, while CBDa and THCa are the acidic forms. The same is true for CBG and CBGa.

In most cases, the acidic form occurs in raw cannabis, while the non-acidic form occurs in heated cannabis. For instance: THCa + CBDa + heat = THC + CBD.

CBG (cannabigerol) is a non-acidic cannabinoid created when heat is applied to the CBGa molecule. Its close chemical relatives are CBD, THC, and CBC. The difference is, CBG is responsible for producing all the other cannabinoids.

In raw cannabis plants, olivetolic acid and geranyl pyrophosphate combine to produce CBGa. The CBGa then combines with enzymes in the plant to create the other main acidic cannabinoids – CBD, THC, CBG, and CBC.

It might also sound a little complicated, but the main point is that CBGa is the acidic form of CBG, and it’s a lot like stem cells in the human body. In other words, with a little help, CBGa can become a wide variety of chemical compounds.

The Benefits of CBGa

While there is very little medical research existing on CBGa, early studies offer some hints about its potential down the road. Keep in mind that you should always consult with a doctor before you attempt to treat yourself with any new substance.

Cardiovascular Disease

CBGa could help diabetics combat some of the disease’s complications and comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in diabetes patients. CBGa was studied in vitro and discovered to greatly inhibit the enzyme aldose reductase (ALR2), which is a major contributor to the oxidative stress that leads to diabetic complications.

Metabolic Disorders

CBGa may also have therapeutic effects on metabolic disorders. Scientists have discovered that nuclear peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are essential regulators of metabolism.

The disruption of normal PPAR functioning can cause the progression of metabolic diseases, including dyslipidemia and diabetes. A 2019 study for Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-General Subjects reported that CBGa activates PPARs in a way that stimulates lipid metabolism and reduces excess lipid accumulation.

Colon Cancer

CBGa may someday prove important for patients with colorectal cancer – one of the most pervasive forms of cancer. In a 2018 study for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, researchers looked at the cytotoxic effects of CBGa and discovered that not only did it kill off colon cancer cells, it also hastened early cancer cell death and hindered the cancer cell cycle.

More research is definitely necessary, but scientists were encouraged that CBGa may not only be effective in targeting colon cancer cells but may also prevent the growth and proliferation of polyps. If left untreated, the polyps grow into carcinomas.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

A 2013 study suggests that CBGa may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). As part of the study, researchers induced mice with colitis and then looked at the effects CBG had on intestinal cells from these animals.

They determined that CBG had beneficial effects on colitis in that it mitigated the severity of the colitis, reduced nitric oxide production and reduced the creation of oxidizing agents in the small intestine.

These findings led researchers to recommend CBG for clinical experimentation in IBD patients.

Is CBGa Legal?

As always, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the legal status of cannabis and its derivatives in the United States. Thus, the legal status of CBGa is uncertain.

Since it’s non-psychoactive, we would expect it to fall under the same umbrella of cannabinoids like CBD. However, as we know, even the legal issues surrounding CBD is complex. While we cannot state with certainty that CBGa is legal, we can say that it’s not scheduled at the federal level in America. It’s also not scheduled by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

How to Consume CBGa

The main way to consume the greatest amount of CBGa is to ingest raw hemp. Raw hemp is freshly harvested Cannabis sativa that contains little to no THC. The more recently harvested, the more likely you are to get a higher quantity of CBGa.

The reason for this is that regular exposure to light and heat, oxidation, and decarboxylation help to synthesize the acidic forms of cannabinoids into their activated forms. The longer the cannabis is exposed to these variables, the less CBGa and the more CBG – and eventually CBN – will be present. Hemp typically contains more CBGa than cannabis strains which contain higher levels of THCa.

It’s important to note that there’s limited research on benefits, risks, and methods of consuming CBGa.

Final Thoughts on CBGa

If you haven’t heard of CBGa before reading this article, we hope that you will now have a clearer idea of what it is, and how it might help you. Research shows that CBGa may have potential in fighting certain cancers, inflammatory issues, and cardiovascular complications.

Studies are still limited at this point in time, but scientists are starting to learn more about CBGa and its possible benefits. But perhaps the most important thing about CBGa is that it’s the mother of all other cannabinoids. All cannabinoids would not exist if there were no levels of CBGa within a cannabis plant.

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