CBG hemp has not yet achieved the widespread marketing cache of CBD. But increasing consumer demand plus still limited supply bodes well for hemp farmers looking to expand into this exciting new minor cannabinoid.
What is CBG Hemp?
First discovered in the 1960s, CBG, or ‘Cannabigerol,’ is one of the many cannabinoids found in the hemp (cannabis) plant. CBG happens to be the precursor to all the others. Hence, it’s a common name as the “mother cannabinoid” since, in its acid form of CBGA, almost all other cannabinoids derive from it.
The three main types of cannabinoids – THCA, CBDA, and CBCA — all start off as CBGA before being converted via heat and UV light as the plant continues to grow and mature. Like CBD, CBG is non-psychoactive and is federally legal to grow and produce as long as it is produced from hemp plants as defined under the 2018 Farm Bill. Or, essentially, hemp that is grown that does not exceed the federal limit of .3 percent THC.
Why Are Consumers So Excited About CBG Hemp?
Research is still preliminary, but many believe that CBG has the potential to be an even more powerful aide for human health than CBD.
Studies indicate that CBG may be able to benefit:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23415610
- Glaucoma – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19112869
- Bladder Dysfunctions – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26197538
- Huntington’s Disease – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25252936
- Bacterial Infections – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681481
- Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25269802
- Appetite Loss – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021742/
- Leukemia – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014094105.htm
- Autoimmune Diseases – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0094733
Researchers have found that CBG binds with both of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in a human’s endocannabinoid system. CBD does not bind with CB2 receptors.
Even the government is interested. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) started pushing in 2018 to research CBG’s ability to help manage pain.
While much more research needs to be done, indications are that CBG has an even greater ability to influence the human endocannabinoid system that CBD. This may lead to exciting new applications for affecting the health and function of many of our physiological processes.
With increasing knowledge, interest, and more studies coming down the pike, the interest in CBG has been skyrocketing at the consumer level.
Why Then is CBG so Hard to Get?
For years, cannabis plants were primarily bred to produce high amounts of THC.
Because CBG is the ‘mother’ cannabinoid from which all the others derive from, that meant to get high percentages of THC or CBD cultivars were selected that quickly and efficiently converted their initial CBG production to THC. Then later, as the CBD market exploded, cultivars were selected that converted high percentages of CBD rather than THC, creating federally legal CBD.
But in both cases, they were still converting from CBGA, meaning very little CBG left in the biomass come harvest time. Most cannabis varietals are producing at harvest a measly one percent CBG as compared to other cannabinoids. And because production was focused on THC (and then CBD), high CBG-producing varietals were not available to growers.
CBG could still be processed, but it takes thousands of pounds of biomass to get a minuscule amount of CBG isolates. One reason why CBG has been referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of cannabinoids.
Breeding for High CBG Producing Hemp Varietals
The fantastic thing about the hemp plant is its incredible genetic diversity.
The solution for high-producing CBG hemp cultivars was simply a matter of smart, data-driven breed selection for those plants that expressed more CBG and didn’t convert it so quickly to the other cannabinoids.
Breeders began selecting for higher-expressing CBG plants and proving the results in the lab. Those plants were back-crossed for multiple generations to create a stable genetic pool. These cultivars have a changed molecular structure in the flower that stops the conversion process to the other cannabinoids, producing a reliably high CBG percentage at harvest.
But it all takes time, ideally five generations of proven results and careful back-crossing before cultivars reliably express the same high CBG production every time. Because most hemp breeders focused on high CBD/low THC cultivars, there are only a few high-CBG varietals available in the marketplace.
What Does This Mean for Hemp Farmers?
In many ways, the CBG marketplace resembles the pre-2019 CBD plantings of 2018 and earlier.
When the production of CBD was so limited, combined with skyrocketing consumer demand, that farmers were able to capture high prices for their legal hemp CBD product. It is too early to say if the market for CBG might eventually eclipse CBD. Still, the more research and science backs up what appears to be the powerful human health benefits of this “minor” cannabinoid, the more the market demand will spike the price upwards.
But just like CBD hemp production, a valuable harvest will be determined by starting first with reliable and proven cultivars. Don’t take the word of a snake-oil salesman that shows up selling baggies of “High CBG cultivators” seeds out of their trunk. Make sure to purchase seeds and clones only from reliable seed breeders with the COAs and data to prove their claims. The market looks suitable for CBG for 2020, and hopefully beyond, but only if you start with proven and reliable genetics from the beginning.
At Colorado Breeders Depot, we have several years’ experience breeding for high CBG varietals. We offer our in-house bred high CBG varietal “La Crema” that tests at 17.12 for CBGA and a reliably safe .18 for total THC. Contact us for information about best practices for growing high-CBG varietals, and to inquire about our limited availability of CBG seed (currently sold out for 2020!) and CBG clones (clones are still available.).
We also have a full line of high CBD, low THC feminized hemp seeds and clones, plus a tri-crop varietal suitable for CBD, grain, and fiber production. We offer free ongoing consultation and have a buy-back program for our grower’s network.