As the market for cannabidiol, or CBD, grows at a rapid pace, companies are paying attention. Innovative brands are now extracting other cannabinoids and adding them to market too. This is quite a feat considering over 100 cannabinoids exist in cannabis plants. One of them is cannabigerol, or CBG. Discovered in the 1960s, CBG is the “mother” of cannabinoids, the one from which all others derive.
CBG is the precursor to other cannabinoids. All of them. It transforms into the different cannabinoids at different stages of the plant’s growth. This unique feature imbues CBG with massive therapeutic hope, peaking interest from scientists, doctors, and consumers alike. According to the National Institutes of Health, the government is also researching it for various medical applications.
Like all cannabinoids, CBG interacts with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, namely CB1 and CB2 receptors. This activates a response and is how cannabis produces its physiological changes. These specific receptors work to regulate neuro-hormones, which actively affects metabolism, mood, appetite, pain perception, sleep, and more. Although research is in its early stages, CBG clearly has value.
Studies show CBG with powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Its health benefits are potentially extensive. A non-psychoactive cannabinoid, the U.S. National Library of Medicine shows it boosting anandamide, the body’s “bliss” molecule. It also acts as a GABA reuptake inhibitor. It has neuroprotective properties too, currently under study for treating Huntington’s disease and others.
It shows immense promise for fighting cancer. Additionally, according to the Journal for Natural Products, it is a powerful antibacterial, strong enough even to treat the dreaded and terrifying MRSA. Despite all this hope, however, there is one major obstacle: CBG is insanely expensive to produce, hence its nickname “the Rolls Royce of cannabinoids.”
Why Is CBG So Expensive?
For just a small quantity of CBG isolate, you need thousands of pounds of cannabis. Hemp is the most popular for extracting CBG, and most hemp contains only trace percentages of CBG, whereas some hemp strains now have upwards of 20 percent CBD. If that same crop, for example, has only one percent CBG, you need 20 times the quantity of plants to extract the same amount of CBG.
For cultivators, you sacrifice your crop to produce CBG before it converts into other cannabinoids, or you wait until harvest to extract what little remains. This is only one aspect, though. The other is genetics. Due to consumer demand, plants now produce as much THC and CBD as possible, and since they can only produce a finite quantity of cannabinoids, CBG content is frequently less than two percent.
Until very recently, nobody has been breeding specifically for CBG. These factors partly explain the exorbitant costs of producing CBG, but its price also relies somewhat on consumer demand. There simply is not enough CBG to supply it. Demand consistently outpaces actual hemp production, since you need so many plants to extract even a tiny quantity, and demand is only likely to grow.
With the legalization of industrial hemp in the United States, more farmers are likely to plant hemp and increase supply. However, there is still more racking up the price: Extracting CBG requires highly specialized equipment, itself incredibly pricey. Chromatography is expensive, but fortunately, there are other ways to extract it more affordably. Genetics remains the main factor pushing up its price.
If breeders breed strains with higher CBG concentrations, the cost of extracting it will decrease, since you will not need so much material to get it. Developing plants with a higher CBG yield at the genetic level is paramount. Improving CBG genetics to make CBG the dominant cannabinoid expressed in the plant, companies will be able to extract and purify it more economically, or less expensively.
A few farmers are already doing this, with some plants now expressing CBG levels at around 10 percent. Companies that harvest early, before CBG converts into other cannabinoids, also have access to bigger quantities, and ultimately, less production expense. Harvesting plants when they are still young certainly maximizes CBG levels, but it sacrifices CBD and THC in the process.
Quality control is also a factor to consider. The latest extraction technologies to do not employ solvents. Residual solvents always remain and find their way into the final product. Consumers do not want these chemicals, so extracting solventless costs more. Furthermore, the price of third party testing also comes into play, as companies must test their products to guarantee quality to consumers.
Future of CBG
It is possible for companies to reduce costs, but not likely very soon. Equipment is one consideration. Enterprising companies are racing to streamline the production of CBG, with many opting to maximize their production equipment. It is pricy to begin with, and extractors guard their intellectual property fiercely. Some are looking to refine, perfect, and speed up the process of chromatography.
Some are already scaling chromatography equipment to extract CBG from full spectrum oils. This will allow them to increase production and lower costs. Others are developing specialized purification and isolation equipment to lower the material costs of CBG production. However, considering all this, CBG has a long way to go before there is some improvement in consumer education.
Most people are still wrapping their heads around the fact there are different cannabinoids. Some are still scratching their heads over THC and CBD. The public is mostly unaware of CBG, and adding another acronym to the confusion just gets a “CB-what?” reaction. In general, consumers do not understand cannabinoids beyond the fact that they exist. Once you move past CBD and THC, confusion reigns.
Education is key. Universities, researchers, and scientists are working to spread awareness of different cannabinoids, and their role in treating various medical conditions and ailments. They are working with regulators to bring CBG deeper into the discussion, and remove some focus off just THC and CBD. It appears consume demand and knowledge will be what ultimately brings the price of CBG down.
As CBG becomes more widely available in the marketplace, competition will bring its price down. The momentum will likely continue the same way THC and CBD did. CBD isolate, for example, used to cost $20,000 per kilogram. Now, it sells for about $2,000 per kilogram. Cannabinoid specific markets are in flux. They will remain so until demand balances it out. If CBD prices drop, so will prices for CBG.