CBG vs. CBD vs. CBN vs. CBC - The Ultimate Comparison Guide
Just a few years ago, cannabidiol (CBD) was the only non-intoxicating cannabinoid widely available. It wasn’t long, however, before CBD was followed by cannabigerol (CBG), and in no time at all, products containing cannabinol (CBN) and cannabichromene (CBC) also started appearing.
While most people know that all of these new hemp compounds are non-intoxicating, common knowledge regarding the unique properties of CBG, CBC, and CBN usually ends there. In this guide, we’ll provide detailed information on each of the non-intoxicating cannabinoids that has recently emerged on the market, and we’ll help you determine which hemp constituent is right for your purposes.
A whole new world of cannabinoids is emerging
Mature Cannabis sativa flower contains hundreds of different compounds, the majority of these substances are either flavonoids, terpenes, or analogs (copies) of a few common cannabinoids. There are around 6-8 fully chemically distinct cannabinoids, and each of these cannabinoids has unique properties.
Starting with the realization that CBD might have therapeutic value in the early 2000s, it took nearly 10 years for breeders to develop high-quality hemp phenotypes high in CBD instead of Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC), primary intoxicating compound in cannabis. It’s rather remarkable, therefore, that efforts to breed hemp strains that are high in CBG, CBN, and CBC have evolved at such a rapid pace.
These days, cannabinoid producers have either bred cannabinoid-specific strains or developed processes to convert more widely available cannabinoids, such as CBD or CBG, into rarer compounds like CBN and CBC. Products containing CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC are now widely available, making it well worth our time to determine their strengths both alone and combined.
What is CBG?
Let’s start our inquiry into the latest additions to the cannabinoid market with cannabigerol (CBG), which is beginning to rival CBD in popularity. CBG is the easiest cannabinoid to derive from CBGa (cannabigerolic acid), which is considered to be the “stem cell” of cannabinoids since it can also convert into CBD, CBC, or THC via enzymatic processes.
Once CBGa has converted into CBG, it becomes stable and won’t undergo an additional transformation into THC or any other cannabinoid.
Instead of deriving CBG from CBGa molecules that have been genetically encoded to become other cannabinoids, hemp producers have developed cultivars that naturally produce high concentrations of CBGa without converting it into anything else. Since CBG breeding is still in its infancy, CBG flower strains with concentrations above 15% are rare, but that’s still enough to gain a potent glimpse into everything CBG has to offer.
Like CBD, CBG is non-intoxicating, and hemp users report that the effects of these cannabinoids feel very similar. Under the hood, CBG interacts with your body’s systems via very different mechanisms than CBD, and based on initial research, CBG appears to offer a few benefits that are entirely unique.
Potential pain and inflammation benefits
A 2008 review of the available evidence covered studies indicating that CBG may act as an agonist at the CB1 and CB2 receptors without causing any intoxicating effects. This review also pointed out that CBG may additionally act as a GABA reuptake inhibitor.
These results indicate that CBG might have a relationship with both neuropathic and inflammatory pain. The usefulness of CBG for neuropathic pain was further explored by a 2018 study, indicating that interest in CBG for pain remains strong within the scientific community. Moreover, a study published on 2022 revealed that CBG inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from inflammatory inducers like UVA, UVB, and chemicals demonstrating anti-inflammatory activity, leading researchers to test the substance on human skin. The effective in vitro anti-inflammatory profile and clinical efficacy when applied topically demonstrated that it can treat a variety of inflammatory skin conditions such as inflammatory acne.Potential digestive benefits
Limited preliminary research has been conducted into the potential digestive benefits of cannabigerol. For instance, scientists have investigated the impact of this cannabinoid on colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Potential antibacterial benefits
Preliminary research has been conducted into the potential antibacterial properties of CBG. Another study conduct by Aqawi et al. showed that CBG has antibacterial activity against the gram-positive bacteria Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), which is linked to tooth decay. This might also present a fresh approach to combat dental caries. Scientists believe that there are sufficient grounds to further investigate the usefulness of this cannabinoid for bacterial infections.
Other Potential benefits
Due to its anti-inflammatory effects and therapeutic advantages, CBG is gaining more attention. In mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD), synthesis of derived CBG not only displayed anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity, but also demonstrated potential to prevent obesity, according to a study published on 2021.
CBG vs. CBD
CBG and CBD are very similar both structurally and in their effects, but CBG interacts with different neuroreceptors, causes unique experienced effects, and is being investigated for its own docket of therapeutic applications. For instance, the potential digestive benefits of CBG are primary targets of medical research into cannabigerol.
While some of the effects of CBG overlap with those offered by CBD, these cannabinoids are different enough to merit using them together. Combining two or more cannabinoids appears to provide the entourage effect, a phenomenon that might enhance their effects to levels it’s not possible to reach alone. Instead of choosing between CBD and CBG, you might want to use both of these cannabinoids.
What is CBN?
While there are now Cannabis sativa strains that contain high concentrations of CBG or CBD, the same can’t be said for CBN. Instead, CBN is derived via a chemical conversion process that transforms CBD into CBN.
In the early days of cannabis research, cannabinol (CBN) was investigated nearly as much as THC or CBD. As the decades passed, however, research into this non-intoxicating cannabinoid waned until interest in CBN was rekindled by the recent CBD revolution.
CBN has plenty of unique benefits that differentiate this hemp compound from CBD and make it well worth trying as you discover everything non-intoxicating cannabinoids have to offer.
Potential antibacterial benefits
Like CBG, CBN has been researched for its potential antibacterial qualities. A 2008 study showed, for instance, that CBN eliminated certain types of MRSA bacteria, but these results have not been corroborated by further research. Since these two cannabinoids have different activity profiles, using CBG and CBN in tandem to fight bacterial infections should be a target of future research. Another study comparing cannabinoids found that CBN and CBC are the most effective at reducing bacterial growth, while the other cannabinoids also had lower colony counts.
Potential neuroprotective benefits
A 2004 study found that CBN delayed the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a type of neurodegenerative disease. Based on this research, scientists suspect that CBN may be useful as a general neuroprotective agent, which would be a reasonable assumption since every other cannabinoid is also believed to have at least some neuroprotective activity.
Potential appetite benefits
THC has been used for years as an appetite stimulant, but the intoxicating qualities of this cannabinoid make it undesirable for this purpose. A 2012 pre-clinical study found that CBN increased appetite, which has led some cannabinoid experts to believe that this cannabinoid could serve as an adequate replacement for THC that doesn’t induce significant psychoactive effects.
Other potential benefits
While there’s only a very limited amount of scientific evidence indicating that CBN might be useful for sleep, consumers have used this cannabinoid extensively as a sleep aid, which has provided a lot of compelling anecdotal evidence. CBN has also been investigated for its analgesic qualities. According to a 2019 study, CBN reduced nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced mechanical sensitization. Thus, CBN may provide analgesic relief. Moreover, the combination of CBN and CBD resulted in a longer-lasting reduction of sensitization than either compound alone.
CBN vs. CBD
In terms of chemical structure, CBN is more similar to THC than it is to CBD, which is part of why the effects CBN and THC provide together have been researched so extensively. CBN almost behaves like a fusion of CBD and THC — while it may provide the appetite-stimulating effects of THC, it is less-psychoactive.
Many people use CBD as a sedative, but they report mixed results. The vast majority of individuals who have used CBN for sleep, however, report impressive degrees of success, substantiating calls for further research into the sedative properties of this cannabinoid.
Due to its potential antibacterial effects, CBN also bears similarity to CBG. This Cannabis sativa compound straddles the middle ground between multiple intoxicating and non-intoxicating cannabinoids, making it a fascinating target of future research for reasons beyond its potential sedative benefits.
What is CBC?
Until recently, the potential usefulness of cannabichromene (CBC) has been thoroughly overshadowed by the breakaway popularity of CBD and CBG. As a result, there still aren’t any Cannabis sativa phenotypes that feature high concentrations of CBC.
CBC isn’t usually extracted from hemp flower. Instead, it’s derived from CBGa, the “stem cell” compound that’s the starting point of many different cannabinoids.
Like CBD, CBC is considered to be non-intoxicating, which means that it won’t make you feel high. CBC feels similar to CBD when you ingest it, but this cannabinoid has a significantly different chemical structure and exerts widely different effects.
Little research into CBC has been conducted so far, but the available studies have convinced scientists it’s worth investigating this cannabinoid’s potential cancer-fighting and pain-reducing qualities in further detail. Researchers also believe that CBC might be beneficial for your overall neurological health.
Potential cancer benefits
CBC was first investigated for its relationship with cancer in 2006 as part of a study designed to better understand the effects of cannabinoids other than THC on tumor size and cancer progression. Synergistic combination of CBC and THC or with CBD induce apoptosis in T24 cells which are in line with studies showing that cannabinoids induce apoptosis and cancer cell proliferation.
Potential neurological health benefits
A 2013 study investigated CBC’s potential to promote the formation of adult neural stem progenitor cells (NSPCs), which your brain can transform into astroglial cells. These cells handle the passage of neurotransmitters throughout your brain and nervous system, and increased concentrations of astroglial cells may reduce your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Potential analgesic benefits
Based on initial research, CBC has much higher affinity for your nervous system’s TRPV1 receptors than CBD, which could make this cannabinoid a highly useful analgesic. Your TRPV1 receptors control the sensation of inflammatory pain in your body, and the pain caused by arthritis and many other common conditions is inflammatory in nature.
CBC vs. CBD
If it’s true that CBC is effective against cancer, this attribute would differentiate CBC from CBD significantly. These two cannabinoids appear to be similar, however, in another way — both CBC and CBD have been researched extensively for their potential neuroprotective and neurodegenerative benefits.
One of the most impressive differences between CBC and CBD is cannabichromene’s apparent affinity for the nervous system’s TRPV1 receptors. While CBD also appears to interact with your TRPV1 receptors, this cannabinoid shows roughly equal affinity for your 5-HT1A receptors. In the future, it may be shown that CBC is more useful for inflammatory pain while CBD or another cannabinoid is more useful for neuropathic pain.
Different cannabinoids for different purposes
Now that you know what CBN, CBC, and CBG are and how they compare to CBD, let’s bring it all home with an overall comparison of these cannabinoids. First, how are they all the same?
Despite their individual qualities, CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC are all non-intoxicating. Their felt effects may vary slightly, but in every case, these cannabinoids provide mild, calming effects that do not make you feel high or intoxicated. Therefore, each of these cannabinoids has something in common along with something that differentiates them from THC.
- Every cannabinoid we’ve listed has been investigated for its relationship with pain.
- There are many different types of pain, but upon thorough consideration of all the different cannabinoids it expresses, Cannabis sativa almost appears to be nature’s answer to pain and inflammation.
- Despite its intoxicating qualities, even THC appears to be useful for pain, which makes it clear that future research into cannabis will make this plant’s effects on human pain and suffering a major issue.With these similarities accounted for, the profound differences between CBG, CBN, CBC, and CBD become more clear. While all of the cannabinoids we’ve investigated in this guide are similar, they also each have unique attributes that make them desirable for different purposes.
- The potential antibacterial qualities of CBN and CBG are pronounced, for instance, but those of CBD and CBC are not.
- While CBG may help with digestive inflammation and CBN might induce appetite, neither CBD nor CBC appear to be particularly focused on your digestive system.
Next to CBD, CBC has received the most attention for its potential anti-cancer benefits, and CBN appears to be the cannabinoid that shows the most promise for sleep.
One big cannabinoid family
Do any of the cannabinoids we’ve listed appear to conflict with each other in any way? No.
It’s common within the science of pharmacology to come across compounds that significantly conflict with or “contraindicate” each other. The popular antidepressant fluoxetine, for instance, interacts negatively with amlodipine, a calcium channel blocker. Even CBD has been discovered to negatively interact with a variety of drugs that are dependent on your liver’s CYP3A4 enzyme for metabolism.
The common theme among drugs and supplements that interact negatively with each other is that they come from different sources. Almost every prescription drug on the market is synthetic, so it only makes sense that dangerous interactions between these substances are common.
Despite their differences, cannabinoids all come from a single source — Cannabis sativa. They don’t cause any problems when they are used together, and on the contrary, it appears that cannabinoids only become more effective when they are ingested in tandem.
Instead of thinking about which cannabinoids you should use while excluding all others, think about how CBD, CBC, CBG, and CBN might work together.
All cannabinoids were originally extracted or otherwise derived from cannabis or hemp, so they’re like individual pieces of a complex, natural puzzle that fit together in harmony. Using cannabinoids together allows each compound to provide benefits that outweigh the sum of its parts.
Which cannabinoid is right for you?
If you’re trying to get certain results, you might want to focus on one cannabinoid in particular. Many people, for instance, use hemp products containing high concentrations of CBN when they want better sleep, and people who experience inflammatory pain often choose CBC.
However, just because you’re interested in the effects of one particular cannabinoiddoesn’t mean you have to entirely exclude all others. In the end, you might want to concoct a cannabinoid regimen that contains, say:
and 10% CBC.
Doing so would allow you to focus extensively on one cannabinoid without excluding the unique benefits other compounds have to offer. You also won’t miss out on the synergy that might be provided by the entourage effect.
Cannabinoid comparison FAQ
Still curious about CBD, CBG, CBC, and CBN compare? Find the answers to common cannabinoid comparison questions below:
1. Is CBD or CBG better?
That is yet to be determined. Interest in CBG is rising, prompting comparisons between this cannabinoid and CBD.
In a paper published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in February 2021, researchers make the case that CBG has just as much therapeutic potential as CBD even though “little research has been performed on this unregulated molecule.”
In the end, it’s likely that CBD and CBG work better in cooperation than in competition.
2. Is CBC legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill changed United States federal law to make Cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC no longer a drug. While this legislation was mainly designed to facilitate the mainstreaming of the CBD market, it inadvertently also opened the way for other non-THC cannabinoids to take the stage.
Cannabinoid products are typically lumped into the same mostly unregulated basket as CBD as long as they contain less than 0.3% 9-tetrahydrocannabinol.Rather than debating the legality of CBG, CBN, and CBC, it’s time to start talking about how to responsibly regulate each of the novel cannabinoids that has recently made its way into the consumer market.
3. Is CBN stronger than CBD?
CBN is somewhat more psychoactive than CBD but much less psychoactive than THC.
Zoe Sigman of the non-profit research foundation Project CBD claims that CBN is about 1/6 to 1/10 as strong as THC. Unlike CBD, which does not have any CB1 affinity, CBN activates this receptor to some degree, but not enough to cause intoxication.
Since CBD doesn’t have any CB1 affinity at all, the effects of CBN might feel stronger. CBD is plenty strong too — it just operates via different neurochemical pathways in the brain.
4. Is CBN or CBG better for anxiety?
Neither CBN nor CBD have been significantly researched for their potential ability to help with anxiety. Based on anecdotal testimony, though, CBN might be the better option since it is generally believed to have more relaxing effects than CBG. As is almost always the case with non-intoxicating cannabinoids, you’ll probably experience the best effects if you use CBN and CBG together.
5. Is CBN or CBG better for sleep?
People generally believe CBN is better for sleep than CBG, but the truth is that we still don’t have enough evidence to make definitive claims either way. CBN originally got its reputation for being soporific because old weed, which contains higher concentrations on CBN, often makes people feel sleepy. This is just anecdotal evidence, though, and we’ll need to wait for all the science to come in before we say whether either CBN or CBG help with sleep.
6. How long does it take for CBN to kick in?
Like most cannabinoids, CBN usually kicks in after around 30 minutes if you ingest it orally and 5 minutes or so when you smoke or vape it. There’s nothing about the structure of CBN that should make it activate slower than any other cannabinoid you’ve used, but keep in mind as you use CBN that the way you ingest this natural hemp substance will profoundly affect its activation time.
7. Can you get high from CBG?
Just like CBD, the cannabinoid CBG does not appear to have any intoxicating effects. According to anecdotal testimony from people who have used both cannabinoids, the effects of CBD and CBG are considerably different from each other, but they’re alike in that you don’t feel high no matter how much CBG or CBD you use.
8. Can you take too much CBN?
Scientists haven’t established an upper limit for safe CBN dosing. In CBD, it appears that doses as high as 1500mg might be safe for adults, but since CBN is a natural metabolite of THC, its safety threshold might be closer to that of its parent cannabinoid. Dangerous doses of THC haven’t been established in humans, but in animals, doses between 40 and 130 mg THC per kilogram of body weight have been proven to be lethal.
No matter which cannabinoid you’re using, it would be very hard to reach this upper limit. If, for the sake of argument, CBN has the same toxicity threshold as THC, you would need to use at least 2,000mg of CBN at once to even get close to the scientifically identified danger threshold.
9. Can you take CBD and CBG together?
Yes, you can use CBD and CBG together at the same time, and in fact, it is highly recommended that you do so. When you use multiple cannabinoids at once, you open yourself up to the benefits of the entourage effect, which scientists believe enhances the effects of individual cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp and cannabis. While you’re at it, throw CBC and CBN into the mix for a truly full-spectrum hemp experience.
10. What is CBN CBD?
If you’ve come across a product listed as “CBN CBD,” chances are that it contains both CBN and CBD, which each have their own non-intoxicating benefits. Used together, though, the benefits of CBN and CBD reach previously unattainable heights, explaining the popularity of CBN-CBD products online.
11. Does CBG make you sleepy?
The non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBG is not known to make you feel sleepy. In fact, compared to CBD, most users consider CBG to have a more upbeat effect. Neither cannabinoid will make you feel high, but CBG might provide energizing effects that are notably absent from the benefits of CBD.
12. Can you smoke CBG flower?
Yes, some forms of CBG flower are meant to be smoked. Make sure your CBG flower is listed as “smokeable” or otherwise intended for human consumption. One form of CBG flower, called “biomass,” is too low-quality to smoke: It’s used for extraction instead.
While we’re on the subject, some forms of CBD flower are better than others. Look for CBG flower that’s grown indoors or in a greenhouse, offers a CBG concentration above 10%, and comes with independent lab reports proving its potency and purity.
13. Is CBN a stimulant?
No, CBN is not considered to be a stimulant. In fact, CBN is widely regarded as being one of the most sedating non-intoxicating cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids, including CBD and THC as well, are not generally classified as “stimulants” or “depressants:” The way they affect the body is too complex to fit within these basic descriptions. CBN and other cannabinoids may, however, take on decidedly uplifting effects when combined with energizing sativa terpenes.
14. Will CBG make you fail a drug test?
No, using the non-intoxicating hemp cannabinoid CBG should not cause you to fail a drug test for THC. Drug tests do not include CBG in their list of substances to screen, and CBG products must contain less than 0.3% THC by law. At concentrations that low, THC will fail to accumulate in your system to a significant-enough degree to be detectable in urinalysis or other forms of drug testing.
15. Is CBG psychoactive?
No, the cannabinoid cannabigerol (CBG) is not psychoactive even if its effects are quite different from those offered by CBD. While CBD is very relaxing or even soporific, users report that CBG is more energizing and therefore pairs better with sativa terpene profiles. Neither CBD nor CBG will get you high, however.
16. What are the effects of CBC?
The cannabinoid cannabichromene (CBC) is non-intoxicating, so it won’t get you high. Compared to CBD, users report that CBC is more energizing and that it provides a pleasantly lucid state of mind. Research into CBC has mainly centered around this cannabinoid’s potential usefulness for chronic pain and inflammation.
17. Does CBC help with inflammation?
Based on initial research on the subject, it’s certainly worth investigating the potential anti-inflammatory properties of CBC in more detail. Studies have revealed that practically all the components of the hemp plant have at least some degree of antioxidant or anti-inflammatory potential, and research into CBC indicates that this cannabinoid may bind with your TRP receptors even more strongly than CBD. These critical neuroreceptors are the main modulators of inflammation and inflammatory pain throughout your body.
18. Is CBN the same as delta 8?
No, CBN is not the same thing as the THC analog known as delta 8. These two cannabinoids have both different chemical structures and different effects — CBN occurs when THC oxidizes, and it does not have any considerable psychoactive properties. Delta 8 is an entirely different form of THCthat naturally develops in cannabis flower and has effects that are much more similar to thoseof conventional THC than to those of CBN.
19. Is CBN good for anxiety?
People commonly use CBN for both sleep disorders and anxiety, and these two types of conditions are closely interrelated. One of the main things that can keep you up at night is anxiety, so it’s possible that CBN’s reported benefits for sleep may have more to do with its potential ability to help with anxiety than they’re derived from any directly sleep-inducing properties.
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