Cannabigerol (CBG) is rapidly gaining popularity around the globe, but less is known about this substance’s chemical precursor. Like all cannabinoids, CBG metabolizes from a type of chemical known as a carboxylic acid, and the chemical precursor that turns into CBG is one of the most interesting cannabinoid acids. In this guide, learn what CBGA is, how it’s currently used, and potential future applications of this fascinating cannabis compound.
What is CBGA?
Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is a carboxylic acid found in Cannabis sativa. While cannabis-derived carboxylic acids are structurally distinct from cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, or THC, they are still technically considered to be cannabinoids since they are only found in hemp and cannabis. As a result, cannabis scientists have taken to calling these compounds cannabinoid acids.
Carboxylic acids are found in many places in nature, and the most common carboxylic acids are formic acid and acetic acid. Each carboxylic acid is equipped with a carboxyl group (COOH) comprised of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. In the case of cannabinoid acids like CBGA, these carboxyl groups are attached to the end of the cannabinoid’s main structure.
When CBGA is heated to 110° C, it decarboxylates into CBG. In this process, the carboxyl group at the end of the CBGA molecule is converted into a unique chemical structure, and it is no longer considered to be an acid.
CBGA doesn’t always decarboxylate into CBG, however. This cannabinoid acid is often called the “stem cell cannabinoid” since it is also the chemical precursor for CBD, THC, and cannabichromene (CBC). CBGA does not directly turn into any of these other cannabinoids, however, and it is impossible to decarboxylate non-intoxicating CBGA into intoxicating THC.
Instead, a chemical process can happen during the development of Cannabis sativa flower that transforms CBGA into the carboxylic acid precursors of other cannabinoids. Depending on the genetics of the strain in question, CBGA can turn into either CBDA, THCA, or CBCA. These cannabinoid acids then turn into their stable cannabinoid forms when decarboxylated.
CBGA is primarily a subject of interest among cannabis scientists due to its ability to transform into other cannabinoid acids. However, this carboxylic acid also appears to have its own unique benefits that make it a legitimate target of continued research.
History of CBGA research
CBGA was not identified during the initial taxonomification of compounds present in Cannabis sativa. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Israeli scientists were successful in isolating CBGA from cannabis, and it took until 1996 for Japanese researchers to discover that CBGA is the chemical precursor of CBG.
Based on this timeline alone, it’s understandable that research into CBGA remains in its infancy. Combined with the fact that worldwide prohibition efforts have made it very difficult for scientists to research cannabis compounds, the current status of CBGA research is even easier to justify.
CBGA has started receiving significantly more attention over the last few years, however, due to the discovery that this cannabinoid can also turn into the chemical precursors of THC and CBD. Contemporary research into CBGA has primarily centered around this cannabinoid’s ability to turn into THCA, which some scientists believe may make this carboxylic acid a prime source of recombinant THC.
While nearly the entirety of the world’s cannabinoid supply is currently derived from mature Cannabis sativa flower, the process of cultivating and processing cannabis is highly inefficient. While hemp and cannabis flower will surely remain important parts of the connoisseur or artisan cannabinoid economic landscape for the foreseeable future, researchers are keen to derive cannabinoids from other sources for the mass-production of pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid products.
Research from 2017 indicates that it is relatively simple to derive CBGA from various genetically altered yeast strains, and this recombinant CBGA can then be converted into THCA. Then, this THCA is decarboxylated into THC, completing the process of deriving THC from yeast without the land-use and resource-application concerns inherent to mass-scale outdoor cannabis agriculture.
Researchers are currently in the process of developing techniques to derive cannabinoids from yeast at commercial scales. It’s likely that the relative ease of deriving CBGA from yeast will continue to make this carboxylic acid a primary target of recombinant cannabinoid research for the foreseeable future.
What is CBGA currently used for?
Currently, the primary real-world application of CBGA is the role that it plays in high-CBG strains of Cannabis sativa. Following the widespread popularization of CBD during the 2010s, cannabis breeders immediately got to work developing hemp strains that were high in CBG to ensure the continued expansion of the non-intoxicating cannabis market.
As a result, high-CBG hemp strains are now available in similar potencies to those offered by high-CBD strains. Dried and cured CBG-rich cannabis strains do not contain high concentrations of end-product CBG, however. Instead, they are primarily rich in CBGA, which then decarboxylates into CBG when processed or smoked.
Once they contain decarboxylated CBG, CBGA-rich cannabis strains can have a variety of in-demand applications. While CBG is similar to CBD in many ways, this cannabinoid is distinct enough to have a unique place within the wider cannabinoid economy, and hemp consumers are starting to become aware of the research that has been conducted into the potential benefits of CBG.
For instance, CBG has recently been studied for its potential impact on inflammation. Researchers are keen to follow the same path they did with CBD by determining whether CBG exerts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
CBG has also been investigated for its potential gastrointestinal benefits. Scientists have looked closely at the potential impact of this cannabinoid on gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Another popular angle of CBG research is this cannabinoid’s potential antimicrobial properties. Scientists have attempted to discover whether CBG might be useful in preventing and treating bacterial, fungal, and yeast infections.
CBGA can also be used in its carboxylic acid form by consuming this cannabinoid acid without exposing it to temperatures of 110° C or higher. At this point, however, very little research has been done into the specific benefits of CBGA, and there is a much wider body of evidence surrounding the potential benefits of decarboxylated CBG.
What might CBGA be used for in the future?
It’s likely that CBGA will continue to play a major role in recombinant cannabinoid research for the foreseeable future. As the “stem cell” cannabinoid acid, CBGA is the simplest Cannabis sativa constituent to produce with genetically modified yeast, and the growing popularity of both the CBD and THC industries will only put more pressure on pharmaceutical concerns to develop safe, synthetic forms of these popular cannabinoids.
CBGA will also play an increasingly important role in the conventional hemp economy due to the rising popularity of CBG. Already, many hemp consumers and producers are starting to view CBG as the “next CBD,” and cannabis breeders continue to focus on developing high-quality, CBG-rich hemp strains.
It’s unlikely, however, that CBGA will gain significant popularity as a standalone substance. Not enough research has been conducted to determine the benefits that CBGA might offer when it is not decarboxylated into CBG, so consumer demand for this cannabinoid acid will likely remain low. As evidence supporting this point, CBDA, the carboxylic acid precursor of CBD, is not widely demanded or used despite the overwhelming popularity of CBD.
What are the best ways to use CBGA?
The best way to consume CBGA is to ingest CBG-rich flower without decarboxylating it. Doing so is easier said than done, however.
Since decarboxylation occurs when CBGA is heated to 110° C or higher, you’ll need to make sure that your CBG-rich hemp flower remains below this temperature threshold. One potential way to achieve this task is to eat CBG-rich flower raw, but while edible, hemp flower is not particularly pleasing to the palate or easy to swallow.
Cooking hemp flower rich in CBGA, however, would decarboxylate it unless you prepared a dish that was not heated above 110° C during the cooking process. The same goes for smoking or vaping CBGA—both of these methods would transform this carboxylic acid into its cannabinoid endpoint.
Perhaps the easiest way to consume CBGA would be to ingest this cannabinoid in the form of cryogenic hemp extract. Some forms of hemp extract are produced using extremely cold temperatures, and since they do not involve heat, they don’t convert CBGA into CBG.
Most forms of CBG extract present in tinctures, capsules, and other orally ingested products, however, have purposefully been decarboxylated to increase their CBG concentrations. As a result, you’ll need to get your hands on some cryogenically extracted CBGA concentrate and prepare your own ingestion method. One option would be to combine your CBGA extract with a simple carrier oil like MCT oil to make a DIY CBGA tincture.
CBGA on the horizon
CBG is already an important component of the global hemp economy, and CBGA is proving to play a critical role in the fledgling recombinant cannabinoid industry. Via both of these channels, CBGA will continue to gain prominence within the world of cannabis, and in the relatively near future, it may end up being hailed as the most important Cannabis sativa compound.In the meantime, explore the potential benefits of CBGA yourself by smoking CBG flower or going the purist’s route and finding a way to ingest this cannabinoid in its original carboxylic acid form. We’re just starting to learn about CBGA, and it’s the job of hemp enthusiasts everywhere to demand further research into this fascinating cannabinoid acid. For more guides like this, visit the Secret Nature blog, and contact us with any questions.