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CBGA: What is it and what are its effects?


CBGA or cannabigerolic acid is the cannabinoid that gives rise to more than 120 varieties of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and has gained interest for its potential therapeutic properties. In this post, we will tell you what CBGA is, its importance in the cannabis plant and how it can be a source of health benefits.

What is CBGA?

CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, is one of several types of cannabinoids naturally present in the cannabis plant. What characterizes CBGA is that it is the precursor substance for other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabichromene (CBC) and of course cannabigerol (CBG). For this reason, it is also known as the mother cannabinoid.

The major cannabinoid precursor, CBGA, has a chemical formula of C22H32O4.

Differences between CBG and CBGA
Chemical formula and molecule of CBG and CBGA, showing their differences.

Origin and Synthesis of CBGA

CBGA originates from delicate structures called trichomes, which line the cannabis plant. From here, an amazing biological transformation is triggered that produces the more than one hundred different cannabinoids found in cannabis.

In the cannabis plant, the CBGA molecule is transformed through biological processes (known as cannabinoid biosynthesis) to produce psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabinoids, providing cannabis with its diverse chemical profile. These transformations are performed by different enzymes on geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid (1, 2).

Differences between CBGA and CBD/THC

Unlike CBD and THC, CBGA is not a cannabinoid that is highly present in cannabis plants. This is because, over time in cannabis crops, CBGA is transformed to give rise to other cannabinoids.

CBGA in the cannabis plant is rarely found in high concentrations. CBGA is said to be present in higher amounts in young plants (3), but could be obtained from cannabis strains genetically selected to contain high concentrations of CBGA (4). In these plants, inhibitors are potentiated that prevent the transformation of CBGA to CBD, THC and other cannabinoids.

One of the properties of CBGA is that it does not have a psychoactive effect like THC, i.e. CBGA does not produce the “high” that occurs after consumption of THC.

Effects of CBGA and the Endocannabinoid System

CBGA shows a low affinity for the receptors of the endocannabinoid system in our body, CB1 and CB2 (5). But it can have effects in the organism, thanks to its action on other molecular targets (3).

As a result of this interaction, the effects of CBGA influence some physiological processes in the body, but not to the same extent as other cannabinoids. However, it is possible that it may contribute to the therapeutic properties of CBD and other compounds of the cannabis plant through a synergistic or entourage effect.

Potential Benefits and Therapeutic Applications of CBGA

The effects of CBGA are still under investigation; however, scientific studies have shown that CBGA and CBD share benefits such as the anti-inflammatory effect . In one study, it was observed that CBGA may be more potent than CBD in inhibiting the release of substances that perpetuate inflammation (6).

Some other research has suggested that a benefit of CBGA could be the control of diabetes mellitus and the prevention of cardiovascular problems resulting from type 2 diabetes (7); and it could even reduce insulin resistance in these patients (8).

In addition, it has been suggested that another benefit of CBGA is its synergistic action with other cannabinoids to induce cancer cell death (9). Although it was only studied in colorectal cancer cells and leukemia (10), it may be the first building block for future treatments.

The findings found in these studies are still preliminary, as they are mostly in vitro studies that have not been tested in animals or humans.

We remind you that this is an informative article that is not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat any disease. Its content can complement, but never replace, the diagnosis or treatment of any disease or symptom. Cannactiva products are not medicines and are intended for external use. Consult your doctor before using CBD.

How is CBGA taken?

CBGA products are natural and manufactured from cannabis plants. Commercially CBGA can be found in oils, tinctures, concentrates and edible products such as gummies, which are made with full-spectrum cannabis oil.

CBGA can also be isolated and synthesized in the laboratory, but is generally used for research purposes.

As such, it is not yet known how CBGA should be taken to obtain certain effects or to be used for medical conditions in humans, and there is no effective CBGA dose reported to date. In laboratories, doses of CBGA are administered in solutions to cell cultures and are therefore not equivalent to what could be used in humans and animals.

Side effects and toxicity of CBGA

The side effects of CBGA have not yet been studied, but it appears to be a fairly safe compound. The toxicity of CBGA has yet to be studied and studies have yet to be conducted to establish its safety profile. Therefore, the potential risks of CBGA should not be minimized, as they are not known.

Because CBGA is found in low concentrations in commercial cannabis products such as tinctures and full-spectrum CBD oils, if any adverse effects occur, they are likely to be related to concentrations of other cannabinoids.

Does CBGA test positive for drugs?

No, drug detection kits are usually focused on the detection of THC and/or its metabolites. When CBGA is consumed from a product containing small amounts of THC, a positive urine test may be obtained, but this is due to the presence of THC, not CBGA. Some drug screening tests (other than urine tests) may be cross-reactive and may yield positive results for cannabinoids such as CBGA. Although this is rare.

Legal status and regulation of CBGA

CBGA as such is not regulated in most countries of the world and in countries where CBD is allowed, CBGA is legal as well.

Although regulations vary from country to country, CBGA lacks a psychoactive, consciousness-altering effect and is therefore usually permitted. However, in countries where cannabis is illegal even for medicinal use, CBGA will most likely be illegal as well.

In short, CBGA is a key part of the machinery of the cannabis plant, since it is from this compound that the cannabinoids we know originate. Although knowledge about the effects of CBGA is limited, it is possible that research will continue to surprise us with its characteristics and health-preserving properties.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prevent or cure any disease or symptom. Its content can complement, but never replace, the diagnosis or treatment of any disease or symptom. Cannactiva products are not medicines and are intended for external use. We recommend that you consult a health professional before using CBD products.

  1. Tahir, M. N., Shahbazi, F., Rondeau-Gagné, S., & Trant, J. F. (2021). The biosynthesis of the cannabinoids. Journal of cannabis research, 3(1), 7.
  2. van Velzen, R., & Schranz, M. E. (2021). Origin and Evolution of the Cannabinoid Oxidocyclase Gene Family. Genome biology and evolution, 13(8), evab130.
  3. Walsh, K. B., McKinney, A. E., & Holmes, A. E. (2021). Minor Cannabinoids: Biosynthesis, Molecular Pharmacology and Potential Therapeutic Uses. Frontiers in pharmacology, 12, 777804.
  4. Garfinkel, A. R., Otten, M., & Crawford, S. (2021). SNP in Potentially Defunct Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid Synthase Is a Marker for Cannabigerolic Acid Dominance in Cannabis sativa L. Genes, 12(2), 228.
  5. Navarro, G., Varani, K., Lillo, A., Vincenzi, F., Rivas-Santisteban, R., Raïch, I., Reyes-Resina, I., Ferreiro-Vera, C., Borea, P. A., Sánchez de Medina, V., Nadal, X., & Franco, R. (2020). Pharmacological data of cannabidiol- and cannabigerol-type phytocannabinoids acting on cannabinoid CB1, CB2 and CB1/CB2 heteromer receptors. Pharmacological research, 159, 104940.
  6. Faouzi, M., Wakano, C., Monteilh-Zoller, M. K., Neupane, R. P., Starkus, J. G., Neupane, J. B., Cullen, A. J., Johnson, B. E., Fleig, A., & Penner, R. (2022). Acidic Cannabinoids Suppress Proinflammatory Cytokine Release by Blocking Store-operated Calcium Entry. Function (Oxford, England), 3(4), zqac033.
  7. D’Aniello, E., Fellous, T., Iannotti, F. A., Gentile, A., Allarà, M., Balestrieri, F., Gray, R., Amodeo, P., Vitale, R. M., & Di Marzo, V. (2019). Identification and characterization of phytocannabinoids as novel dual PPARα/γ agonists by a computational and in vitro experimental approach. Biochimica et biophysica acta. General subjects, 1863(3), 586-597.
  8. Gao, Q., Hanh, J., Váradi, L., Cairns, R., Sjöström, H., Liao, V. W., Wood, P., Balaban, S., Ong, J. A., Lin, H. Y., Lai, F., Hoy, A. J., Grewal, T., Groundwater, P. W., & Hibbs, D. E. (2015). Identification of dual PPARα/γ agonists and their effects on lipid metabolism. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(24), 7676-7684.
  9. Nallathambi, R., Mazuz, M., Namdar, D., Shik, M., Namintzer, D., Vinayaka, A. C., Ion, A., Faigenboim, A., Nasser, A., Laish, I., Konikoff, F. M., & Koltai, H. (2018). Identification of Synergistic Interaction Between Cannabis-Derived Compounds for Cytotoxic Activity in Colorectal Cancer Cell Lines and Colon Polyps That Induces Apoptosis-Related Cell Death and Distinct Gene Expression. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 120-135.
  10. Scott, K. A., Shah, S., Dalgleish, A. G., & Liu, W. M. (2013). Enhancing the activity of cannabidiol and other cannabinoids in vitro through modifications to drug combinations and treatment schedules. Anticancer research, 33(10), 4373-4380.

Masha Burelo
Investigadora en cannabinoides | Doctoranda en Neurociencia

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