Even those new to cannabis have probably heard of THC and CBD. The two cannabis compounds are often considered the two “main” cannabinoids in cannabis, but more than 100 other cannabinoids have also been identified.

Fortunately, only a handful prominently appear in cannabis, and knowing the difference between minor cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and CBG can go a long way.

As the industry continues to grow, with a plethora of new, innovative products available to consumers, understanding the specific effects and potential benefits of these cannabinoids is crucial to choosing what products might work best for you. Consumers are collectively uncovering the potential of these “minor” cannabinoids and the potential therapeutic benefits they offer.

Dive in with us as we explore the distinctions between CBD, CBN, and CBG!

In this blog we'll answer the following questions:

  • What are cannabinoids?

  • What is CBD?

  • What is CBN?

  • What is CBG?

  • What is the difference between CBD, CBG and CBN?

  • What are the benefits of CBD, CBG and CBN?

rock climber alex puccio holding cbd gummies

What are cannabinoids?

Before we explore this group of cannabis compounds, let’s take a step back and talk about what we mean when we say “cannabinoids.” These are a group of substances found within the cannabis plant which work to activate our bodies’ cannabinoid receptors.

Humans already have an endocannabinoid system, essentially a transmitter system that cannabis compounds interact with, though the primary purpose of this system is to regulate and control critical bodily functions. Cannabinoids can be psychoactive, like THC, meaning that they elicit the feeling of being “high,” or they can be non-psychoactive. Non-psychoactive cannabinoids won’t make you feel high, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile.

A Note About Cannabinoids and Medical Benefits

While we have entered a new frontier in cannabis, continuing to uncover new information about a number of cannabis compounds, we also must recognize that this research is still new and somewhat limited. Research has indeed found a number of potential benefits and uses for these cannabinoids, which is promising as we look ahead at the possibilities for plant medicine.

However, many cannabinoid studies are limited in scope and don’t involve humans. To put it simply, cannabinoids as a whole demand further attention.

Cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and CBG are known to be well tolerated in humans and have few side effects (and those observed are generally considered to be minor). That said, cannabinoids are great to supplement your wellness, rather replacing other prescribed treatments.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking cannabinoids to specifically treat any specific symptom or condition.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has seen a huge boom in the last several years, especially after industrial hemp was legalized with the 2018 Farm Bill. Due to this legislative shift, adults can now purchase CBD products, and hemp-derived products with less than 0.3% THC by weight, in stores and online legally.

CBD is generally considered the most popular cannabinoid next to THC, and appears in large amounts in both cannabis plants and hemp, making it easy to cultivate and distribute in products like tinctures, edibles, vaporizer oils, topicals, and more.

Potential Benefits and Uses of CBD

CBD is often hailed for containing many potential benefits that THC offers, just without the psychoactive high. We are still uncovering exactly how this cannabinoid works with our bodies, but the available research shows that the compound could offer an array of potential benefits.

Namely, CBD has been clinically shown to reduce pain responses in our bodies without subjecting people to the side effects and dependency other pain-relieving drugs, like opiates, may have. Clinical studies have also shown CBD has anti-inflammatory properties.

While scientists suggest that we must continue further research before we can fully claim CBD’s efficacy in treating anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, anecdotal evidence is promising. And claims that CBD can improve mood are not without their merits: Studies have found CBD can help to reduce anxiety and symptoms related to anxiety disorders.

Some evidence shows that CBD can improve sleep quality. The cannabinoid has also shown potential in treating a number of diseases, though it’s important to recognize that it is not a cure all. The FDA has also approved a CBD-containing medication for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy.

What is CBN?

Some characterize cannabinol (CBN) as a weaker version of THC. It’s derived from the THC components of the cannabis plant, formed when THC in the plant ages and breaks down. This is one main distinction between CBN and the others on this list — it is indeed mildly psychoactive, though it’s still much less potent than THC.

CBN is still a fairly new cannabinoid to hit the scene, so it hasn’t been studied or used as widely as CBD or THC. That said, the limited research so far sheds a light on the potential benefits the minor cannabinoid offers.

Potential Benefits and Uses of CBN

CBN is most often marketed as a sleep aid, and many users have attested to the cannabinoid’s sedative qualities. Only one major study has confirmed the sleep-inducing effects of CBN, though the study is now decades old and notes sedating effects specifically in tandem with THC.

Many CBN products contain other cannabinoids, like THC, along with sedating compounds like melatonin that can help to enhance some of these effects.

A 2019 rat study also suggests that CBN could provide pain relief, both on its own and combined with CBD, though clinical studies have yet to test this theory. Another rat study conducted in 2015 noted that CBN had neuroprotective effects, though it's still unclear if it offers the same benefits for humans.

There’s also evidence in rats that CBN could reduce inflammation, though it bears repeating: More research, specifically on human subjects, must be done to fully confirm these benefits.

What is CBG?

Similar to CBD, cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid regularly sought out for its potential medical benefits. Like CBN, it is still relatively new to the cannabis scene. This cannabinoid is found across all cannabis strains and acts as the precursor to three cannabinoids: THC-A, CBD-A, and CBC-A.

Once a cannabis plant matures, enzymes break down CBG-A and convert most of it to other more prominent cannabinoids, like CBD-A and THC-A. However, as we continue to uncover the potential behind CBG, breeders are experimenting with ways to maximize the presence of the cannabinoid or to extract it from young cannabis plants.

Potential Benefits and Uses of CBG

Looking at the available research, CBG has a number of unique potential benefits.

One study found that CBG could effectively reduce intraocular pressure, meaning it may be a useful treatment for glaucoma. A mice study showed CBG’s efficacy in decreasing chronic inflammation characteristics in certain diseases, and another mice study showed CBG’s potential to offer neuroprotective properties to aid in the treatment of Huntington’s disease.

Further studies have also shown the cannabinoid’s potential antibacterial properties, and a rat study also showed that CBG could act as an appetite stimulant without the intoxicating effects of THC.

That’s not all: CBG is being eyed for its potential to reduce cancer cell growth in several cancer lines, and another study found that CBG was most effective among five compounds (CBD, CBD-V, THC-V, CBC, and CBG) in treating bladder dysfunction.

Final Thoughts

Even though THC is surely a main player in the conversation, CBD, CBN, and CBG stand apart, finally getting their time to shine.

The wide array of information out there today surrounding cannabis can be a bit daunting and you sit down to shop for products. While there’s still a lot to uncover about these secondary cannabinoids, the potential benefits these compounds carry offer an abundance of promise for personal wellness!

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