Cannabinoid Comparison: CBD vs. CBG

The differences are subtle and surprising

Trying to describe each groovy moment of goodness we experience while puffing on our organic hemp joints and flower is like grasping at smoke. We just know it feels good, ya know? 

Whether it’s high in CBG (Mom Grass) or high in CBD (Dad Grass), we’re always left smiling when the low-key buzz wears off. A refreshing chill has blown away some mental and emotional cobwebs. We’re relaxed, man. Just feelin’ better.

But once you spend a bit of time chilling out with both Mom and Dad, you’re sure to notice that CBD and CBG each have their own way of doing things. Sure, it’s subtle and subjective. A bit tough to pin down. And we’re not here to tell you how to feel or make you pick a side. 

Instead, we’re rolling out this article that combines feedback from the extended Dad Grass fam along with some good ol’ fashion science courtesy of the researchers working on the chemistry and biology side of things. We’ll start with an overview of cannabinoids, share what we know about the endocannabinoid system and what’s known about how CBG and CBD act in the body. Along the way, we’ll drop in some of the things our friends told us they experienced smoking both Mom Grass and Dad Grass.

Give it a read. It may not answer all of your questions (even the scientists are still stumped on some of the details). But we hope it helps you better appreciate the differences between these two magical members of the cannabis family. And maybe it’ll give you some fun facts to share while passing around those pre rolled joints.  

In the Weed: What are CBG and CBD anyway? Isn’t it all just cannabis? 

Here at Dad Grass, we believe in the goodness of whole plant cannabis (always with less than .3% THC of course). You’ll find sun-grown whole plant cannabis in the CBD pre rolled joints we launched first here at Dad Grass, as well as in the new CBG jays we lovingly call Mom Grass. They’re both cannabis, or hemp specifically: cannabis plants bred to have less than .3% THC.

All kinds of interesting molecules live in these plants; one doc told us there are more than 500. (Here's our deep dive into what cannabinoids are and how they work.) Of these, more than 115 are thought to be cannabinoids. What are cannabinoids? They’re  21-carbon molecules that interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system as well as other systems in the body.

CBD, an abbreviation for cannabidiol, is the second most-prevalent cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is expressed in the hemp flower, the bloom of the cannabis plants, specifically in the sticky trichomes that coat the buds.

Cannabigerol, or CBG, is the third most-prevalent cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. In its earliest form within the plant, it is the parent molecule of both CBG and THC. Considered to be the major cannabinoids, CBD and THC have been more extensively studied than CBG.

Within the cannabis plant, CBG can be thought of as a waystation. It’s a building block, or base, of other cannabinoids. This is why we dubbed it Mom Grass; it’s the mother of all cannabinoids. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are derived from CBG. This nature of CBG makes it hard to capture for your toking pleasure without specially growing hemp bred to have higher concentrations of it. Helpfully, our growers have figured it out.

CBG works differently than CBD in the body, too, from what we know so far. Think of these two cannabinoids as closely related (but distinct) family members.

Of the many ways CBD and CBG work once ingested, some are more understood than others.

How CBG feels: ‘Not too stoney baloney’

Before we get too scientific, let’s talk about how friends say our Mom Grass CBG joints make them feel.

One pal called it a light smoke with good flavor. “It helped with pain I was having and helped me focus on other things I was working on in that moment,” they told us.

A second buddy said it gave them more of a body buzz than Dad Grass, but they still felt alert and functional, more mentally grounded.

Why did our friends feel what they felt? Science may have some of the answers.

The Endocannabinoid System: An Essential System No One Told You About

Headline: Scientists Discover the Endocannabinoid System. Picture of a scientist on the left, picture of bodies with the outline of the endocannabinoid system on the right

Following the clues leads us to the endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system of receptors and chemicals within the body which play a key role in keeping us balanced throughout the body’s daily grind. So many of our body’s processes are affected by the endocannabinoid system: appetite, sleep cycles, pain relief, pregnancy, mood, inflammation, and more.

The receptors we know about so far with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. They, as well as the molecules which bind to them, play a key role in regulating our bodies, keeping us in homeostasis. The ECS registers external stimuli – like cold or heat – and helps our body respond to it accordingly. It responds to stress and pain as well as pleasurable stimuli such as singing and dancing.

Our ECS can be considered as a flow of information within the body that informs all its various systems. And it’s a flow of information that drives backward. Rather than following the usual path for chemical synaptic signaling - a path along which neurotransmitters move from presynaptic neuron to postsynaptic neuron and then attach to a receptor - endocannabinoids travel in the opposite direction. By way of driving backward, endocannabinoids can slow down rates of neurotransmission, said Dr. David Bearman. He’s written two books about cannabinoids and is the vice president of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. He is not financially affiliated with Dad Grass.

Slowing rates of neurotransmission could be of use to people suffering diseases where synapses are firing too quickly, Dr. Bearman said. 

CBG and the ECS

So we know about the ECS, the body’s cannabinoids and the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants - known as phytocannabinoids, for those who like words with lots of syllables. But how does it all work together? Let’s start with what we know about CBG.

Within our bodies, CBG is said to attach to both known endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. These receptors are located throughout the body, with CB1 being among the most prevalent receptor type found in the brain as well as the central nervous system. CB1 receptors can also be found in the heart, skin, reproductive system, immune system, etc.

The CB1 receptor is known for being the lock into which THC fits; it was the search to identify and understand THC that led scientists to discover the existence of our endocannabinoid system in 1995 in the first place. A psychotropic cannabinoid responsible for the high associated with marijuana, THC acts within the body very similarly to one of the body’s own cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are chemicals our bodies make; two are known thus far. The one which acts a bit like THC is called anandamide. It’s also known as the bliss molecule and is responsible for runner’s high. THC and anandamide both impact the brain’s experience of pain in positive ways (which is to say, reducing it). But while THC is slower to metabolize, anandamide breaks down quickly. It doesn’t hang around as long as THC.

CBG attaches to the CB1 receptor as well, but it is not known to produce a trippy high sensation because it doesn’t appear to be psychoactive. This was one of the benefits lauded by doctors who studied its effect on glioblastomas.

Few CB2 receptors are found in the brain; these are located primarily in immune tissues and in the peripheral nervous system. Knowing that CB2 and CB1 receptors are located in various places around the body helps explain why cannabinoids can produce multiple effects simultaneously.

Now we’ll throw you for a loop. While we know CBG attaches to both CB1 and CB2 – it does so weakly, said Ethan Russo, a doctor and leading cannabinoid researcher who helped create two of the only FDA approved medicines with CBD, Epidiolex and Sativex. He’s not financially affiliated with Dad Grass.

“Straight out of the chute, it has less to do with the cannabinoid receptors and more involvement with other systems,” Dr. Russo said. “This highlights the versatility of the plant.”

Which other systems and exactly how does it work? More study is needed here. There’s really so much researchers don’t empirically know about how exactly weed works in the body.

We just viscerally know it feels good. Our friends tell us that CBG can simply help them mellow out and get some things done.

“I really enjoyed it,” one pal shared. “It calmed the anxiousness, but left me energized with a clear head and I was able to focus and get some projects done. I would say it is the exact opposite of couch-lock. I think I like CBG even better than CBD - but need to try more before making a final decision of course!”

Right on.

CBD: 30 mechanisms of action, many still mysterious

CBD, meanwhile, acts peripherally on the CB1 receptor and seems to blunt the effect of THC. It also attaches to other receptors, including serotonin. You’ve most likely heard of serotonin as the happy chemical; it’s a neurotransmitter believed to be partially responsible for our moods. When CBD hooks up with serotonin receptors, a decrease in anxiety can be felt. Dr. Russo says CBD has some 30 mechanisms of action within the body.

Our friends who enjoy Dad Grass CBD pre rolls tell us they often save ’em for after work. We’re told the Dad Grass experience can prompt a mind-shift but leaves folks clear headed, able to think and converse. Their smile widens, they relax emotionally and experience enhanced sensory experiences are felt in the body.

Why do our CBD joints make them feel that way? We can’t be certain at this point. Even the top researchers in the field admit that they’ve still got a lot of learning to do. 

“We really do not know when and where it works,” said Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, in a 2016 talk about CBD.

Professor Raphael Mechoulam

Considered the father of cannabis medicine, he and a team of chemists in Israel discovered the existence of THC and the endocannabinoid system. He is also a vocal spokesperson for the great need for additional clinical trials studying cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.

In this 2021 interview, he describes the endocannabinoid system and explicitly calls it tragic for so little to be empirically known about cannabinoids and a system of the body that regulates so many physiological functions.

“It has to do with what we are,” he says. “Here we have a situation which is unacceptable. I believe that governments through their ministries of health should do clinical trials because nobody else is doing them.”

We couldn’t agree more. It’s high time we got to the bottom of this! In the meantime, we’ll do what we can to gather more data (from both the scientists and the smokers) and pass it along to you all. Stay tuned.

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