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What Is the Difference Between CBD, CBG, and CBN?

Written By Ellese Symons Jul 13th 2022
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While talking with a group of friends, coworkers, or family members about anything related to health or wellness, chances are it didn't take long for someone to mention they've been using hemp-derived CBD. If several people chime in about their experiences, you may have noticed that everyone was quite comfortable using the terms "hemp oil" and "CBD oil" interchangeably. There was likely little need to clarify. With the popularity of hemp-derived products, most people know that CBD is a plant element found in industrial hemp extract.

Maybe you've also been involved in a CBD-related conversation where someone mentioned they've been investigating other options, looking for products higher in CBN or CBG. If you have, you've likely realized that CBG, CBN, and CBD were similar in some respects, yet not the same. Understanding the differences between these three potentially beneficial hemp extract components could help you find the hemp-derived product that's right for you.

Interest Shifts from CBD to Minor Cannabinoids

As the most abundant of the many plant-based cannabinoids in industrial hemp, CBD attracted a lot of attention in a relatively short amount of time. But CBD is not the first cannabinoid produced by industrial hemp plants. The first cannabinoid to develop is the acidic form of CBG, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). As the plant grows, natural enzymes convert CBGA to the acidic forms of CBD, CBC, and THC. The acidic components are eventually broken down by heat and sunlight. CBN, a cannabinoid with intriguing properties of its own, is the end result of the breakdown of THC.

As hemp plants mature, the CBD content increases as the CBG levels decline. By the time hemp plants are ready for harvest, crops contain ample amounts of CBD, but only trace amounts of CBG, CBN, THC, and other minor cannabinoids. While many CBD users appreciate how the minor cannabinoids in hemp extract contribute to the overall effects of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products, most of the early research investigating the therapeutic potential of plant-based cannabinoids focused on a single plant element, CBD. CBN, CBG, and the rest of the minor cannabinoids were not studied as extensively.

But that's changing. As researchers continue to investigate the therapeutic potential of the many lesser-known cannabinoids in hemp extract, CBD users are taking notice. Based on preliminary investigations, it's clear that it's the differences between these three cannabinoids that has people talking.

Interacting with the Same Receptors to Initiate a Different Response

CBD, CBN, and CBG work by interacting with the receptors of the largest regulatory system in your body, the receptors of your endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex network of messengers and receptors regulates everything from your moods and emotions to the processes that keep processes working as they should. ECS function is so essential to your overall health and wellbeing that researchers believe its primary role is to regulate the variables involved in homeostasis, the internal balance essential for survival.1 When internal or external forces threaten that balance, it's the processes of homeostasis that restore equilibrium.2

The cannabinoids in hemp-derived products support ECS function by mimicking the effects of the cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) made in your body to relay urgent messages to their corresponding receptors. Research shows that each cannabinoid produces a different effect. To determine how your body might benefit from the effects of individual cannabinoids, consider the value of the following observations:

Cannabidiol (CBD) — Overall Health and Wellness

Research investigating the effects of CBD reveals a wide range of potential health and wellness benefits. While CBD does not bind with ECS receptors directly, the effects of CBD are stronger and last longer than the effects of the endocannabinoids produced in your body. CBD is also shown to interact with more than 65 molecular targets not related to ECS signaling,3 including the receptors of your serotonin, dopamine, and GABA systems. It's the cannabinoid's ability to interact with numerous receptors throughout your body that explains its great potential.4

Although most of the evidence supporting the many potential health and wellness benefits of CBD is based on animal studies, laboratory tests, and a small number of clinical trials, it's easy to find a significant number of testimonials from people who claim CBD has made a difference. Based on the results of a 2019 survey conducted by CBDistillery™, CBD users report feeling less pain after physical activity, mild anxiety, increased feelings of calmness, and improved sleep.

Cannabinol (CBN) — Calmness, Rest, and Relaxation

Identified years before CBD, there was a time that researchers believed CBN was the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana. That initial theory was proven false once researchers discovered THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Even though CBN is produced through the breakdown of THC and binds with the same ECS receptors, the cannabinoids do not have the same intoxicating effect.

CBN's interaction with ECS receptors is shown to have a gentle calming effect. Research shows that effect could be particularly helpful for anyone hoping to find better sleep, relief, and relaxation.

Cannabigerol (CBG) — Enhancing the Effects of CBD

Research investigating the effects of CBG shows that cannabigerol and CBD have a similar impact on the body. Although mature hemp plants contain considerably more CBD than CBG, the effects of CBG appear to be stronger. That observation is likely the result of the cannabinoid's ability to bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors directly.

Although CBG has considerable health and wellness potential of its own, CBD enthusiasts seem particularly interested in the cannabinoids reported ability to enhance the effects of their hemp-derived CBD products. Many say the combined effects of CBD and CBG are stronger than CBD on its own. This can be explained by the way CBG and CBD work together, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect, multiplying the health benefits of CBD. While it's unlikely that CBG will be replacing CBD as the most requested cannabinoid anytime soon, innovative companies are expanding their product line to include a range of hemp-derived CBG products by harvesting crops before they reach full maturity.

Expanding Your Product Options with CBDistillery™

If you're interested in the combined health and wellness potential of CBD, CBN, and CBG, it may be helpful to know that CBDistillery™ Full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD products contain all the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and other potentially beneficial plant elements found in the same ratios as the original plant source, including the trace amounts of CBN and CBG. Our broad-spectrum products contain CBN and CBG, but 0% THC*.

At CBDistillery™, we also offer a 1000 mg Full-Spectrum CBD + GBG Tincture, CBG isolate High Purity Powder, and an assortment of 0% THC CBD items made with CBD isolate, a product that is nearly 100 percent pure cannabidiol. All CBDistillery™ CBD tinctures, capsules, gummies, vapes, and topicals are third-party tested.

* Third-party tested to ensure non-detectable levels of THC (less than .05%)

Additional Sources:
1. Journal of Young Investigators. C Sallaberry, L Astern. (2018 June 01) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator.
2. Live Science. N Lanese. (2019 July 15) What is Homeostasis?
3. Neurotherapeutics. C Bih et al. (2015 October 12) Molecular Targets of Cannabidiol in Neurological Disorders.
4. Project CBD. (2020) How CBD Works.