Author: Luke Sholl
CBGA is one of several cannabinoid acids occurring in the cannabis plant. Known as the “mother cannabinoid”, CBGA acts as the precursor to many other members of the cannabinoid family. As well as playing a key role in cannabinoid biosynthesis, CBGA may have applications relevant to humans. Let’s take a deeper look into this interesting molecule below.
CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, plays a cornerstone role in the creation of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Through a series of chemical reactions, cannabis trichomes create olivetolic acid (OA) and geranyl diphosphate (GPP). Both of these molecules are converted into CBGA by a specific enzyme—CBGA synthase. Once synthesised, CBGA has the potential to become a multitude of cannabinoid acids, depending on which enzyme catalyses the reaction. THCA synthase, CBDA synthase, and CBCA synthase convert CBGA into THCA, CBDA, and CBCA, respectively.
However, CBGA can also be converted into the cannabinoid CBG if exposed to the right conditions before these reactions. When exposed to heat, a carboxyl group detaches from the molecule. This process—known as decarboxylation—creates CBG. Known mostly as a minor cannabinoid, CBG is beginning to gain traction in the world of cannabis. An increasing amount of CBG products are hitting the market, and breeders have developed cultivars that possess cannabinoid profiles consisting of 100% CBG.
CBGA also plays other fundamental roles in the cannabis plant. As a secondary metabolite, it helps to direct resources towards the flowers for resin and seed production. The molecule achieves this impressive feat by supporting programmed cell death in the leaves, which spares up critical energy.
Unfortunately, CBGA remains relatively under-researched. A lack of human trials leaves a big gap in knowledge on the cannabinoid. No solid data exists regarding possible side effects. We do know that, like CBD, CBGA doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors and thus doesn't cause psychoactive effects. However, the lack of data also means we don’t know whether the cannabinoid interacts with medications. More studies will hopefully elucidate the answers to these queries soon.
Despite a lack of research on side effects, some preliminary studies on CBGA’s potential have been conducted.
A study in the journal Fitoterapia looked at the effect of a high-CBGA strain on inhibition of the enzyme aldose reductase—a molecule associated with diabetes complications. Extracts from this strain showed a dose-dependent ability to inhibit the enzyme. The authors of the paper concluded that these cultivars could be used to prepare aldose reductase inhibitors.
CBGA may also play a future modulatory role in metabolism. A 2019 paper in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta details computational and cell research that suggests the cannabinoid acid can bind to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). Through this mechanism, CBGA might be able to help regulate fat tissue storage.
As a non-psychoactive cannabinoid acid, CBGA is legal in many of the same countries as CBD. CBG can be obtained from low-THC hemp crops currently legal in the United States and many European countries.