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CBD vs CBN vs CBG: What's the difference?

CBD vs CBN vs CBG: What's the difference?

While nearly everyone has heard about CBD, or cannabidiol, they may not have heard of its cousins CBN and CBG, which are becoming big players in the cannabinoid market. 

Let’s start at the beginning: what is a cannabinoid? There are more than a hundred compounds in the cannabis sativa plant known as cannabinoids, and the most common are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the famous psychoactive compound in marijiuana that produces a high, while CBD (and most other cannabinoids) produce no high at all. CBD oil has been used to help with a number of maladies in the body, everything from chronic pain to anxiety to insomnia to inflammation. It has little to no side effects and has been found to be very beneficial to the body. And, by law it must contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dry weight ensuring that it won't get you high.

But there are other cannabinoids that don’t get talked about or studied as much, until recently, that is. These are CBG (cannabigerol) and CBN (cannabinol). (In fact there are even more cannabinoid compounds currently being studied for healthful properties and may soon come to market as well.)

But what are the differences between these substances and what benefits do they hold for the consumer?

What does CBD do?

CBD is the most common cannabinoid next to THC. It is most often derived from hemp, although it is present in lower amounts in some marijuana strains. It’s a natural occurring substance, non-psychoactive and used in oils, tinctures, and edibles, and has many beneficial properties. 

CBD Benefits

CBD has a whole host of benefits. The primary ones are mood enhancers, such as anti-anxiety and relaxation. CBD has a calming effect that works very well. It has been studied on people with anxiety disorders including mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and even PTSD, and has shown promise in helping these people manage their symptoms.

But the benefits don’t stop there. CBD is also used to help with chronic pain and inflammation. In particular, people with arthritis have found help from CBD--both taken orally and rubbed topically into the skin. It also shows promise for those with more chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. 

One particularly promising area where CBD appears to shine is helping those who are suffering from cancer. While, to be clear, it does not cure or treat cancer, it can act as an anti-nausea remedy to help those who are suffering through chemotherapy. It also has been shown in small-scale studies to help with cancer-related pain. 

CBD also is good for the skin and can be used to treat acne, eczema, and psoriasis. 

There are a number of other good potential benefits of CBD. One prescription drug is derived from CBD and used for epilepsy patients. Other studies suggest more help for neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis. 

What does CBG do?

CBG, or cannabigerol, is becoming increasingly popular. CBG is one of the easiest compounds derived from the cannabis sativa plant, and can be used in the production of both CBD and THC, but once CBG has been refined it no longer can be converted into those substances. However, despite the easy refinement, most strains of cannabis have little CBG in them, and even the most potent cannabis plants only have about 15% CBG. Cultivars are working to produce plants that naturally have more CBG as it continues to show promise.

As with CBD, CBG is not psychoactive, and many of the benefits that are experienced from CBD oil can be experienced with CBG. But CBG does offer a few exciting advancements.

CBG Benefits

CBG has been studied extensively for its benefits in neuropathic and inflammatory pain, which were initially revealed in a 2008 study, and then replicated in a 2018 study. 

Some additional research has gone into the digestive benefits of CBG, particularly in combating the side effects of colitis and irritable bowel disease. 

There has even been research into CBG that shows that it can be useful in the fight against bacterial infections. 

CGB vs CBD: Which should I choose?

According to the latest science, while the two substances share some common traits, it appears that CBG is more effective in the peripheral parts of the body while CBD is focused on the central nervous system. 

This leads naturally into a discussion of the entourage effect of broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oil, which contain many additional cannabinoids (like CBG). The theory of the entourage effect is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: that taking a broad-spectrum product that contains multiple cannabinoids will offer overall better health than trying to treat individual problems with individual cannabinoids. Although the entourage effect has many proponents, it has not been conclusively confirmed by science.

What does CBN do?

While there is a lot of CBD in cannabis, and a small amount of CBG in cannabis, CBN comes in really minuscule amounts. Cultivars are working to produce better strains of cannabis that have more CBN, but for now it is relatively rare. 

CBN is most portrayed as a sleep aid, but it also has a number of other benefits.

CBN Benefits

Like CBG, CBN was included in the 2008 study that showed that it could be used for antibacterial applications. It was successful in treating MRSA bacteria in that study, but those results have not been replicated in further research. 

There is also discussion of CBN as a neuroprotective application, and a preliminary study in 2004 showed that there was some benefit to delaying the onset of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). 

Another potential benefit is as an appetite stimulant. THC has long been known to increase appetite, but studies show that CBN could do the same thing but without the psychoactive effects of THC. 

Finally, the main reason that people are currently using CBN is as a sleep aid, but there has actually been little investigation done into the efficacy of this and it is mostly anecdotal at this time. 


CBN has a lot of potential, but its rarity and lack of research still means that its full treatment purposes are yet to be fully understood. Both CBN and CBD are used as sleep aids, and both have potential neuroprotective properties. For now, CBN needs more research before it hits the mainstream.

Which is better: CBD, CBN or CBG?

The benefits listed above will guide you to the product that you feel is right for you and your conditions. There is still a lot of research left to do into cannabinoids, but there is so much that’s positive (though preliminary findings). 

CBD is definitely the easiest and cheapest compound to get and has received the most study. But the entourage effect is not to be underestimated and it may be that a combination of all three of these substances is just what is needed for maximizing the benefits and helping manage your dis-eases. 

As always, contact a medical professional before making decisions about a treatment plan. 


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