What Is CBGA? [Understanding This Cannabinoid]

What Is CBGA? [Understanding This Cannabinoid]

You might think of CBGA, also known as cannabigerolic acid, as kind of the precursor to all other cannabinoids that occur in cannabis/hemp. For this reason, people often refer to CBGA as the ‘mother cannabinoid.’ Without CBGA, no other cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, would exist.

But is it possible that CBGA might have some benefits of its own? In this article, we take a look at all you need to know about this unique and highly interesting cannabinoid.

What Is CBGA?

CBGA is a cannabinoid, one of the myriad active compounds that cannabis and hemp plants produce. It is a dihydroxybenzoic acid, which derives from a chemical known as an olivetolic acid. We will discuss the exact process by which CBGA forms later in the article.

The CBGA structure is similar to that of other cannabinoids in that it contains carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Its exact molecular formula is C₂₂H₃₂O₄.

The compound consists of a ring of carbon atoms. This ring is attached to two long carbon chains, two oxygen atoms, and a carboxyl group (COOH). It is the carboxyl group that makes the compound mildly acidic.

One of the major distinguishing factors of CBGA is that it is the precursor to all other cannabinoids. These cannabinoids include the well-known CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) compounds. CBGA also forms less commonly known cannabinoids like CBN (cannabinol), CBC (cannabichromene), and CBG (cannabigerol), among others.

The CBG and CBGA cannabinoid compounds have many similarities, as CBGA is the acidic form of CBG. However, their chemical structure is slightly different, since CBG does not include a carboxyl group. The molecular formula of CBG is C₂₁H₃₂O₂.

CBGA Benefits

The world is beginning to recognize that cannabinoids like CBD and THC have a sweeping range of potential benefits. Although we know less about CBGA, it’s likely that the compound has some valuable properties of its own. However, before we delve into the potential health benefits of CBGA, there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, current research on CBGA is quite limited. When it comes to hemp and hemp phytocompounds in general, scientists have completed many of their studies in laboratories. Therefore, the exact effects of CBGA on the human body remain unknown.

Secondly, there is no such thing as a distinguishable ‘lab-grade CBGA,’ regardless of what you may have heard or read about online. The chemical itself is the same no matter what ‘grade’ it is, and this is a point of discussion that is worth clarifying.

Finally, it’s true that some research at the moment focuses on CBG rather than CBGA, so don’t get confused if you are doing some informational reading and accidentally mistake one for the other.

Does CBGA Become CBDA?

As we discuss above, some consider the CBGA cannabinoid to be the precursor of all other cannabinoids. This means it is responsible for forming CBD and CBDA, which are commonly used for their perceived benefits. For this reason, some people believe that CBGA is the most important cannabinoid of all.

The process of transforming CBGA into CBDA relies on an enzyme called cannabidiolic acid synthase (CBDAS). When this enzyme becomes available, it can convert CBGA into CBDA. You may not have heard of CBDA, but it is the acidic form of CBD.

Cannabis and hemp plants actually produce all of their cannabinoids in acid form. With the help of time and heat, these acids undergo a process called decarboxylation, which converts them to their more active counterparts.

Decarboxylation is a critical process. Not only does it convert CBDA into CBD, but it also turns THCA into THC. Without decarboxylation, the compounds in cannabis and hemp would have far fewer effects.

CBGA Biosynthesis: Explaining the Process

The biosynthesis of cannabigerolic acid is a complex process. It occurs in the resinous trichomes of the cannabis plant.

Trichomes are tiny glands that coat the plant’s buds and leaves, producing most of its active compounds. It is possible to see them with the naked eye; they look like little crystals coating the outside of the plant. Under the microscope, trichomes look like tiny mushrooms with a stalk and a bulbous head.

The primary purpose of trichomes is to produce cannabinoids and other compounds like terpenes. Among other tings, these chemicals help to protect the plant from predators. They may also offer defense against mold and other microbes.

In the trichomes, CBGA starts out as a short-chain fatty acid called hexanoic acid. An enzymatic reaction then converts it to olivetolic acid. This chemical then reacts with a compound called geranyl diphosphate, and the enzyme CBGA synthase (CBGAS) converts it into CBGA.

Further enzymatic reactions change CBGA into the acidic forms of the other cannabinoids. For example, CBDA synthase converts CBGA into CBDA, and THCA synthase converts CBGA into THCA. Meanwhile, decarboxylation transforms cannabigerolic acid into cannabigerol.

Bottom Line on the CBGA Cannabinoid

It’s true that CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, has received far less “press” than CBD or THC. However, this compound is an essential component of the cannabis plant as it is responsible for forming all other cannabinoids.

In addition to being the precursor to the other cannabinoids, it’s possible that CBG and CBGA may have their own, unique benefits. Of course, only time and accompanying research will disclose the full potential of CBGA in terms of its effects on human physiology.

Although we are just beginning to understand the indications of some of these cannabis compounds, it is no doubt an area of great scientific interest. More and more researchers are now dedicating themselves to studying cannabinoids, and we are likely to learn much more about them – including the CBGA cannabinoid – in the future.

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