Medical Research

Surfacing Cannabinoids | CBD vs CBG, CBN, THC-A

Written by Lisa Rennie

When thinking of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD tend to come to mind. After all, they are the two most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis and have been the center of attention among users and researchers alike. More and more people are more likely to learn of these two cannabinoids and the effects they have on the mind and body.

But CBD and THC are not the only cannabinoids in cannabis. In fact, there are dozens of other known cannabinoids1 in the plant which may also offer their own set of benefits to those who use cannabis, including CBG, CBN, and THC-A.

What are these cannabinoids and how do they compare to CBD?


CBG – or cannabigerol – is another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. CBD actually comes from CBG, as the latter is actually the parent of both CBD and THC. Cannabis plants produce cannabigerolic acid (CBG-A), which is the acid form of CBG and the forerunner to three predominant lines of cannabinoids when broken down, including THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), CBD-A (cannabidiolic acid), and CBC-A (cannabichromenic acid).

When these particular acids are exposed to heat, oxygen, or UV light, they become cannabinoids. In the majority of cases, CBG-A converts to either CBD-A or THC-A, which is why THC and CBD are the more abundant of all cannabinoids in the cannabis plant.

Like CBD, CBG has no psychoactive properties and therefore does not produce a high that its THC counterpart has. Cannabigerol is present in very low levels at around 1% in cannabis strains.

CBG is similar to CBD when it comes to its healing properties. It can relieve both pain and inflammation and has also been shown to have antibiotic elements to it. It may also help to protect the brain from trauma2, protect against the growth of cancer tumors3, and may serve as an antibacterial agent4.


Cannabinol, or CBN, is another cannabinoid in cannabis that is created when THC is exposed to oxygen and UV light. Unlike CBD, CBN has some psychoactive properties, though nowhere near as much as THC. As such, CBN is only mildly psychoactive and can be used as a gentle sedative.

CBN can be produced through either aging or decarboxylation of THC5. With aging, the process to create CBN is usually quite slow, as one would imagine. During this time, THC is broken down to CBN-A and inevitably to CBN. Decarboxylation from THC, on the other hand, is a much quicker process and produces CBN much faster compared to the aging process.

CBN can help with a few medical situations, though CBD’s list of healing properties is much more extensive. That said, like CBD, CBN has been shown to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties6. It’s also been shown to promote good sleep and alleviate seizures.


While THC and THC-A might sound almost the same, they actually have different properties. THC is a byproduct of THC-A, thought the latter is non-psychoactive. As the cannabis plant dries, THC-A converts to THC. The process is hurried along thanks to decarboxylation, which occurs when the plant is heated. Like THC, THC-A tends to come in high levels in the cannabis plant, usually around the 10% to 20% mark.

While there aren’t as many studies done on THC-A compared to CBD, the preliminary studies that have been done suggest that THC-A shares some similar healing properties to CBD, including lowering inflammation, offering neuroprotective properties7, alleviating nausea, and reducing pain.

Final Thoughts

While CBG, CBN, and THC-A are all cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and all have certain healing properties that may compare to CBD, they’re not exactly the same. The exact symptom relief being sought and whether or not any mind-altering effects are desired will affect precisely which of these – among other – cannabinoids is obtained.


  1. Atakan, Z, “Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals“, Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, December 2012, Volume 2.
  2. Valdeolivas S, et al, “Neuroprotective properties of cannabigerol in Huntington’s disease: studies in R6/2 mice and 3-nitropropionate-lesioned mice“, Neurotherapeutics, January 2015, Volume 12.
  3. Borrelli, F, et al, “Colon carcinogenesis is inhibited by the TRPM8 antagonist cannabigerol, a Cannabis-derived non-psychotropic cannabinoid“, Carcinogenesis, December 2014, Volume 35.
  4. Appendino, G, et al, “Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study“, Journal of Natural Products, August 2008, Volume 71.
  5. Wang, M, et al, “Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry“, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2016, Volume 1.
  6. Nagarkatti, , et al, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs“, Future Medicinal Chemistry, October 2009, Volume 1.
  7. Nadal, X, et al, “Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity“, British Journal of Pharmacology, December 2017, Volume 174.

About the author

Lisa Rennie

Lisa Simoneli Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content dedicated to informing consumers. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others, and in her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying funky new recipes, spending time with her dog, and of course, reveling in the joy of family.