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Understanding Cannabinoids: A Comparative Look at CBD, CBG, and CBN

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Cannabinoids have become pivotal components of the natural product landscape, particularly within the realms of cosmetics and culinary arts. Among these compounds, CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), and CBN (cannabinol) stand out for their distinct characteristics and applications. This exploration delves into their chemical structures, natural sources, and common uses across various sectors, presenting a comprehensive comparison of these notable cannabinoids.

Chemical structures and natural sources

  • CBD. Known for its prevalence in the cannabis industry, cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with cannabis. It is primarily extracted from hemp – a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant with a low THC content – CBD is celebrated for its versatility and is a staple in many non-intoxicating products.
  • CBG. Cannabigerol, or CBG, is often called the “mother of all cannabinoids” because other cannabinoids are derived from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), its acidic form. Like CBD, CBG is non-psychoactive and is found in lower concentrations in cannabis plants, making its extraction and isolation particularly challenging and, thus, more valuable.
  • CBN. Cannabinol (CBN) is distinctive because it is not a byproduct of the cannabis plant’s direct production of THC. When THC is exposed to heat and light, it converts to CBN, which is mildly psychoactive. Typically found in aged cannabis, CBN is gaining interest for its distinctive attributes compared to its more famous counterparts.

Industrial applications

  • Cosmetics. The infusion of cannabinoids into cosmetic products is a burgeoning trend, fueled by their reputed therapeutic qualities. CBD is commonly incorporated into creams, balms, and serums to provide soothing sensations and enhance skin health. CBG is also making its way into skincare products, primarily due to its purported anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, CBN is finding its niche in beauty products formulated for relaxation and nighttime use.
  • Culinary arts. Beyond their topical applications, cannabinoids are weaving their way into the culinary world. CBD has become a popular additive in beverages, baked goods, and gourmet dishes, appreciated for its mild flavour and versatility. CBG is also starting to make culinary inroads, particularly in specialty health-focused recipes such as spectrum gummies. CBN’s potential in food and beverage products is just beginning to be explored, often in products aimed at promoting relaxation and sleep.

Comparison of properties

While CBD, CBG, and CBN share some similarities, their differences are what make each unique in the cannabinoid family. CBD has been extensively studied for its potential calming effects and is widely available in various forms. CBG, while less researched, is noted for its potential to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system in ways distinct from CBD. CBN, being a derivative of THC degradation, holds a unique position for its mild psychoactive effects and its emerging potential in products designed for relaxation and sleep.

As interest in cannabinoids continues to grow, understanding the nuanced differences between CBD, CBG, and CBN becomes crucial for consumers and industries alike. Their varying chemical structures, sources, and applications not only highlight the versatility of the cannabis plant but also underscore the complexity of its use across different sectors. Whether utilised in night creams or gourmet dinners, these cannabinoids offer a fascinating glimpse into the potential of natural compounds in enhance our daily lives.




Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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