What Exactly Are CBN and CBG? Minor Cannabinoids You Need to Know

CBD Is So 2019. Meet CBN and CBG, the new cannabinoids on the block.

Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

Like all great things, the wonder of weed comes down to the sum of its parts. Every day we learn a little more about how compounds like aromatic terpenes and potent cannabinoids combine to give the plant its scent, stickiness, and effects.

We know THC as the cannabinoid that attributes the classic “high” feeling when consuming cannabis and can relax the body and fight cancer. We’ve learned about CBD—the cannabinoid with anti-inflammatory properties and medically beneficial effects like suppressing seizures. The one that can be derived from plants with less than .3% THC (hemp plants) and fills the vials of thousands of wellness tinctures, topicals, and edibles throughout grocery stores and boutiques.

What about effects that combat anxiety? Or aid in deep sleep? We’re starting to figure that out, too.

Meet CBG and CBN, other cannabinoids often found in cannabis, just in lower concentrations than THC and CBD. Extracted forms of CBG and CBN are increasingly showing up in wellness products across the legal cannabis and hemp realms, positioned as cannabinoids closely tied to anti-anxiety and sleep promoting effects. They’re showing up in headlines as well, like CBG vending machines heading to casino floors in Vegas and best sleep product roundups.

There are dozens of cannabinoids in this plant—we understand only a handful of them. We’ve done clinical trials on even less. For now, here is as clear a breakdown as possible of the latest cannabinoids to hit mainstream weed culture, why they matter in your cannabis regimen, and a few products highlighting their unique characteristics.

CBG is the mother cannabinoid

CBG, or cannabigerol, is “non psychoactive” like CBD. It doesn’t have pronounced mental or physical effects, but it contributes to effects as a complement to the rest of the cannabinoids in what is known as the entourage effect.

Chemically, CBG actually plays a starring role in the entourage effect of cannabis on our body. It’s a building block for major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and thus is believed to play a pretty key role in the parts of this plant that make us feel good. It’s getting associated with anti-inflammatory properties, glaucoma-fighting and cancer inhibiting effects, and general mood-enhancing effects. It also seems to be a very strong anti-anxiety agent.

Hemp flower brands Lady Jays and Dad Grass both feature CBG-dominant offerings, describing those pre-rolls as more physically relaxing than the general CBD options. Untamed Humans CBD + CBG Oil & Elixir can be used topically or ingested. Topically, it highlights hydrating, anti-inflammatory effects that promote healthy skin cell turnover.

When consumed, it’s meant to be a calming/rejuvenating tonic that helps reduce anxiety and clear the mental slate. The wellness-designed formula contains other herbs like organic reishi mushrooms and chamomile, too—these minor cannabinoids are having an interesting crossover effect with non-cannabis wellness ingredients as well.

Is CBN the key to a good night’s sleep?

While CBG’s role is mysteriously important, there is little doubt around the properties of CBN: it helps us sleep. A recent study conducted by the International Cannabinoid Research Society backs that up, in which a doctor analyzed the use of extracted, water-soluble CBN and its effect on sleeplessness. They found that it significantly improved both the length and quality of sleep for participants, both in inducing sleep faster and in enabling normal progression through the various stages of sleep.

However, other researchers have posited that those sedating effects have more to do with terpenes present in sleepy, CBN-dominant strains than anything else. If you really want to ensure the sleepy effects, the uniquely close relationship between CBN and THC indicates that they fortify each other’s relaxing effects, so finding full spectrum products with those two present (remember: entourage effect) may be your best bedtime bet.

If you’re in California, Mad Lilly has a dreamy sounding Lemon Dream sleep tonic that contains 5mg CBN, 3mg THC, and about 1 mg CBD. There’s also Kin Slips—infused strips like those Listerine Strips of the 2000s—which feature a nighttime offering called Shut Eye with 5mg CBN and 5mg CBD. Outside of legal states, High Falls Hemp makes a full spectrum sleep tincture with a potent concentration of 750 mg CBN and 300 mg CBD per bottle.

Ultimately, every body is different and responds uniquely to compounds in cannabis. It takes exploration to figure out what works for you—just remember to write it down once you find it.

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Lauren Yoshiko is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She writes The Broccoli Report, a bi-weekly newsletter for creative cannabis entrepreneurs.