How to Extract CBG Oil (Cannabigerol)
CBG Oil Extraction — A Complete Guide
CBG is fast becoming the new “it” cannabinoid molecule in the marketplace. Extracting CBG oil could be a great next step if you’re in the cannabis or hemp industry and starting to think beyond THC and CBD. But before investing in extracting CBG there are some crucial things you need to know about this unique cannabinoid. There are critical factors that will not only affect the quality of the end-product of your CBG extraction process, but also your business model.
The most important factor to ensure quality CBG oil is the strain of the plant you start out with. Ideally you should start with a high-CBG strain to ensure that your extraction process is viable from a business point of view. Other factors that will directly affect your success rate include the timing of your harvest, the extraction method that you use, and being attuned to market opportunities, among others.
1. First, what is CBG (Cannabigerol)?
You may have heard CBG referred to as “The Mother of all Cannabinoids”. CBG is the non-acidic form of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the foundational compound or precursor from which all other cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) are developed.
CBGA is the first cannabinoid to form in the trichomes of a hemp or cannabis plant. Certain enzymes, determined by the genetic makeup of the plant, break CBGA down into the three more well-known ‘major’ cannabinoids as the plant matures:
- Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA),
- Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)
- Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA)
- … and also very small amounts of CBG amongst a host of 120+ other ‘minor’ cannabinoids such as CBNA, etc.
After the plant is harvested these cannabinoids are processed into the more commonly known forms of CBD, THC, and CBC that are used in many end-products. Sometimes a minute amount of CBG and other minor cannabinoids come along for the ride to create “full-spectrum” products. “Isolates” are created when a major cannabinoid such as CBD is isolated from other cannabinoids.
Extracting CBG efficiently begins while the plant is still growing. Because CBGA is the first cannabinoid to show up in young hemp or cannabis plants, there is a very slim window of opportunity to harvest the plants and ensure a financially viable yield.
CBG is most prevalent in young plants at about 6 weeks into the 8-week flowering cycle. At this point CBG levels are at their highest because it has yet to be converted into other cannabinoids. This is the optimum time to harvest and process the plant. By harvesting before other cannabinoids have developed you’re seizing the perfect moment to capitalize on the highest concentration of CBGA.
CBG is called a “minor cannabinoid” because it’s present in less than 1% by weight of most harvested cannabis strains. Even if you harvest at the height of CBGA production the levels of CBG will be quite low. As a plant matures, it produces more cannabinoids. Harvesting a plant early to capitalize on CBG production means that there is a lower proportion of cannabinoids overall by weight than in a mature plant. This means that you will need a larger amount of plant matter, also known as biomass, to extract a viable amount of CBG than for, say, CBD or THC production.
Ultimately, this scarcity of the compound makes CBG a ‘high end’ and expensive product to produce and sell. But its rising popularity in the marketplace makes CBG a cannabinoid worth exploring and adding to your end-product portfolio.
The issue of CBG scarcity posed a challenge to breeders. As you know, cannabis and hemp breeders are an adaptable lot that love a challenge. Breeders have started to experiment with cross-breeding and genetic manipulation to create strains that yield higher amounts of CBG in mature plants. This means that the extraction of CBG is quickly becoming more efficient to extract, resulting in a more affordable end-product for consumers.
2. Is CBG legal to extract?
Thanks to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and all of the plant’s derivatives, CBG oil is legal at the federal level in the United States. As long as it’s derived from hemp—not cannabis. Hemp is legally defined as a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC.
Things get more complex at the state level. With 30 states at different stages of legalization, it pays to do your homework and find out your own state’s laws before undertaking CBG oil extraction from cannabis plants. (Note: at the time of writing, all cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds still remain illegal at the federal level.)
3. CBG vs. CBD: What are the differences?
If CBG is the ‘Mother of all Cannabinoids’, it’s “children” are CBD, THC, and all of the other minor cannabinoids. Like all familial relationships, the parents and children behave in unique ways. CBG functions in a different way than CBD and may, in fact, be more powerful in its effects on the body.
There are some striking core differences between CBD and CBG. Both compounds have fairly low affinities for the cannabinoid receptors in our system—acting as catalysts in indirect ways. Their differences boil down to each acting on a different set of targets outside of the endocannabinoid system. CBG has been shown to increase anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid that helps regulate the immune system, sleep, appetite, and mood. CBG may even alleviate certain negative THC effects such as paranoia or anxiety due to genetic differences or overconsumption in THC-sensitive people (about 25% of the population).
The research on CBG—like most things to do with cannabis—is still very young, but the early signs are promising. CBG has been linked to a whole plethora of therapeutic uses.
In addition to its therapeutic benefits, CBG has the potential to become the new “it” cannabinoid from a consumer demand point of view. This has lot to do with the reason why CBD is so popular in a plethora of wellness products, skincare brands, pet products, and even bath bombs: it provides a host of benefits while being non-intoxicating.
While old school lovers of THC-heavy recreational cannabis may scoff at non-intoxicating products, this is exactly what the mainstream consumer is seeking. In short, this is where a lot of the revenue will be made. Most consumers want to alleviate their medical condition or increase wellness but without feeling high.
Current market research indicates that the wellness cannabis market in the US is fast outpacing the recreational cannabis market by billions of dollars. If you’re seeking to build a successful extraction business, it pays to be aware of these market trends so you can ride the crest of the consumer demand wave.
4. What are the health benefits of CBG?
Early studies indicate that CBG may be a beneficial treatment for a whole host of physical conditions. Although these early studies are certainly promising the science in this area is still very new and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Just like CBD and other major and minor cannabinoids, CBG helps to support your endocannabinoid system, which in turn supports a healthy state of balance in our bodies. That’s why CBG may be useful for so many different conditions.
In early studies, CBG has been shown to act as an:
- Analgesic (pain relief)
- Antibacterial (inhibits growth of bacteria)
- Anti-convulsive (reduces convulsions and seizures)
- Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
- Anti-insomnia (sleep aid)
- Anti-proliferative (inhibits cancer cell growth)
- Antidepressant (raises mood)
- Appetite stimulant (increases appetite)
- Bone stimulant (promotes bone growth)
- Brain cell stimulant (promotes neuron growth)
It’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system means that CBG may assist in a whole host of disorders:
- Drug-resistant bacterial infections (Methicillin-resistant microbial strains such as MRSA) [2018 study]
- Bladder dysfunctions such as overactive bladder [2015 study]
- Cancer (slows proliferation) [2014 study]
- Chronic pain
- Depression and anxiety
- Epilepsy seizures
- Glaucoma (reduces intraocular eye pressure)[2008 study]
- Huntington’s disease (neuroprotective effects) [2015 study]
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease [2013 study]
- Poor appetite [2016 study] and nausea
- Psoriasis, eczema, and other skin irritations
5. What are the most popular ways to take CBG? What are the best end-products for producers to focus on?
If you’re thinking about producing CBG oil it pays to think about which form will be most popular with consumers. From early market research on consumption methods, it seems like CBG will follow a similar path to CBD. Consumers love easily consumed products, so think in terms of pure oils and tinctures (sublingual or under-the-tongue allow for the best uptake). Gel caps and gummies are also likely to be popular. If you’re interested in entering the B2B market, focusing on white label CBG isolate powder may be a good bet as wellness-focused businesses may want to add it to smoothies, bath bombs, and other wellness products.
At this point there are only a few trusted “high CBG” products out on the market. If you’re interested in trying CBG oil yourself, do your research and insist on viewing test results. Just like CBD, this is still very much an unregulated marketplace with tons of poor quality products that are difficult to distinguish from the “good stuff”. So buyer beware!
6. The Challenge to Producers: Growing & Producing CBG is Costly
Like all cannabis products, the key to producing a high-quality end-product starts with cultivation. This is especially true of CBG. There are two critical factors to produce CBG in a financially viable amount: timing and strain types.
The time window of harvesting is critical to producing enough CBG to create a high-quality end-product because cannabigerol (CBG) is most often found in younger cannabis plants . If you miss that window the CBG will naturally start to form into other cannabinoids. To avoid accidentally harvesting plants with high levels of THC or CBD many cultivators are harvesting their cannabis in the budding phase to extract the optimal amount of CBG.
The second factor is the strain type. Cannabis breeders are currently working on developing high-CBG strains because they see the potential of such strains to transform the industry. If your plant has a higher amount of CBG content to begin with, your output will be greater with a lower amount of plant biomass. The ratio of pounds of biomass vs. output is critical for your CBG extraction process to be viable from a business point of view.
These two factors are still in development at the time of writing, making CBG quite expensive to produce. As with all types of consumer products, however, there is room in the marketplace for high-end products that consumers are willing to pay more for.
7. How to Extract CBG?
Typically, CBG oil is extracted using either CO2 or ethanol extraction methods, or both if you want to ensure that you have pulled everything from your CBG-rich biomass. For example, you can use CO2 to pull the fragile plant terpenes and then use ethanol to extract everything else for a full-spectrum, highly valuable CBG oil.
The Extraction Process:
The CBG extraction process begins by soaking your CBG-rich biomass in your solvent of choice (typically either CO2 or ethanol) to draw out the terpenes and/or cannabinoids. The resulting solution can go through post-filtration step(s) and is then evaporated using heat and vacuum to remove residual solvents. This results in a refined CBG crude extract. The crude concentrate is then further distilled to create a purified CBG distillate, in preparation to be isolated from the other cannabinoids by means of affinity chromatography.
The CBG extraction process typically flows something like the following (for our purposes here, a Cold Temperature Ethanol Extraction process flow):
- Chilling: Pre-chill ethanol solvent using the DC-40 Direct Chiller to as low as -40c to reduce post-extraction steps.
- Extraction: Soak and agitate the biomass in chilled ethanol solvent to extract cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) compounds via CUP Series closed-loop mechanical centrifugation.
- Particulate Filtration: Remove suspended particulates/adsorbents
- Solvent Evaporation: Remove ethanol from plant crude oil using the Falling Film Evaporator (FFE).
- Decarboxylation: Heat raw CBGA molecules to release the carboxyl molecule group as CO2 and convert to the more readily bioavailable CBG.
- Separate CBG molecules from crude oil utilizing Rolled Film Distillation (RFE).
Chromatography: Either for spectral analysis or for separating the mixture into its’ isolate forms based on each component’s affinity for the stationary phase at an industrial scale.
8. CBG Extraction Equipment and Systems
What equipment and systems will you need to extract CBG? Depending on your extraction method of choice, we recommend the following:
- DC-40 – Direct Chilling: The DC-40 Direct Chiller eliminates the use of cumbersome ultra-low freezers. A vital step in cold extraction. Quickly chill alcohol pre-extraction within a compact footprint, saving valuable lab space and post-processing time.
- The CUP Series alcohol extraction systems enable operators to target botanical oil compounds from diverse plant species. The CUP series is an all-in-one unit that washes and dries the biomass in the same closed-loop system. Boasting a 97% alcohol removal from biomass, the CUP series streamlines production times and maximizes extraction yields.
- FFE Series Evaporator – Falling Film Evaporator: Recommended for botanical separation and ethanol alcohol recovery from your extracted biomass tincture. The system maintains a high evaporation rate, which significantly increases the throughput of crude oil production, eliminating the need for multiple large rotary evaporator systems.
- RFD-27 – Rolled Film Distillation: and final step in the processing of high-quality distillate. The RFD-27 is engineered to refine targeted compounds from crude botanical extracts and deliver clear distillate at fast speeds. Durable stainless steel construction enhances heat transfer capacity.
- High-Output CO2 Systems:
- The Force: The Force® systems efficiently extract botanical oils without thermal degradation at industry-leading processing rates. These systems provide high production with a wide range of processing options for supercritical and subcritical extractions.
- The Fleet (Hemp Processing System): The Fleet allows you to add up to three systems to one single outdoor chiller. The effect of daisy chaining systems means your capacity is increased, yet your energy efficiency is not increased as well because of the single chiller that operates all three systems.
- Recommended Ancillaries:
- Lenticular Filtration Skid: Ethanol filtering solution filters ethanol between extractions on the CUP-15/30 to allow the DC-40 to maintain solvent temperature so the same solution can be used for up to 3 bags of biomass.
- Ai Glass reactor 50-100+L, multiple (residual solvent removal + decarboxylation)
- Ai / Buchi; Rotary Evaporator:50L, multiple (final solvent evaporation)
- Hipersep Pilot: Medium scale affinity chromatograph for isolation of cannabinoids used for method design ahead of large-scale application.
9. Getting Started with CBG Extraction
Thinking of getting started with CBG extraction? Or are you a practicing extractor thinking about expanding your end-product portfolio to CBG? We can help! Please contact us at +1(800) 837-1333 or email [email protected].