CBD products have dominated the health and wellness space in recent years, and with good reason. Some scientific research shows this cannabinoid has potential therapeutic applications for many common issues, from anxiety, inflammation and sleep problems to skin disorders and chronic pain. In just the last five years, CBD has skyrocketed in popularity, with numerous products and formulations now widely available at mainstream retail outlets like Walgreens, CVS, and Sephora. Consumers’ embrace of CBD is undeniable. Market researchers at the Brightfield Group estimate that the US CBD market could reach $16.8 billion by 2025. 

But many don’t know that CBD is just the tip of the cannabinoid iceberg. There are more than 100 different cannabinoids (chemical compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants) in the cannabis plant, many of which only occur in trace amounts, which is why they are often referred to as rare cannabinoids. These lesser-known compounds may contain a myriad potential health and wellness benefits—indeed, one of them could very well become the next CBD.

Why rare cannabinoids are making headlines

The most famous cannabinoids (THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) appear in ample amounts in the plants, and because they are plentiful, have been far easier to source and study. 

Conversely, rare cannabinoids (also known as minor or emerging cannabinoids) only occur in very small amounts in cannabis and hemp plants. In recent years, scientists have  figured out environmentally friendly ways of producing these minor cannabinoids in larger quantities, allowing us to explore in-depth their potential health and wellness properties. A growing body of research shows promising applications for some of these rare cannabinoids.

Researchers and consumer product developers are always on the lookout for novel specialty ingredients and particularly interested in the potential positive implications of using rare cannabinoids in upcoming health and beauty product launches. These up-and-coming cannabinoids include: CBGA (cannabigerolic acid), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), and CBN (cannabinol). 

Four rare cannabinoids you need to know

CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) – CBGA is frequently referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids.” During the life cycle of a cannabis plant, CBGA is transformed into other cannabinoids: cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), which eventually become THC, CBD, or CBC, respectively. CBGA also converts to CBG.

CBG (cannabigerol) – CBG has already been dubbed by some as the next CBD. Like CBD, CBG is non-intoxicating (meaning it does not get you high). 

CBG has been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory properties in numerous studies. If you’ve wondered why CBG is appearing in so many new skin care products, it’s because inflammation is one of the root cause of many skin disorders, including rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and acne. Another study found that CBG offers potential value in the treatment of psoriasis, a skin disorder that’s notoriously difficult to treat. (Check out our comprehensive list of the various studies with insights into CBG’s potential here.)

Inflammation is a root cause in other diseases as well, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In an animal study, CBG showed such a beneficial effect on IBD that researchers urged that it be considered for clinical experimentation in IBD patients. 

CBG also acts as an effective antibacterial agent, which could help in the treatment of acne and other bacterial skin conditions. A 2020 study found that, of all the cannabinoids, CBG had the strongest anti-biofilm activity—an especially valuable trait in an era of increasing antibiotic resistance

Other research indicates that CBG may have therapeutic potential in treating neurologic disorders like Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

CBC (cannabichromene) – CBC is another non-intoxicating cannabinoid with observed anti-inflammatory properties—interestingly, it seems to work more effectively when paired with other cannabinoids, such as THC. In 2017, pioneering cannabinoid researcher Ethan B. Russo reported in Advances in Pharmacology that animal studies showed CBC “can relieve pain, potentiate the analgesic effects of THC, [and] ameliorate-induced colonic inflammation.” He added that “beyond inflammation and pain, CBC may have a positive effect on the viability of mammalian adult neural stem cell progenitor cells, which are an essential component of brain function in health and disease.” In another study, CBC worked more effectively to reduce inflammation than phenylbutazone, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

CBN (cannabinol) – Like several other rare cannabinoids, preliminary studies show CBN is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, as well as potentially pain-relieving: one animal study indicated that CBN may provide analgesic relief for chronic muscle pain disorders such as fibromyalgia. In another small study, CBN was given to adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and consuming it was associated with a reduction in ADHD medication use. 

While we need more clinical studies of rare cannabinoids in humans, the research thus far shows great promise and an amazingly wide variety of potential applications for these plant compounds. 

Rare cannabinoids are all the rage—but how do you source them? What should they cost? How can you make sure you’re getting best-quality products?

For a limited time only, book your free consultation with Jerry Griffin, Creo’s VP of Sales, to learn more about the new landscape of rare cannabinoids and how to navigate it successfully. Reach out now to book your consultation at info@creoingredients.com.

Words by

Roy Lipski

Creo Co-Founder, CEO Roy Lipski has led growing technology companies based on cutting-edge science for more than 20 years. Prior to founding Creo, he led Oxford Catalysts from a 2½ person start-up with 3 patent applications based out of the chemistry labs at the University of Oxford through an IPO, growth and the subsequent acquisition of US-based Velocys. Roy also founded Infonic, which became Europe’s leading Internet Research agency, helping clients including P&G, Merck and Unilever measure and manage corporate reputation online. Roy holds a degree in biochemistry from Cambridge University.