By Deniz Ataman: A multifunctional and robust botanical, cannabis takes on many forms for medical, spiritual and cosmetic purposes. On the cellular level, cannabinoids have been found in the body and in nature providing us with wellness benefits for centuries. As one of the rarest cannabinoids, cannabigerol (CBG) is notoriously difficult and expensive to produce; but thanks to the process of biosynthesis, we’re able to produce CBGA/CBG at commercial scale for wellness markets faster, more cost-effectively and reliably.

A minor cannabinoid with major benefits

With over 100 distinct cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have been the most studied and marketed. From ingestibles to topicals, the cannabis industry has transformed the wellness boom, most notably after the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp production in the United States. By 2027, the global cannabinoid market is expected to reach $16.4 billion, driven by R&D in active compounds and research on medicinal properties. So, it’s safe to say a legalized and professionalized cannabis industry has opened up doors for more research surrounding the other cannabinoids.

Known as the mother of cannabinoids, CBGA is unique in that it’s considered the source of all cannabinoids, giving rise to over 100 different identifiable cannabinoids with distinct properties. During the plant growth process, CBGA produces major and minor compounds, leaving only a trace amount at the final growth stage. When heated, CBGA converts to its non-acidic form of CBG.

A nonintoxicating compound with a myriad of health benefits, CBG is a rising star across wellness categories, including dental care, skincare and neurological health. Its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties give this compound the title of the “skincare cannabinoid;” while its analgesic and anti-proliferative properties offer treatments for chronic pain, cancer, Crohn’s disease and glaucoma, among others. Since CBG is found in small quantities and its demand is high for a wide range of markets, we turn to biotech to produce it at a commercial scale.

Biotech, which refers to the relationship between microorganisms (biology) and DNA design (technology), uses the fermentation process to produce active ingredients at a large scale. A thriving industry, the global biotech market’s worth is expected to reach $2.44 trillion by 2028, driven by an increasing demand for ingredients like cannabinoids. 

Biotech beauty

Clean beauty, green beauty or natural beauty all encompass the same tenets: non-toxic, safe for humans and the environment and transparently labelled. With a growing demand to develop more sustainable active ingredients, biotech has catapulted the beauty industry’s standards and changed what “natural” means – natural ingredients don’t necessarily have to grow from the ground anymore, opening up more sustainable opportunities. Biotech isn’t new in clean beauty. Plenty of popular beauty ingredients are produced by fermentation rather than plant/animal material or petroleum. Think: hyaluronic acid, peptides, squalane, fermented polysaccharides and verbascoside, among others.

Biosynthesis is the conversion of simple molecules into more complex macromolecules in living organisms like yeast, algae or bacteria. Once these compounds are isolated from a fermentation (i.e. multiplied), we’ve got fresh cultured ingredients that are bioidentical to compounds found in nature. 

As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, CBG addresses aging, dermatitis, eczema and combating dry skin syndrome. As a cultured ingredient produced in commercial quantities, CBG has the potential to complement other skincare actives or stand alone as a super clean skincare ingredient.

Environmentally sound

Most often we’ll see yeast, algae or bacteria as the host; at Creo, we use what’s called precision fermentation (with our own proprietary microbe) to produce a stable active CBG ingredient without the actual plant. In this process, a microbe is fed sugars to build the compound of interest, in our case it’s cannabinoids. As a result, this process offers a sustainable alternative to traditional farming which requires a substantial amount of natural resources, i.e. land, energy and water. 

Additionally, a biotech ingredient is produced outside of seasonal changes that typically affect agriculture, which provides consistency of supply year-round. If we’re looking to extract the trace amounts of CBG from a plant via traditional methods like solvent or CO2, we’re faced with a low yield at an extremely high cost not to mention more energy use. As mentioned earlier, biosynthesis yields a commercial quantity without the plant and has potential to reduce our reliance on resource-intensive natural resources.

The biosynthesis process produces a stable and pure ingredient as it’s made from scratch. In other words, cultured ingredients are devoid of pollutants, irritants and heavy metals that are absorbed by their botanical counterpart. This results in a 98%+ pure ingredient. At the same time, biosynthesized ingredients are bio-identical to nature, meaning they offer the same benefits in the body as their native counterpart. This process produces a stable isolate nearly free of trace constituents that can alter its active characteristics in the body.

It’s an exciting time for cannabis and biotech – their respective origins offer solutions to a world that’s in dire need of alternative resources. CBG and CBGA are gaining recognition as clinically tested wellness ingredients for the mind and body. As a biotech ingredient, CBG paves a new direction for skincare with its multifunctional properties. Research is ongoing and we still have much to learn; and as the science evolves in an increasingly destigmatized environment, we’re continuing to learn more about the efficacy, safety and sustainability of rare cannabinoids.

Words by

Deniz Ataman

Deniz Ataman is a freelance writer who served as the editor of Perfumer & Flavorist magazine for four years. Her writing explores plants, essential oils, fragrances, flavors and sensory research for B2B audiences and independent publications. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.