By Deniz Ataman: From the environment to our immune system, fermented cannabinoids offer wellness for an era of health that encompasses sustainability, purity and efficacy. Creo’s first virtual event, Creovate, offered expert perspectives on how the next star ingredient, fermented cannabigerol (CBG), can change the way we approach health and the supply chain. Creovate’s panel of health, beauty and scientific experts weaved together fermented cannabinoids’ narrative where sustainability and human wellness can in fact balance one another.

A star ingredient
A non-intoxicating compound with a myriad of health benefits, primary research behind CBG suggests it mitigates dental, skin and neurological issues. An antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, CBG is known as the “skincare cannabinoid.” It’s the only cannabinoid we know of that stimulates the natural production of sebum, the skin’s natural moisturizer, while CBGA (acid form) is easily absorbed in the body. Its analgesic and anti-proliferative properties also offer treatments for autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, glaucoma and cancer.
For beauty it’s a star ingredient, according to Dr. Lilliana George, PhD, former Estée Lauder Companies R&D and currently the founder of Pure Beauty Concepts. “There is a lot of data that supports CBG’s properties for skincare applications,” she explains. “[It’s a] moisturizer, anti-inflammatory (calming, redness reduction) and anti-acne. All of these together are important in finding in one biological active ingredient. In order to achieve such performance [normally], one has to formulate with many active ingredients. It can be a star ingredient for this particular trend.”

Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp in the United States, we’re seeing evidence of how non-psychoactive cannabinoids strengthen and protect our bodies’ endocannabinoid system (ECS). Currently, it’s safe to say that cannabinoids are in a liminal space between the underground and the mainstream. However, compounds like CBG have reached a wider audience because consumers are sharing personal experiences about their efficacy.

Bethany Gomez, managing director of Brightfield Group explains, “When we looked at CBD consumers, we found that more than 17.5% were aware of CBG and those who were aware of it, 8/10 wanted to purchase it for skincare and beauty purposes. There’s a real opportunity for CBG as a cannabinoid to take a greater share for the skincare and topicals market.”

But we need science to complement these reviews and explain how these compounds affect our body. The legal history behind cannabinoids has certainly played an impactful role on the public’s perception, and arguably requires more attention to testing than other mainstream ingredients. Panelists discuss the importance of translating research on safety and performance testing to educating the public’s current (negative or positive) perceptions.

“What we have to remember is the reason CBG and other cannabinoids are catching on is because they work. Science has to catch up to explain why they work,” says Roy Lipski, CEO, Creo. “The reason why people are using it is because of word of mouth and personal experiences.”

Research surrounding CBG’s health benefits are published on a regular basis, but establishing credibility is a team effort by all players. Mitch Hara, former CEO of Beekman 1802 and Hand in Hand Soap and head of M&A, Clever Leaves adds, “Credibility [must be] developed and shared by four communities: consumer, medical, regulatory and big pharma.”

Dr. George agrees, adding that more safety testing will only strengthen that trust. “Before we declare potential for a star ingredient, we have to make sure we have safety and performance testing in place.”

Doctors are also in a unique position to educate patients on the non-psychoactive beneficial properties of CBG and other minor cannabinoids. “It’s important we educate our patients,” explains Dr. Jessica Patreos, MD, internist, Gerson Therapist and functional medicine leader. Patreos points out that the studies on CBG’s neuroprotective properties and benefits for neurodegenerative diseases are on the brink of medical breakthroughs, although this still requires education within the medical community, as many doctors are unaware of the specifics behind cannabinoids to ultimately educate their patients and empower them with the power of choice.

A culture of sustainability

The first thing we need to know about producing CBG and CBGA is it’s found in trace quantities within the cannabis plant itself. During the plant’s growth process, CBGA gives rise to over 100 cannabinoids giving it the name “Mother of Cannabinoids.” By the end of growth phase, only a nominal amount of CBG is left to extract. Growing and extracting CBG from a plant requires a heavy reliance on resources (water, electricity, land) and purity is not a guarantee due to heavy metals and pesticides that reside in soil. Instead, biosynthesis offers a solution to produce a sustainable, pure and bioidentical CBG at scale without the plant, while lowering our environmental footprint.

“We are living in the century of biology,” explains Lipski. “And biosynthesis (fermentation) is the manufacturing arm of this revolution that’s taking place right now. This is one of the key [tools] we have to address the major environmental challenges the world is facing. Within that context, moving fermentation to cannabinoids addresses supply chain issues of scalability, purity, sustainability, legal simplicity, etc.”

Recently, the European Commission added CBG to its ingredient list for cosmetics and skincare. A notable step forward for cannabinoids. Often, you’ll find trace amounts of other plant compounds (including THC) when cannabinoids are extracted from the plant itself. Fermented cannabinoids, however, are purely isolated compounds, devoid of any constituents that could alter its activity. “From a regulatory standpoint, fermented cannabinoids are THC-free, giving more favor nationally and internationally. Unlike CBD, CBG is not considered a drug by the FDA,” explains Hara.

Creo’s process is called precision fermentation, which uses a proprietary microbe to produce a stable and active CBG and CBGA without the plant. CBGA can also be the building block in synthesizing other cannabinoids, making it a timeless ingredient. “This is important for the cosmetic industry,” Lilliana adds. “It goes back to 40 years ago when Dr. Glickman founded retinoic acid. Star ingredients pass the test of time.”

When producing a natural ingredient at commercial scale, safety and sustainability are essential to the process. Fermented cannabinoids offer a more sustainable, pure and consistent supply. Meanwhile, these ingredients respond to consumer demand for more clean, green and natural ingredients.

“Fermented ingredients can play a role from the standpoint of sustainability and reliability,” explains Hara. “There is no national or regional infrastructure in the US for brands of all sizes to source sustainable supply. From a quality and consistency standpoint, these cannabinoids can be produced more economically and at scale and consistently.”

In an age where we must consider our daily environmental footprint, this is an opportunity for us to shift the narrative on biosynthesized ingredients. Often genetically modified organisms (GMO) are mistaken for biosynthesized compounds. While the former may grow wild outside and spread, microbes are bred for a specific function. When it comes to safety, the effects of GMO crops on the body are unknown as we’re introducing new DNA combinations into the body, while microbes are bred in a controlled environment and remain separate from the actual product, and so are never ingested.

“There’s a different paradigm,” explains Lipski. “Fermentation is the last great domestication – we’re using microbes to produce organic compounds that we as a society rely on and need. It’s important to understand that this is quite different and quite removed from the thought that people have on GMO.”

Fermented cannabinoids are the future of active wellness ingredients. Not only are we looking at a pure and consistent compound to support our skin and immune system, but biosynthesis offers a solution to a world that’s in dire need of eco-friendly resources and processes. Conversations like Creovate’s panel propel a wide range of industries forward to think differently about how we use biology to improve our bodies and our environment.

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.