There’s no question that the U.S. market for CBD products is riding high—analysts believe it could be worth an estimated $23.7 billion by 2023. (To put this number into perspective, that’s almost as much as the alt-dairy market, which is tipped to be worth $29.6 billion.) But in a landscape that’s becoming saturated with CBD-rich tinctures, balms, and beauty products, how’s a brand to stand out? For many, it’s now about looking beyond CBD and elevating other non-psychoactive compounds in the hemp plant—namely, minor cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, and CBN—to star-ingredient status.
Although CBD, or cannabidiol, is the most abundant cannabinoid found in hemp, it’s just one of many that are thought to be supportive in the face of mental or physical stress. CBG (cannabigerol) and CBC (cannabichromene) have been touted as anti-inflammatory agents. CBN (cannabinol) shows some promise as a sleep aid. While CBD is also believed to have these benefits, some product developers believe they can create more nuanced, targeted solutions by incorporating higher levels of these secondary cannabinoids.
“CBC, CBG, and CBN are all being isolated and purified by formulators so they can reintroduce them into bespoke product formulations,” says Mills Miller, founder of hemp wellness brand Mineral. “We have created proprietary hemp genetics on our farm to produce plants which are higher in each of the different cannabinoids to serve our different products.” Mineral’s post-workout Recovery tincture and Maison salve include high concentrations of CBG alongside a broad spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes—celebrity trainers Kirsty Godso and Joe Holder are fans of both products. (Miller notes that since relaunching Maison in summer 2019 with higher CBG percentages, sales of that product have tripled.) Its best-selling Sleep tincture, which launched in November 2018 and is responsible for 28 percent of the company’s revenue, is rich in CBN.
“We really see the future of this industry leaning into minor cannabinoids.” —Gabe Kennedy, Plant People co-founder
Plant People is another leading brand that’s betting big on cannabinoids other than CBD. “We really see the future of this industry leaning into minor cannabinoids,” says Gabe Kennedy, the company’s co-founder. “We’ve been able to create unique products that [address] specific solutions by sourcing oils that have high minor cannabinoid content.” These include Plant People’s Double Strength Drops+ Sleep, which debuted in May 2019 and blends CBN-rich hemp extract with an array of calming terpenes, and its brand-new skin-care line featuring anti-inflammatory CBC alongside other cannabinoids and botanical ingredients.
Farmers, too, are banking on a rise in interest in CBD oil alternatives. One example: Hemptown USA—a network of hemp growers that closed a $23 million funding round earlier this year—is planning to double its acreage in 2020 with a focus on high-CBG hemp strains.
Before you buy into products that promote their high minor cannabinoid content, however, know there are a few caveats. For one thing, hemp research is still in its infancy, and there isn’t yet a substantial body of evidence surrounding any of its individual compounds, cannabinoids included. “It’s true that the minor cannabinoids have shown some interesting and promising effects in animal studies—everything from anti-cancer to anti-inflammatory effects. So clearly, this is an area that scientists are very curious about,” says Jeff Chen, MD, MBA, director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative. “But we know next to nothing about what these minor cannabinoids actually do in humans, and the research is going to take years. So in the meantime, consumers really need to talk to their doctor to make the best decision for them.” He adds that the hemp products industry is still unregulated, which makes it even more important to examine any breathless buzz with a critical eye.
Despite all the uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: As more research starts to emerge in 2020 and beyond, it’ll surely be a moment of truth for the industry—and we’ll have a better idea of whether the hyped-up compounds within the hemp plant really are the heroes we all need right now.
But wait, there’s more! Click here to read the rest of our 2020 Wellness Trends predictions.
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