Getting To Know CBN (Cannabinol)

by Taylor Engle

As medical cannabis continues to push into the mainstream throughout the nation, more people are beginning to recognize the benefits of adding greens to your diet. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are common enough buzzwords, but cannabinol (CBN), the cannabinoid found in aging and sun-grown cannabis, remains somewhat of a mystery.

Scientists are aware of over 100 cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, but there has been little research conducted on many of them. THC is the most famous and explored cannabinoid, with CBD as a close second in recognition. The effects of THC are psychoactive — the main component of your “high” — while the cannabinoid CBD acts as a mild psychoactive that can slightly alter your mood and provide an array of therapeutic benefits for many consumers.

For those looking to experience the benefits of the plant without feeling the psychoactive effects, cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN are great options. But first, more on the “sleepy cannabinoid.”

What Is CBN?

Cannabinol, or CBN, is a minimally-intoxicating cannabinoid that is formed when THC is exposed to UV light and oxygen. Generally speaking, its presence is a strong indicator of the age of dried flower. However, you can expect to find small amounts of CBN (0.5%) present in fresh plants grown outdoors where UV exposure occurs during growth.

It was the first of the cannabis compounds to be identified by scientists in its pure form, although research on its potential remains somewhat limited.

It has not been fully tested and understood on humans yet; however, scientists have gathered a number of findings on isolated CBN, as well as its effect on rabbits and mice. Through these findings, scientists get that much closer to understanding the benefits CBN can potentially have on the human body.

After time and exposure to heat, light, and air, THC slowly converts to CBN. It can either be mildly psychoactive, or non-psychoactive — approximately 10% of THC’s psychoactivity — and the older the cannabis, the higher the levels of CBN are expected to be present.  It’s often called the “sleepy cannabinoid” because many consumers report feelings of grogginess after consuming it, especially when combined with THC.

human diagram of cb1 and cb2 receptor sitesHow Does CBN Interact With The Body?

CBN is believed to bind with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, although primarily with CB2 — it only interacts with CB1 receptors at about one-tenth of the strength that THC does, which explains why THC is much more psychoactive. It’s also a potent agonist of TRPA1 and antagonist of TPRM8 channels, which suggests its ability to provide pain relief and have an overall anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Research differs on whether or not CBN is psychoactive, but most findings agree that it ranges somewhere between non-psychoactive and mildly psychoactive.

Potential Benefits Of CBN

Sleep Aid

During her consumer testing for product development, President & Chief Scientist of Pure Analytics Samantha Miller found “very clearly that CBD is a very dose-dependent substance, and that at low doses, can be effective as a sleep aid. But as you go into moderate and high doses, it actually seems to be contraindicated for sleep and can be altering to many people.” Through her work, she found that a low-CBN dose is “virtually equivalent” to a dose of THC accompanied by myrcene.

Whether or not CBN acts as a sleep aid is still debated in the research community, and some believe it may be more of an entourage effect than a direct influence of CBN. This means it is actually the combination of CBN and THC (and possibly the presence of other cannabinoids and terpenes) that account for any sleepiness users may experience. Research is still being done on the topic.

Antibiotic

When tested on strains of MRSA bacteria that are both relevant to current health and resistant to traditional antibiotics, CBN was found to be a potent antibacterial agent. It’s also shown its potential to act as an analgesic or pain reliever with its ability to influence the activity of neurons in the brain that are traditionally sensitive to capsaicin, the chili pepper derivative known to relieve pain. This suggests that cannabinol may be able to be used as an antibiotic, but further testing is required to confirm the anecdotal evidence.

Neuroprotectant

While therapeutic options for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are few and far between, a study shows that CBN was able to delay the onset of ALS in mice without affecting survival whatsoever. This also needs to be researched more, but it could potentially have a dramatic and positive effect on ALS patients and the medical community as a whole.

Appetite Stimulant

A 2012 study using lab rats concluded that the cannabinoid CBN acted as an appetite stimulant, while CBD did not. CBN noticeably affected appetite behaviors in the rats, as far as the speed and amount consumed within the intake period. Conversely, CBD appeared to have the opposite effect on appetite.

Anti-Inflammatory

Another positive digestive property that CBN has exhibited is anti-inflammation, which could specifically help with the discomfort rheumatoid arthritis patients endure. Cannabinol has also shown signs that it may operate effectively as an anticonvulsant, a possible alternative for epileptic patients.

Glaucoma Aid

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the world, and it is known to cause intraocular eye pressure in sufferers. However, studies have shown that CBN may be used to reduce the pressure. THC has also been known to inhibit glutamic acid release and block receptors. More research is needed to determine if CBN could replace traditional treatments for glaucoma.

trimmed cannabis flower falling out of a green storage container

Where To Find CBN Products

The least complex way to experience the effects of CBN is to make it yourself by exposing your flower to oxygen and light so the THC can degrade.

CBN-focused products are becoming increasingly available with cannabis brands, so check out your local dispensary for options. As research on CBN increases, so will medical understanding and consumer access.

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