CBN (Cannabinol)

CBN (Cannabinol)

This post is also available in: Français (French)

After prolonged periods of time, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) breaks down into the cannabinoid CBN (cannabinol). By exposing dried cannabis to heat and oxygen the degradation can be accelerated. Current research indicates that cannabinol (CBN) may only be ¼ the potency of THC, so it’s only mildly intoxicating.

Cannabinol Molecule

More about CBN Cannabinol

CBN is somewhat of a “sleeper” cannabinoid in more ways than one. It’s certainly less in style than terpenes, and at the moment, far less popular than CBD or THC. CBN is also know as “the sleepy cannabinoid in old weed “, however, to those aware of its existence.

With its dominant presence and sedative effects in aged cannabis, CBN’s reputation – both as a less desirable cannabinoid than THC or CBD and as a sleepy cannabinoid – is well earned, although it doesn’t give the whole picture. We can still learn a lot from the CBN cannabinoid and gain much from becoming more familiar with its chemical makeup and effects even though its distinct sedative quality is about the only thing that sets it apart from other cannabinoids.

Rodents are where much of the research around cannabinol effects, notably sedation, has been done. According to a 1975 study, CBN enhances the sedating effects of THC in rats and mice . Aged flowers have significantly more CBN than fresh flowers so sedation is commonly associated with CBN. Aged cannabis with CBN cannabinoids are sedating because it has also lost lower molecular weight monoterpenoids in favour of more sedating sesquiterpenoids meaning that the actual sedation is not necessarily a product of CBN. CBD does not cause sleepiness so the sedation factor is one of several primary differences between CBN and CBD.


How CBN Works

The way cannabis’ cannabinoids offer multiple mechanisms of action , or pathways through which they produce an effect, is one of the most valuable aspects of cannabis. In part, THC and CBD produce beneficial effects because they can activate multiple biological pathways at once. Through channels separate from the CB1 and CB2 receptors they can also produce a wider variety of effects.

THC, CBD and even some terpenes have been much more rigorously researched than the CBN cannabinoid. Ultimately though, the demand for more information will likely reveal the full profile of CBN’s effects as researchers begin to mine cannabis for every possible benefit.


The Connection Between CBN and THC

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) tested cannabis potency loss over time in a 1999 study so our current understanding of CBN as a major cannabinoid dates back to then. THC content in the tested cannabis sample dropped to half of its original potency over four years according to the study. The THC began to convert to CBN as the THC oxidized and dissipated. There was a clear connection between THC-CBN conversion and plant vulnerability during the first two years of improper storage as the study found that’s where most of the THC degradation occurred.

Cannabis will typically become CBN-heavy the longer it ages as this study shows that THC degrades into CBN over time. Why CBN and THC cannabinoids share alternative mechanisms of action to CB1 and CB2 receptors is also reveled by the study. It indicates the cannabis has aged significantly when a lab result shows high-CBN. As the UNODC study concluded, “A relationship between the concentration ratio of CBN to THC and the storage time…could serve as a guide in determining the approximate age of a given marijuana sample stored at room temperature.”


CBN Benefits and Medical Uses

CBN presents new pathways to exploration of medical cannabis use even though it’s a result of THC degradation. Both CBD and THC have become highly values for their therapeutic versatility in recent years. CBN boasts an impressive list of potential medical uses even though it’s far less well known than THC or CBD.


CBN remains mostly valued as a potent sleep aid. 5mg of CBN is as effective as 10mg of diazepam, a prominent pharmaceutical sedative, according to an analysis from Steep Hill Labs . CBN is not only potent as an anti-insomnia medicine, but also easy to obtain, as long as you have access to cannabis. All you have to do is store some cannabis in a non-airtight container and let it sit for a few weeks or even months if you’re finding it challenging to locate a CBN-heavy cannabis product (which, given their current rarity on the market, is more than likely).

Pain Relief

CBN has recently been identified as a potential pain killer , in addition to its effectiveness as a sleep aid. CBN has different mechanisms of action than THC and CBD, as previously mentioned. It binds directly to the receptor but induces much lower effects compared to a full agonist, making it a weak CB1 partial agonist. CBN has been shown to only produce 10% of the activity of THC in fact. CBN releases peptides from sensory nerves, activating an alternative nerve mechanism to achieve the same ends, rather than alleviate pain by by way of CB1 and CB2 receptors.


CBN is one of a number of cannabinoids with the potential to fight bacteria. CBN may prove a viable option for reducing methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) bacteria in the future, since when tested on multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria , CBN was highly effective.


Cannabinoids can also be effective anti-inflammatories. CBN may have similar abilities to treat a variety of inflammatory ailments, although it’s not as widely used for anti-inflammatory purposes as THC or CBD. CBN was identified as a possible treatment for inflammatory disorders such as allergic asthma by a 2009 study on cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs . CBN can also treat glaucoma by reducing inflammation that causes intraocular pressure as revealed by research.


CBN is an effective treatment against convulsive illnesses as identified by studies dating back to the 1970s. CBN has the potential to reduce seizures and epileptic symptoms similar to THC and CBD. CBN’s anti-convulsive properties may be more effective in conjunction with THC and THC than as an isolated compound, however, so be warned.

Bone Cell Growth Stimulant

Anti-inflammation, pain relief, appetite stimulation, etc. – CBN ticks all the usual boxes of a medicinal cannabinoid. Stimulating bone marrow cell growth is something else it may do. CBN may be an effective cannabinoid in creating bone tissue and healing bone fractures by gathering and modulating stem cells.

Appetite Stimulant

CBN may be an effective appetite stimulant in addition to the potential medical uses already covered. Rats administered with CBN showed a sizeable increase in both quantity and duration of feeding as found by a 2012 study. The possibility of using CBN as a non-intoxicating alternative to THC appetite stimulants is presented by these findings.


Pharmacological History of CBN

CBN was the first phytocannabinoid ever to be isolated as veteran cannabis users may be surprised to learn – from a red oil cannabis extract by Thomas Barlow Wood, WT Newton Spivey and Thomas Hill Easterfield in 1896. Paving the way for the cannabinoid’s chemical synthesis and official discovery by two separate research groups – Lord Todd in the UK and R. Adams in the U.S. – in 1940 – R.S. Cahn further clarified CBN’s chemical structure in 1932.

The CBN cannabinoid was thought to be the primary psychoactive component of cannabis for more than two decades after its 1940 discovery. Discovering its psychoactive dominance within the cannabis plant Israeli researchers Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam successfully isolated THC in 1964. CBN was identified as an oxidized, degraded version of THC, but without THC’s intoxicating effects after this discovery led to further research.

To fully grasp CBN’s sedative effects , more research is needed. Terpenoid profile changes may contribute to the sedative quality of aged cannabis as much as, if not more than, THC degradation as theorized by some.

It’s not an isolated cannabinoid when someone is using a product labeled “CBN”. In addition to CBN, it contains other cannabis compounds, including some THC and terpenes, many of which are sedating.

Studying it as an isolated compound is the only way to know the specific medicinal properties of a cannabinoid. By exploring the sedating effects of CBN alone and in combination with THC a 1976 study did just that. It was not sedating when given to volunteers – as researchers found that CBN was an “inactive” cannabinoid alone. Compared to THC alone, interestingly, CBN produced greater sedation when combined with THC. It is likely not the cannabinoid itself but the combination of these different compounds that might be providing sedation.


Where Can I Find CBN?

At this point, you probably aren’t going to find a CBN-heavy strain at your local dispensary or online if you’re looking for a non-intoxicating alternative to THC.

That doesn’t mean a healthy dose of CBN is out of your grasp however. The aged flower you might happen to have on hand is arguably the easiest way to get CBN. Particularly ripe with CBN are THC-heavy strains left lying around for a while. Buying new cannabis and leaving it somewhat exposed for a while will also do the trick is you don’t happen to have old cannabis on hand.


What Is CBN Oil?

CBN may become a more common cannabinoid and show up in CBN oil, CBN tincture, CBN capsules and topicals as each cannabinoid is explored for its full medicinal value. A select few companies are already jumping on board the CBN train in fact.

There are plenty of strains out there with more CBN-producing potential than others even though most cannabis contains less than 1% CBN initially. Look out for strains known to have higher CBN content if you’re looking to develop CBN from aged cannabis such as A-Dub, Death Star, Kosher Kush, Strawberry Haze, Purple Sour Diesel, Jorge’s Diamonds, Amsterdam Flame, Red Dragon, Shark Shock and Cataract Kush.

CBN’s sedating effects are stronger when it’s taken with food as noted by some of the cannabinoid’s enthusiasts. Making CBN capsules at home is fairly simple and usually cost-effective if you’re interested in trying this method. Simmer some aged cannabis in coconut oil on low heat for a couple of hours, then place the infusion into a capsule maker, is essentially all you have to do.

You may also want to consider ripening your home-grown weed for a high-CBN yield if you’re able to cultivate your own cannabis. Simply harvest when the plant has over-ripened and converted its THC into CBN – typically about 7-10 days after your usual harvest.

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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