CBN Explained

What is CBN?

What are the differences between CBN, CBD and CBG?

What is CBN?

Although cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid that’s “all the rage” these days, chemists have known about CBN for quite some time. The year was 1896 when Thomas Barlow Wood, along with W. T. Newton Spivey, M.A., and Thomas Hill Easterfield, M.A., Ph.D., isolated the cannabinoid CBN for the very first time.  

They discovered that, after prolonged storage (especially at high temperatures), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) turned into CBN. It’s thought that their discovery was made possible because of the poor-quality transportation and storage conditions of the 19th century.

CBN, being a byproduct of THC, is not present in a live-growing indoor cannabis plant. It’s only when THC is exposed to heat, light, and oxygen, that it turns into CBN over time. (Outdoor-grown cannabis, because of its exposure to the sun’s rays and the outdoor environment, may consist of one percent CBN or less.)

Originally, Wood and his associates thought it was the CBN that was responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis. Later, it was revealed that THC is the “intoxicating culprit” and that CBN has only about 10% of the intoxicating effects of THC. This means you’d have to ingest a whole lot of CBN to experience any euphoric effects.

How fast is THC converted into CBN?

It’s difficult to find studies or data that talk about how fast, and how much THC is converted to CBN when subjected to various environmental factors. A study from 1999 does offer some insight, though. The dried cannabis plant was stored in closed barrels in the dark in an air-conditioned vault. Over one year, the THC level decreased by about 16.6%; over two years 26.8%; over three years 34.5%; and over four years 41.4%.

Because CBN is a result of environmental effects that act on the cannabis plant, there is no way for cannabis breeders to produce a high-CBN strain of cannabis. The only way to accelerate more CBN in a cannabis harvest is to age it while exposing it to heat, oxygen, and sunlight. More time to harvest means CBN can be rather expensive—especially CBN isolate.

Is CBN “the sleepy cannabinoid?”

You may have heard that CBN is sometimes called the “sleepy cannabinoid.” One reason for this is that it’s usually found in older cannabis, which is also high in sedating terpenes. (Terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis varieties their distinct flavor with some also playing a role in promoting relaxation, stress relief, increased focus, etc.)  However, there’s not enough scientific research to say that CBN is the sleepy cannabinoid.

That said, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that CBN does indeed aid with sleep and has a calming effect on people. Anecdotal evidence, of course, isn’t science, but the more anecdotal evidence you have, the more likely there is to be something to it.

More benefits of CBN Oil

The following are some other potential benefits of CBN oil…

Pain Relief — A 2019 study published on PubMed.gov focused on CBN, CBD, and CBC. It concluded that the three cannabinoids “may provide analgesic relief for chronic muscle pain disorders…”

Heart health — A lower resting heart rate is a sign your heart is working as it should. Your heart keeps a regular beat and doesn’t have to work too hard. Studies have shown that CBN decreases the heart rate without decreased blood flow. 

Appetite Stimulation — Age and a slowing metabolism can lessen our desire to eat food. A 2012 study found that rats who were treated with CBN demonstrated a significant increase in both quantity and duration of feeding.

Antibacterial Properties — A 2008 study tested five cannabinoids, CBD, CBC (cannabichromene) CBG, THC, and CBN. They reported that all five “showed potent activity against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).” MRSA is a staph bacterial infection that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics designed to treat it.  

CBD Lab Testing

CBN Side effects

Like CBD, CBN is generally well tolerated by the body and the potential side effects, which are usually quite mild, are similar to the potential side effects of CBD: drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, and diarrhea.

CBN and CBD, the ideal match?

CBN, being a byproduct of THC, has much the same properties as THC, but to a lesser degree. Therein lies the potential opportunity of CBN that many are so excited about. Because here’s the thing, while CBD (cannabidiol) works great for millions of people around the world, it’s pretty much universally accepted that CBD and THC together are extremely effective.

But that match is not practical for many people because of the still restrictive laws surrounding THC, people’s perception of it, and many people simply don’t want to experience the intoxicating sensations of THC.

So, the combination of CBD and CBN together is much more appealing to many people than the combination of CBD and THC.

The medicinal benefits of THC without the high sensation

Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) acts on multiple systems in our body including the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, reproductive system, and nervous system.  It sends out neurotransmitters throughout the body to check whether everything is running smoothly. If it finds a problem, it sends out instructions on how to fix it. 

The two main cannabinoid receptors in our ECS are CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor impacts your Central Nervous System (CNS), which means it affects your mood, memory processing, motor control, speech, sensations, thoughts, etc. Your CB1 receptor also influences lung, liver, and kidney function. 

The CB2 receptor is concerned with your body’s natural defense system, your immune system. The CB2 receptor also helps with your hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are the stem cells that produce other blood cells.

Unlike CBD, THC and CBN bind to the CB1 and CB1 Receptors

CBD and THC interact with your CB1 and CB2 receptors differently. CBD does not have a strong affinity for CB1 receptors, and it does not directly activate CB2 receptors. It is thought to interact with the body through other mechanisms which indirectly impact both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.  

THC, on the other hand, binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It mimics the endocannabinoids produced by your body and activates the receptors. This can produce both positive and less than desirable results. For example, THC has the potential to reduce your pain, but, in some cases, it can also cause paranoia.

Why people are excited about CBN

Like THC, CBN binds (although not as strongly as THC) to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which allows you to get potentially comparable medicinal benefits to THC without the high sensation.

As more studies and anecdotal evidence emerge, it will be exciting to see what the future holds for CBN oil and how it can contribute to human well-being.