What is CBN Cannabinoid: A Comprehensive Guide

What is CBN?

Nowadays, you see CBD everywhere you look. If you have a curiosity about CBD, how it works, and what the excitement is all about, you’ve likely come across another cannabinoid in your research: CBN. 

Maybe you want to address health concerns like poor sleep, anxiety, pain, or inflammation, and you’re excited about any cannabinoid that might provide some relief. But if you’re up to speed on everything there is to know about CBD, you’re likely feeling overwhelmed by the idea of absorbing a whole new set of facts with regards to CBN. 

Don’t worry. Here, we answer everything you’re wondering about CBN.

What is CBN?

Like CBD, CBN is a cannabinoid. It’s another one of the unique cannabis compounds. CBN is a little different from other cannabinoids, however. It develops from the degradation of THC as hemp plants age and oxidize. 

Even though CBN originates from THC, it has different effects and does not cause intoxication. CBN is quickly gaining popularity for it’s effects of relaxation, improved sleep, and relief from pain and inflammation. 

History of CBN

Although cannabinol (CBN) is a minor cannabinoid that’s suddenly gaining more attention, chemists have known about CBN for quite some time. In 1896 Thomas Barlow Wood, along with W. T. Newton Spivey, M.A. and Thomas Hill Easterfield, M.A., Ph.D., successfully isolated the cannabinoid CBN for the very first time.  

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

As a byproduct of THC, CBN 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 to CBN over time. Because of its exposure to the sun’s rays and other environmental elements, outdoor cannabis may consist of one percent CBN or less.

Originally, Wood and his associates thought CBN was responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis. Later, it was revealed that, in fact,  THC was the intoxicating culprit and CBN had only  a fraction of the intoxicating effects of THC. You’d have to ingest a ridiculously large amount of CBN to experience the euphoric effects.

How quickly is THC converted into CBN?

While it’s difficult to find much data that talks about the speed at which THC converts to CBN under various environmental conditions, a study from 1999 does offer some insight. Dried cannabis plants were stored in closed barrels in the dark in an air-conditioned vault. Over the course of 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 the result of environmental factors acting on the cannabis plant matter, there is no way for cannabis breeders to produce a CBN-dominant strain of cannabis. 

The only way to accelerate the conversion process of THC to CBN in a cannabis harvest is to age the plants by  exposing them to heat, oxygen, and sunlight. Because it takes more time to harvest, CBN can be rather expensive, especially CBN isolate.

How Do CBN and THC Work? 

Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) acts on multiple other systems in the body, particularly the immune and nervous systems. It sends neurotransmitters throughout the body to keep it in balance and ensure it can run smoothly. In short, cannabinoids help the body’s systems signal problems and communicate solutions to fix them. 

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

The CB2 receptor interfaces with your body’s natural defenses, the immune system. The CB2 receptor affects your hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), the stem cells that produce other blood cells. 

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

CBD and THC each interact with your CB1 and CB2 receptors differently. CBD does not have a strong affinity for CB1 receptors, nor does it 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 sometimes produce both a positive result and a negative side effect. For example, THC has the potential to reduce pain, but, in some cases, can also cause paranoia or anxiety.

Users enjoy health benefits without the high sensation.

Like THC, CBN binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, although not as strongly as THC. This allows comparable medicinal benefits to THC without the high sensation. CBN’s psychoactive effects are only 10-25% as strong as THC, meaning it won’t induce a ‘high.’

As more studies and anecdotal evidence emerge, it will be fascinating to see what the future holds for CBN oil and how it can positively contribute to humanity’s well-being.

What are the Available Forms of CBN? 

There are a few different options for how to take CBN. They all offer the same potential benefits, but with different levels of dose control and convenience, depending on your personal preference.

Oils or Tinctures

CBN oil tinctures are easy to mix into food or beverages or can also be easily administered directly under the tongue. This form of CBN comes with a dropper to help you carefully measure each dose.


If you love taking your daily multivitamin in the form of a sweet-tasting gummy, then CBN gummies may be great for you.


The simplest way to take CBN is in capsule or softgel form. They make taking CBN quick, easy, and discreet.

CBD Lab Testing

What are the Potential Benefits of Using CBN?

Your most pressing question is likely, “how can CBN potentially help me?” If you deal with any of the following problems, here is an overview of CBN’s potential benefits.

Pain Relief

A 2019 study of CBN, CBD, and CBC concluded that the three cannabinoids “may provide analgesic relief for chronic muscle pain disorders.” There are multiple pain-related conditions for which CBN can provide relief because CBN works to reduce inflammation by changing pain perception.

To find out more, read our blog post CBN for pain relief

Heart Health

A lower resting heart rate is a sign of a healthy heart. A heart in good condition keeps a regular beat and doesn’t get overworked. Studies have shown that CBN decreases the heart rate without decreasing blood flow. 

Appetite Stimulation 

As we age, our metabolisms slow down which 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.


CBN’s apparent neuroprotective activity makes it a promising  for research in the context of treating brain aging, glaucoma and neurodegenerative diseases like ALS.

Antibacterial Properties  

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

Is CBN “the sleepy cannabinoid?”

CBN is sometimes referred to as the “sleepy cannabinoid.” One reason for this is because  it’s typically found in older cannabis, which is also high in sedating terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis varieties their distinct flavor. Some also play a role in promoting relaxation, stress relief, increased focus, etc.

There is a plethora of anecdotal evidence that CBN does indeed aid with sleep and has a calming effect on users. In fact, many participants in early studies have self-reported significant sleep improvements. 

Regardless, there’s not enough concrete scientific research to authoritatively say that CBN is the ‘sleepy’ cannabinoid. While anecdotal evidence, of course, isn’t science, the more anecdotal evidence that exists, the more likely it is there’s something to it.

What are the Potential Side Effects of Using CBN? 

Like CBD, the body generally tolerates CBN well. The potential side effects, which are usually quite mild, are similar to those of CBD and are typically easy to manage with simple changes in dose and lifestyle. Especially when taken in excessive amounts, users may experience drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, dry mouth, and/or diarrhea.

CBN Dosage: How Much Should You Take? 

One of the wonderful things about CBN is most people find it to be effective in relatively small doses. Plus, the effects of cannabinoids can be much stronger when combined. That means you may be able to take less CBN if the CBN product contains other cannabinoids.

CBN dose can change depending on body size, eating habits, tolerance, and how you take the supplement. As always, you should follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. When discussing CBN with your doctor, ask about dosage as well as how the cannabinoid will interact with any other drugs or medications you’re taking.

CBN dosage for sleep

CBN is most effective when taken roughly one hour before bedtime. 2.5-5 mg of CBN is normally enough to induce restful sleep. Effects will be most likely felt at lower doses when taking CBN oil by itself A slightly higher dosage may be needed if you’re mixing it with food or taking capsules, gummies, or softgels.

CBN dosage for anxiety

To avoid any unintended grogginess, it’s best to start small with your CBN dose, especially when you’re first getting acclimated. Begin by taking 2 mg at once, and gradually increase incrementally, up to 5 mg if needed.

For more information read our blog post CBN For Anxiety

CBN dosage for pain relief

Handle CBN dosage similarly, starting with 2 mg to see if that dose works. If not, you may slowly increase the dosage up to 5 mg.

What’s the Difference Between CBD and CBN? 

The main difference between CBD and CBN is that CBD is much more prevalent in cannabis plants than CBN is. Therefore, CBD is far easier to obtain in adequate amounts to isolate and study. 

As a result, there is far more research and conclusive information, including clinical trials, available on CBD. With CBN, the science is in earlier stages and we need more clinical trials to be 100% sure of its effects.

Otherwise, CBN and CBD have many overlapping properties including their shared calming, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects.

CBN and CBD, the ideal match?

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

The problem is, that match is not practical for many people because of the restrictive laws surrounding THC, people’s perception of it, and the hesitancy towards experiencing the intoxicating sensations of THC.

The combination of CBD and CBN, then, is much more appealing to many as opposed to the combination of CBD and THC.

Is CBN Legal? 

Yes, CBN is legal in the United States at the federal level, so long as it comes from hemp plants that contain 0.3% THC or less. Confusingly, cannabis plants and their derivatives, including CBN, have differing legal statuses at the state level, depending on whether the state has fully legal recreational cannabis, regulated medical cannabis, or even stricter parameters.

But there are no specific restrictions on CBN originating from low-THC hemp at the federal or state level.

Is it legal to buy CBN online?

Yes, it is legal to buy CBN from low-THC hemp online in most states. However, if you live in Idaho, Nebraska, or Kansas, you may be limited to purchasing only CBN and other cannabis products containing 0.0% THC.

FAQs About CBN Cannabinol 

How long does CBN stay in your system?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. How long CBN takes to clear out of your system completely depends on your body composition, lifestyle habits, and the dosage and frequency of CBN taken.

Can you take too much CBN?

Since it is not a drug, you cannot overdose on CBN. But, excessive amounts of CBN can make you more likely to have unpleasant effects like dizziness, grogginess, dry mouth, and upset stomach.

How long does it take for CBN to kick in?

The onset of effects from cannabinoids like CBN can vary widely based on your overall health and body composition, dosage amount, type of supplement, and lifestyle habits.

Is CBN full spectrum?

Yes, you can get CBN cannabis products that are full-spectrum, meaning they include all the natural cannabis compounds. Alternately, there is also broad-spectrum CBN.

Can CBN keep you awake?

No, CBN is not likely to keep you awake if you’re tired.

Why does CBN make you sleepy?

We can’t conclusively say that CBN causes sleepiness, but for those who get sleepy from CBN, it is likely due to the calming terpenes, aromatic oils.

Is CBN a stimulant?

CBN is not a drug, and though it may not fit with their traditional definition of a stimulant drug, one study claims that CBN may have both a stimulant and sedative effect.

What’s your most interesting take away from learning about CBN?

CBN isn’t the most popular, researched, or prevalent cannabinoid. Despite its rarity, early science hints at a range of potentially powerful benefits. Hopefully, our ability to source, study and understand CBN will continue to grow so more people can benefit from it in the future.

Ready to watch CBN improve your quality of life? Check out the collection of trusted, lab-tested CBN products from Nature’s Legend.