An image of the cannabinol molecule overlaid with the text What is CBN? The "Sleep Cannabinoid"

CBN

What is CBN? Our Helpful Guide to the “Sleep Cannabinoid”

CBN is one of the newest cannabinoids on the block and it isn’t going anywhere. While it’s still considered a minor cannabinoid, behind THC and CBD, it’s being marketed as a superior sleep aid.  

While the science is still out on whether or not CBN promotes restfulness and sleep, it’s still worth getting to know the cannabinoid. In the rest of this post, we’re going to get to know the CBN a little bit better and answer common questions about the “sleep cannabinoid.”

What is CBN? 

CBN is short for Canna-Bi-Nol, one of the more than 100+ naturally-occurring compounds produced by the cannabis plant. CBN is considered to be a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid and is usually only found in aged cannabis flower. 

What’s the Difference Between CBN and CBD? 

CBN and CBD are different cannabinoids with distinct molecular structures and effects. CBN, like its predecessor, THC, interacts directly with your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD does not. 

You can take CBN and CBD together though. Doing so may yield more powerful desired effects. Some research done on animals suggests that consuming both CBN and CBD is an effective pain management method. 

Where Does CBN Come From? 

CBN is a by-product of THC oxidation. As THC is exposed to light, heat, and air, it breaks down into CBN. 

This also means that the CBN content present in cannabis flower isn’t determined by genetic factors— many breeders try to maximize THC and CBD levels through selective breeding. Instead, the amount of CBN present in your flower is more attributable to age and the environment. 

How Do You Convert THC into CBN?

You can convert THC into CBN by exposing your flower to a few factors like, 

In short, if you want to convert THC into CBN, you have to let it get stale. 

Is CBN Psychoactive?

Many believe CBN to be mildly psychoactive because it is the result of THC oxidation and it does interact with your CB receptors in much the same way. It should be noted that psychoactive doesn’t necessarily mean intoxicating. 

What is CBN Good For? 

CBN is still considered a minor cannabinoid and hasn’t been researched too thoroughly yet. There have been studies into the benefits of CBN, though most of them have not been carried out with human subjects. 

CBN as an anti-inflammatory 

One study on rats published in 2016 suggested CBN may reduce inflammation caused by arthritis. Further research is needed in both animals and humans before we fully understand this link. [1] 

CBN and pain relief

Another 2019 study found that a combination of both CBD and CBN was able to relieve chronic pain in rats. Further, this study found that a combination of CBN and CBD was more effective than either cannabinoid taken alone. [2]

Another study conducted in Japan in the 1980s concluded that both CBN and THC have pain-relief properties. [3] 

CBN and sleep  

A recent human-centered study published in 2021 out of the Australian Sleep Disorders Research Institute found that a combination of THC, CBN, and CBD taken regularly under the tongue significantly improved insomnia symptoms and self-reported sleep quality in people compared to the placebo group. [4]

Learn more about how CBN may help you get a good night’s sleep here. 

CBN as a neuroprotectant 

CBN may also be a powerful neuroprotectant, meaning that it may help protect your nervous system from damage, especially in people who develop a health condition with neurological effects.

In a 2005 study, researchers found that CBN helped delay the onset of ALS in rats. [5] 

CBN as an antibacterial

CBN has also been tested against certain strains of MRSA— a type of staph bacteria that’s become much more resistant to antibiotics in recent years. [6]

Where to Find CBN

As a byproduct of THC, CBN isn’t the most plentiful cannabinoid. Leaving your cannabis flower out to oxidize also isn’t the most efficient way to get CBN. Because of the advances in cannabis science, some companies are starting to release CBN isolate and CBN + CBD blend products, like CBN edibles and CBN oil. 

What are CBN Edibles?

CBN edibles are candies, beverages, or foods that have been infused with cannabinol. Broad- and full-spectrum CBN edibles will contain additional cannabinoids like CBD and THC. 

Some manufacturers may choose to make their CBN edibles with CBN isolate, in which case they should only contain CBN and no other cannabinoids. CBN edibles, like any other cannabinoid-infused edible, should take anywhere between 30-120 minutes to take effect. 

What is CBN Oil? 

CBN oil is similar to CBD oil. Most of the time, CBN oil will be made by mixing CBN isolate with a carrier oil such as hemp oil or coconut MCT oil. 

You can add your CBN oil to your favorite foods or drinks, or apply the oil directly under your tongue for rapid absorption. CBN oil taken under your tongue should take less time to take effect than CBN edibles— anywhere between 15-60 minutes. 

What are CBN’s Side Effects? 

As of this writing, there are no known side effects of CBN, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist— it just means we need more time to understand this minor cannabinoid.  

Pregnant people, children, and those sensitive to THC should avoid CBN until we’re more certain of its safety. 

Will CBN Interact with my other Medications?

While we do know that CBD interacts with certain medications, especially those that come with “grapefruit warnings,” we don’t know if CBN acts the same way. 

To be on the safe side, take caution and speak to your pharmacist before trying CBN. 

Does CBN make you hungry?

Unlike CBD which can have appetite-suppressing effects, CBN appears to stimulate appetite (at least in rodents). [7] While CBN may not give you the munchies, closely associated with THC cannabis use, CBN may be a great therapeutic option for people struggling with their appetites because of illness or cancer treatments. 

Is CBN Legal?

CBN is not listed as a Schedule I substance. Because CBN is derived from oxidized THC, it’s thought by some that CBN could be illegal under the Federal Analogue Act

That said, CBN can also be derived from federally-legal hemp plants defined as “cannabis that contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC,” albeit in smaller quantities. As long as the CBN is derived from hemp, it’s believed to be legal. 

Takeaway: What Is CBN?

While still considered a minor cannabinoid behind THC and CBD, CBN is on the rise thanks in part to its numerous potential benefits. Expect to see it incorporated into more and more cannabis-derived products—especially those aimed at promoting sleep— in the short term.

Sources

[1] Zurier RB, Burstein SH. Cannabinoids, inflammation, and fibrosis. FASEB J. 2016;30(11):3682–9.

[2] Wong H, Cairns BE. Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain. Arch Oral Biol. 2019;104:33–9.

[3] Yamamoto, I., Watanabe, K., Kuzuoka, K., Narimatsu, S., & Yoshimura, H. (1987). The pharmacological activity of cannabinol and its major metabolite 11-hydroxycannabinol. Chemical & pharmaceutical bulletin. 35(5), 2144–2147.

[4] Walsh, J.H., et al., Treating insomnia symptoms with medicinal cannabis: a randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of a cannabinoid medicine compared with placebo. Sleep, 2021. 44(11)

[5] Weydt, Patrick et al. “Cannabinol delays symptom onset in SOD1 (G93A) transgenic mice without affecting survival.” Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other motor neuron disorders : official publication of the World Federation of Neurology, Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases vol. 6,3 (2005): 182-4. doi:10.1080/14660820510030149

[6] Appendino, Giovanni et al. “Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study.” Journal of natural products vol. 71,8 (2008): 1427-30. doi:10.1021/np8002673

[7] Farrimond, Jonathan A et al. “Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns.” Psychopharmacology vol. 223,1 (2012): 117-29. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2697-x