What is CBN? – Cannabinoid Science

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Introducing cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid that offers a variety of health benefits without getting you high. You probably heard about the health benefits cannabidiol (CBD) offers. Well, research shows CBN can be even more effective in some regards.


Cannabinol or cannabidiol?

There are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and it seems that the scientists who discovered them were ridiculously uninspired when it came to names. There’s cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and all kinds of cannabi-whatever until you reach the famous tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Even though they come from the same plant and have resembling names, cannabinoids produce wildly different effects. In addition, each strain of cannabis contains different quantities of each unique cannabinoid. Now, you might be wondering why.

Well, all the cannabinoids start off as the same chemical compound — cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). After going through a maturation process you can read more about here, CBGA transforms into cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and CBG.

But the thing is, CBGA does not transform directly into CBN. The chemical process is actually more complicated than this, but cannabinol is ultimately an oxidised version of THC.

This means that the plant has to go through several stages of maturation before this compound even appears. So, while a cannabis flower might easily contain up to 25 percent of THC, and sometimes even beyond that, it will rarely contain more than 1 percent of CBN.

Luckily, modern science is full of promise, and humanity has the means to condition the cannabis plant to produce more cannabinol.

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What does CBN do?

It’s safe to say that the research on CBN is still in its infancy. But medical cannabis is now legal in many European states, so the scientific community should pick up the pace in the future.

At the moment, the research shows that CBN is an effective sleep aid. A study presented in 1995 showed that synthetic cannabinol prolonged sleep in rodents.

Another study, this one published in 2017, shows that cannabinol could help fight the signs of aging, so you should probably expect to see CBN-infused face cream in a pharmacy near you in the future.

Research from 2002 shows that cannabinol produces analgesic or pain-relieving effects. According to this study, CBN activates the same pain receptors as capsaicin, a chemical compound found in chili peppers, that’s commonly used in topical pain relievers.

Another study from 2002 shows that CBN is one of the several cannabinoids that could be effective at treating infections produced by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Last but not least, a study published in 1985 showed that the administration of cannabinol to male mice over four days increased their testicular testosterone production, so that might also be of use for future studies.

But here’s the kicker, researchers often study CBN alongside other cannabinoids such as CBD or THC, so these results are far from being definitive. In addition, CBN is a minor cannabinoid, so its chances of being studied intensively are pretty slim.


Does CBN get you high?

At this moment, the scientific answer would be ‘not exactly‘. A study presented in 1975 shows that CBN produces very mild psychoactive effects. In fact, the study concluded that CBN is more effective at amplifying the effect of THC than producing psychoactive effects on its own. Also, the study from 1985 that I talked about earlier listed cannabinol as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid.

Nevertheless, a private study shows that a dose of 5 mg of cannabinol is just as effective as a 10 mg dose of Diazepam, so the cannabinoid definitely has a sedative effect. Now, this is good news if you consume cannabinoids to improve your sleep, but it should also convince you to avoid CBN if you’re going to drive or operate heavy machinery.


Where can you get CBN from?

As the cannabis plant grows, buds and dies, its chemical structure changes. But these changes do not stop once the plant is harvested, they carry on unless the plants are stored in the right conditions.

Cannabinol is an oxidised version of THC. Most cannabis connoisseurs claim that old weed or weed that hasn’t been stored properly has more CBN in it. This is why old or badly stored weed has a pronounced sedative effect.

But a high CBN content is not always a sign that the cannabis is not fresh. Some growers put the cannabis plant through multiple budding/senescence cycles to increase the concentration of CBN in the finished product. This is one of the reasons why knowing the strain’s characteristics before lighting it up is so crucial.

However, you don’t necessarily have to consume cannabis to tap into the benefits of cannabinol. Nowadays, you can buy CBN oils, capsules, tinctures and topicals. CBN oils come in different concentrations, so you should always start with a low dose.


Does CBN produce any side effects?

CBN is fairly safe to use, but you should keep in mind that it derives from THC. Cannabinol oil produces a few side effects, usually only when users take too much of it. When this happens, the user might experience grogginess, drowsiness or dizziness. Typically, these side effects go away some time after you stop the consumption.

However, these symptoms are self-reported. There are no scientific studies focusing on the side effects of CBN.


Is cannabinol legal?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this topic, and many suppliers and customers are in the dark as far as the legal status of CBN is concerned.

According to CBDology, in the UK, cannabinol is listed as a class B controlled substance, just as THC. However, some suppliers in the UK sell CBD-based products that are infused with cannabinol. This is not strictly legal, but it’s not illegal as long as the container (be it a bag, box, bottle, etc.) does not contain more than 1mg of a controlled substance.

The EU law states that CBN is to be considered as medical cannabis because it’s not controlled under international law, so the same rules as for medical marijuana apply for CBN.


CBN – Final thoughts

CBN oils are relatively new, so it might be difficult for you to find a supplier near you at the moment. Since cannabinol shows a lot of promise as a medical device, you should expect to see more studies focusing on its therapeutic properties.

Fortunately, the cannabis industry is taking note of the public’s interest in healthy, non-psychoactive cannabinoids, so you should expect to see new cannabinol products hitting the shelves in the near future.

Until then, you can smoke the 2-year-old stash you hid under your bed and forgot about. Nobody’s going to judge.

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