CBN 101: What is CBN and What Are the Health Effects of This Powerful Cannabinoid?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) aren't the only names in town. While these cannabinoids are the most commonly referred to compounds in cannabis oils, tinctures, and other cannabis products, the industry is constantly evolving. Cannabinol (CBN) is the latest cannabinoid that everyone is talking about, but the different acronyms can get confusing. Here's everything you need to know about this mild psychoactive.
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What Is CBN?
While not as well-known as THC and CBD, CBN is actually the first-ever isolated cannabinoid identified by researchers — it was first discovered in the late 1800s.(1) This predates the first time THC was identified by more than half a century (scientists only isolated THC in the 1960s).(2)
CBN is a byproduct of THC. When THC degrades — think old, stale cannabis leaves, or THC oils and extracts that have been left out for too long or exposed to high heat or high humidity — the THC breaks down into CBN.(3) However, some elements of THC will always remain, which is why CBN is regularly defined as a "mild psychoactive."
Why Is CBN Important?
As THC degrades into CBN, the THC loses much of its psychoactive properties.(4)
Unlike cannabis products that contain THC, CBN products therefore don't have the same intoxicating or mind-altering effects.
However, research suggests that CBN still possesses similar potential therapeutic and health benefits, making it a top choice for those who are seeking cannabis-related wellness goals but don't want as many of the psychoactive effects of THC.
How Cannabinol Works
CBN, just like other cannabinoids, interacts with the endocannabinoid (EC) system (5) in your central nervous system.
Typically, your brain cells (also known as neurons) send chemical messages that regulate your actions, mood, and thoughts:
- A presynaptic neuron releases a neurotransmitter (i.e., a chemical message)
- The neurotransmitter attaches to a receptor on another neuron
- That triggers the receiving neuron — known as a postsynaptic cell — to do something specific
In your EC system, it works in reverse: Cannabinoids, such as CBN, act as chemical messengers from the postsynaptic neuron to the presynaptic neuron. This then influences the future actions of the presynaptic neuron, affecting how future "messages" are sent by that neuron to other neurons.
Put simply, CBN can change how your neurons send messages to each other, and this can have wide-ranging potential health effects on your body and mind.
How Does CBN Affect The Body?
Below are some effects to notice and also benefits, including:
Effects And Benefits
Research suggests that CBN can have numerous potential benefits for your health.
- CBN and Brain Health
CBN may protect your neurons from oxidative stress.(6) The researchers also found that CBN can help prevent the signs of aging in your brain cells (7) linked to brain cell death. The study concluded that this may reduce your risks of various age-related diseases in your brain and central nervous system, including:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
In contrast, CBD — which is similar to CBN but has zero psychoactive properties and has been more well-researched — has shown similar neurodegenerative protective effects. Not only that, but CBD has also been shown to influence all aspects of brain health, including benefits for emotional processing, stress and anxiety, and even psychosis.(8)
- CBN and Sleep
Up to 70 million Americans struggle with sleep issues. Besides making you more fatigued, lack of sleep is linked with higher risks of injuries, lower work and career performance, relationship problems, and even a higher risk of diseases like cancer and strokes.
CBN may help you sleep when paired with other cannabinoids like THC and CBD, increasing the quality of your sleep without introducing the same psychoactive side effects as THC.
However, on its own, CBN's effects on sleep are less clear.(9) Most studies show that it's most effective on insomnia and similar sleep disorders when it is paired with other cannabinoids, although one small trial — using just 24 human participants — did see promising results of CBN on overall sleep quality.(10)
- CBN and Cognitive Function
CBN may help you focus and be less distracted, as one small study on adults with ADHD suggested.(11)
It's important to note that this study used cannabis strains that were higher in CBN, rather than isolated CBN itself. Thus, more research is needed on this front. Similar to the effects of CBN on sleep, these studies suggest that CBN's effects on cognitive function may be in part due to its combination with other cannabinoids like THC or CBD.
In contrast, CBD has been shown to boost memory and similar areas of cognitive function, unlike THC which may impair memory.(12)
- CBN and Pain
CBN may help reduce sensations of pain, according to animal trials.(13) In the study, CBN triggered the release of specific peptides that helped control how nerves experienced pain sensations.
More importantly, the researchers noted that CBN may also help reduce inflammation.(14) For instance, in rats, CBN helped reduce arthritis-related inflammation in the rodents' joints. This suggests that CBN can help to not only block the sensations of pain, but also help to treat the source of the pain itself.
- CBN and Appetite
CBN may work to boost your appetite, according to animal studies, which may benefit those who have lost their appetite or want to increase their caloric intake.(15)
Keep in mind that research on CBN has only taken place relatively recently, and some studies have been done on humans while other research has focused on rat and mouse trials. More research needs to be done to explore the many potential benefits CBN can bring to your mind and body.
Potential Side Effects Of CBN
Due to recent legal changes in 2018, CBN is less regulated by the U.S. government than THC and many other cannabinoids. But that doesn't mean there are no potential side effects of CBN:
- CBN may have a sedating effect, and you should exercise caution in scenarios where you need to be alert (e.g., driving, operating tools or machinery, etc.)
- CBN may interact with other cannabinoids and amplify their effects
- CBN may still show up on drug tests even though it is less psychoactive as THC(16)
- CBN continues to be an area of cannabis research that needs more funding and more human trials to better understand its effects
What's The Difference Between CBN And CBD?
It can take years for THC to degrade fully into CBN.(17) In commercial products like oils and tinctures, CBN is made using processes like chemical synthesis or biosynthesis.(18)
It's similar to CBD in that regard, but there are some distinct differences between CBD and CBN.
CBN and CBD
- CBD has far more research and human clinical studies behind it (for example, there are now FDA-approved CBD-based medications on the market)
- CBN still has mild psychoactive properties, while CBD has no psychoactive properties (though some dispute the clinical definition of "psychoactive," CBD does not produce any of the same "high" sensations as THC whereas CBN does on a more mild scale)
- CBN may have a much narrower range of effects on your health and wellness, solely based on the narrower field of available research on this cannabinoid
In general, CBD is hands-down the more well-regarded cannabinoid, both in terms of documented research, well-known benefits and side effects, and overarching safety.
As Forbes Health magazine summarized, "CBD has been studied more extensively in clinical settings than CBN, and it’s more popular in mainstream retail products. Research supports several therapeutic benefits of CBD, but CBN can’t quite compete with that list just yet."(19)
Is CBN Safe?
It's important to always talk to a medical professional before taking cannabinoids of any kind, including CBN, because it may interact with pre-existing medical conditions, health concerns, or medications and supplements. For instance, some research suggests that cannabinoids can affect your liver health if you have liver disease.
At this time, there are no clearly documented unsafe side effects of CBN. Keep in mind that that's not because there are no safety risks with CBN. Rather, the research done on CBN has not fully investigated its long-term effects.
Should You Try CBN Products?
If you're looking to expand your cannabis-based therapies, CBN offers unique benefits that may help to tackle specific health and wellness concerns that you have.
Best CBN Products
There are a growing number of CBN-based products for you to try. Whichever brand you opt to buy, look for products that have a certificate of analysis (COA). A COA ensures you know the exact amounts of CBN and other cannabinoids in the CBN product you buy, and helps you better tailor your dosage to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Ideally, these products should also be verified through a third-party testing lab. For example, at BATCH, all products go through federally compliant internal testing to achieve a full cannabinoid profile. Additionally, all BATCH products are tested by independent third-party labs to look for contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides.
The more popular cannabinoid CBD comes in a wide range of forms, including best-selling CBD oils, gummies, topicals, and soft gels. CBN, in contrast, is available in a more narrow range and is not as widely available:
- Oils and tinctures
- Capsules and soft gels
- Vape products
- CBN isolate products
As the field of research grows and CBN's popularity expands, more products will slowly become available that offer you the option of incorporating CBN into your wellness journey.
CBN: A New Field of Cannabinoids That Deserves More Research
CBD remains the go-to in terms of availability, well-documented potential health benefits, and range of CBD products.
However, CBN may offer distinct benefits paired with a more psychoactive outcome that you may desire. Talk to your naturopath, doctor, or a similar medical professional if you're interested in trying CBN — while initial trials are promising, CBN requires more human studies to truly understand how it can impact our mind and body.
While you wait for more research on CBN, browse BATCH's wide-ranging options for quality-assured, third party-tested CBD products. These include CBD products for humans, as well as best-selling CBD for pets. Learn more today at BATCH.
- Appendino, G. (2020, October 8). The early history of Cannabinoid Research - Rendiconti Lincei. Scienze Fisiche e naturali. SpringerLink. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12210-020-00956-0
- Isolation, structure, and partial synthesis of an active constituent of ... (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/ja01062a046
- Repka MA, ElSohly MA, Munjal M, Ross SA. Temperature stability and bioadhesive properties of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol incorporated hydroxypropylcellulose polymer matrix systems. Drug Dev Ind Pharm. 2006 Jan;32(1):21-32. doi: 10.1080/03639040500387914. PMID: 16455601; PMCID: PMC2921171.
- Sharma P, Murthy P, Bharath MM. Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iran J Psychiatry. 2012 Fall;7(4):149-56. PMID: 23408483; PMCID: PMC3570572.
- Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Mar 13;19(3):833. doi: 10.3390/ijms19030833. PMID: 29533978; PMCID: PMC5877694.
- Liang, Z., Soriano-Castell, D., Kepchia, D., Duggan, B. M., Currais, A., Schubert, D., & Maher, P. (2022, January 6). Cannabinol inhibits oxytosis/ferroptosis by directly targeting mitochondria independently of cannabinoid receptors. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0891584922000016
- Active ingredient in cannabis protects aging brain cells. Salk Institute for Biological Studies. (2022, January 25). Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.salk.edu/news-release/active-ingredient-in-cannabis-protects-aging-brain-cells/
- Batalla A, Bos J, Postma A, Bossong MG. The Impact of Cannabidiol on Human Brain Function: A Systematic Review. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Jan 21;11:618184. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.618184. PMID: 33551817; PMCID: PMC7858248.
- Corroon J. Cannabinol and Sleep: Separating Fact from Fiction. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021 Oct;6(5):366-371. doi: 10.1089/can.2021.0006. Epub 2021 Aug 31. PMID: 34468204; PMCID: PMC8612407.
- Walsh JH, Maddison KJ, Rankin T, Murray K, McArdle N, Ree MJ, Hillman DR, Eastwood PR. Treating insomnia symptoms with medicinal cannabis: a randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of a cannabinoid medicine compared with placebo. Sleep. 2021 Nov 12;44(11):zsab149. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsab149. PMID: 34115851; PMCID: PMC8598183.
- Hergenrather JY, Aviram J, Vysotski Y, Campisi-Pinto S, Lewitus GM, Meiri D. Cannabinoid and Terpenoid Doses are Associated with Adult ADHD Status of Medical Cannabis Patients. Rambam Maimonides Med J. 2020 Jan 30;11(1):e0001. doi: 10.5041/RMMJ.10384. PMID: 32017685; PMCID: PMC7000160.
- Curran, T., Devillez, H., YorkWilliams, S. L., & Bidwell, L. C. (2020, September 17). Acute effects of naturalistic THC vs. CBD use on recognition memory: A preliminary study - journal of cannabis research. BioMed Central. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-020-00034-0
- Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Sep;223(1):117-29. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2697-x. Epub 2012 Apr 28. PMID: 22543671.
- Zurier, R.B. and Burstein, S.H. (2016), Cannabinoids, inflammation, and fibrosis. The FASEB Journal, 30: 3682-3689. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.201600646R
- Zygmunt, P. M., Andersson, D. A., & Högestätt, E. D. (2002, June 1). Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol activate capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves via a CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism. Journal of Neuroscience. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://www.jneurosci.org/content/22/11/4720.long
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What is CBN?
CBN stands for “Cannabinol”, which is the active ingredient in hemp and cannabis plants. CBN is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. CBN is known to have many potential therapeutic applications, including as an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia agent.
What are the medical benefits of CBN?
CBN has been studied for its potential therapeutic benefits, including as an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia agent. It has also been studied for its potential to reduce the symptoms of glaucoma, and to treat pain, nausea, and appetite loss associated with chemotherapy.
How does CBN interact with the body?
CBN interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors and neurotransmitters found throughout the body. CBN binds to these receptors, which then triggers a physiological response that can help regulate various functions in the body, including pain, mood, appetite, and memory.
Is CBN safe?
CBN is considered to be safe and non-toxic. As with any substance, it is important to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, as there may be potential interactions with other medications.
How can I take CBN?
CBN can be taken in a variety of ways, including as an oil, tincture, capsule, or edible. It can also be smoked or vaporized. It is important to follow the directions on the product label for proper dosing and usage.