General Information

CBN – What is it?

By March 7, 2019 No Comments
What is CBN?

THC and CBD take center stage when it comes to cannabinoids, but what about CBN? This metabolite of THC should get the attention it deserves. Every cannabinoid in cannabis and hemp plants has a purpose. In this guide, we’ll help you understand what CBN is and why you should look for it in strains/products more often.

What is CBN?

CBN’s scientific name is cannabinol. THC converts to CBN once it begins to degrade. Cannabinoids like CBD help the endocannabinoid system keep our bodies and minds balanced. This is called homeostasis. But, how does CBN come into play?

Cannabinol is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t cause incapacitating effects even though it is created as THC breaks down. The process that turns THC into cannabinol is called THC oxidation. This could explain why a cannabis strain that’s sat around for a while might make you a little sleepier than you remember it from the last time.

Cannabinol hasn’t had the pleasure of being studied much. There is still a lot of information that remains unknown. What is known is that research suggests that it could possess anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anticonvulsant properties.

This cannabinoid can bind to CB2 receptors mostly noted to combine with CB2 receptors in immune cells. The effect on the central nervous system is minimal.

One of the known characteristics of cannabinol is its sedative properties. This lends weight to it being an option for supporting better sleep patterns. There’s a lot more to this cannabinoid, and we’ll get to that a little later.

structure of CBN

Structure of CBN

How does THC Become Cannabinol?

THC oxidizes, or degrades, over time. Exposure to light can speed up this process. Other factors that can speed up the oxidation of THC are exposure to air and higher temperatures.

This conversion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cannabinol may support achieving a better night’s sleep and better responses to stress/anxiety.

THC and cannabinol are virtually identical. Four hydrogen atoms separate the two cannabinoids. When THC is exposed to heat, light and air – those four atoms are lost.

The loss of these atoms also reduces the potency of the cannabis strain as the THC converts over to CBN. THC concentrations degrade, or decrease when cannabis is not properly stored. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime studied this breakdown and noted that THC decreased about 50% over four years. This study also indicated that the fastest degradation of THC occurred in the first two years of storage.

How is CBN Produced?

When cannabis plants are harvested, the THC begins to degrade slightly right away. This is because the plant isn’t getting fed anymore. There’s a disruption that occurs that creates a change within the plant.

Cannabinoids in the plant synthesize into different chemicals, such as THCA becomes THC during decarboxylation as it loses a carbon dioxide molecule.

This is why freshly harvested cannabis will test higher for THC than cannabinol and the opposite is true for older (sometimes stale) cannabis.

Potential Benefits of Cannabinol

Sleep is a chief complaint for many people – about 30% of the U.S. population says they have trouble falling asleep. Some of this, of course, can be stress-related. Instead of pharmaceutical sleep aids, many are seeking natural options instead. When there is difficulty falling asleep, achieving all of the sleep cycles could also be disrupted. This can lead to a poor night’s sleep, waking during the night and not feeling rested.

Cannabinol has the most sedative potential of any of the 85 known cannabinoids.

Appetite Stimulation

 In 2012, researchers at the University of Reading’s School of Pharmacy discovered that cannabinol improved the appetite of rats. Given the restrictions surrounding research on cannabis in humans, most studies regarding it to date have been on rats. Since cannabinol is not intoxicating, it showed the potential to induce the urge to eat after administration.


Anticonvulsant Properties

Research as far back as 1973 has shown promise for various cannabinoids in cannabis to be helpful in supporting the reduction of seizures. In several studies, cannabinol has proven, consistently, to reduce seizures in rats, although not as well as the cannabinoids THC and CBD.

Antibacterial Properties

In 2008, a study regarding cannabinol and MRSA indicated that the cannabinoid kills the bacteria within the infection. The findings suggest that CBN could be useful for aiding in alleviating the symptoms of medication-resistant bacteria and infections.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is a symptom of dozens of health conditions. In some instances, it’s the symptom of a chronic disease and in other situations; it’s a chronic symptom resulting from an injury or medical procedure. When it comes to ocular and intraocular pressure, a study conducted on cats shows promise for cannabinol supporting inflammation reduction.

Other studies completed on rats also show promise for the potential of cannabinol to support inflammation reduction.

Pain Relief

Studies also show that the combination of THC and CBD could work together to support pain relief. Cannabinol is nearly identical to THC. Data supports claims that cannabinol could promote pain relief.

Bone Growth

Some recent scientific data concludes that CBN might cause stem cells in bone marrow to induce bone growth. The research is very new, so it doesn’t show conclusively that this occurs. More extensive research is required.

Obtaining CBN-Rich Products

Where can you get CBN-rich products? It’s difficult to extract just CBN since it’s the product of THC degradation. They do exist, however, are rare. The best way to do this yourself is to further cure your dry cannabis flower. This triggers the oxidation process of THC to convert it to cannabinol.

Some ways to trigger THC oxidation include:

  • Slow curing cannabis flower
  • Exposing the dry flower to air
  • Leaving the dry cannabis flower near a window
  • Allowing the cannabis flower to be in warmer areas of your home

It’s best to allow the THC to oxidize naturally. Forcing oxidation could cause the degradation of other cannabinoids in the plant.

Closing Thoughts

Cannabinol is a valuable cannabinoid that hasn’t gotten much attention. Its true potential remains unknown. Lack of research and lack of ability to research on humans leaves many questions unanswered. While science has uncovered a lot of information about this cannabinoid, there is still much more to know about it.

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