Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plan. Similar to the more popular CBD and THC, CBN is a chemical used by the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Whether you are familiar with cannabis or not, the chances are you will have heard of some of the plants most well-known cannabinoids; THC and CBD. However, what you may not know is that there are many more cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant – many of which offer their own set of benefits. Many more that we know very little about. And some that are potentially yet to be discovered.
The truth is, nobody knows precisely how many cannabinoids are contained within the cannabis plant or how they interact with your body’s different cannabinoid receptors– but what we know for sure is that there are far more than the two most famous, and today we will be shedding some light on one such cannabinoid; CBN.
If you have never heard of CBN, you’re probably not alone. Some are labeling it as the next big thing in cannabis products. However, this cannabinoid has started to become one to watch as studies show the potential it has for our health. So today we’re going to take a look at what CBN is, how it differs from the likes of CBD and THC, and how you could potentially benefit from it.
What is a cannabinoid?
For many who aren’t in the know, cannabis is nothing more than a plant that offers psychoactive effects. However, cannabis enthusiasts will tell you that each part of what makes up the plant is unique and important – and they would be right. Cannabis is far more complicated than you may have thought. From significant compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to terpenes that attribute the aromatic oils and colors to the flowers – each element of the cannabis plant plays an important part.
To give a brief glimpse into just how intricate the cannabis plant is, one study published in 2012 in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology looked into the different components of cannabis and their effects. The study claimed that the plant had over 400 various chemical entities, many of which have opposing effects, and all of which have a direct impact on the effect of that particular plant on the user.
But what about cannabinoids specifically? Most often associated with the effects of the plant, cannabinoids like THC are associated with the plants psychoactive potential, while CBD is often discussed for its medicinal benefits. But what are cannabinoids, and how do they work?
In short, cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds produced by plants. While most commonly associated with the cannabis sativa L plant, cannabinoids can occur in other plants too. Through interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), cannabinoids like those found in the cannabis plant can influence factors like our hunger levels, mood, emotions, and even regulate our core body temperature.
What is CBN?
We already know a lot about the health benefits of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, but what about CBN? Cannabinol, more formally known by the chemical structure, C21H26O2 is one of the lesser talked about compounds of the cannabis plant. However, in recent years it has been revealed that CBN may have great medicinal potential for the treatment of a range of conditions – so what is there to know about this up and coming cannabinoid?
Whereas CBD has some impact on the nervous system by working with CB1 receptors, CBN has very little impact on both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
How is CBN produced?
When it comes to the facts around CBN, there is still a lot for us to learn as research is very much in its infancy. However, we do know that this cannabinoid is a by-product of the psychoactive THC, which has led to many debates as to whether CBN itself is psychoactive, and whether it holds any medicinal value.
However, to get a good understanding, we must first take a look at how CBN comes to be in the first place. Just like CBD and THC, the cannabis plant doesn’t just create CBN – instead, the plant synthesizes several cannabinoid acids which are already present. When heated, during the decarboxylation process, the cannabinoid acids are activated, thus producing the cannabinoids we are so familiar with.
However, in the case of CBN, things work a little differently. While THCA is decarboxylated to produce the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, CBNA is produced from the aging of THCA. In short, CBN is not synthesized by the cannabis plant but is instead the product of aged cannabis.
For this reason, CBN has for many years been overlooked as “wastage” when THC is exposed to excess oxygen and becomes stale. On its own, CBN is not a psychoactive cannabinoid; however, some studies have shown that when combined with THC, it can have psychoactive effects. And now, thanks to emerging studies, more people are starting to seek out CBN for its medicinal potential, without the “high” associated with THC.
What are the benefits of CBN?
While there are not many studies into the effects of CBN yet, there have been some promising pieces of research done that have revealed the potential that this cannabinoid has in the future uses of cannabinoids for medicinal treatments. Here are just a few of the most important studies done into this unusual cannabinoid:
Cannabinol is Antibacterial
It’s no secret that the cannabis plant has shown potential for its antibacterial effects for some time now; however, there is still a lot of research to be done into which cannabinoids have these antibacterial properties. An Italian study published back in 2008 revealed that amongst four other significant cannabinoids, CBN showed ‘potent activity against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains if current clinical relevance’ when used to fight a bacterial infection.
This study no only holds promise for the present fight for different cannabinoids to be more readily available for medicinal use. But it also shows promise for the future use of CBN, as more and more conditions are becoming resilient to traditional antibiotic medications.
Cannabinol is a Neuroprotectant
Back in 2003, the HHS granted scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) their proposed patent no 6,630,507 which covered the treatment of neurological conditions with CBD. Now, in 2019, more studies are showing that other cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant have similar neuroprotective properties – once again expanding the window of potential for the plant.
An animal study done in 2005 looked at the effects of CBN on rats with Amyotrophic Latera; Sclerosis (ALS). Over a period of 12 weeks, the affected rats were given doses of CBN, which was shown to ‘significantly delay onsets by more than two weeks. Although on a tiny scale, this study shows a glimmer of potential into the future of how CBN could be used to treat this common yet debilitating condition.
Since it’s a product of THC, CBD also has the power to act as an anti-convulsant
Cannabinol is an Appetite stimulant
If there is one thing cannabis is famous for, it is its ability to induce insatiable hunger in those that consume it. Often referred to as the “munchies,” there is significant scientific research to suggest that cannabinoids such as THC can help increase hunger levels.
In another animal study, this time in 2012, researchers from the .U.K. looked at how CBN effected the appetite of rats. The results revealed that the rats ate significantly more food after being given the CBN, suggesting it could have potential in the future to help combat eating disorders and other underlying conditions that affect appetite.
Cannabinol is Anti-inflammatory
For many years cannabis has been used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for a range of conditions such as arthritis and IBD. In a bid to reduce the use of traditional anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), CBD has been legalized to treat some inflammatory conditions in many states across the U.S.
However, a recent study published in 2016, which looked at the effects of CBN on rodents with arthritis showed the cannabinoid had the potential to reduce inflammation. Adding to the list with other cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, CBN may also have great potential for the non-addictive and non-psychoactive treatment of arthritis patients in the future.
Cannabinol is a Sleep Aid
CBN is also known for having powerful sedative effects. There haven’t been many studies on the effects of CBN on insomnia, but in one study dating back to the 1970s participants reported that CBN made them feel sleepier than normal after taking it in moderate doses. Other users did not feel sleepy at all. For some, sleepiness is among one of the negative side effects of THC and CBD products.
Is CBN the next big cannabinoid to watch out for?
Although the studies mentioned throughout this article show massive promise for the future of cannabinoid use in medicine – there is still a long way to go. Much of the research done into the potential of CBN has been in animal studies, so although positive, we cannot yet tell how the cannabinoid will work on human anatomy – or if it will have the same positive effects.
Similarly, to CBD, research has to begin somewhere, however – and the research being done into CBN is incredibly encouraging. With so many patients out there looking to reap the benefits from cannabinoids like THC, the potential to have that without the associated high could make CBN one of the most in-demand cannabinoids out there in the not so distant future. Some dispensaries are beginning to sell CBN tinctures and other products, and it’s likely that you’ll start to see more soon.