February 22, 2021 6 min read

By now, you've likely heard of the far-reaching potential of cannabidiol (CBD), but you likely know a lot less about Cannabinol (CBN).

Ironically, CBN was the first cannabinoid to ever be discovered in cannabis, but most people haven't focused much on CBN effects until now.

Today, it's widely accepted that CBD and other cannabinoids provide boosted effects thanks to the entourage effect.

This theory indicates that all cannabinoids, including CBN, may provide synergistic effects when taken together.

Still, it's becoming a common practice to seek out products with specific cannabinoid ratios and concentration to benefit from targeted effects.

CBN formulas are making their way to the forefront of the hemp market as cannabinoid research continues to unfold. What are the effects of CBN? And how can you use it to best benefit your wellness routine?

Here's what we know about CBN for now:

Table of Contents
What is CBN?
CBN Benefits
How to Use CBN
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • CBN is a minor cannabinoid found in hemp that’s expected to offer a variety of therapeutic effects.
  • The cannabinoid is known for having psychoactive effects that are only a fraction as strong as THC’s. It won’t get you high, but some sources suggest that it may work as a powerful sedative.
  • We’re still researching CBN’s effects, but for now, we know that it interacts with the immune system receptors in the body and can affect a range of regulatory functions.
  • CBN is usually used alongside CBD for boosted effects. You can find many different types of CBN, but oil tinctures may be the best product for new users.

What is CBN?

A hemp plant grown to create CBN oil products

CBN is one of over 113 recognized cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike THC and CBD, CBN is considered a "minor cannabinoid" because it's often found in low concentrations.

The cannabinoid is the result of THC oxidation, meaning it is formed as THC degrades due to light and oxygen exposure.

That means that the CBN content of a strain increases as the cannabis material ages. Hemp material can be grown, handled, and stored in a way that amplifies the CBN content, allowing brands to manufacture potent CBN products.

Inside the body, CBN may interact with the Endocannabinoid System to affect all sorts of regulatory functions. (To get a better idea of how this works, read about CBD's interaction with the Endocannabinoid System.)

We know that the Endocannabinoid System may impact functions like hormone production, sleep cycles, pain signaling, various immune processes, and more.

The basics are simple—CBN may be able to act in place of "endocannabinoids," or natural messengers in the body that act on “endocannabinoid receptors” found on the cells. These receptors are generally split into two categories: CB1, the type of receptor that is most prominent in the brain and nervous system, and CB2, the type of receptor that operates mostly within the immune system.

CBN may interact more with the "immune system" portion of the Endocannabinoid System, as opposed to the second portion found in the brain and nervous system. (For reference, THC interacts mostly with the receptors in the brain, leading the way for its psychoactive effects).

Through these interactions, CBN may be able to help regulate a range of immune functions, like pain signaling and inflammation. However, CBN may also react with the brain and nervous system, and researchers are still undecided about whether it should be classified as “psychoactive.”

We know that CBN may produce a similar psychoactive reaction in the brain, but these effects are much weaker than what you’ll experience with THC. In fact, CBN is thought to bind with CB1 receptors at about 1/10th the rate of THC, and the cannabinoid is not strong enough to produce intoxicating effects.

Because cannabinol won’t get you high or impair cognition, it may be more accessible than THC to many people. It can be produced from legal hemp material, which is legal in most states, meaning that people all over may be able to reap the benefits of CBN.

CBN Effects

Research on CBN is still preliminary but is quickly starting to pick up pace thanks to increased anecdotal reports. We do have some research that highlights CBN’s potential effects, including:

Anti-inflammatory Effects

In a study evaluating the anti-inflammatory effects of various cannabinoids, CBN was among the ones found to potentially be effective.

Pain Relief

A 2019 study investigated CBN's potential for managing pain caused by certain conditions, like fibromyalgia. The research found that CBN may offer significant analgesic relief for chronic muscle pain disorders. CBN may interact with the neuroreceptors that are sensitive to capsaicin, an ingredient derived from chili peppers that is often found in pain-relieving topicals.

Stimulating Appetite

Research also suggests that CBN may act as an appetite stimulant in mice, though there is still an argument about how this can be applied. We know that animal studies don’t always translate directly to human use, but it’s possible that CBN could be a tool against appetite loss due to HIV, cancer, or other serious conditions.

Antibacterial Effects

Another study implies that CBN has antibacterial properties that may be effective against bacteria, like MRSA. This type of bacteria, commonly known as “staph” is highly contagious and is often antibiotic-resistant, making it difficult to treat with traditional medicines.

Neuroprotective Effects

A 2005 study looked at CBN’s potential for providing neuroprotective effects for patients with certain neurodegenerative disorders. The study found that CBN may delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that causes muscle control loss. Other research shows that cannabinol may be part of the group of cannabinoids known to prevent oxidative stress, a primary factor in neurodegeneration.

Regulating Sleep

One well-cited study suggests that CBN, in combination with THC, may have prominent sedative-like effects. This research is the main reason that people found interest in using CBN for insomnia and other sleep-related issues. Another study focused on administering CBN to mice also found that it may increase sleep time.

How to Use CBN

A woman dropping CBN oil under her tongue

CBN effects vary, and your goals for CBN will affect the way that you should use it. For instance, CBN is popularly used in hopes of managing sleep or nighttime ailments, like pain. In this case, users may take a dose at night, up to an hour before bed.

CBN is non-psychotropic and can be taken during the day. It is generally accepted that many cannabinoids "build" in your system (though they may not build tolerance), meaning you may experience increased, consistent effects if you take CBN daily. For many people, a nighttime dose may be a great way to start regulating sleep cycles, and it may also help regulate pain, anxiety, immunity, and especially symptoms that arise due to poor sleep patterns.

CBN is thought to be more potent than CBD, although we're waiting on research to verify these claims. We do know, however, that small to moderate doses are used in some of the existing research to produce results. Anecdotal reports also show that small doses of CBN may be effective when taken alongside a CBD dose.

To try CBN for yourself, we suggest you:

  • Find a CBN oil to start with. This type of product is easy to measure in increments, so you can easily change your dose as you get adjusted. Oil products are also thought to take effect more quickly than some products, like edibles.
  • Take CBN at night, even if you're hoping to manage symptoms during the next day. 
  • Find a CBN oil that is third-party tested to prove potency, a step to ensure that you're really getting what you pay for. The product won't work if there is no CBN involved, and loose labeling requirements allow poor quality products to skip through the cracks.

Resources

  1. “Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877694/
  2. “Unraveling the Complexities of Cannabinoid Receptor 2 (CB2) Immune Regulation in Health and Disease” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624216/
  3. “Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003996919302249?via%3Dihub
  4. “Cannabinol Derivatives:  Binding to Cannabinoid Receptors and Inhibition of Adenylylcyclase” https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jm970126f
  5. “Cannabinoids, inflammation, and fibrosis” https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1096/fj.201600646r
  6. “Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31158702/
  7. “Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22543671/
  8. “Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18681481/
  9. “Cannabinol delays symptom onset in SOD1 (G93A) transgenic mice without affecting survival” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16183560/
  10. “Cannabinoids protect cells from oxidative cell death: a receptor-independent mechanism” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10869379/
  11. “Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1221432/
  12. “Synthesis and pharmacological effects in mice of halogenated cannabinol derivatives” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7728937/

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