Cannabinol (CBN)

Updated on February 2, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

cannabinol CBN

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds you can find in the cannabis plant that give medical marijuana its healing properties. One of these cannabinoids is called cannabinol (CBN).

what is cbn

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What Is CBN / What Is Cannabinol?

CBN is a cannabinoid and effective compound contributing to cannabis’ effects on your body and mind. Typically, compounds like CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) grab the most attention when it comes to marijuana’s effects. However, marijuana has many other compounds impacting your health positively. CBN is one such compound.

CBN complements the effects of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, but it also provides its special effects. It’s a breakdown product of THC, weed’s most popular cannabinoid. THC is the marijuana plant’s primary psychoactive and is responsible for the notorious “high” you experience from the herb. And, as THC begins aging, it begins transforming into CBN.

CBN is one of the less well-known medical pot cannabinoids. Despite this, it is a significant component of the plant, interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) to positively affect your health.

The Properties of CBN

When THC, one of the two major cannabinoids, interacts with the air, it forms CBN. Savvy marijuana users make sure to keep their bud tightly sealed, so the THC in it doesn’t turn into CBN. However, that doesn’t mean CBN has nothing to offer patients in need of relief.

CBN mainly activates the CB2 receptors, which affect your immune system. It also interacts with the CB1 receptors to a lesser degree. The CB1 receptors work with your central nervous system, so you can get some related benefits from CBN.

What Makes CBN Unique?

Cannabinol works as a psychoactive compound like THC does, but it has a milder impact. When we talk about the two significant cannabinoids, THC and CBD, we often mention how THC causes psychoactive effects, while CBD doesn’t. CBN lies somewhere in between. While it has psychoactive properties, it doesn’t produce a “high” like THC does.

cbn similar to thc

These unique traits let patients take advantage of CBN’s cerebral benefits without feeling impaired when they use it. While medicine containing THC can have considerable amounts of it, medication with CBN often has a smaller, but still effective, amount.

CBN and Receptors

Like CBD and THC, CBN interacts with your body’s two ECS receptors (CB1 and CB2). However, researchers believe CBN has a more powerful connection with CB2.


CBN, unlike THC, produces very mild psychoactive effects, if any at all. Medical marijuana researchers believe this is due to CBN molecules not fitting into your brain’s CB1 receptors very well. The compound also has some difficulty binding to your CB2 receptors, although it binds better to CB2 receptors than CB1.

The compound has around 10 percent of THC’s psychoactive effects, which means you’d have to take around 100 milligrams of CBN to experience similar effects of 10 milligrams of THC.

The marijuana plant has a natural enzymatic process producing many cannabinoids, particularly within the trichomes. However, CBN isn’t produced the same way. THC’s degradation produces CBN instead. This process naturally occurs when cannabis gets exposed to lengthy and improper storage times, high temperatures and other particular conditions.

When compared with other major cannabinoids, CBN generally occurs in extremely small proportions in the marijuana plant — less than 1 percent.

The History of CBN

CBN was the first cannabinoid researchers and scientists identified and isolated from cannabis. In the 19th century, researchers first isolated CBN through a cannabis extract degradation. Robert Sydney Cahn, a British chemist, identified its structure in the 1930s.

Researchers found about 789 grams of cannabis rich in CBN in a 2,700-year old China grave. This hidden supply of cannabis was the oldest discovered sample. The predominance of the CBN cannabinoid identified in these historical samples isn’t a surprise, since manufacturers have been producing CBN from THC degradation over long periods.

Research and Studies on CBN

As with other cannabinoids, there’s ongoing clinical research into cannabinol’s potential medical properties. Some small peer-reviewed research on CBN is as follows:

  • Analgesic — THC and CBN use a CB1 and CB2 receptor-independent mechanism to activate capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves.
  • Antibacterial — CBN antibacterial properties showed strong methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)-fighting activity against various strains.
  • Inflammation — Cannabinoids show potential in the treatment of immune system inflammatory diseases.
  • Appetite — CBN and CBD apply opposing rat feeding pattern effects.

Numerous researchers are enthusiastic about marijuana’s anti-cancer effects. CBN, in particular, was found to decrease the growth of a specific form of lung tumor.

Cannabinoids’ anti-cancer effects aren’t limited to lung cancer, either. CBN and other cannabinoids work by targeting different cellular pathways enabling cancers to invade, grow and spread throughout your body.

How Does CBN Work?

CBN, unlike these other cannabinoids, doesn’t directly originate from CBG, the precursor molecule, but instead comes from THCA’s oxidation.

Some earlier research shows CBN could have very mild psychoactive properties, whereas other research suggests it doesn’t have any.

pure cbn

Although the levels of CBN in the marijuana plant is naturally low, in recent years, it’s become easy to obtain as a pure isolate that converts easily from THC extractions.

Uses of CBN

Although cannabinoid studies are lacking, some earlier research shows CBN might be far more beneficial than you thought. The research we have on CBN so far suggests the cannabinoid has the potential to treat a wide variety of conditions. CBN could help relieve symptoms of qualifying conditions such as:

  1. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — According to some studies, CBN can slow the onset of ALS symptoms. ALS is a group of a rare neurological conditions and mostly involve the nerve cells in charge of maintaining your voluntary muscle movement.
  2. Sleep — CBN especially shines in its ability to help patients sleep. Cannabinol is a sedative. Some early 1976 research shows combining CBN with THC amplifies its drowsy effects. By itself, CBN produces hardly any psychoactive impact — maybe none at all. Therefore, you may want to pair it with other medical weed compounds to get the most from CBN. It provides the same benefits of pharmaceutical sleep medication in smaller amounts and with safer side effects. Using five milligrams of CBN gives you the same sleep benefits as 10 milligrams of diazepam, a common sleep medication.
  3. Anticonvulsant — CBN, like most cannabinoids, shows some early anticonvulsant properties. A study in 1973 indicated CBD, THC and CBN all produced anticonvulsant components in mice. However, CBD and THC were both more effective than CBN. Nevertheless, researchers found CBN did quiet electroshock test-triggered convulsions successfully.
  4. Anti-inflammatory — According to other early research, CBN has essential anti-inflammatory qualities. Its treatment in mice with experimental asthma reduced inflammation Not only this, but it also prevented lung mucus overproduction. Those who experience respiratory allergies may benefit from this anti-inflammatory cannabinoid. Experts also suggest its anti-inflammatory properties could help reduce glaucoma and other related eye conditions.
  5. Antibiotic — Interestingly, CBN could very well be a potent, nonpsychoactive antibiotic. Some 2008 research shows CBN killed MRSA successfully. This is a staph infection resistant to antibiotics and is very painful, potentially fatal and could lead to amputation if not controlled. THC and CBD also kill this infection.
  6. Appetite — Researchers found CBN increases the appetite, making this cannabinoid particularly helpful for individuals struggling with wasting diseases who are looking to avoid THC’s psychoactive effects. CBD, marijuana’s second popular cannabinoid, works like an appetite suppressant.
  7. Chronic pain — Cannabinol has been proven to stimulate calcitonin gene-related peptide release from sensory nerves, which reduced pain sensitivity effectively. This relief of pain came without affecting CB1 and CB2 receptors, suggesting you could combine CBN with CBD through CB1 and CB2 receptor activation to provide stronger pain relief.
  8. Burn treatment — Studies conducted in the 1980s indicated CBN provides a hypothermic effect where it may lower body temperature. It could be especially useful as a topical application for treating burns by delivering a pain-relieving, cooling effect. This property’s mechanism of action could be due to CBN’s ability to activate the TRPV2 receptor, a cell site which generally activates when high temperatures impact your skin.
  9. Psoriasis — Earlier studies also suggest CBN could benefit psoriasis patients. It appears to reduce proliferation of a type of skin cell called keratinocytes. The skin cells in psoriasis are hyperactive, growing to where they generate patchy skin sections, and you could shed your skin afterward.
  10. Bone formation — CBN studies show the cannabinoid could also help to stimulate bone tissue and the growth of cells due to recruiting mesenchymal stem cells indirectly from surrounding your bone marrow. These stem cells, often known for how they can transform blood cells, are also capable of turning into tissues and bone — making it a potentially useful fracture healing element.
  11. Epilepsy — Treats seizures by lowering their frequency and intensity.
  12. HIV/AIDS — Improves appetite problems caused by antiretrovirals, soothes pain and inflammation and facilitates sleep.

CBN’s Medical Benefits

We don’t have as much scientific evidence showing CBN’s benefits as we do for more prominent cannabinoids. However, the knowledge we do have looks promising for folks with many health issues. Cannabinol seems to have the following effects:

  • Promotes sleep
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Relieves pain
  • Soothes inflammation
  • Reduces the intensity and severity of convulsions
  • Kills bacterial infections
  • Helps bone regeneration
  • Lowers body temperature
  • Reduces psoriasis symptoms

cbn sedative effects

Due to CBN’s sedative traits, it can cause a few mild side effects. If you take it during the day, it can make you feel groggy, dizzy or confused. Patients who experience these symptoms can take their medication at night to avoid feeling these side effects in the daytime.

Side Effects of CBN

Fresh cannabis plants typically contain minimal CBN. CBN heightens THC’s effects and synergistically adds to what people commonly refer to as the “couch-lock” effect. It also results in drowsiness.

CBN can also leave individuals feeling dizzy, groggy or confused. Despite these potential side effects of CBN, its health benefits are considerable.

Safety of CBN

Those wondering about cannabinoids’ toxicity, like in CBN, can feel better knowing they’re safe, since CBN’s median lethal dosage (LD50) in mice is 13,500 milligrams per kilogram. Nicotine, on the other hand, has an LD50 of three milligrams per kilogram.

Where Does Cannabinol Come From?

Until recently, you could only find CBN in certain pot strains in very small concentrations. And, extracts, until now, have been focusing on either CBD or THC. The good news is, growers are beginning to isolate and extract delta 8 THC and other less common cannabinoids. However, CBN is a bit different. Because it comes in flowers in minimal quantities, many haven’t seen a concentrated form of CBN like with delta 8 or THC-O-acetate. But, with CBN, small amounts go much further than what equal CBD and THC quantities would.

The ideal way you can get more CBN is to age your flower. Push the time back to your harvest if you’re growing from your house. Allow trichomes to start developing amber coloration before you cut your plant down. Then, let it dry and cure.

There’s no exact science to coaxing out CBN. Because it’s a THC breakdown product, various environmental factors could either slow down or speed up the conversion process. Four main factors breaking THC down include:

  1. Air
  2. Light
  3. Age
  4. Heat

You obtain a higher CBN quantity when your buds sit out longer and have gone stale. But, who wants to vape or smoke stale flower? Ideally, you’d want to let the THC degrade while not sacrificing your bud’s overall quality.

Products rich in CBN are coming forth. Edibles, oils, patches and capsules pronouncing CBN profiles are rare. However, their reproduction will start growing undoubtedly with the attitude change towards marijuana. Before this time comes, keep your eye out for lab-tested concentrates and flowers with high levels of CBN.

Talk with a knowledgeable budtender and medical pot dispensary staff of CBN alternatives and CBN dosing information. You can find a local dispensary right on the website.

Cannabinol Treatment or Therapy

Because CBN derives from THC degradation, you’ll find a few reasonable concentration cannabis strains. You’ll also luck out if you can find a 1 percent or higher CBN strain. Some strains to consider for your CBN treatment containing more than 0.3 percent CBN include:

  • Super Green Crack: 0.788 percent
  • Bubble Gum: 0.386 percent
  • Blackberry: 0.398 percent
  • Purple Cadillac: 0.313 percent
  • Durban Poison: 0.363 percent
  • Lemon Kush: 0.49 percent

cbn strians

Once you find your ideal cannabis treatment strain with enough CBN, your next step will be identifying your unique route of administration for your treatment. You don’t necessarily have to smoke cannabis to reap its rewards. You’ll find a handful of other delivery methods to provide you with relief.

CBN cannabis delivery methods include:

  • Topical applications
  • Vaporizing
  • Concentrates
  • Edibles

Consult with a cannabis doctor who can assist you in matching your ideal cannabis healing strain to your diagnosis. They can also assist you in finding the proper dosage you should start off with. Once you visit a dispensary to buy your cannabis, the staff will educate you on various methods of delivery you’ll be comfortable with.

What’s in the Future for CBN

As you’ve read, CBN is hardly psychoactive like THC, but still provides you with therapeutic potential, making it a good substitute for individuals who want to avoid THC’s side effects, but still want to treat their medical condition.

CBN is still a relaxing and sedating cannabinoid, which people use around the world to treat their sleeping conditions. Since science and its community is catching up with this information and becoming more aware of it, researchers are conducting more studies involving this interesting cannabinoid, including many animal testing phase trials.

Given its effects and characteristics, you can look forward to enjoying high CBN concentration products soon — similar to the vast array of CBD-rich products you’re already finding like:

  • Capsules
  • Oils
  • E-liquids
  • Creams
  • Groceries

All these help to improve quality of life in those individuals who desperately need it. Also, many marijuana budtenders and breeders are working already on numerous different CBN-rich product varieties. That will no doubt help in the development of a new cosmetic and pharmaceutical cannabinoid-based industry.

Interested in CBN Medication?

Reach out today to a licensed medical cannabis doctor. If you’re interested in learning more about CBN, cannabis and your state’s legislation or if you need help locating a medical marijuana doctor and dispensary, look no further than Marijuana Doctors.

We can help you connect with your ideal cannabis doctor and locate a marijuana dispensary where you can begin treatment once you’re deemed qualified and receive your recommendation. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter as well so you can stay informed on up-to-date information, products, discounts and more regarding CBN and medical weed as a whole.