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What is CBN?

Cannabinoids are a category of compounds found in a hemp or cannabis plant that are currently being studied for their potential health benefits, and the king of cannabinoids is Cannabidiol, better known as CBD. It seems like CBD is everywhere these days; online, in supermarkets, convenient stores, health markets, doctors’ and chiropractors’ offices, even in gas stations!

What is CBN?

By now, most people who use Over-the-Counter (OTC) or prescription medications for anxiety, chronic pain, depression, or sleep have heard of CBD. It is becoming ubiquitous, and more and more people are using it in hopes of addressing a myriad of symptoms with more naturally formulated products.  

So, what is the deal with Cannabinol or CBN? Although CBD and CBN belong to the same class of compounds in cannabis, each cannabinoid has a unique expression in the body. CBN is typically a minor-occurring cannabinoid in the hemp plant compared to CBD, the most predominant cannabinoid in hemp. Although it is not as popular or well-known compared to CBD due to a lack of studies and marketing, it has a purpose and potential health benefits.  

CBN is created when hemp or cannabis is exposed to oxygen. This is the reason a lot of people who smoke medical or recreational marijuana store their “flower” or “buds” in an airtight container like a glass mason jar or a vacuum sealed container, so it stays fresh! When hemp or cannabis is oxidized, the tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) in the plant is converted into CBN. THCA is also responsible for the creation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC,) the famous cannabinoid in cannabis that causes a person to feel “high,” but that is achieved through a process called decarboxylation, or by heating up the cannabis. We will discuss THCA and decarboxylation in another blog.  

Does this mean that CBN is psychoactive like THC? Not exactly. In general, CBN is not a psychoactive cannabinoid. In fact, it is approximately 75% less psychoactive than THC; however, if taken in a large enough dose, there may be some mild psychoactive effects, but nothing compared to the intense euphoria experienced when using cannabis (marijuana).   

While more studies and research need to be done, the most popular belief is that CBN is a calming and sedative cannabinoid that may cause drowsiness and sleep, which is why it is becoming more popular and included as either the main ingredient or along with other ingredients in hemp-derived products geared towards helping people fall asleep and stay asleep. One reasons that supports this belief is that in aged hemp or cannabis, there is a higher amount of CBN present than in young or freshly harvested hemp or cannabis. And the more hemp or cannabis ages, the higher the CBN content becomes. It has been reported by a majority of people who have smoked aged cannabis that it made them feel sleepy and sedate, hence the belief that CBN may be good for helping people who suffer with sleep related challenges.  

Since CBN is only recently catching on due to more marketing and more medical studies, the amount of CBN focused products is somewhat limited, but more options are on the horizon and starting to hit the market. You may find a CBN isolate tincture. Like CBD isolate, which contains only one cannabinoid and no terpenes or flavonoids, so does CBN isolate. You may also find CBN in a capsule or gummy form. In my humble opinion, CBN by itself does not make everyone feel sleepy; however, when it is combined with other cannabinoids like THC and CBD, then the sedative effects will be much more prevalent. This is in part due to the Entourage Effect. As CBN’s popularity grows and more medical studies become available, more options and form factors will become available.  

Here are a couple of other potential ways CBN can become a novel therapeutic: 

  • As a neuroprotectant – In one study CBN showed the potential to slow the progression of a neurodegenerative condition. 
  • As an Antibacterial – In one study, CBN showed the potential to provide powerful support towards antimicrobial resistance. 

As federal dollars begin to filter down and fund more cannabis and cannabinoid research, I am certain we will find out more fascinating things about the promising and potential healing properties that cannabinoids hold and how they may positively impact the future of medicine.  

To learn more about the world of cannabis, subscribe to our Hempire Podcast.

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