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Cannabinoids 101 – Spotlight on CBN (Cannabinol)

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Written by Alexandra Hicks

If you’ve been following recent updates in cannabis research, you’ve probably noticed there has been a lot of talk about new cannabinoids lately.

Everyone knows about the two major players – CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – but now it’s time for some of the minor cannabinoids to shine. Today, CBN (cannabinol) is in the spotlight.

Just like every other plant compound, this cannabinoid has unique properties and carries its weight when it comes to medicinal benefits. So let’s take a closer look at CBN.

What is CBN?

CBN is a phytocannabinoid that becomes prevalent as the cannabis plant ages. It actually originates from THC, so as your flowers are exposed to the elements (oxygen and heat), THC molecules begin converting into CBN.

Freshly cured buds, the ones that are typically more sought after, are generally very low in cannabinol. Older, dry flower that’s been sitting around for a while will have much higher levels of this cannabinoid. That said, letting your buds dry out until they’re barely desirable is not necessarily the best way to get CBN, although it’s probably the easiest.

CBN can also be manufactured in a lab from THC that’s extracted from fresh cannabis plants. More and more brands are beginning to utilize this compound to create tinctures, edibles, and softgels. There are numerous medical benefits to using CBN, although there is often a lot of false advertising associated with this cannabinoid (more on that later).

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What are the medical benefits of CBN?

Cannabinol has many of the same benefits as CBD and THC, however, it’s believed that CBN might be more effective for treating certain ailments than the aforementioned cannabinoids. They can also be combined for a more potent, entourage effect.

Bear in mind that studies on CBN are very limited, even by industry standards. But since this cannabinoid is non-intoxicating and can be sourced from old cannabis that may not have any other valuable use, it’s an important compound to continue exploring. That said, let’s discuss what the existing research does have to say about it.

  • Antibacterial – CBN can be a potent antimicrobial. Researchers found that it effectively killed 3 different strains of MRSA – a type of staph bacteria that’s become dangerously resistant to traditional antibiotic medications.
  • Neuroprotectant – In a rodent study, researchers discovered that could be used to delay the onset of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), as well as treat existing cases. ALS is a nervous system disorder that weakens the muscles.
  • Appetite Stimulation – Rats exposed to CBN increased the amount of food they ate per sitting – AKA, the munchies. The implication here is that CBN can be used to boost appetite in situations where a patient can’t use THC, whether for legal reasons or to avoid intoxication.
  • Glaucoma – A study on rabbits found that CBN reduces ocular pressure, which is the root cause of vision loss from glaucoma. THC has this same effect on the eyes. While CBN hasn’t yet been shown to be more effective than pharmaceutical drugs, it could be a viable natural alternative for those who want to minimize their use of standard medications.
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Just like pretty much every other cannabinoid, CBN seems to be a worthwhile anti-inflammatory agent. A study on mice showed that CBN could reduce arthritis, as well as other conditions stemming from inflammation.

Over the next few years, we can expect to learn a lot more about CBN and what kind of impact this cannabinoid will have on human medicine.

Sleep Aid.. or not?

If you have heard of CBN already, it’s likely that you’ve seen it promoted as a sleep agent or sedative. I really couldn’t tell you why it’s marketed this way, but research doesn’t seem to fall in line with this particular claim.

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“We found that CBN slightly prolongs the sleep time in barbiturate-induced sleep in mice. There is no current information that I am aware of that proves CBN is a sedative, even though it is already being marketed as such,” says Zoe Sigman one of the principal researchers at Project CBD, in an interview with Forbes.

Anyone feeling drowsy after smoking older cannabis is likely feeling this way because of residual amounts of THC remaining in the buds. It’s also possible that CBN and THC have synergistic effects when consumed together, meaning the CBN might actually boost the effects of the lower levels of THC.

Will it get you high?

There is some confusion about whether or not cannabinol will have intoxicating effects. The answer is; it depends. If you’re consuming products with CBN that has been completely isolated from the other plant compounds, then no, CBN alone won’t get you high. However, when combined the THC, CBN can actually increase the psychoactive effects, making one feel stoned from flowers that might not actually have that much THC anymore.

This is because of a process known as the Entourage Effect. Simply put, the entourage effect refers to the way different compounds in the cannabis plant interact with each other, and thus, how these combinations have different effects on the body.

Within the cannabis plant you will find:

  • Cannabinoids: Naturally occurring compounds, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBN (cannabinol), etc., that interact with the endocannabinoid system in mammals.
  • Terpenes: A diverse group of organic compounds found in most plants that give them their specific fragrances.
  • Flavonoids: These are important antioxidants that give plants their pigments and attract pollinator animals. In cannabis they’re referred to as cannaflavins.

Cannabis has hundreds of different therapeutic compounds, most of which are stripped out when using products that contain cannabinoid isolates. This isn’t to imply that individual cannabinoids aren’t beneficial, because they certainly are; and in specific cases it can be advantageous to treat patients with only one compound. Isolated compounds are also required for use in pharmaceuticals and they’re better for research purposes.

However, there are many instances where a patient could  from the synergy of whole plant medicine. The most popular way to reap the benefits of the entourage effect is by simply smoking the buds. However, there are numerous extracts and products on the market thee days that retain a great amount of naturally-occurring compounds.

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Where to find CBN products

As a consumer, there are two ways you can get CBN products. First, probably your initial go-to will be to look online for a reliable retailer that sells these kinds of products. There are a few these days, but you’ll have to make sure their products are lab-tested and the company is well-reviewed.

Second, you can set aside a few buds out of your stash next time you re-up and just let nature take its course. At the moment, there’s no established timeline for when your flowers will become CBN-dominant. If it’s gotten to the point that the buds are dry and powdery, and you don’t feel much of a high anymore, it’s safe to wager that you now have CBN flowers.  

If you’re in the B2B sector, we have partnered with some of the top companies in the world to offer you wholesale deals on kilos of cannabis and hemp extracts. We have CBN distillate and isolate available. It’s EU (European Union) GMP-certified and listed in the Eudra Database. We ship globally. This can be used to make legal, medicinal products, supplements, and cosmetics.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Alexandra is the managing editor at CBD Testers. She has always been interested in alternative and natural remedies, and the versatility of cannabis as a healing plant is something that greatly appeals to her. It's for this reason that she decided to work as a cannabis industry journalist and editor, to help spread accurate information about the benefits of this plant.

1 Comment

  • From the vast amount of medical and scientific research that has been and continues to be being carried out, it is patently obvious that a whole range of cannabinoids will soon be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, so there is no doubt that this remarkable plant will play a vital role in 21st century medicine. CBN, CBG, THCV, CBDV and CBC are merely the tip of the medicinal ice-berg, and we should all insist that governments allow us to make use of these remarkable substances for the benefit of all. The opioid age is coming to an end as scientists and doctors slowly embrace the cannabinoid revolution.

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