What is Cannabinol (CBN)?

by | Dec 6, 2019

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

After the federal legalization of hemp and several initiatives to sway congress’s embargo on medical cannabis research, information is moving freer. Researchers have started to have access to decent cannabis to work with, and while there is much more data to come, cannabis is no longer an entirely new field.

Talking about the minor cannabinoids, Andrea Holmes, Chief Growth Officer from Precision Plant Molecules (PPM) stated in a recent phone call with Cannabis Tech, “We don’t really know much about the minors, yet, so consumers are forced into a position to educate themselves about what formulations work best for them.”

While whole plant medicine certainly provides the benefits of the Entourage Effect, isolated cannabinoids may lead to what Holmes calls, personalized cannabinoid medicine. Cannabinoid isolation and reformulation for individual patient needs may be the path to the future. PPM is working diligently to uncover these minor cannabinoids for what is likely to be the next big movement in cannabinoid supplements and medicines.

Holmes also stated that CBN is one of the minors in which PPM is focusing its attention, too. “The reason why CBN is gaining momentum is because it works well with CBD for sleep formulations,” she noted.

CBN, or cannabinol, is one of the many cannabinoids that science is beginning to illuminate the potential. A report from the cannabis testing facility Steep Hill Labs claims that 2.5-5 milligrams of CBN are as effective as 5-10 milligrams of Valium or diazepam. They purport it is the most effective cannabinoid as a sleep aid. To further CBN as a top Thanksgiving herb, a study conducted on lab rats published in 2012 found that CBN acted as an appetite stimulant while CBD acted as an appetite suppressant.

The process of creating CBN can be simple: wait. THC naturally found in cannabis degrades into CBN. This fact makes it relatively unique, as the basis for all known cannabinoids is CBGa or cannabigerolic acid. CBGa then is further produced into the acid forms of the other cannabinoids, namely THCa, CBDa, and CBCa.

What We Know About CBN

CBNa, which is the acidic form of CBN, is a byproduct of the aging of THCa. It is also produced when cannabis is exposed to heat, oxygen, or UV lighting. CBN is naturally found with about 1% concentration in various strains, which means it’s not the most abundantly available cannabinoid, although levels do change with heat and light exposure.

Although THC and CBD are much more popular, CBN was first successfully isolated in the 1930s. While CBD is a non-psychoactive substance, CBN is a slightly psychoactive substance. Although CBN was initially thought to be the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, it is estimated to be only about 10% as powerful as THC.

CBN has occasionally been painted as a black sheep cannabinoid, as it is most densely located in aged cannabis. Although CBN is degraded THC, it is not necessarily an inferior THC. It is a unique cannabinoid, more similar in potency to CBD than THC. 

Although the earliest discovered cannabinoid, research available on CBN, is disappointingly lacking. Still, with the research available, CBN has shown great medical potential as a: 

  • Potent Sedative – Sleeping issues can be associated with several ailments, such as PTSD, eating disorders, or mood-affective disorders. A study from 1995 conducted on mice found that CBN worked to increase sleep time. Likewise, a more recent study published in early 2019 by Kanabo Research shows CBN works very well when combined with a formulation of other cannabinoids.
  • Anti-Glaucoma – Similar to ∆-9-THC, CBN reduces intraocular pressure in the eye so it can be used to treat Glaucoma for the same reason ∆-9-THC can be used, although CBN has very mild to no psychoactive effects. This was found by a 1984 study on cats with glaucoma, revealing that chronic use caused a reduction in intraocular tension. 
  • Appetite-Stimulant – A 2012 study suggests that CBN had a stimulating influence on the appetite of lab rats, while CBD has the opposite effect. Loss of appetite affects thousands of people yearly, whether as a symptom of a physical or psychic condition. 
  • Anti-Bacterial – CBN has shown the potential to be effective in fighting against MRSA bacteria, an antibiotic-resistant strain. 
  • Pain-Relief – Research has revealed that the way CBN interacts with the pain signals sent in the brain can help with pain management. 

Who is Producing It?

CBN products, including concentrates, tinctures, and tablets, are widely available in many legal states from dozens of reputable distributors. However, with the rise in hemp production, CBN may gain emphasis.

Watch for suppliers like BulKanna out of Las Vegas, Nevada, who offer CBN isolate readily to be applied to beverages, edibles, topicals, and more. Hopefully, as the science develops, there will be more affordable consumer options.

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