The Benefits of CBN

What is CBN anyway, and what are its benefits?

Cannabinol (CBN), a minor phytocannabinoid, is generating increased interest for several important benefits, including sleep generation.

Researchers are beginning to study CBN (cannabinol) for its benefits in several areas, including sleep. However, users are already reporting CBN’s effects on sleep, learning and memory, and pain perception.

Gaining in popularity, CBN is sometimes overlooked when it comes to cannabinoids and terpenes. However, that may be changing as researchers and users investigate the benefits of CBN.

The endocannabinoid system and CBN

Humans, and all mammals, have an endocannabinoid system that includes two receptors found throughout the body: CB1 and CB2. These receptors act in a way similar to a surge protector to help the body achieve homeostasis, a balance of bodily function and cognition. When an agonist (an agent that directly activates) plugs into a receptor, it alerts the body to respond in a particular way.

The central nervous system is where nearly all CB1 receptors are found, though they do appear sparsely in the rest of the body. 

CB2 receptors are in the immune and digestive systems, as well as the peripheral nervous system. CBN is an agonist for the CB1 receptor, which then helps promote sleep. It also plays a role in learning and memory.

The CB2 receptor, when activated by CBN, fights MRSA infections, regulates pain our responses, and acts as an anti-convulsive. 

Taken orally, the liver converts CBN into a form that binds with CB1 receptors, making oral administration the preferred way to take CBN for sleep, as opposed to vaping.

What is CBN?

CBN is not found in an actively growing cannabis plant. It forms when the harvested cannabis flowers’ THC oxidizes. When the bud is exposed to light or air, it causes THC to degrade and become CBN. During cannabis flower oxidation, the amounts of CBN will increase, and THC will lose its potency.

Because cannabinol comes from oxidized THC, it is a weak psychoactive cannabinoid. Unlike the primary cannabinoids, THC and CBD, cannabinol will seldom form as a result of decarboxylation, a process that alters cannabis’ carbon chain, usually through heating.

CBN oil is extracted from the cannabis bud and dissolved into a carrier oil, such as coconut or MCT. CBN will not act with the same psychoactive effect as THC. However, as the harvested flowers age, especially if left open to air and sunlight, THC will degrade into CBN.

The health benefits of CBN

CBN, among its other properties, is a sedative compound that can potentially help people who suffer from conditions such as insomnia

There are indications that CBN has a sedative effect, and research with mice found CBN prolonged sleep duration. Other research indicates that CBN’s sedative effects are boosted when used in combination with THC.

Anecdotally, CBN users report that it is an effective sleep aid, not only for inducing sleep but also for prolonged sleep duration. 

At present, CBN has not been widely studied for its sleep benefits. As that research develops, more objective proof of CBN’s efficacy may be forthcoming.

As with CBD and THC, CBN has shown neuroprotectant properties that could protect the brain and nerve cells from damage. A 2005 study found that CBN delayed the onset of ALS symptoms in mice. ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as it’s better known, is a progressive degenerative muscle disease.

CBN may also relieve inflammation and pain. 

A 2002 study done on rats found that CBN provided pain relief by modifying the pain signals to the brain. A small human study in 2012 also found that CBN reduced the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. In particular, CBN may be of use in treating burns, a 2008 study by Qin, Neeper, et al., reported CBN appeared to reduce patients’ perceptions of thermal sensitivity.

Then-doctoral student Natalya M. Kogan and Raphael Mechoulam, PhD., of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published research results showing that a mixture CBN and THC reduced interocular pressure in rabbits. Additional study could find that CBN holds promise for glaucoma patients.

A 2008 Italian study into methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) found that CBN, as well as 4 other cannabinoids, demonstrated promise in fighting several strains of MRSA. Those researchers called for more study into CBN’s antibacterial properties.


CBD and CBN have important differences, but they do have very similar health benefits. Like CBD, CBN is a potent sleep aid that could provide an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals. However, while CBD is non-psychoactive, CBN is mildly psychoactive. 

The psychoactive potential of CBN is 10% of the strength of THC.

CBN and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system in different ways. CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the nervous and immune systems. Instead, CBD boosts endocannabinoid production within the endocannabinoid system. CBN, on the other hand, has a weak affinity to both receptors, but its mechanism isn’t well understood.

Current research into CBN

Formerly, scientists and researchers ignored the effects of CBN, believing it to be an unimportant by-product. That changed when a study by Steep Hill Lab, in Berkeley, California, showed CBN might have the best sedative effects of all the cannabinoids. 

In the study, researchers there found that 2.5 – 5.0 mg of CBN produces the same effects as 5 – 10 mg of diazepam (Valium). Researchers at Steep Hill also asserted that a combination of CBN and CBD provided a highly effective and synergistic sedative effect.

In 1984, a study in glaucoma in lab cats found continued use of CBN reduced intraocular pressure. A paper published in 2006, found that CBN could work with other cannabinoids to control the growth of a particular type of lung cancer. And, a study in 2012 found CBN worked as an appetite stimulant in lab rats.

Buying CBN oil

While it’s certainly possible to allow medical cannabis to degrade and produce CBN, that approach is expensive and, some might say, possibly a waste of cannabis. 

Also, it’s difficult to regulate the dosage and to control the synergistic effects of CBN and THC.

Beware of buying CBN oil produced from hemp. Because CBN is oxidized THC, and hemp only produces very low levels of THC, if at all, potency is an issue.

The best source is a local cannabis pharmacy or an online store that specializes in CBN products; always be sure you can ask about the source of your CBN and see certificates of analysis. You’ll want to ask about purity, as well as growing methods. Organic CBN is the safest option.

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Jack Studebaker

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