Taking a look at Cannabinol (CBN)

June 2022 by Sandy Yanez

Cannabis has been around for thousands of years and although scientists have been studying this amazing plant since the 19th century, we know very little about cannabinoids other than THC and CBD.

According to The Analytical Chemistry of Cannabis, this remarkable plant has over 500 compounds which include over 100 cannabinoids that have been identified. One of the cannabinoids making waves is cannabinol or CBN.

CBN was originally isolated from Indian cannabis red oil extracts in 1896, making it the first cannabinoid to be identified in cannabis. It was noted that this discovery was most likely due to rampant degradation of THC to CBN due to poor quality control, and the transportation and storage conditions related to the 19th century.

It was not until the 1930s that the structural determination by R.S. Cahn and total synthesis of CBN was carried out by R. Adams in 1940. For more than two decades after its discovery, the CBN cannabinoid was thought to be the principal psychoactive component of cannabis. Then, in 1964, Israeli researchers Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam effectively extracted THC from the cannabis plant and found its psychotropic effects. Further studies discovered CBN as the outcome of oxidized THC, but without the intoxicating properties of THC.

So What is CBN?

CBN is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and is produced when THC degrades due to heat, air, light, or age. The concentration of CBN increases as the plant ages. As an example, let’s say 3 months ago you stashed away some cannabis and then forgot about it (it happens). Due to the aging time the THC has degraded or changed its structure and is now CBN.

CBN is mildly intoxicating (about one-fourth of the potency of THC) and has been labeled the sleeper cannabinoid by many. However, there are no studies confirming pure CBN is a sedative, but when CBN was given with THC, the combination was found to be very sedating.

Unlike THC, CBN binds mostly to the CB2 receptors in the body which are mostly found in the immune cells, which circulate throughout the body and brain via the bloodstream. They are also found in the spleen, bone and liver cells. CB2 receptors are only present in the brain when there is inflammation or injury. When inflammation occurs, CB2 activity inhibits inflammatory signaling pathways, bringing things back to a normal non-inflammatory state, or a state of homeostasis.


What are the benefits of CBN?

While there is not nearly as much research into CBN as there is for other cannabinoids, the limited evidence available suggests that CBN may have a number of health and wellness benefits.

  • Antibacterial – highly effective in treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • Anti-inflammatory – early research shows CBN’s ability to effectively reduce pain and irritation in mice. Shows promise in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease
  • Glaucoma – the results, published in a peer-reviewed scientific article entitled “Cannabinol Modulates Neuroprotection and Intraocular Pressure: Potential Multi-Target Therapeutic Intervention for Glaucoma”, showed that CBN was able to provide direct neuroprotection of the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) as well as modulate intraocular pressure. In addition, CBN demonstrated superior neuroprotective and IOP-lowering effects over other cannabinoids, including THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
  • Anticonvulsant – in conjunction with THC or CBD, CBN is effective in treating seizures and epileptic symptoms
  • Bone cell growth – may be an effective cannabinoid in creating bone tissue and healing bone fractures
  • Appetite stimulant – a study found CBN administered to rats showed a sizable increase in both quantity and duration of feeding
  • Pain relief – CBN has different mechanisms of action than CBD and THC. CBN releases peptides from sensory nerves to achieve pain relief
  • Neuroprotective – potential for treating age-related neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. A recent study states “Previously, we identified cannabinol (CBN) as a potent neuroprotector. Here, we demonstrate that not only does CBN protect nerve cells from oxytosis/ferroptosis in a manner that is dependent on mitochondria, and it does so independently of cannabinoid receptors” Liang.
  • Epidermolysis bullosa – (a group of rare diseases that cause the skin to blister) researchers are currently testing CBN in cream as a treatment, currently in phase 2 stating, “Based on our earlier studies, we are hopeful that our cannabinol cream will prove to be a safe and effective treatment for people living with this severe genetic skin disease” InMed.
  • Burns – a recent study found that CBN can act as an agonist on the TRPV2 receptor and help treat burns

Where Can I Find CBN?

Purchasing CBN at your local dispensary is one place you can start. Most dispensaries sell cannabinoids separately from cannabis flower or smoke. The product should be tested by a third-party laboratory for independent testing and have a certificate of analysis (COA) that outlines exact levels within the product, as well as the presents of any molds, pesticides and heavy metals.

If your local dispensary does not sell CBN you can “make” your own. Any flower can be converted over to CBN. You need to let it age. Note: timing will vary based on the stickiness and quality of the cannabis.

Keep in mind, that if you activate your own cannabis to make CBN it will still have some THC – which can make your CBN sedating.

Side effects

There are no known side effects of CBN – but that does not mean they don’t exist. CBN has not been studied as much as other cannabinoids like THC and CBD. As always, it is important to talk to your physician before adding any supplement to your current treatment.



Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. While there is a need for human research, early evidence shows great potential for this rare cannabinoid. CBN may be used effectively as a sleep aid or sedative. This cannabinoid has also been shown to help regulate the immune system and works to relieve the pain and inflammation caused by several conditions, including arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Studies show that it can be used to reduce the intraocular eye pressure caused by glaucoma. CBN acts as an anticonvulsant, so it is also beneficial to patients suffering from seizure disorders including epilepsy.


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