What Is CBN Cannabinoid & What Does It Do? Effects, Benefits & More

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CBN Cannabinoid
November 17, 2021
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Everybody knows about THC and CBD, but they’re only two of the 113 chemicals that make up our favorite green plant. CBN cannabinoid is another cannabis component worth exploring for its numerous therapeutic properties.

This non-psychoactive element is mostly found in older pot, where it acts as a healing substance that treats numerous physical and mental conditions. Confirmed scientific info about CBN weed is still limited, but it’s gaining traction in the medical marijuana community.

Let’s explore what CBN is, how it operates before and after it enters the system, and why it should be on your radar the next time you’re considering cannabis therapy

Holding cannabis buds
Holding cannabis buds

What is the CBN cannabinoid & what does it do?

CBN cannabinoid is what THC becomes when it gets old. Tetrahydrocannabinol breaks down after a long period of oxygen exposure and turns into a mildly intoxicating substance with various potential medical benefits that could be a godsend for patients.

Most of us are unfamiliar with this compound and have no idea where it even comes from. Let’s start slowly and make friends with CBN (cannabinol) magic from its most basic. 

Where to find CBN in weed plants?

You’ll find CBN in marijuana in the same place you’d find that sweet, sweet THC—the sticky resin on the trichome-covered buds of female ganja. What is CBN in weed, then?

CBN cannabinoid was the first naturally occurring cannabis compound isolated in its pure form. Scientists of old first believed that it was responsible for the much-loved high. 

The scientific community later learned that THC was the one to thank. This discovery led to further research into CBN in weed.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime gave us a lot of info, too. Their 1999 study tested the potency of cannabis over time and found that THC contents drop to half after around four years. It didn’t dissipate but oxidized and turned into the CBN cannabinoid.

The life cycle of cannabinol, if we were to simplify, goes like this:

  • Cannabigerolic acid is converted into one of three other compounds, called CBCA, CBDA, and THCA. 
  • Plenty of THCA fills the weed flower and faces oxygen exposure. Some of it turns into THC. 
  • Other THCA lose hydrogen with time, converting into CBNA.
  • CBNA turns to CBN under heat and light.

We now know that genetics has nothing to do with CBN in weed. Different varieties do produce varying amounts of resin, but that’s all. Environmental factors, such as air, light, and heat exposure, ultimately judge how much CBN you’ll get from old marijuana buds.

What does CBN do?

Much like other cannabinoids, this one exerts its influence by binding to our endocannabinoid receptors. These interact with the ECS, responsible for sleep, appetite, pain responses, and many other minor processes.  

CBN effects alone can intoxicate but aren’t psychedelic, at least to our limited knowledge. We can mostly rely on rodent studies for these conclusions. The influence of this compound hasn’t been fully researched on human subjects. 

Despite not causing the high like its non-oxidized counterpart, CBN behaves similarly to THC once it enters your bloodstream.

This element binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, the ones responsible for intoxication. It does so around 10% of the strength of THC, giving you much less of a jolt

As found in a 1976 study, it has a sedating effect, but it’s inactive when consumed alone. CBN weed becomes tranquilizing in combination with THC, even more than a freshly cured THC powerhouse would be alone.

CBN cannabinoid isn’t on the list of the UN-controlled substances, making this compound by itself available for legal use. Local laws can be quite fuzzy, though.

The most significant issues arise due to the derivation process. CBN in marijuana derives from THC, a regulated substance in many parts of the world, the US included. Plus, it’s not very useful on its own, requiring the psychoactive element to deliver its range of health benefits. 

States that legalized medical marijuana won’t have a problem with CBN. When it comes to areas where cannabis reform is lagging, it’s always the best idea to check the extent of the legal gray area

Tip: As a rule of thumb, if you see oil or another extract marketed as a sleeping aid, you’re probably good to go.

Cannabis CBN oil
Cannabis CBN oil

What are the potential CBN benefits? 

Before we start exploring CBN benefits, there’s one thing to clarify. These benefits are only potential, and they come from a limited body of research. Even anecdotal evidence is limited! Take these with a grain of salt, and don’t expect a miracle to happen. 

By pointing it out to the community, we aim to raise awareness about the CBN cannabinoid and push the industry to study it further. 

With that out of the way, let’s examine the potential advantages of smoking aged weed.

How does CBN work in the body?

Remember the receptors we discussed earlier? Unlike THC, CBN in marijuana shows only a mild affinity towards CB1, responsible for your mood, inhibitions, and the like. 

It much prefers CB2, affecting the body much more than the mind. As such, it can be profoundly healing, strengthening the immune response and kickstarting a bunch of processes that make you feel your best.

What happens once the binding takes place?

Does CBN make you sleepy?

People sometimes call cannabinol the ‘sleepy cannabinoid’ due to a plethora of anecdotal evidence that backs the claims of its sedative effects. 

It’s primarily popular for acting as a potent bedtime assistant—if it’s a rich indica, its power can exceed diazepam, a popular pharmaceutical sleep aid. It only requires some THC to activate its full set of effects.

A small-scale study from 1975 explored the sedative effects on four adult men. It showed that pure CBN cannabinoid doesn’t make subjects dozy or high, but a combination with THC causes more drowsiness and dizziness than THC alone.

There are other explanations for this phenomenon, too. For example, some researchers claim that older cannabis is rich in sedating terpenes, which could be the ones to thank for the insomnia-busting properties.

Either way, the synergy between THC and CBN is tranquilizing and sleep-inducing, which could mean the world to insomniacs. 

Is CBN good for anxiety?

Many people use CBD products to fight anxiety, which already tells us that non-psychoactive cannabinoids can be an alternative to anxiolytics. Unfortunately, very little research supports the claim that CBN could fend off stress, tension, and panic. 

We can draw some conclusions from the CBN effects. The calming properties can serve as a safe alternative to addictive sedative drugs often used to treat the side effects of anxiety.

Can CBN reduce pain?

CBN effects include pain reduction, but through different mechanisms than CBD and THC. After it binds to the receptors, it activates alternative connection routes on your sensory nerves and releases tension as a result. 

Rat studies found that the compound could reduce bone and muscle pain, especially when combined with CBD. Other scientists discovered that patients with fibromyalgia and disorders causing head and neck discomfort could also benefit from cannabinol.

Does CBN fight inflammation?

CBN cannabinoid is yet to become as widely applied as CBD, but it could treat inflammatory ailments. For instance, some evidence suggests that it could reduce inflammation stemming from arthritis and allergic asthma

A 2009 study that researched cannabinoids as anti-inflammatories identified CBN as a potential treatment for disorders under this category.

Can CBN stimulate bone cell growth?

Apart from the traditional medicinal cannabinoid properties, CBN effects extend to stimulate bone marrow cell growth

The compound prompts stem cell gathering and modulation. As a result, it could assist bone tissue creation—hello to stronger bones—and fracture healing after an injury.

Does CBN treat seizures?

Studies from the 1970s suggest that CBN benefits can be effective against convulsive illnesses

Like the two superstars of weed treatment, this compound can alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy. This property is particularly prominent in combination with THC and CBD.

Does CBN make you hungry?

CBN effects won’t cause the munchies, but they might push you to have a hearty meal before bed. THC-based appetite stimulants are well-known already, but recent analysis has shown that CBN retains some of those qualities after THC oxidizes

The CBN cannabinoid might get the hunger going. This is good news for people with eating disorders and appetite-suppressing side effects of other conditions who’d like to skip the high of traditional cannabis.  

Cannabis flower
Cannabis flower

What are the other main CBN effects?

Besides the (somewhat backed) claims we listed in the previous section, CBN effects might extend to the following: 

  • Neuroprotective qualities to fight neurodegenerative diseases
  • Reduced intraocular pressure to reduce glaucoma symptoms
  • Antibacterial properties, especially against staph infections

Research is even more limited for these applications, but health-related CBN benefits are the main reason why a stoner would enjoy stale marijuana. 

Are you interested in giving it a shot and adding your experience to the available data? Let’s answer some more questions to start you off on the right foot.

Is CBN (cannabinol) psychoactive?

The CBN cannabinoid is described as mildly-to-non-psychoactive

It’s not always 100% non-intoxicating, though. If you’re looking for health benefits without the high, you’ll choose a low-THC product for the job. Otherwise, it might increase the euphoric effects of a traditional high.

It’s still much less intense than with THC proper, ideal for those who often experience paranoia after a puff. It might cause dizziness and sedation but no significant alterations in your mood, perception, or inhibitions.

CBN effects start around 30 to 45 minutes after ingestion. Lethargy, drowsiness, and a softer focus kick in, and you’re off to bed before you know it.

Is CBN safe?

To the best of our knowledge, CBN in weed is 100% safe to use. More research is only necessary for it to start becoming a conventional treatment to replace addictive medication. There’s no evidence to suggest that there’s a danger to CBN

The only risks are those connected with THC consumption, including:

  • Addiction and dependency
  • Worsening of mental health conditions
  • Impaired coordination and responsiveness
  • Driving under the influence

These effects aren’t that common, and they’re easy to counter by staying mindful and responsible.

Tip: If you’re hesitant to smoke weed at all, the CBN cannabinoid can also be extracted from hemp that’s naturally below 0.3% THC.

Despite the safety, it’s best to err on the side of caution if you use other medication. Have a chat with your doctor and ask about any potential interactions that you’re better off avoiding.

Are there any CBN side effects?

You could feel groggy after consuming too much CBN cannabinoid. Other than that, there are no known side effects related to consumption.

Still, consult with your physician before using CBN weed to treat insomnia, stress, or appetite loss. Other handy tips include:

  • Smoke in moderation and give the effects enough time to reach your brain and body.
  • Stay well-nourished and hydrated.
  • Be sure that you’re in a safe place and don’t go outside after a puff.

Keep these practices in mind whenever you’re consuming anything with the potential to intoxicate. You’ll thank yourself if you move on to something stronger!

Smoking cannabis
Smoking cannabis

Can we expect CBN weed strains in the near future?

Medical marijuana users who don’t enjoy the intoxicating quality of more traditional cultivars might be interested in CBN cannabis

At the moment, you won’t find any CBN strains on the market. Why not make it yourself? All you need to do is let THC oxidize, which is straightforward, especially if you have some aged flowers dripping in resin

There are two options at your disposal, one before and the other after curing the buds:

  • Be patient with your harvest. Your marijuana plant will overripen and start turning THC in CBN by itself. Collect flowers only when the trichomes transition from amber to yellow
  • Leave your pot in an unsealed jar in the open air. The buds will lose their potency with time, but their CBN levels will skyrocket.

The DIY will take you where you want to go, but not every stoner is ready to put in the effort and let perfect, fresh flowers dry out. Ideally, the cannabis industry will catch on and start selling CBN marijuana to make matters much easier for all of us.

It’s not that unlikely, either. A similar thing occurred with CBD after extensive studies confirmed its healing powers. 

We now have access to THC powerhouses packed with CBD and CBD-only smokes that heal but don’t intoxicate. Why shouldn’t the same happen to another medical cannabinoid?

If there’s CBN weed for sale in the future, it’d have to contain THC as well, at least if new analyses don’t prove otherwise. How’s that for making treatment fun and exciting?

What kind of CBN products are available today?

It’s not that challenging to get your plant producing CBN, but extraction can be tough

This compound is only around 10% as potent as THC, making it much more difficult to get a decent high out of it. 

Plus, the CBN contents of a marijuana plant rarely go over the 1% mark, even in potent aged cannabis flowers. These factors make CBN in weed inaccessible to regular stoners, but brands are a different story.

Various commercial producers are beginning to offer a more effective way to use CBN cannabis. You can now find the infusion in numerous forms, if not under various brand names:

  • Oil extracts and tinctures
  • Gummies and other edibles
  • Vape pens
  • Capsules
  • Teabags

These products typically aren’t 100% pure but come mixed with some THC or CBD, usually in a 3:1 ratio. Be sure to read the label and reviews to stay safe and experience only the effects you were going for.

Tip: CBN marijuana products still lack proper licensing by the FDA. Reliable sellers are a way to go, and sticking to traditional oil extract is usually better than trying alternative options with more challenging processes behind them.

Marijuana oil
Marijuana oil

Key takeaways about CBN (cannabinol)

In the end, the CBN cannabinoid has massive potential, and it’s a great representation of why we love weed so much. No matter how long you smoke and grow marijuana, there’s always something new and exciting to surprise you

We can’t guarantee that CBN cannabis is the next big thing and that it’ll wipe insomnia off the face of the earth. We can only say that we’re excited to read research as it comes up. 

If it becomes a thing, you can bet that we’ll be the first to jump on the bandwagon and offer it to our customers.

We hope that this overview did a good job explaining what CBN does and how it can help you heal and enjoy life. Stay tuned to our blog for more handy little guides such as this one, and keep up to date with all things cannabis.