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What is CBN? Exploring How Cannabinol Affects Us

There’s much more to cannabis than THC and CBD. As our knowledge base around cannabis grows, we learn more about how each phytocannabinoid plays a role in making you feel better. Cannabinol (CBN) is one of those phytocannabinoids making waves: This byproduct of degrading THC is being studied for its role in promoting sleep, its impact on seizure disorders, and more. Here’s what we know about CBN:

What is Cannabinol (CBN)?

Cannabinol (CBN) is a minor cannabinoid found primarily in mature and harvested cannabis plants. You’ll find CBN in more mature and harvested plants because it’s a byproduct of degrading THC. As the plant is exposed to light, heat, humidity, oxygen, and other environmental factors, THC degrades into CBN. This change can be observed visually, when the “frosted” white trichomes that cover your cannabis turn into a golden amber color.

While CBN may not be the same household name as THC or CBD, it’s actually one of the oldest known to scientists. CBN was the first cannabinoid to be identified and isolated in cannabis, prior to the turn of the 20th century.

CBN’s potential

Research into CBN is fairly recent and mostly based on studies involving lab mice. This makes it hard to understand precisely how CBN works in humans, though it answers important questions that help researchers learn even more about this cannabinoid. Most of the studies and insight below is yielded from animal studies and should be considered preliminary:

  • Anticonvulsive: CBN could be effective as an anticonvulsive like other cannabinoids, including CBD1. However, it may not be as potent as CBD or THC. When present, though, CBN may amplify the effects of these other cannabinoids.
  • Gastrointestinal motility: CBN could decrease intestinal motility1, a key factor in many gastrointestinal disorders. This means for some patients, in which excessive intestinal motility causes gastrointestinal distress and symptoms, CBN could be an important addition to a cannabis medicine routine. It can also be a powerful appetite stimulant.
  • Sedative: There is some truth to the idea that CBN causes sleepiness. While the cannabinoid on its own doesn’t appear to promote sleep, it amplifies the drowsiness that could be caused by THC when the two are present together2. So, a product high in CBN and THC could offer sleep promotion.
  • Anti-bacterial: A study in 2008 demonstrated that CBN might offer anti-bacterial properties. This study specifically focused on cannabinoid effectiveness in treating the antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection known as MRSA3.
  • Neuroprotective: CBN shows promise as a neuroprotective agent, at least in one rodent study. The cannabinoid was used to treat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), delaying the onset of the condition in the lab mice4.
  • Anti-inflammatory: CBN is thought to offer anti-inflammatory properties, both systemically when ingested and localized when applied topically. In one study on lab mice, CBN was effective at reducing symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis5

The “sleepy” myth

While CBN can help promote sleep when combined with THC, research suggests it does not cause drowsiness or act as a sedative when taken on its own. Instead, it supports THC’s relaxing effect. This is a small example of the entourage effect, a process by which cannabinoids and other cannabis-based compounds like terpenes interact with one another to augment or amplify one another’s effects.

Types of CBN products

The most common CBN products on the market are concentrated extracts. These products typically come in the form of oils, tinctures, or as edibles. They can also be distillates, isolated products containing more than 95% CBN, or broad-spectrum products, which contain many different cannabinoids alongside CBN.

It is important to note that CBN products are less common than THC or CBD products. Finding CBN products on the market can be a challenge, so if you are interested in adding CBN to your regimen, it’s important to make a purchase when you find quality CBN products available. Check with your local Ethos associate to see if a CBN product is available in your local dispensary.

What cultivars are high in CBN?

Even though CBN is a byproduct of THC degradation, it doesn’t mean you have to leave your cannabis exposed to sun and oxygen to get it. While there are some strains that have higher levels of CBN naturally, older flower tends to have elevated levels of CBN as well, regardless of cultivar. Some cannabis cultivars offer elevated levels of CBN. Here is a quick look at three high-CBN strains:

  • Animal Cookies: Animal Cookies is a cultivar that offers mid-range levels of THC, averaging around 18% content6. It is a hybrid strain developed from a cross between GSC and Fire OG. Its dominant terpene is beta Caryophyllene and, based on anecdotal evidence, generally offers a calming, content experience.
  • Durban Poison: Durban Poison is a pure sativa landrace cultivar hailing from South Africa in its namesake city of Durban7. It often prompts an uplifting and energetic experience, as well as a buoyancy in mood. It too offers mid-range levels of THC, averaging around 17% content.
  • Bubble Gum: The hybrid cultivar known as Bubble Gum offers an average THC content of 17% and a balanced consumption experience characterized by relaxing, happy feelings8. It is notable for its sweet and fruity flavors, for which it gets its name.

CBN: A promising cannabinoid with more to show

Because CBN research is still relatively limited, there is much more to be learned about this minor cannabinoid and where it fits into the larger cannabis health and wellness picture. And while CBN products remain a small part of the legal cannabis industry, it seems that CBN could offer very real relief to many consumers who are managing symptoms of a wide variety of conditions. Understanding how to better harness CBN’s therapeutic properties in concert with that of other cannabinoids and terpenes is the key to unlocking cannabis’s full potential as a support for health and well-being.

Sources:

  1. Cannabinol – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
  2. Karniol, I.G., Shirakawa, I., Takahasi, R.N., Knobel, E., and Musty, R.E. (1975). Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man. Pharmacology, 13(6), 502-512. 
  3. Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16183560
  5. https://www.fasebj.org/doi/full/10.1096/fj.201600646r
  6. Animal Cookies aka Animal Crackers Marijuana Strain Information | Leafly
  7. Durban Poison Marijuana Strain Information | Leafly
  8. Bubble Gum Marijuana Strain Information | Leafly

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