If you’ve been floating around the CBD scene for a while, you may have heard of CBN. CBN is like the lesser-known cousin of CBD and THC.
Here’s a brief bit of context for anyone who is not familiar with the family of compounds that are extracted from cannabis and hemp plants.
What are Cannabinoids?
- Each of these 3-letter acronyms are nicknames for different cannabinoids.
- Cannabinoids are the different chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, and there are more than 100 of them. They have a big family. Like any big family, some of the members are more popular than others.
- In the cannabinoid family, the two most popular cousins are THC and CBD. THC is well-known for the effect it has on people. It’s the compound that has psychoactive effects, giving people that “high” feeling. Think of THC as the extreme extrovert in the family. It never met a person it couldn’t affect.
- CBD is a close second to THC in popularity, but it’s known for its soothing effects. People like to spend time with CBD because CBD eases their aches and pains, making them feel good without the euphoria that accompanies THC.
While lots of people know and love CBD and THC, they may be less familiar with their other cannabinoid cousins.
Some people may even wish for a cannabinoid option that is somewhere between CBD’s mellow effects and THC’s fun-loving adventures. This is where CBN comes in!
To continue the family analogy, CBN is the distant cousin of the cannabinoid family that you only realize exist when they come for a summertime visit. However, once you spend some time with the newly-discovered cousin, you decide you can’t wait for them to come visit again.
CBN is actually the eldest of the cousins in that it was discovered first. It was the first cannabinoid to ever be isolated from a cannabis plant. This happened in the early 1930s by a British chemist named Robert Cahn.
It was another 10 years before another scientist — an American chemist named Robert Adams — was able to isolate the next cannabinoid cousin, CBD.
After his CBD discovery, Dr. Adams was convinced that there must be a cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, and he kept working to try to find it. Dr. Adams eventually stumbled upon THC by synthesizing it in the lab.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist was the first researcher to actually isolate THC from a cannabis plant. This didn’t happen until 1964.
So, the birth order of the cannabinoid cousins is: CBN, then CBD, and finally THC. However, this is where it gets tricky.
Over time, we have come to learn that CBN is actually a byproduct of THC. As a cannabis plant ages, THC actually breaks down into CBN.
It’s sort of like a chicken and egg question: which one came first? CBN was found first, but we now know that it only existed because THC was present.
So, which cannabinoid is truly the eldest cousin? That’s a debate you can decide.
If THC is the fun cousin, and CBD is the mellow cousin, CBN is somewhere in the middle. It benefits from having a family resemblance to both of them. It has some of THC’s psychoactive properties and some of CBD’s soothing effects, but is less potent than both.
Its lower potency is probably why CBN hasn’t enjoyed the same notoriety as its stronger cousins over the years. This article, however, will help you get to know CBN better.
While true that it shares some of the same benefits as CBD and THC, that description is a bit oversimplified. There are clear distinctions between these three cousins.
CBN Production and Supply
The first difference is in how these different cannabinoids are produced. Both CBD and THC occur naturally in cannabis plants.
The levels of THC and CBD will vary depending on what strain of cannabis you have, but If you have a cannabis plant, it will automatically contain these two cannabinoids.
CBN, on the other hand, will only be in older cannabis plants where the THC has had both enough time and the right conditions to produce it. Research suggests that THC produces CBN through an oxidation process, when THC is exposed to enough oxygen, heat, or light.
As you can imagine, it’s hard to know when a cannabis plant has increased levels of CBN. This is one of the reasons that CBN has been harder to study and is often less available to buy.
Processes have been developed to synthesize CBN by working with THC that has been extracted from a cannabis plant. This helps the supply chain some, but CBN is still available in lower quantities than CBD and THC.
What Can CBN Do For You?
As a close cousin of the two most frequently used cannabinoids, CBN shares some of their properties and thus their potential uses and benefits. But remember: CBN is less potent. So if you’ve ever tried CBD or THC and wished they were just a little more like the other, CBN may be what you desire.
Research studies suggest multiple potential health-related uses and benefits of CBN, but most of this research was done on animals. Therefore, we have limited official confirmation on the uses of CBN.
Act as a Sedative
CBN is probably best known for its potential as a sedative. Many companies market it as a sleep aid.
While it may help increase drowsiness, studies have left us with two possible explanations for CBN as a sedative: (1) it works best as a sedative when combined with THC; (2)
The older cannabis plants that produce CBN are also higher in other active chemicals that increase the sedative effects.
So, can CBN help you sleep better? Most likely!
That said, CBN has been clinically tested against the pharmaceutical sedative diazepam and found to be as effective, in smaller doses.
Offer Pain Relief
This is one of the many ways that CBN mirrors its mellow cousin, CBD. Pain management is one the key uses of CBD.
Research on the analgesic properties of CBN suggests that it influences nerve cells that are sensitive to capsaicin. Most people recognize capsaicin as the component that makes chili peppers taste hot.
Capsaicin is also used in many topically applied pain relief creams for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The capsaicin-sensitive nerves that CBN influences help your body signal and perceive pain.
Function as an Appetite Stimulant
Similar to its fun-loving cousin, CBN can lead to the munchies. If you’re wanting to increase your appetite without feeling high, CBN may be a better alternative to THC.
As a note, however, CBN has been found to have psychoactive properties… although significantly less than THC. In fact, in the first study of this (done in 1946 on mice), CBN had to be administered in much higher doses to have the same impact as THC.
Thus, it’s likely that the amount of CBN you’d take to stimulate your appetite would not produce a “high” feeling.
Provide Bone Health Support
Here’s some really good news: CBN is one of the cannabinoids that can activate stem cells to help produce new bone cells. It may also help slow bone loss and heal fractures.
CBN’s usefulness in the treatment of osteoporosis is also being studied.
In addition to the uses highlighted above, CBN has shown promise as an antibacterial agent, an anti-inflammatory, and a potential treatment for diseases such as lung cancer, glaucoma, ALS, and epilepsy. Again, more research is needed on human subjects before we can truly understand the safety and effectiveness of CBN, but early research is promising.