Aside from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol) is undoubtedly the most famous cannabinoid. These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn't at least heard about CBD. It's popping up everywhere, from pharmacies and dispensaries to farmers' markets. But CBD and THC are just two of more than 100 similar compounds in the cannabis plant. Lately, a third, lesser-known though no-less-important cannabinoid, CBN (cannabinol), has been vying for its rightful place in the spotlight.
What Is CBN & Where Does It Come From?
First, understand that THC is the cannabinoid in marijuana that makes users high. It’s present in hemp also, but in small amounts. CBN is a byproduct of THC. CBN is synthesized when THC is exposed to heat and light, causing oxygenation and decomposition. It's found in older cannabis plants that have already blossomed.
Cultures around the world have used cannabis for medicinal and ritualistic purposes for thousands of years. But mainstream Western society has only begun taking it seriously within the past few decades.
When British chemist Robert Cahn began isolating cannabinoids from cannabis in the early 1930s, the first one he discovered wasn't THC or CBD, but CBN. CBD wasn't "discovered" until 10 years later. However, it was several years before researchers recognized CBN came from THC and several more before anyone realized CBN was worth anything on its own.
We still have a lot to learn about CBD and THC, and we're just scratching the surface when it comes to other cannabinoids, including CBN. Despite the lack of research, a mounting body of evidence suggests CBN has tremendous promise like its counterparts.
How It's Being Used in Products
Like its fellow cannabinoids, CBN has more than one forte. Research suggests it might help improve sleep, stimulate the appetite, reduce pain and inflammation, promote bone healing and growth, reduce oxidative stress, and combating bacteria. It may also be a useful anti-convulsant. Here's a bit more info on some of its specialties.
CBN is best known as a sedative, and it's often used in products designed to help users get a better night's sleep. However, we're not yet sure how it works. There are two possibilities. Either CBN may work best in sync with THC as a result of the "entourage effect" or older cannabis plants, which have the most CBN, might also have additional sedative compounds.
What we do know is clinical tests indicate CBN can work just as well as the pharmaceutical sedative diazepam. And like CBD, CBN carries a significantly lower risk of side effects compared to many over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
While CBD can help reduce appetite, CBN, like THC, may do the opposite. Even though CBN won't give you the same sense of elation as THC, you might get the munchies. If you need to increase your appetite but don't want to risk getting the foggy brain or chronic giggles you might get from THC, CBN might be a good alternative.
Combating Oxidative Stress
In case you hadn't heard, stress is bad. Like, really bad. It's not just unpleasant to live with; it can wreak havoc on your brain and body. Recent research has shown oxidative stress, in particular, is mainly responsible for certain diseases, the not-so-fun byproducts of aging, and senescence.
The good news is CBN, and its cannabinoid cousins can improve immune function and combat oxidative stress.
One of the most common reasons people use CBD, THC, or a combination of the two, is pain relief. We now know CBN has its own analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Specifically, it influences neurons that are sensitive to capsaicin. Capsaicin makes chili peppers spicy, but it's also a powerful pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. These capsaicin-sensitive nerve signals play a vital role in the body's pain signals and perception.
Healing & Bone Growth
Another overlap between CBN and CBD is these cannabinoids' ability to stimulate new bone cells' production, promoting bone growth. This could help prevent or slow the progression of bone degeneration from issues like arthritis or osteoporosis. It may also speed up healing in bone fractures.
CBN & "The Entourage Effect"
CBN has its unique areas of expertise, no doubt. But another trait it shares with its cannabinoid cousins is that it tends to work best when its support system surrounds it. We briefly mentioned this phenomenon, known as the "entourage effect," above. You can think of it this way. While Victoria Beckham is doing pretty well for herself flying solo, the world may not have known her name without The Spice Girls. Basically, cannabinoids, including CBN, tend to perform best as part of a posse.
This is why you won't find too many products made with CBN alone, although you will find some CBD products infused with a CBN isolate. As always, whether you're shopping for a supplement to stimulate your appetite, get a better night's sleep, or reduce pain, be sure to shop from a supplier that clearly labels their products so you know how much CBD, THC, and CBN you're getting.