If you’re a regular cannabis consumer, chances are you’ve heard of hemp’s most popular cannabinoid, CBD (cannabidiol). While it’s currently the most talked about cannabis compound because of the sudden rise in access and popularity, CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid worthy of buzz. Several minor cannabinoids are starting to gain recognition for their “specialized” benefits. Enter CBN (cannabinol).
What Is CBN?
CBN is created when the cannabis plant’s most well-known cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), ages or is exposed to excessive environmental factors. That’s right. CBN isn’t really produced by the hemp plant at all; it’s a byproduct of a cannabinoid’s oxidation. Technically, the cannabis is first degraded by air or UV light so its THCA turns into CBNA (cannabinolic acid). Then CBNA can be converted via heat into CBN, which is usable by the human body.
Maybe the discovery of CBN’s value as a standalone cannabinoid was a happy accident when someone used stale flower in desperation.
How Does It Work?
Within the human body, CBN and THC work in a similar fashion. THC produces its effects by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) located in the central nervous system and throughout the body. More specifically, it produces euphorigenic effects by binding to CB1 receptors and activating them. (Phytocannabinoids like CBN are thought to mimic the body’s own endocannabinoids by “filling in” on the duties of physiological signaling.) Similarly, CBN binds to CB1 receptors, but with only around one-tenth the THC power. That may be why, while it was originally thought to be euphorigenic like its parent, CBN produces only mild euphorigenic effects and has become more renowned for its sedative properties.
CBN also contributes heavily to the “entourage effect.” This phenomenon explains that the total effect of a strain is greater than the sum of its parts (aka cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant compounds) that collectively form the “entourage.”
How do CBD and CBN Differ?
CBD and CBN are fundamentally different molecules with two separate origins. CBDA (the precursor to usable CBD) is native to the cannabis plant, while the level of CBN in flower or concentrate depends on the amount of heat and light it has been exposed to, as well as how old it is. Again, this is because CBN is a byproduct of environmental factors, specifically light and heat on THC, or in technical terms, a product of oxidation or degradation.
How are CBD and CBN Similar?
Despite the fundamental difference in their origin, CBD and CBN share a lot of similarities in their purported benefits. Neither produces an intoxicating effect on its own, but they both affect the cannabis experience when combined with THC. The presence of CBD is said to tone down the sometimes overacting effects of THC, like feeling paranoid, and CBN is known to produce stronger relaxation that may be beneficial to people who struggle to unwind.
Potential Benefits of CBN
While studies regarding the full scope of its benefits are still growing, CBN is most closely associated with good rest. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the most promising area of benefit may be evening relaxation and better overall restfulness, while some scientific research suggests it may work synergistically with THC to calm and uplift the mind.