Cannabinol (CBN) is a phytocannabinoid, one of at least 100 such chemical compounds that exist in the cannabis plant. Medical studies to date focused primarily on cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but interest in CBN as a medicinal agent continues to gain momentum. As of 2015, extensive clinical research is still in the works, but CBN appears to play a primary role in the sedative effects of cannabis. Indica strains tend to have higher amounts of CBN, though overall amounts in any strain are small compared to CBD and THC.
The Medicinal Benefits of CBN
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps the body maintain biological stability against changes in a person’s environment. The phytocannabinoids in cannabis can bind to or indirectly affect ECS receptors in the body promoting healthy communication between cells and various physiological processes with potential medicinal benefits. Though THC binds directly to ECS receptors, both CBN and CBD influence them indirectly and bind to other non-cannabinoid receptors in the body. According to various clinical studies conducted so far, CBN has several potential treatment applications, including the following:
- CBN is primarily utilized as a sleep aid for individuals suffering from insomnia
- A 5mg dose of CBN may provide the same sedative effects as 10 mg of diazepam (Valium)
- The cannabinoid appears to influence functionality in the immune system
- Studies suggest that CBN might promote bone growth and help treat osteoporosis
- CBN may also have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsive benefits
A study published in the Journal of Natural Products in 2008 also found that CBN (and other cannabinoids) demonstrated “potent activity” as an antibacterial agent when applied topically to burns and psoriasis.
From THC to CBN
Look closely at the word tetrahydrocannabinol and note that cannabinol (CBN) is in the name. In fact, various factors can convert THC into CBN, a process that includes the following:
- Cannabigerolic acid (GBGA) is a chemical component in cannabis
- The plant produces enzymes that convert CBGA into various cannabinoids
- One such cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THCA)
- The decarboxylation of THCA (usually through heat) converts it into THC
- THCA also converts to CBNA when it loses hydrogen molecules and oxidizes
- The latter process (THCA to CBNA) occurs through prolonged exposure to air
- Like THCA becoming THC, decarboxylation converts CBNA into CBN
Herein lies the irony: Old cannabis that is improperly stored and cured has the highest amounts of CBN. When properly stored, dried flowers are unlikely to top one percent CBN. As the product of THC degradation, CBN is most common in what most people consider poor quality cannabis. Individuals seeking the medicinal benefits of CBN might wish to air-age inexpensive cannabis, but with demand growing, CBN-rich oils, edibles, patches and other delivery devices will become increasingly more available.