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What Is Cannabinol (CBN)?

Cannabis cannabinoids are more than just cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There are hundreds of cannabinoids, most of which are molecular variations of a few different groups. CBD and THC are called major cannabinoids because they are the most abundant and well-studied. Other cannabinoids, like cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and more, are called minor cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids like CBN are not naturally present in large amounts and are not found in all varieties of cannabis. So what is cannabinol (CBN)?

Cannabinol Table of Contents

Cannabinol Synthesis and Cannabinol Derivatives

There are actually seven different molecular cannabinol derivatives [1], but they are generally just referred to as “CBN.” Like THC and CBD, CBN has an acidic version called CBNA. The acidic versions of cannabinoids have different properties than the non-acidic versions. Because those properties are less pronounces, acidic cannabinoids are often called “inactive (prior to smoking)” or “potential cannabinoids.” 

Synthesis Process

  1. CBGA (potential CBG) is converted to THCA by enzymes
  2. THCA (potential THC) degrades into CBNA (potential CBN)
  3. CBNA converts to CBN when it is heated (decarboxylated)

When it comes to cannabinol synthesis, CBN is mainly produced as a degradation product of THC [3]. When the cannabis flower is exposed to oxygen, light, heat, and over time, THC turns into CBN. Because of this, many see CBN as a marker of poor quality cannabis. However, CBN does have useful properties and can occur as part of a strain’s normal cannabinoid profile as well. 

the cannabinol (CBN) molecule
The cannabinol (CBN) molecule

CBN is a non-enzymatic oxidative by-product of THC, more prominent in aged cannabis samples…

-From “Taming THC” by Ethan Russo

Cannabinol (CBN) Effects

The cannabinol effects are mainly sedation [3]. Indeed, CBN can be very sedating which has made it appealing to those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues. CBN is of interest to researchers because of many possible benefits. Those include reducing the sensation of pain from burns, inhibiting skin cells that produce keratin (like CBG, may play a role in skin condition prevention), stimulates mesenchymal stem cells to promote bone formation, and inhibits resistance protein (in very high concentrations).

Cannabidiol vs Cannabinol (CBD vs CBN)

  • Like CBD, CBN has a lower affinity than THC for CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors [3]
  • Compared to CBD, CBN is significantly more sedating
  • Both are of interest as anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory compounds [3]
  • CBN has potent effects against MRSA bacteria, similar to the antibacterial effects of CBD [3]
  • One study observed that CBN increased appetite in an animal model, that study observed that CBD reduced appetite (in mice) [2]
  • Like CBD, CBN has mainly been studied in animal models. It’s actual effects in the human body are not as well understood

How Does It Work With Terpenes?

Researcher Ethan Russo writes about the synergistic effects of CBN with terpenes and summarizes those in his paper “Taming THC.” 

  • Sedative CBN effects were observed when CBN was combined with nerolidol and myrcene 
  • CBN was effective against MRSA bacteria in combination with pinene
  • Soothes burns in combination with linalool
  • Terpenes were thought to play an adjunctive role in inhibiting skin cells that produce keratin and lead to psoriasis
  • Combined with limonene, CBN encouraged breast cancer resistance protein

Can You Get Cannabinol for Sale?

CBN is technically mildly psychoactive, so if it is derived from marijuana is it considered a controlled substance. CBN from hemp does not occur naturally in sizable amounts, so some labs will synthesize it from THC leftover from CBD extraction. This encounters the same issue as delta-8-THC. Both are psychoactive and are being sold under the Farm Bill’s hemp loophole, even though they are being synthesized from extracted cannabinoids and not extracted directly from the hemp plant.

You can buy cannabinol products online right now, but this may not be the case for long since the DEA is trying to stop the sale of psychoactive cannabinoids like delta-8-THC converted from hemp extract. CBN is not psychoactive in the same way as delta-8-THC or delta-9-THC, so it will likely make you fall asleep before you feel high from it. Because of this, CBN may be left alone when it comes to regulatory enforcement, but CBN will likely continue to exist in a legal gray area. 

Delta-8-THC vs CBN

  • CBN is more studied than delta-8-THC
  • Delta-8-THC is less psychoactive than delta-9-THC, and CBN even less than delta-8-THC
  • CBN can be found naturally in larger quantities than delta-8-THC
  • Both may have anticonvulsant properties
  • Both may cause sedation, but more so with CBN

Final Thoughts

Plain Jane does not sell CBN products, but we do offer some “super chill” hemp strains and also some very potent CBD hemp strains. My personal experience with CBN is that it feels like taking melatonin- something manufacturers are combining it with to design new supplements. However, the questionable legality of CBN products and the even more questionable legality of combining CBN with other compounds like melatonin make it risky. Likewise, there is little known about the side effects or long term use effects on CBN in humans. In comparison to delta-8-THC, CBN is better studied though, and will likely make you fall asleep before you feel any psychoactive effects.

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References

  1. ElSohly, M. A., Radwan, M. M., Gul, W., Chandra, S., & Galal, A. (2017). Phytochemistry of Cannabis sativa L. In Phytocannabinoids (pp. 1-36). Springer, Cham.
  2. Farrimond, J. A., Whalley, B. J., & Williams, C. M. (2012). Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology, 223(1), 117-129.
  3. Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.

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