cbn cannabinol graphic with a word could about anxiety  

What is the CBN cannabinoid?

CBN is short for cannabinol. CBN is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. CBN oil has mildly psychoactive effects.  It is believed to be 90% less psychoactive than THC. Though CBN is created in living cannabis plants, most CBN is derived from THC decay due to light, heat, and oxygen exposure post-harvest. CBN has excellent sedative benefits and is the best sleep aid of all available cannabinoids.

Beyond its sedative effects, medical studies have pointed toward a wide range of CBN benefits. How can CBN help you? Let’s find out.

This guide is filled with information that will help you make decisions about CBN. The medical studies selected for this guide are published by highly reputable organizations. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How CBN will affect you
  • The benefits of CBN
  • How to use CBN as a sleep aid
  • Complementary terpenes for CBN
  • Side effects of CBN

If you don’t find an answer you’re looking for, leave us a comment below. We’ll search the published studies to see if an answer exists and get back to you.

Let’s get started.

cbn graphic with cbn molecular structure

What is CBN?

CBN stands for cannabinol. Cannabinol is a type of cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that have powerful effects on the human body.

  • CBN is one of 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis
  • CBN is present in mature cannabis plants and stored cannabis
  • CBN is created when THC is exposed to oxygen and ultra-violet light.
  • CBN is mildly intoxicating (~10% as intoxicating as THC)

cannabis plant at sunset

CBN Discovery

Pure CBN isolate was first distilled in 1899.

  • Cannabinol isolate was thought to be the main intoxicating compound in cannabis until THC was discovered in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam.
  • Scientific knowledge about the benefits of cannabinoids has been constrained due to prohibition.
  • CBN benefits for anxiety relief, sedation, and sleep are just now being discovered.
  • “Even though cannabis has been used and cultivated by mankind for at least 6000 years our current knowledge on its pharmacological properties is based on studies which have taken place only since the end of the nineteenth century.”

cannabis plant looking from under canopy

How Is CBN Produced?

Unfortunately, there is no strain of CBN cannabis. While CBN is found in living cannabis plants, the majority of CBN is produced in aged cannabis flowers or buds.

  • CBN is made when THC comes in contact with oxygen and ultraviolet light post-harvest.
  • “Unlike other cannabinoids, CBN does not stem directly from cannabigerol (CBG) or cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), but rather is the degraded product of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).”

cbn specs contained in this section immediately preceding image

person rolling up cbn joints

How Does CBN Work?

CBN effects result from interactions with your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

  • The ECS is a powerful regulatory system that is part of the central nervous system.
  • It tells specialized subsystems when to turn on and off.
  • Through its regulator function, your ECS chemically influences your state of mind and physical well being.
  • CBN benefits for anxiety and sleep are the result of its ability to affect your ECS.
  • “Indeed, a number of emotions and behaviors, such as fear, anxiety, depression, stress-coping, and reward-driven behaviors are critically modulated by the ECS,” according to a 2018 medical study published in the journal Frontiers In Molecular Neuroscience.

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monkey sleeping

CBN Benefits: Insomnia and Anxiety

CBN (cannabinol) is a mildly psychoactive compound from hemp with powerful sedative effects. CBN may have benefits for anxiety and insomnia, two ailments that are sometimes closely related. (1)

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.  Insomnia symptoms include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia)
  • Waking up frequently during the night (sleep-maintenance insomnia)
  • Sleep-onset insomnia is frequently caused by anxiety.
  • Sleep-maintenance insomnia is frequently caused by physical pain or discomfort.
  • “The presence of a long sleep latency, frequent nocturnal awakenings, or prolonged periods of wakefulness during the sleep period or even frequent transient arousal are taken as evidence of insomnia.”

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders, though frequently overlooked and undiagnosed, are a significant contributor to sleep disturbance in the US. (2)

  • Anxiety disorders are present in up to 13.3% of individuals in the U.S. and constitute the most prevalent subgroup of mental disorders.”

Anxiety Causes Insomnia

Anxiety is frequently the cause of difficutly falling asleep or sleep-onset insomnia. (3)

  • Medical studies have found a strong correlation between patients with diagnosed anxiety disorders and lack of sleep.
  • “Our results showed a significant association between anxiety and excessive daytime sleepiness: 50.8% of the participants with clinically significant anxiety presented excessive daytime sleepiness, versus 30.9% of the participants with no clinically significant anxiety(p<0.0001).”

cannabis bud

CBN vs. THC vs. CBD

CBN, THC and CBD are cannabinoids made by the cannabis plant.  Each has unique effects and benefits. In total, cannabis plants make up to 113 different cannabinoids.

Let’s compare CBN vs. THC vs. CBD to see how they may differ in origin, effects, and benefits.

Where each cannabinoid comes from:
  • THC and CBD are made in large quantities by live cannabis plants.
  • CBN is only made in trace amounts by live cannabis plants.
  • CBN is mostly made by the chemical degradation of THC in aging cannabis buds when they are exposed to light and oxygen.
How each cannabinoid affects you chemically:
  • CBN, THC, and CBD act upon your endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is an important part of your central nervous system.
  • THC interacts with the CB1 receptor (part of the ECS).
  • CBD interacts with the CB2 receptor (part of the ECS).
  • CBN interacts with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
How each cannabinoid makes you feel:
  • THC is the most psychoactive compound in cannabis. It is responsible for the euphoric “high” effect of marijuana. In some cases, THC may contribute to short term feelings of anxiety.
  • CBD is not psychoactive and will not make a consumer feel euphoric. CBD may relieve anxiety and cause a relaxed feeling due to its interaction with the CB2 receptor. CBD also has effects on how THC is absorbed by the body. CBD “down modulates” THC’s interaction with the CB1 receptor. This effect may decrease the potential anxiety-causing feelings that can accompany THC consumption.
  • CBN’s interaction with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors causes the most powerful sedative effect of any cannabinoid.  CBN’s sedation effect is often used as a sleep and relaxation aid. CBN is said to cause a mild psychoactive effect similar to THC, but only about 10% as strong.

CBN vs. CBD vs. THC benefits:

  •  THC appears to have significant health benefits for pain and inflammation relief.
  • CBD appears to have wide-ranging health benefits for conditions including anxiety, neurodegenerative diseases, and pain relief.
  • CBN may have health benefits for anxiety and insomnia. Unlike some pharmaceutical drugs used to treat these conditions, CBN is believed to be nonaddictive and has a significantly better safety profile.
cannabis plant

CBN Effects: Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the key to understanding CBN effects. Cannabinoids like CBN directly affect the functioning of the ECS which then causes changes in how we feel.

  • The ECS is a part of your central nervous system.
  • It is found in your brain and throughout your body.
  • The ECS is tasked with maintaining the chemical balance in your body.
  • It turns more specialized regulatory systems on and off. Those subsystems help regulate your body and keep you healthy.
  • Interestingly, the ECS has powerful effects on emotions, behaviors, and physical health. (10)
  • “In recent years, brain endocannabinoids [such as CBN] have emerged as key modulators of affect, motivation, and emotions, and the endocannabinoid system is nowadays considered an intriguing target for the development of selective and specific compounds able to treat several psychiatric disorders,” according to a 2012 medical study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

In general, cannabinoids like CBN act as signaling chemicals or neurotransmitters that communicate regulatory signals within the ECS.

  • Phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from plants) like CBN interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body that are part of the ECS.
  • The two most prominent receptors in the ECS are known as CB1 and CB2
  • CBN interacts with both the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor
  • The ECS uses cannabinoid/receptor interaction as a way to signal specialized subsystems to turn on or off. (11)(12)
  • Those subsystems then change the chemical balance in your body. Changing the chemical balance in your body has an effect on mood, emotions, and physical health.

When you consume CBN, it interacts with your body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. That interaction then sends signals through your central nervous system to turn on other specialized subsystems whose job it is to affect the chemical balance in your body. As those the chemical balance in your body starts to change, you perceive a change in how you feel that may be described as a sedative effect.

That’s how CBN works together with your ECS to aid in sleep and anxiety relief.

CBN Entourage Effect

CBN is most effective when taken together with other cannabinoids and terpenes.

  • Full-spectrum CBN extracts are almost always more effective than CBN isolates.
  • CBD and CBN have their most powerful pain-relieving effects when taken together. (21)
  • The sedative effects of CBN may be amplified and strengthened by the presence of complementary cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • Lengthening and strengthening the sedative effects of CBN by taking it together with other cannabinoids and terpenes is an example of cannabis synergy or the entourage effect. (20)
  • Cannabis varieties “rich in ameliorative phytocannabinoids and terpenoid content offer complementary pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts containing THC, or other base phytocannabinoids,” according to a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

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large number of plants indoor grow room 

The legal status of CBN in the U.S. is a little complicated.

  • There is no specific federal law making CBN illegal
  • There are laws like the Federal Analog act that could conceivably be applied to CBN but have not been.
  • Vague wording in the Federal Analog Act states that it may apply to substances that are “substantially similar” to THC.

CBN Is Not Scheduled

Unlike THC which is highly restricted as a schedule 1 substance, CBN is not a scheduled substance. (5)

  • CBN is not required to be a controlled substance under international law.
  • “CBN is not listed in the schedules set out by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs from 1961 nor their Convention on Psychotropic Substances from 1971, so the signatory countries to these international drug control treaties are not required by these treaties to control CBN.”

cannabis leaf

CBN Benefits: Anxiety

CBN has been studied significantly less than CBD for potential anxiety benefits.

  • While CBD and CBN appear to function within the body similarly, it is not medically known if CBN has the same benefits for treating the root causes of anxiety that CBD may possess.
  • CBN has more powerful sedative effects that may benefit acute anxiety in a way that CBD cannot.
  • CBN’s fast-acting sedation effects may make CBN a better option in situations of immediate need like a panic attack.

CBN Benefits: Anxiety and Sleep

CBN may be better at relieving the type of anxiety that stops individuals from falling asleep.

  • The anxiety that keeps your mind from properly shutting down when it’s time to sleep can lead to sleep-onset insomnia.
  • It is characterized by chronic difficulty falling asleep.
  • CBN is non-habit forming and may be particularly well suited for helping to initiate sleep.

CBN Oil: Powerful Sedative Effects

  • CBN may help with acute anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks and hypervigilance
  • CBN may help with sleep onset insomnia (falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (sleep duration).
  • CBN is fast-acting
  • CBN effects can be increased by taking CBN with other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Boost CBN Sedative Effects

If you’re taking CBN oil or isolate for its sedative effects and want to increase those effects, you may want to try a full-spectrum extract. CBN oil along with other cannabinoids like CBG and terpenes will help you get stronger effects than you would from a CBN tincture or isolate.

  • The benefits of CBN are strengthened by taking a CBN oil with the terpene terpineol.
  • Terpineol is the terpene thought to be responsible for the super sedative “couch-lock” effect associated with Indica varieties of cannabis.
  • Increasing the effects of CBN by adding the terpene terpineol is an example of the cannabis entourage effect.
  • Cannabis extracts “rich in ameliorative phytocannabinoid and terpenoid content offer complementary pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts containing THC, or other base cannabinoids.”

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deep water jellyfish

CBN Benefits: Sleep

CBN may have the most significant sleep benefits of any cannabinoid.

  • CBN is a strong sedative
  • CBN is non-habit forming
  • CBN acts on the same areas of the endocannabinoid system as THC and CBD but in different ways
  • CBN interacts with the same chemical receptors (CB1, CB2) as THC and CBD

Cannabinoid Sleep Effects

Difficulty sleeping is frequently caused by anxiety, depression, and moderate stress and worry. (8)

  • Cannabinoids are well placed to help with these causes of sleep loss.
  • Both CBD and THC are believed to have benefits for sleep.
  • “Preliminary research into cannabis and insomnia suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia.”
  • “[THC may help you fall asleep faster] but could impair sleep quality long-term.
  • While CBN has yet to be studied in detail for its sleep benefits, its effects on the endocannabinoid system (your chemical regulatory system) are closely related to those of CBD and THC.

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dog licking his lips

CBN Effects: Appetite

CBN may be a good appetite stimulant similar to THC but without the psychoactive “high.”  A 2012 medical study published in the journal Psychopharmacology showed CBN is an appetite stimulant in animals. (9)

  • The study investigated how CBN, CBD, and CBG affected feeding behaviors.
  • The study found that CBN caused animals (who were already fed) to begin eating again sooner and larger portions.
  • CBD caused animals to decrease food consumption.
  • CBG appeared to have no effect on food consumption.
  • “Cannabinol also significantly increased [food] intake during hour 1 and total chow consumed during the test. Conversely, cannabidiol significantly reduced total chow consumption over the test period. Cannabigerol administration induced no changes to feeding behavior.”

CBN Benefits: Cancer

Early research in multiple medical studies shows CBN may have benefits for pancreatic cancers. CBN may be able to slow the growth of some types of pancreatic cancer, according to a 2019 medical study published in the Journal of Pancreatic Cancer. (13)

  • CBN “receptors have been identified in pancreatic cancer with several studies showing in vitro antiproliferative and [cancer cell destruction] effects.”
  • CBD and THC are also believed to inhibit cancer growth according to this study.

According to a separate 2019 study, CBN and other cannabinoids are currently being researched in multiple cancer studies for their promising therapeutic effect. (14)

  •  “Potential antitumor activity of plant-derived or phytocannabinoids [including THC, CBN, CBD and CBL], as well as synthetic cannabinoids…is the focus of current research.”

CBN Benefits: Glaucoma

CBN along with THC may help reduce intraocular pressure, according to a 2007 medical study published in the journal Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. (15)

  • Interestingly, some derivatives of THC applied topically were even more effective at reducing IOP (intraocular pressure) than their parent cannabinoid and had no system-wide effects.
  • This may be of benefit to individuals with glaucoma who do not want the psychotropic “high” effect that is part of consuming THC.
  • “THC, CBN, and nabilone were active in lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) in rabbits, while CBD was inactive.”235

man using using dropper to dispense cbn extract

CBN Benefits: Pain Relief

CBN is a cannabinoid derivative of THC with significant pain-relieving benefits.

  • CBN does not have THC’s strong psychoactive effects that cause consumers to feel “high.” ]
  • CBN does acts upon the same parts of the nervous system as THC and CBD and may have significant pain-relieving benefits.

CBN Benefits: Chronic Pain

CBN may have specialized benefits for relieving chronic muscle pain disorders such as fibromyalgia and temporomandibular disorders. (16)

  • In early research, a 2019 medical study published in the journal Archives of Oral Biology showed that CBN administered with CBD had analgesic effects in myofascial pain in animal models.
  • “These results suggest that peripheral application of these non-psychoactive cannabinoids may provide analgesic relief for chronic muscle pain disorders such as temporomandibular disorders and fibromyalgia without central side effects.”
  • “Consistent with behavioral results, CBD (5 mg/ml), CBN (1 mg/ml) and the combination of CBD/CBN (1:1 mg/ml) increased the mechanical threshold of masseter muscle mechanoreceptors” however higher dose ratios of CBD to CBN  may counteract the analgesic benefits of CBN.

CBN Benefits: Inflammation

CBN may be a promising treatment for allergic airway diseases characterized by inflammation, according to a 2009 animal study published in the journal Future Medicinal Chemistry, (16)

  • CBN “decreased allergen-induced mucus production [in animals], indicating that cannabinoid-based compounds may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of allergic airway diseases [113].”

cbn side effects graphic

CBN Side Effects

CBN is thought to have minimal side effects.

  • Proper dosages and effects of chronic consumption are still not adequately described in the medical literature.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for dosage with any new CBN product

The CBN side effects are ones you would expect from a strong sedative cannabinoid.

  • You should take precautions until you know how CBN will affect you.
  • Drowsiness and tiredness are reported to be common CBN side effects. (22)
  • Some people who consume CBN have also reported a loss of appetite as an adverse effect.
  • Variations in effect can be expected due to your specific body chemistry.

Start slowly with any new cannabinoid.

  • Modify your dosage as your body adjusts.
  • Stop taking CBN if you experience adverse effects.

References

 

  1. Karniol IG, Shirakawa I, Takahashi RN, Knobel E, Musty RE. Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man. Pharmacology. 1975;13(6):502–512. doi:10.1159/000136944
  2. Bystritsky A, Khalsa SS, Cameron ME, Schiffman J. Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. P T. 2013;38(1):30–57.
  3. Choueiry N, Salamoun T, Jabbour H, El Osta N, Hajj A, Rabbaa Khabbaz L. Insomnia and Relationship with Anxiety in University Students: A Cross-Sectional Designed Study. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0149643. Published 2016 Feb 22. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149643
  4. Andre, Christelle M.; Hausman, Jean-Francois; Guerriero, Gea (2016-02-04). “Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules”Frontiers in Plant Science7: 19. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00019ISSN 1664-462XPMC 4740396PMID 26870049.
  5. UN International Drug Control Conventions
  6. Lu HC, Mackie K. An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516–525. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028
  7. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344–1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
  8. Roth T. Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. J Clin Sleep Med. 2007;3(5 Suppl):S7–S10.
  9. Farrimond JA, Whalley BJ, Williams CM. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;223(1):117–129. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2697-x
  10. Campolongo P, Trezza V. The endocannabinoid system: a key modulator of emotions and cognition. Front Behav Neurosci. 2012;6:73. Published 2012 Nov 6. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00073
  11. Lu HC, Mackie K. An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;79(7):516–525. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028
  12. Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):833. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3390/ijms19030833
  13. Sharafi G, He H, Nikfarjam M. Potential Use of Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer. J Pancreat Cancer. 2019;5(1):1–7. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1089/pancan.2018.0019
  14. Dariš B, Tancer Verboten M, Knez Ž, Ferk P. Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation. Bosn J Basic Med Sci. 2019;19(1):14–23. Published 2019 Feb 12. doi:10.17305/bjbms.2018.3532
  15. Kogan NM, Mechoulam R. Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(4):413–430.
  16. Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333–1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93
  17. Repka MA, ElSohly MA, Munjal M, Ross SA. Temperature stability and bioadhesive properties of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol incorporated hydroxypropylcellulose polymer matrix systems. Drug Dev Ind Pharm. 2006;32(1):21–32. doi:10.1080/03639040500387914
  18. Karniol IG, Shirakawa I, Takahashi RN, Knobel E, Musty RE. Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man. Pharmacology. 1975;13(6):502–512. doi:10.1159/000136944
  19. Russo EB. The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Front Plant Sci. 2019;9:1969. Published 2019 Jan 9. doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01969
  20. Russo EB. The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Front Plant Sci. 2019;9:1969. Published 2019 Jan 9. doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01969
  21. Wong H, Cairns BE. Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain. Arch Oral Biol. 2019;104:33–39. doi:10.1016/j.archoralbio.2019.05.028
  22. Kogan NM, Mechoulam R. Cannabinoids in health and disease. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(4):413–430.

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