Like CBD, CBN is what’s known as a cannabinoid, which is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. By a recent count, cannabis has more than 100 different.
CBD (cannabidiol) and TCH (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the best known and most well studied of the cannabinoids. But CBN was actually the first cannabinoid to be identified by scientists. And all three of these cannabinoids—CBN, CBD, and THC—have been studied by scientists for several decades, both for their chemical composition and for their effects on humans.
CBN occurs naturally in the cannabis plant as the plant ages. That’s because over time–and when heated or exposed to oxygen–the cannabinoid TCH converts to CBN. CBN can also be produced from THC that’s extracted from cannabis.
The differences between THC, CBD, and CBN
Different cannabinoids have different chemical properties and drastically different effects when they’re consumed. These different compounds are all found naturally in the plant–so if you consume cannabis, you’re exposed to all of that plant’s cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, and CBN, as well as dozens of others.
But CBD, THC, and CBN are also produced as isolated extracts from the cannabis plant, or synthetic versions of these compounds. Extracting or making the individual compounds enables us to take advantage of the properties of each cannabinoid individually, without exposure to the effects of any other cannabinoids.
Tetrahydrocannabinol—known as THC for short—is a cannabinoid that is the main psychoactive component in cannabis. What does psychoactive mean? A psychoactive substance is one that affects brain function and mental state, temporarily altering one’s mood, consciousness, perception, and behavior. THC is the component of cannabis that delivers the “high” associated with marijuana. Different strains of cannabis used in medical marijuana will have different levels of THC, which in turn deliver different degrees of psychoactive effects. THC is used to treat conditions such as nausea, low appetite, glaucoma, and pain, among others.
Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects. There is no “high” or other mind-altering effects from CBD. On the contrary: CBD on its own has calming effects. That’s one of the reasons why it’s been identified as a useful supplement to treat insomnia and other sleep problems.
Is CBN psychoactive? There isn’t currently a definitive answer to this question. Some research indicates CBN is non-psychoactive. Other research says CBN has very mild psychoactive effects. CBN appears to have potentially powerful sedative effects which might explain at least in part the questions about its psychoactive properties.
How does CBN work in the body?
Cannabinoids exert a wide range of effects on the human body and mind. One way is through interaction with our own endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in regulating a range of our body’s physiological functioning and responses, including mood, pain perception, appetite, and cognitive functions. Cannabinoids also affect the activity of our hormones and neurotransmitters, and influence cell activity throughout the body in different ways.
CBN interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and it can affect the function of many hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn influence mood, energy, cognition and focus, appetite, immune function, and pain.
Chemically similar to CBD, CBN has several of the same effects in the body, including relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep.
Potential benefits of CBN
To date, the research into the therapeutic benefits of CBN is preliminary. But it’s starting to heat up, as interest in the health benefits of cannabinoids surges, and the popularity of CBD continues to grow.
CBN for sleep
There are indications that CBN is a powerful sedative. Research in mice has shown that CBN can prolong sleep time. Some research indicates CBN’s sedative effects are amplified when combined with THC. But there is, at this point, a lack of scientific research into the sleep-inducing properties of CBN. We should see some additional scientific studies in the near future that explore the sleep-promoting capabilities of CBN.
CBN for pain
Research indicates that CBN also has analgesic or pain-relieving capabilities in the body. CBN appears to influence the activity of neurons that are sensitive to capsaicin. These capsaicin-sensitive nerves are important to the body’s pain signaling and perception.
CBN for health
Research shows CBN has the ability to fight harmful bacteria. A 2008 study found CBN as one of several cannabinoids (including CBD) effective in treating MRSA, a bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotics.
CBN for inflammation
Like CBD, CBN appears to have anti-inflammatory capabilities, and scientists working to better understand how the human endocannabinoid system affects the immune system. Cannabinoids, including CBN, are being examined for their possible therapeutic role in treating inflammatory disease.
CBN for appetite
This is one area in which CBN behaves very differently from CBD. While CBD has appetite suppressing effects, CBN appears to stimulate the appetite. This may make CBN a therapeutic option to help increase appetite in people who struggle to maintain an appetite because of another illness, such as cancer, or its treatment.
CBN for cancer
There’s also some promising preliminary evidence that CBN may have direct cancer-fighting capabilities. Cannabinoids, including CBN, are being studied for their ability to slow or stop the growth and spread of cancer cells. CBN was one of several cannabinoids found to reduce tumor size in one form of lung cancer.
CBN for seizures
One of the most promising therapeutic uses for CBD is in epilepsy treatment, because of the cannabinoid’s strong anti-convulsant capabilities. Though it appears to be less strong than in CBD and THC, CBN has also been shown to function as an anti-convulsant.
CBN for bone healing and growth
Research indicates cannabinoids, including CBN, can help to stimulate the production of new bone, by activating stem cells to help make new bone cells. There are also indications that CBN and other cannabinoids may be helpful in healing fractured bone and helping reverse bone loss, making it of interest to scientists as a potential therapy for osteoporosis.
CBN as a glaucoma therapy
CBN is one of several cannabinoids that appear to be effective as a treatment for glaucoma, as several studies have shown.