What Is CBN?
Many turn to CBD and CBG in their quest to live better—but those aren’t the only cannabinoids with a proven range of functional benefits! Cannabinol (or CBN), for example, is another cannabinoid in the hemp plant with a host of properties proven to improve sleep, reduce pain, ease nausea, and possibly help fight infection or degenerative disease.
CBN is formed when THC is oxidized from prolonged exposure to heat or light. It exhibits some intoxicating effects—though only about 10% as much as THC.
If you’re interested in adding CBN to your daily routine, try transitioning from THC free CBD products to full spectrum—and keep a journal to track how you feel. Generally, a full spectrum CBD product will have around 1,000 times more CBD than it does CBN. (Remember, all of this information should be listed on the third-party certificate of analysis that comes with the product.)
While the research on CBN in humans is still growing, it’s clear that adding CBN to your CBD intake is safe and could produce a synergistic effect with CBD that enhances relief from sleep issues, pain, and nausea.
Sedation & Sleep Promotion
Studies have reported that CBN has the strongest sedative properties of all the cannabinoids, rivaling even those produced by benzodiazepines—a class of tranquilizers that includes Valium and Xanax. One study found that the combination of CBN and CBD produced a sedative effect significantly beyond any other cannabinoid combination—or by either cannabinoid alone. Other studies in animals have found that higher servings of CBN (at least 40mg/kg) increased total sleep time for rats and dogs when it was administered by itself. Even then, lower servings were able to enhance the effectiveness of other sleep-inducing treatments. While the studies looked specifically at benzodiazepines, it’s likely CBN could boost sleep levels when used with non-pharmaceutical therapies (such as melatonin or CBD), as well.
In studies comparing CBN and THC, researchers found large servings of CBN (between 50mg and 400mg) administered through an IV were very well-tolerated. Participants reported that they never felt too “inebriated” with CBN; versus how they felt when receiving comparable servings of THC. In fact, participants reported their experiences with CBN to be mild and enjoyable. This highlights that effective serving sizes of CBN can increase drowsiness and relaxation without overwhelming or intoxicating individuals, making it a safe and effective sleep aid.
Anti-Inflammation, Muscle Relaxation & Pain Relief
CBN has shown remarkable results related to pain relief. Studies show that CBN is able to activate nerve cells, triggering them to release proteins that are involved in the reduction of pain. CBN servings from 12.5 to 50.0 mg/kg in rats have also shown promise in relieving chronic pain/inflammation (such as from fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis). Inflammation causes muscle and joint pain, impairs movement and blood flow, and can lead to death in extreme circumstances. These findings could open the door to CBN being used as a new therapy to relieve pain, without the cognitive impairment—or the addiction issues—that many prescription painkillers can cause.
Anti-Nausea & Appetite Promotion
CBN has proven effective at relieving symptoms of digestive discomfort such as nausea and vomiting, thereby promoting appetite. Results from one study in animals showed that 100mg/kg of CBN in rats slowed the rate that food moved through their gastrointestinal system—an indicator that CBN works as an effective anti-nausea agent. This suggests CBN may also be helpful to those who struggle with keeping food down (such as individuals undergoing chemotherapy—or anyone taking other medications that negatively affect the digestive system and appetite), significantly improving overall quality of life.
In a study examining the antibacterial potential of several cannabinoids, CBN displayed significant antibacterial activity against MRSA—a bacterial strain that commonly infects humans, and which has evolved to become resistant to many treatments that doctors have available. CBN was administered to participants’ skin and was able to prevent MRSA from colonizing. (MRSA is spread through contact.) We still need rigorous clinical studies to see how well CBN works against bacterial pathogens inside the body, but its effectiveness on the skin against MRSA is exciting because it suggests that cannabinoids may be a viable option for developing new antibacterial treatments that MRSA and other dangerous bacterial strains have yet to develop a resistance to.
In investigations of CBN’s potential uses, the cannabinoid has been shown to have neuroprotectant abilities in animal studies. One study showed that CBN was able to delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—or ALS—in rats. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. While the ways in which CBN is neuroprotective aren’t yet clear, the ALS study suggests another potential benefit of CBN.
CBN + CBD: Better Together
Cannabinoids affect us by binding to specific receptors distributed throughout our bodies. Each class of cannabinoids has a different relationship with these receptors—with some binding more tightly than others, and some binding to specific receptors where others do not. When someone takes in a combination of cannabinoids, the compounds act in a more synergistic way than the effects of either alone, commonly known as "the entourage effect." Given the individual therapeutic profiles of CBD and CBN, taking them together could enhance their beneficial effects around promoting sleep, relieving pain, and preventing nausea.