BY KASANDRA BRABAW
Most people know about the two main components of cannabis: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the stuff that gets you high—and cannabidiol (CBD)—an increasingly popular component of marijuana that helps with pain relief, anxiety, stress, and other health issues. Thanks to companies using it in lotions, oils, toothpastes, gummies, and lots of other products, CBD is arguably becoming more common than THC. But there’s another component of marijuana that many people forget, or simply never know about in the first place: cannabinol, or CBN.
CBN, alongside THC and CBD, is grouped among chemical compounds known as cannabinoids; in fact, scientists have isolated more than 100 of these compounds in marijuana. Cannabinoids work by attaching to neurons in your brain and “unlocking” signals that travel to other parts of your brain and body. Right now, the list of signals that CBN unlocks is much shorter than the list that CBD unlocks, but that could be because less is known about CBN. It’s difficult for scientists to extract large amounts of CBN from the cannabis plant, making it harder to study than THC and CBD. As of now, we know that CBN is helpful for pain relief, seizures, insomnia, and as an appetite suppressant, says Dr. Melanie Bone, MD, FACOG, a physician and medical marijuana provider focused on women’s health. The cannabinoid also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
But, you may be wondering: Does CBN get you high? The answer is both yes and no. Once upon a time, before THC was discovered, doctors thought CBN was the reason marijuana causes a high. Now, CBN is considered psychoactive only in theory. Research claims that the effects are so mild, they’re basically non-existent—you’d likely need a very large dose to feel anything. CBN does have a powerful sedative effect, which gives it a reputation as "the sleep cannabinoid," according to Dr. Bone. Taking 2.5 to 5 mg. of CBN has a similar effect to taking a moderate dose of Valium.
This effect also explains why you might feel tired after smoking old, stale cannabis. CBN is the result of degraded THC, meaning that the compound is found in aged marijuana, Dr. Bone says. As marijuana is exposed to light and oxidation, THC breaks down into CBN. So, as you let your marijuana sit out on the windowsill, it becomes less potent and more likely to send you into dreamland. Overall, CBN benefits are still wildly misunderstood in comparison to THC and CBD. “CBN along with CBG, THCV, and the laundry list of other minor cannabinoids offer a wealth of potential, though we are still very much in the infancy of our research,” Dr. Bone says. She believes the relationship between THC and CBN calls for more research into curing and processing cannabis.
Since it’s still under-researched and difficult to extract, CBN products are rare to come by, especially compared to CBD and THC. Still, some companies are experimenting with CBN.
There are vegan and gluten-free CBN Capsules from Mary’s Marvelous, while Evolab makes CBN Vapes; and in Alta Botanicals’ Insomnia Relief Tincture, a mix of THC and CBN creates a powerful sedative effect, though the drops are also well suited for anxiety relief, stress, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain.
Shop MedMen to find even more CBN products.