Cannabinoid Spotlight: CBN

Once in my young adult phase, before my knowledge about the cannabis plant and all the effects, benefits and feels from it's magic--I discovered some REALLY old weed in my parents' freezer.

I was quite stoked, to say the least. Selection where I came from at the time was pretty hard to come by--and I even recall my current 'dealer' being 'dry' at the time. Therefore I rolled one up, smoked it, and experienced something many cannabis users report as 'couch lock,' true couch lock, for the first time. Little did I know that years later I would conclude the THC had degraded into a less-common cannabinoid called cannabinol, or CBN--the causer of my long nap!

PubChem defines cannabinol as "a cannabinoid isolated from the plant Cannabis that is a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), with potential immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activities...Cannabinol exerts minimal affinity for CB1 and has a weak effect on the central nervous system."

Weedmaps.com elaborates a bit more on CBN. They say CBN is "the cannabinoid into which tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) breaks down after prolonged periods of time. The degradation can be accelerated by exposing dried plant matter to oxygen and heat. Cannabinol (CBN) is only mildly intoxicating; with current research indicating it may only be one-fourth (¼) the potency of THC. This weed is over four years old. It’s probably loaded with CBN.

Instead of thinking of CBN as a degraded, 'past the expiration date' THC--perhaps our perspective should be more aligned with fine wine, with age. It's also not as popular as THC or CBD, but has an assortment of potential medical uses. Weedmaps.com has an extensive profile of this cannabinoid, and we have inlcuded the potential medical benefits of this cannabinoid down below.

Anti-Insomnia CBN remains primarily valued as a potent sleep aid. According to an analysis from Steep Hill Labs, 5 mg of CBN is equally effective as a 10-mg of diazepam, a prominent pharmaceutical sedative. As an anti-insomnia medicine, CBN is not only potent, but also easy to access as long as you have access to cannabis. If you’re finding it difficult to locate a CBN-heavy cannabis product (which, given their current rarity on the market, is more than likely) all you have to do is store some cannabis in a non-airtight container and let it sit for a few weeks or months...or years.

Pain Relief

CBN has recently been identified as another potential cannabis-derived painkiller. As previously mentioned, CBN has different mechanisms of action than those typically associated with CBD and THC. It is considered a weak CB1 partial agonist, which means that it binds directly to the receptor but induces much lower effects compared to a full agonist. In fact, CBN has been shown to only produce approximately one-tenth {10%) of the activity of THC. Rather than alleviate pain by way of CB1 or CB2 receptors, the typical pathway of cannabinoids to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), CBN releases peptides from sensory nerves — activating an alternative nerve mechanism to achieve the same ends.

Anti-bacterial

CBN is one of several cannabinoids with the potential to fight bacteria. When tested on multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria, CBN was massively effective, and may prove a viable option for reducing methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) bacteria in the future.

Anti-inflammatory

Cannabinoids can also be effective anti-inflammatories. CBN, though not as widely used for anti-inflammatory purposes as CBD or THC, may have similar abilities to treat a variety of inflammatory ailments. A 2009 study on cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, identified CBN as a possible treatment for inflammatory disorders such as allergic asthma. Research has also revealed that CBN can treat glaucoma by reducing inflammation that causes intraocular pressure.

Anti-Convulsant

Studies dating back to the 1970s identify CBN as an effective treatment against convulsive illnesses. Similar to CBD and THC, CBN has the potential to reduce seizures and epileptic symptoms. Patients should be warned, however, that CBN’s anti-convulsive properties may be more effective in conjunction with CBD and THC than as an isolated compound.

Bone Cell Growth Stimulant

CBN ticks all the usual boxes of a medicinal cannabinoid — pain relief, anti-inflammation, appetite stimulation, etc. But it may also stimulate bone marrow cell growth. By gathering and modulating mesenchymal stem cells, CBN may be effective in creating bone tissue and healing bone fractures.

Appetite Stimulant

In addition to the potential medical uses already covered, CBN may be an effective appetite stimulant. A 2012 study found that rats administered with CBN showed a sizable increase in both quantity and duration of feeding. The rats were also quicker to begin feeding after being treated with CBN. These findings present the possibility of using CBN as a non-intoxicating alternative to THC appetite stimulants.

We should mention that as the market becomes more regulated and manufacturers can come out of the dark--new processes will come about to bring more cannabinoid specific and effects based products onto the HERB menu. For now, we currently have some tasty tea from Kikoko that is high in CBN--in case you need a good night's rest!

Author Credits: Mike enjoys the ocean and writing about cannabis interactions with mental health, cannabinoid science and cannabis lifestyle hacks. He started as a young budtender in the CA medical cannabis program and loves helping others.

Information referenced from PubChem and Weedmaps.

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