What Is CBN?

You’ve probably heard of THC and CBD, but another one of the many cannabinoids in the cannabis plant is cannabinol, or CBN. In fact,  it is in fact the first cannabinoid to be discovered from the cannabis plant by Robert S. Cahn around 1940.  

If cannabis is exposed to air or ultraviolet light (for example, in sunlight) for a prolonged period of time, THCA will convert to cannabinolic acid (CBNA). CBN is then formed by decarboxylation of CBNA.  Many people think of CBN as a compound that occurs as THC ages. It is often present in high amounts in older cannabis. It’s mildly psychoactive, but it generally doesn’t produce a high like THC. For this reason, CBN is commonly compared to CBD rather than THC - and has become an exciting topic in the realm of cannabinoid research.

What makes CBN so special

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the best known and most well studied of the cannabinoids, but 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 THC converts to CBN.

As reported by Forbes Magazine, "We found that CBN slightly prolongs the sleep time in barbiturate-induced sleep in mice. There is no current information that I am aware of that proves CBN is a sedative, even though it is already being marketed as such," says Zoe Sigman one of the principal researchers at Project CBD, a leading think tank and non-profit CBD information site. 


Potential Benefits

The potential benefits of CBN currently being explored in research. Keep in mind, current research on CBN is limited with very few studies demonstrating its effects in the human body. Here are some potential uses being studied by researchers in animal studies.


Studies on CBN have found that it may be a potent antibacterial agent. In lab settings, CBN was tested on strains of MRSA bacteria that are resistant to traditional antibiotics. Researchers found it to be a potent antibacterial agent against these resistant strains. Perhaps in the future, we will see CBN being used to fight off bacterial infections that our usual antibiotics can’t heal.1

CBN may also be a powerful neuroprotectant. In one rodent study, researchers used CBN as a treatment for ALS and found that it was able to delay the onset of the condition. While human studies need to be done, this suggests that CBN may provide a powerful tool in the fight against ALS and other neurodegenerative conditions.2

Appetite stimulation
In rodent studies, CBN increased the amount of food that rat subjects ate, suggesting that it could be an effective appetite stimulant. Since some avoid THC (another well-known appetite stimulant) due to its intoxicating effects, CBN could potentially offer an alternative for those seeking the munchies without the high—but more research is needed.3

CBN may also be helpful for those suffering from glaucoma. One study on rabbits found that CBN (as well as THC) reduces intraocular pressure—the biggest risk factor for glaucoma. Still, research is in early stages and CBN hasn’t been shown to be superior to other glaucoma medications. More research is needed to know if cannabinoids could ever effectively replace any traditional treatments for glaucoma.4

CBN may also be a potent anti-inflammatory agent capable of helping those with rheumatoid arthritis. In one rodent study, CBN was shown to reduce arthritis. While more research needs to be done, this could end up being an incredible help to those suffering from this debilitating condition.5



As acceptance of cannabis is growing across the nation and around the globe there is a need for further research into cannabis and cannabinoids, their benefits, and the ways we can develop and safely use them to improve human health. We are in the midst of an incredibly exciting time, with new discoveries occurring daily in cannabinoid science, and are eager to see what the future holds.

We hope you enjoyed learning about one of the newest cannabinoids to be extracted and a little more about its potential uses. 

Referenced Articles

  1. International Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16183560
  2. International Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16183560
  3. International Library of Medicine - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22543671
  4. International Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202504/
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) - https://www.fasebj.org/doi/full/10.1096/fj.201600646r

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