What Is CBN?
CBN/cannabinol is a cannabinoid, which means it’s one of the active ingredients in marijuana. These are the compounds that make marijuana behave the way it does inside the brain and body.CBN is a minor cannabinoid, which means it’s not initially present in marijuana in high concentrations the way THC and CBD usually are. The way marijuana creates CBN, however, makes this minor player truly stand out from all the rest.
How Is CBN Produced?
Raw marijuana flowers and leaves carry within them a wide range of cannabinoids in their acidic forms. Most strains contain significant amounts of THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) the precursor to THC, as well as CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), the precursor to CBD. There will also be low amounts of other cannabinoids such as CBCA and CBGA. These cannabinoids turn into their better-known forms (THC, CBD and so on) once they’re heated; this is a process known as decarboxylation. Fresh marijuana typically contains very little CBNA or CBN because this cannabinoid begins to appear as the plant material ages. If decarboxylated marijuana isn’t consumed, over time, the THC in it begins to turn into CBN. When undecarboxylated marijuana ages, the THCA inside of it converts to CBNA. This process happens even faster if cannabis is exposed to light and air. This is why it’s recommended to store cannabis in airtight containers away from UV light.
As THC transforms into CBN, it turns into a cannabinoid with its own signature effects:
Very Little Psychoactivity .
What does CBN do once the transformation from THC occurs? The biggest difference between these two cannabinoids is where they fall on the psychoactive spectrum. THC creates a euphoric, psychoactive high that’s marijuana’s most well-known side effect. CBN is barely psychoactive (and can only cause a high if ingested in large doses).
While CBN doesn’t get people particularly high, it can make them sleepy. In fact, it’s known as the cannabinoid with the greatest sedative properties. Consuming 5 mg of CBN is the equivalent of taking 10 mg of Valium – but with only 10% of Valium’s psychoactive effects.
Good for Pain & Glaucoma .
CBN/THC do share some similarities, however: both are excellent at killing pain, as well as reducing intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma patients. This spurred scientists to research various CBN effects to discover the medical potential of this cannabinoid.
CBN Medical Uses.
For recreational users, CBN-filled, stale marijuana is a negative. For researchers, however, CBN is proving to have some excellent medical uses when tested in the lab. Because its chemical composition is very similar to THC, it shares some of THC’s properties killing pain, but CBN’s differences make it useful in other ways, as well.
As discussed above, cannabinol has made the most waves due to its particularly powerful sedative effects. It calms in a similar fashion to Valium but has very few its psychoactive effects, meaning that it can quell anxiety without leaving people feeling “spaced out” or unable to function. Many indica strains of marijuana have higher amounts of CBN (which may somewhat contribute to their sedative effects). However, these amounts are still in such small concentrations that the direct effect from CBN is still small unless the cannabinoid is concentrated (as it is when scientists use it in a lab setting).
Some research suggests that CBN may have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies on rats have shown the cannabinoid’s ability to effectively reduce inflammation (5).
Another study on rats that consumed CBN found that the subjects who were exposed to higher doses of the cannabinoid also consumed more food and more frequently than those who took lower doses (6).
The researchers explained this phenomenon with CBN’s affinity to the CB1 receptor. CBN may be a decent alternative to THC for treating eating disorders, especially if a person is sensitive to the psychoactive effects of the latter.
In his research paper titled “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Cannabinoid-Terpenoid Interactions,” an esteemed neuroscientist and cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo discusses the potential benefits of CBN in improving the health of bone marrow (7).
While he emphasizes this is only a theory that would have to be further proven, there’s a chance that CBN could assist the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in bone formation and speed up their regeneration.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes constant discomfort by creating flaky, crusty patches of skin covered by white-ish scales.
Preliminary research suggests that CBN may be capable of decreasing keratinocyte (a skin cell type) proliferation.
Psoriasis sufferers struggle with overactive keratinocytes, which is why those flaky skin patches appear in the first place. By reducing their activity, CBN may reduce this problem and relieve other symptoms, such as itching and skin irritation (9).
Cannabinol is a mild CB1 and CB2 agonist, so it has very little influence on these receptors. However, as a byproduct of THC’s oxidation, it can help with pain management.
For example, CBN can trigger the release of peptides from sensory nerves, mitigating pain signals (10). Scientists theorize that the painkilling effects of CBN are independent of CB1 and CB2 receptors and stem from its interaction with another cannabinoid receptor that remains undiscovered.
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