Cannabinol (CBN) is a mildly psychoactive and sedating cannabinoid that was the first one to be isolated in the cannabis plant. Before the discovery of THC, it was thought to be responsible for the mind-altering effects of the plant and is one of several other compounds within cannabis often referred to as “minor cannabinoids.”
In chemical composition, cannabinol is very similar to THC but is found in much smaller quantities in the plant. When THC is oxidized, it degrades into CBN, which may be why certain strains which have been aged longer produce a more sedative effect. In fact, a grave over 2700 years old in China was excavated and revealed cannabis among its contents. Upon testing, it was discovered that CBN was the dominant cannabinoid present.
Steep Hill Labs, a well-known cannabis science and technology company performed an analysis on CBN in 2017. The results were surprising. Up until this study, CBN was thought to be just a useless byproduct of cannabis, with minimal relevant medical or recreational applications. Because it is typically found in older, stale leaves, it was seen as undesirable.
Yet, it turns out that this cannabinoid has significant sedative properties—higher than any other cannabinoid, in fact— that could be beneficial in several scenarios. While there have not been too many human studies on the effects of CBN, the preliminary research suggests that it has the potential to treat conditions like anxiety and insomnia as effectively as pharmaceutical sedatives. Steep Hill has concluded that just 2.5-5mg of CBN can provide the same sedative effects of 5-10mg of Valium. It also appears that cannabidiol (CBD) works synergistically with CBN to increase the sedative effects.
All cannabinoids interact with the vast network of receptors that comprise the human endocannabinoid system. CBN binds with the CB2 receptor which is known to help balance many biological functions within the body. If the claims about CBN hold up, it has the potential not just to change many patients lives, but bring change to the medical community.
Don’t give up your prescription meds just yet though. There are still more things to learn about CBN before using it as a replacement to prescription sedatives. If you have questions, consult with your doctor.