What Is CBN? Benefits, Risks And Where To Buy


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Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known for its intoxicating properties, and cannabidiol (CBD) stole the spotlight in recent years with its purported therapeutic properties. But they aren’t the only two cannabinoids found in cannabis plants (there are more than 100 of them) with potential benefits—cannabinol, or CBN, is on the rise, too.

Less studied and utilized than CBD and THC, CBN shows promise in addressing certain ailments. Learn more about this rarer cannabinoid and its potential benefits and side effects.

What Is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant. It can also be produced synthetically.

CBN forms when THC degrades due to exposure to heat, air and/or light. “This is why higher levels of CBN can be found in aged, dry cannabis,” says Eric Adams, CEO, president and director of InMed Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer and developer of rare cannabinoids. However, CBN isn’t known to cause the intoxicating psychoactive effects associated with THC.

CBD vs. CBN: What’s the Difference?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most popular cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa plants. Although similar to CBN, CBD isn’t derived directly from THC, but rather exists independently within the plants.

CBD has been studied more extensively in clinical settings than CBN, and it’s more popular in mainstream retail products. Research supports several therapeutic benefits of CBD, but CBN can’t quite compete with that list just yet.

Benefits of CBD can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Relieving pain related to conditions like multiple sclerosis, cancer and nerve damage
  • Reducing symptoms of arthritis
  • Addressing Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare forms of epilepsy
  • Treating opioid addiction alongside other interventions

Both CBN and CBD tend to bind with CB2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in central nervous system function and helps the body react to both internal and external stimuli. CB2 receptors are mostly associated with immune system regulation.

Potential Benefits of CBN

Research on CBN is scarce, especially when it comes to human clinical trials, but some preclinical studies suggest CBN can be a therapeutic substance in a few ways.

Treating Epidermolysis Bullosa

Researchers are currently testing CBN cream as a treatment for epidermolysis bullosa, a group of rare diseases that cause the skin to blister easily. Currently in the second phase of its clinical trial, InMed Pharmaceuticals found its CBN cream “to be well-tolerated on both normal, intact skin as well as on open wounds and caused no delay in wound healing[1].”

CBN may have anti-inflammatory activity that could be “beneficial in healing chronic wounds where healing has been prevented by prolonged inflammation,” says Eric Hsu, senior vice president of pre-clinical research and development at InMed Pharmaceuticals.

Reducing the Effects and Symptoms of Glaucoma

According to research conducted by InMed Pharmaceuticals, CBN may be useful in treating eye conditions like glaucoma, which causes vision loss and blindness as it damages the optic nerve in the back of the eye. High eye pressure is associated with glaucoma, and lowering that pressure is a known way to slow the condition.

InMed Pharmaceuticals’ in vitro study found treating certain retinal cells with a topical CBN formula resulted in a high level of cell survival when the cells were exposed to elevated pressure conditions[2]. CBN outperformed CBD and THC in these tests. CBN can also exhibit neuroprotective abilities, meaning it can protect nervous system cells and structures, by significantly reducing or preventing natural cell death.

Relieving Chronic Muscle Pain

A 2019 study on rats found CBN—as well as CBD and a mix of the two cannabinoids—decreased muscle sensitization[3]. The researchers suggest CBN could provide pain relief for chronic muscle pain disorders, such as temporomandibular disorders (pain in the jaw muscles, joints and nerves) and fibromyalgia (a condition that causes pain all over the body), but clinical studies have yet to test this theory.

Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBN

Without many clinical studies, it’s difficult to know exactly how CBN can affect the human body. With that said, drowsiness and sedation, as well as a positive result on a drug test, are two possible risks associated with CBN.

Drowsiness and Sedation

Drowsiness is a potential side effect of CBN, especially when combined with CBD, says Laura Fuentes, a licensed compounding pharmacist and the chief officer of science and innovation for Green Roads, a CBD products company.

“For this reason, we do not recommend people take CBN products during the day,” she says. “As more research emerges, we will have more data about side effects and drug interactions.”

With that said, consumers often turn to CBN products for assistance with sleep and relaxation, in which cases these effects might be considered potential benefits by the user.

Positive Drug Test Result

“There is evidence that use of CBN could inadvertently lead to failed drug tests,” says Mark Ratner, M.D., the chief science officer at Theralogix, a nutritional supplement company.

At least one study found CBN led to a positive result in two different drug tests, and in one test, CBN even exhibited an “additive effect” with THC, essentially increasing the appearance of THC[4]. So even if you had virtually undetectable amounts of THC in your system, depending on the sensitivity of the drug test, the presence of CBN could skew your levels higher, resulting in a positive drug test.

(Note: Product details and price are accurate as of publication and are subject to change.)

Where to Buy CBN Products

If you decide you want to try a CBN product, you can likely find some options from popular CBD brands. When sourcing cannabis products, make sure the company:

  • Has a certificate of analysis (COA) for all its products. This document should outline  exact levels of various cannabinoids in the product, as well as the presence of any molds, heavy metals and pesticides.
  • Utilizes third-party testing. A company should send its products to a third-party laboratory for independent testing to prevent conflicts of interest, biases and label inaccuracies. You can also look into third-party labs themselves for further information.

How to Use CBN

Consult with a medical professional before you start consuming CBN, especially since clinical studies are limited.

Like CBD, CBN can be found in several forms, the most common being oils or tinctures, gummies or capsules. You’re also more likely to find CBD products that contain CBN rather than products consisting of CBN exclusively.

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