Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid that has gained attention in recent years as a potential sleep aid. However, the reality of CBN is much more complex than its reputation as the “most potent cannabinoid for sleep.” In this article, we will explore the chemistry behind CBN, its interactions with the body, and its potential uses beyond sleep.
CBN is a rare cannabinoid that is present in trace amounts in living cannabis plants. When the plant is harvested and begins to dry and cure, a conversion process occurs that turns all THCa into THC, and further turns THC into CBN. This process is known as decarboxylation, which involves removing a carbon atom from the carbon chain attached to the THCa molecule, releasing carbon dioxide and causing THCa to become THC. Decarboxylation can also be caused by heat, exposure to UV light, exposure to oxygen, or the passage of time.
Research has shown that CBN is a weak psychoactive compound that is more psychoactive than CBD but less than THC. While some people have reported feeling “high” from using CBN, its effects on the CB2 receptor are mixed. Beyond the endocannabinoid system, CBN interacts with different TRP channels and is a potent agonist of TRPA1 and antagonist of TPRM8 channels.
While many articles have touted the sedating effects of CBN for sleep, research investigating these claims is dated and limited. Studies assessing subjective effects associated with sleep are rare, and there is insufficient published evidence to support sleep-related claims. Some studies from the 1970s and 1980s found that CBN did not produce feelings of drowsiness on its own but could enhance the drowsing effects of THC when used together.
However, less conflicted research has shown that CBN can delay the onset of ALS by more than two weeks, has potent activity against a variety of MRSA strains, has analgesic properties similar to THC, can stimulate appetite to a lesser degree than THC, can help combat the growth of cancer cells, and can be beneficial to sufferers of psoriasis.
In summary, while CBN has been marketed primarily as a sleep aid, its potential uses extend far beyond that. As a poorly studied and relatively rare cannabinoid, more research is needed to fully understand its effects on the body. However, current evidence suggests that CBN may have medical benefits for a wide range of conditions.