What is Cannabinol (CBN)?

When you first enter the online world of Cannabis, you will definitely stumble across the medical benefits of THC and CBD multiple times.

As you continue exploring, you will realize that the world of Cannabis has quite a lot more to offer.

Cannabis’s journey in pharmaceuticals started at hemp and marijuana, followed onto CBD and is now taking a new turn with other hemp-derived cannabinoids, especially: cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC).

All 3 of these cannabinoids are found naturally in hemp plants.

After CBD was discovered, it quickly entered the spotlight for its robust anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Clinical trials have proven CBD to be an effective therapeutic tool for epilepsy, cancer, arthritis, psoriasis, and eczema.

The short form of cannabinol, CBN, suggests that it’s a relative of CBD and whilst this is true, many scientists, in fact, consider CBN to be more closely related to THC.

THC is the chemical component of marijuana responsible for inducing the feeling a ‘high’.

Before we explore the health benefits of CBN and how it can be obtained in further detail, let’s take a brief look at the chemistry underpinning CBN’s effects in the human body.

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is one of the 60 to 80 different cannabinoids found naturally in hemp plants.

If you were to take a hemp plant from the field and look for CBN, you would find almost none of it. This is because hemp plants store CBN in a different form.

They store it as an acidic precursor which, is referred to as CBNA. [1]

CBNA will break down to CBN under heated conditions – usually, temperatures above 105  are required. [2] Special industrial processes are used to achieve such conditions.

Greater quantities of CBN emerge in hemp and marijuana after the plants are placed in storage. This is because THC breaks down to CBN under storage conditions. [3]

The longer you leave the plant in storage, the more CBN can accumulate and the less THC will be available.

In terms of chemical structure, the only difference between THC and CBN is of bond rotation. [4] Due to these reasons, scientists consider CBN to be more closely related to THC.

THC is known to provide pain relief, treat weight loss in AIDS patients and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.

It can also help alleviate the symptoms of many other conditions but, the serious side effects associated with THC significantly limit its commercial use.

Even though CBN is a direct derivative of THC, it does not show the same intoxicating and psycho-stimulating effects as THC on the human body.

If CBN is able to produce the same beneficial effects as THC, it could be widely utilized for the diseases which are currently at the losing end due to THC’s intoxicating property.

CBD, THC, CBG, CBN, CBC all follow a general chemical structure. They have a 6-membered aromatic carbon ring.

The latter 3 cannabinoids have a 3-membered carbon atom chain attached to the ring; whilst, CBD and THC have a 5-membered carbon chain. [5]

The ring has one other side chain in all 5 cannabinoids. The structure and chemical formula for this side chain change across each cannabinoid.

For cannabinoids to exert their effects, they must bind to some receptor or receptors in the human body. CBD and THC bind to the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors.

This allows them to influence the endocannabinoid signaling system. [6]

The system regulates body temperature, heart rate, cognition, memory, movement, hormone secretion, release of pro-inflammatory responses and pain sensations. [7]

As CBN closely resembles THC, it was too thought to bind to the same receptors. However, several scientific studies have proven that CBN can only bind weakly to these receptors. [8]

Rather, CBN seems to bind to a different class of receptors known as vanilloids.

Nonetheless, CBN can still influence the endocannabinoid signaling system. The only difference is that it does it indirectly through vanillin receptors. [9]

The endocannabinoid system spreads out into almost all parts of the body, from the eyes to the toes. Thus, CBN can exert its beneficial effects all over the body and this allows its medicinal value to multiply.

A very important turning point for the future of cannabinoid products came after a 2015 mice study conducted in Israel. [10]

The scientists found that CBN and the other cannabinoids found in hemp can enhance the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects of CBD.

The cannabinoids can all act together in a manner termed as the entourage effect and help to increase the medicinal value of CBD dramatically.

On the basis of their results and following investigations, scientists concluded that it was better to consume CBD products enriched with other natural hemp cannabinoids rather than consuming just pure CBD.

How is CBN Extracted from Hemp?

CBN was the first plant-derived cannabinoid to be extracted in a lab. It was discovered in 1896 at Cambridge. [11],[12]

The extraction process begins with the grounding up and drying of the hemp plant. Then, carbon dioxide gas or special fluids are used to extract all the different cannabinoids.

To separate CBN from the other cannabinoids, multiple rounds of chromatography and recrystallization are done. [13]

CBN producers can cultivate their hemp plants in such a way that it increases the concentration of CBNA in the plant. [14]

Before extracting CBN from hemp, the plant is stored under special conditions for as long as possible. This way maximal THC can be degraded to CBN and the turnover of CBN per plant can increase positively.

Health Benefits of CBN

Most of the scientific research conducted on CBN has focused on exploring its effectiveness for the illnesses known to be helped by THC.

The first study to explore CBN’s effects on appetite was done in 2012. In this animal investigation involving mice, researchers found CBN to increase the meal size and duration.

Similar effects are seen with THC. CBN can increase appetite behaviors and that too without the risk of intoxication. [15]

Several other studies were done later to confirm these effects of CBN. One study in particular found CBN to produce a preference for sweets in mice. [16]

CBN shows promising potential for feeding-related disorders. For example chemotherapy-induced cachexia and anorexia in AIDS patients.

Inflammation contributes to the development and progression of many diseases. Research conducted at the National Cancer of Institute found CBN to show considerable anti-inflammatory effects. [17]

The inflammation arises when immune system cells release pro-inflammatory chemicals.

CBN may be able to bind to CB2 receptors on immune system cells and stop them from releasing pro-inflammatory chemicals.

By reducing inflammation, CBN can also help alleviate pain. [18]

A very recent 2019 study found that just 1 mg/ml of CBN was sufficient to provide pain relief in mice models. [19]

The anti-pain effects of CBN could be seen within just 10 minutes after it was administered.

After witnessing these effects, scientists believe that CBN could provide pain relief for chronic muscle pain disorders and that too, without any side effects.

THC is used for treating pain in multiple sclerosis patients. The medicine Sativex contains a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD.

The pain-relieving properties of CBN may be coming from its ability to induce vasorelaxation in blood vessels. [20]

A different study found CBN to influence calcium concentrations in sensory neurons in such a way that helped with reducing pain. [21]

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common adult-onset motor neurological disorder.

There are few treatments for this condition and they have variable effectiveness. CNB was found to delay the onset of this condition in mice models. [22]

Since the anti-microbial properties of CBN were found to be strong enough to overcome antibiotic-resistance in Staphylococcus aureus strains, CBN is being explored as an alternative treatment to antibiotics. [23][24]

This group of bacteria is known to cause a variety of serious respiratory diseases.

CBG shows some indication of overcoming resistance to chemotherapy drugs in breast cancer cells. [25]

This may improve the uptake of the drugs into resistant cancerous cells and aid in weakening tumor growth and cancer aggressiveness.

CBG showcases potent sedative properties. Scientists are still investigating whether these can prove useful in helping with sleep disorders and other related conditions. [26]

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, CBG can help accelerate the bone formation and bone healing after an injury. [27],[28]

The Different Ways of Consuming CBG

CBN is extracted from hemp and then concentrated into a solid, known as CBN isolate. The isolate can contain small amounts of other natural hemp cannabinoids.

The isolate can be consumed as it is, or it can be processed into another product. To consume the isolate on its own, you can dissolve it in water and drink up the solution or you can add it to food.

The isolate can be turned into CBN gummies. Gummies will have a more flavorful taste and so, some people prefer this method of consumption.

The gummies can be used consumed like a snack at intervals throughout the day.

CBG isolates can be transformed into a CBG tincture by dissolving the isolate in a carrier oil and ethanol.

A tincture is placed under the tongue from where it can rapidly be absorbed into the blood stream. [29]

Currently, there are no cosmetic CBN products available in the market. This is largely due to the fact that there is limited research on the benefits of CBN for skin and hair illnesses.

There are a few other CBN products available in the market, including CBN crumble, CBN wax and CBN shatter.


For a CBN product to be legal, it must not contain more than 0.3% THC. Always check the product label for THC concentration, especially as consuming THC can lead to highly negative effects.

The US FDA has not yet approved CBN isolate for medicinal use. This is due to the lack of clinical results on the safety and efficiency of CBN across a range of different diseases. [30]

Canada has added CBN to its list of controlled substances. The laws for CBN change from country to country so, you must read up on them before conducting a purchase. [31]

CBN products are available for self-initiated use. If you are planning to use a CBN product, consult a doctor for first.

They can better advise on which product type is suitable for your needs.

Research studies have found CBN supplements to disrupt the metabolism and effectiveness of medicines broken down by the liver. [32]

You must consult a doctor for dosage before using CBN supplements with your regular medicine.

We advise you to start with low doses (5 – 10 mg/kg) and then slowly increase it if you are experiencing positive results. [33] Consult a doctor for more tailored advice on dosage.


CBN has displayed a multitude of potential health benefits including, appetite stimulation, anti-cancer activities, soothing pain, and fighting neurodegenerative disorders.

The strong anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and pain-relieving properties of CBN make it a promising therapeutic agent against a wide array of diseases.

The THC in hemp plants is broken down to CBN under certain storage conditions. Scientists believe that CBN exerts its effects on the human body via the endocannabinoid signaling system.

Plentiful research has been done on the medicinal benefits of THC and this has provided strong headway for further research on CBN.

Be sure to consult a doctor for dosage and further information on the method of consumption before purchasing a CBG product.

Nonetheless, there are online websites already selling CBN products. The products come in the form of: gummies, oils, solids, tinctures and more.

Future clinical trials investigating the safety and efficiency of CBN will allow this cannabinoid to also become a popular supplementation to traditional treatments.