The cannabis plant contains over 100 different compounds, known as cannabinoids, each with its own unique properties and effects. While THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most well-known cannabinoid, there are several other cannabinoids that have gained attention in recent years, including CBG (cannabigerol), CBD (cannabidiol), and CBN (cannabinol). In this article, we will focus on CBN and compare it to the other major cannabinoids, exploring its chemical makeup and potential effects on the body.
What is CBN?
CBN is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC and CBD and sometimes CBG, which can be produced in large quantities, CBN is a breakdown product of THC, produced as the THC molecule ages and begins to oxidize.1 This means that generally only small amounts of CBN accumulate and more CBN is typically found in older cannabis plants that have been stored for an extended period of time. CBN has a weak psychoactive effect and is generally not considered to be a major player in the effects produced by marijuana.1 CBN does however play an important role when it comes to the entourage effect. The entourage effect describes how these chemicals interact with one another within our bodies to produce a beneficially modified effect when compared to one chemical acting on its own.
Comparing CBN to CBG, CBD, and THC
CBG is a mildly psychoactive, non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in smaller quantities in the marijuana plant and can be produced in larger quantities in specific hemp varieties. Unlike CBN, CBG is not a breakdown product of THC. Rather, CBG is the precursor to all the other cannabinoids, often referred to as the “Mother Cannabinoid”. CBG is being studied for its potential benefits in treating various medical conditions, including glaucoma and inflammation.2
CBD, on the other hand, is a non-intoxicating, non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has gained widespread attention in recent years due to its potential health benefits. Unlike CBG, CBN, and THC, which all uniquely bind directly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CBD works indirectly, regulating the activity of the receptors and modulating the effects of other cannabinoids.3 CBD is being studied for its potential benefits in treating a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, pain, and seizures.3
THC is the most well-known psychoactive cannabinoid, responsible for the “high” produced by marijuana. THC binds directly to the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, producing its psychoactive effects.1
CBN and Sleep
One of the most promising areas of research for CBN is its potential use as a sleep aid. In one study, it was found that a small dose of CBN was more effective at promoting sleep than a larger dose of THC.1 CBN has also been shown to increase the amount of time that patients spend in deep sleep, which is important for physical restoration and memory consolidation.1 However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of CBN on sleep and to determine the optimal dose for use as a sleep aid.1
CBN is a unique, naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, with its own set of properties and potential effects. While CBN is not as well-known as THC, CBD, or CBG, it has shown promise in the area of sleep and may have other potential therapeutic benefits.1 CBN is still a relatively new area of research, and more studies are needed to fully understand its properties and potential applications. As research in this area continues to advance, it will be interesting to see how CBN may be used in the future to improve human health.
- Habib, G., Ramchandani, J., & O’Shaughnessy, W. B. (2015). Cannabinol and cannabidiol, pharmacological properties and therapeutic potential. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 69(10), 1040-1048.
- Massi, P., Valenti, M., Vaccani, A., Parolaro, D., & Pagani, A. (2004). The non-psychoactive cannabidiol triggers caspase activation and oxidative stress in human glioma cells. Carcinogenesis, 25(2), 17-25.
- Russo, E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245-259.