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What Is CBN? Benefits, Effects and More

If you know us, you know that we’re big on the topic of cannabis education. Why? Simple: When cannabis users have access to authoritative and science-based information about how cannabis partners with our bodies, they make better purchasing decisions, save money, and experience better health outcomes.

With that in mind, we’d like to deepen our previous investigations of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD with an in-depth look at the CBN cannabinoid.

What is CBN? Though first identified over a century ago, until recently researchers haven’t had a great deal of insight as to what this cannabinoid actually did. Now, the loosening of restrictions around cannabis research means that clinicians are gaining a far deeper understanding of its effects. In today’s post, we’ll share everything we know about this fascinating natural compound, including:

  • What is CBN?
  • What are some potential CBN benefits?
  • How do we get CBN?
  • How does CBN compare with other cannabinoids such as THC or CBD?

Let’s get started!

Cannabinol: An Introduction

As we hinted a moment ago, we’ve known about the presence of CBN for a surprisingly long time. Way back in 1896, CBN—short for cannabinol—had the honor of being the very first compound isolated from the cannabis sativa plant! Then, in 1940, pioneering cannabis researcher Roger Adams isolated and synthesized it, believing—mistakenly, as we’ll see—that it was responsible for the plant’s distinctive psychoactive “high.”

That particular myth was debunked roughly two decades later, when yet another cannabis pioneer—Israeli scientist Dr. Raphel Mechoulam—discovered that it was THC, and not CBN, that imparted such memorable euphoria.

Fast-forward to today, when a groundswell of interest in cannabis continues to erode the longstanding stigma around this fascinating and medically impactful plant. And speaking of which, that’s a great excuse to pivot to some potential CBN benefits, and why researchers are so interested in unlocking this cannabinoid’s secrets.

CBN’s Effects: Hope for Sounder Sleep?

In the last few years, researchers have uncovered a surprisingly broad array of benefits associated with cannabinoids. Now we know, for instance, that THC can help mitigate chronic pain and insomnia, soothe nausea, and stimulate the appetites of those undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

And while CBD isn’t considered intoxicating—some users describe a mild energizing effect—it’s been found to play a potential role in everything from calming anxiety to soothing inflammation to supporting healthier skin. But until recently, the CBN cannabinoid has remained something of a mystery.

If you’ve heard anything at all about CBN’s effects, it’s probably that it may have sedative properties. But thus far, the evidence is actually fairly weak. One study from the ’90s did find that CBN acted as a sedative in a rodent model, but subsequent studies have proved inconclusive.

An even older, small-scale human study found that CBN caused sedation, but only when combined with THC. Yet another study broadly corroborated this, but found that you needed a very high dose of CBN to achieve the same sedative effects as THC does by itself.

Confused yet? Many people enjoy CBN-infused products for deeper, more restful sleep. To that end, an extensive CBN and sleep study is expected to be published soon. Needless to say, we’ll keep you updated on this exciting frontier in cannabis medicine!

CBN’s Research-Supported Benefits

That’s not to say there aren’t any CBN benefits—quite the opposite, in fact! In this section, we’ll share a few potential uses for this compound. And it’s a good time to point out one of the CBN cannabinoid’s major potential upsides, at least when it comes to medical use: Because it’s considered almost completely non-intoxicating, CBN may be able to help with a number of symptoms and conditions that were previously only addressed by THC.

Let’s start with bone health. Especially if you’re over the age of 50, osteoporosis (or reduction in bone density) can be a major health challenge, affecting up to 20% of women and 5% of men over that age. CBN to the rescue? One 2009 study found that the cannabinoid may help reverse the bone loss associated with osteoporosis. A similar study suggests that CBN may help activate stem cells, which in turn help stimulate the production of new bone growth.


Then there’s the risk of glaucoma. Once the source of many cannabis jokes—“I’m only using marijuana for my glaucoma, officer!”—several cannabis compounds, including CBN, have been shown to potentially help reduce the risk of this degenerative and irreversible eye disorder by reducing interocular pressure.

While THC also reduces interocular pressure, you’d need so much of it to have a noticeable effect that it wouldn’t be practical for most people (especially those who don’t desire the cannabinoid’s characteristic psychoactivity). As noted earlier, CBN is far less psychoactive than THC, making it a potential substitute in the prevention of glaucoma and, potentially, other diseases of the eye.

On a different note, research has found that—like several other cannabinoids and terpenes—CBN is effective against Staphylococcus aureus, one of the most threatening of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

And finally—as with several other cannabis compounds—at least one rodent-based study found that CBN reduced the painful joint swelling associated with arthritis.

Given all these potential benefits, you might be wondering where to find CBN. Let’s turn now to that all-important question, and suggest some resources to help your search.

Where to Find CBN: Why Stringent Testing Matters

While research suggests a wide range of CBN benefits, until now there haven’t been a great many ways to actually acquire it. For one thing, it’s relatively rare in cannabis, typically comprising less than 1% of a given plant’s cannabinoid content. And for another, historically it’s been hard to even find.

That changed somewhat with passage of the Farm Bill of 2018, which greatly increased access to non-intoxicating cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN that can be derived from hemp. Because hemp contains such low concentrations of psychoactive Delta-9 THC, hemp-derived cannabinoids can be purchased from many pharmacies or grocery stores, or even found in cafés or pet stores.

That said, we’re big proponents of purchasing cannabinoid products from licensed dispensaries. Why? Here in Maryland, all dispensary products undergo a rigorous testing program to ensure their purity and safety. In addition to being screened for potentially harmful microbes, mycotoxins, heavy metals and foreign matter, all Maryland-grown cannabis is tested to determine its precise content of cannabinoids, including CBN.

That’s why when you purchase cannabis from our Glen Burnie dispensary—even if it doesn’t contain any THC and isn’t intoxicating—you can be certain it’s safe, pure, and precisely as potent as it’s labeled. To that effect, you can search our medical or adult-use menus for specific cannabinoids, including CBN.

The CBN Cannabinoid: How Does It Compare with THC and CBD?

Just like each one of us, every cannabinoid—and there are over 100 of them—is somewhat different. Just as the subjective experience of imbibing THC is very different from consuming CBD, it’s difficult to describe the effects of CBN. That’s in part because, as we mentioned earlier, it’s largely non-psychoactive, and also because it’s never the dominant cannabinoid in any given strain of cannabis.

That said, there is a “secret way” to add CBN to cannabis. The CBN cannabinoid is created by the breakdown of THC, typically by exposure to oxygen and UV light over time. While this process reduces the amount of usable THC, it does boost its CBN content. And as we hinted earlier in this article, that appears to be the genesis of the notion that CBN was a natural sedative.

According to time-honored marijuana lore, over-aged or “vintage” cannabis was believed by some to be “sleepy” in terms of its subjective effect. And knowing—as you do now—that CBN is created by the breakdown of THC, some aficionadoes theorized that the excess CBN was the source of said sedation.

Explore CBN’s Benefits For Yourself: Visit Ritual Today!

If this post has sparked your curiosity about the CBN cannabinoid, we’d be thrilled to help you find it! As we mentioned previously, you can search our wide-ranging selection of medical and adult-use cannabis products by filtering for products that contain CBN.

Better still, we invite you to stop by our dispensary to learn more about CBN from one of our highly knowledgeable budtenders. No matter your symptoms or your needs, it’s both a pleasure and an honor helping our customers take control of their lives with the help of cannabis! We hope to see you in the shop soon….

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