Cannabinol (CBN): What Is It And What Are Its Effects?

if you use cannabis, you’ve probably heard all about it’s two most popular cannabinoids,THC and . But these aren’t the only cannabinoids produced by the plant. You’ll also find minor cannabinoids, like CBN (cannabinol), among others.

These medicinal compounds, unique to cannabis alone, can be very different from each other in terms of their effects and medicinal benefits. So, if you want to know how your cannabis will affect you, learning about the different cannabinoids is the first step.

So, let’s get to know CBN a little better.

What Are the Potential Benefits of CBN (Cannabinol)?

CBN is a non-intoxicating compound that is best known as the cannabinoid created when THC ages. For that reason, it’s usually present in high amounts in older cannabis. While this might be a turn-off for some, others seek out older cannabis just to enjoy the effects of CBN.

Here are a few of the potential benefits of CBN currently being explored in research. Keep in mind, current research on CBN is limited with very few studies demonstrating its effects in the human body.


Studies on CBN have found that it may be a potent antibacterial agent. In lab settings, CBN was tested on strains of MRSA bacteria that are resistant to traditional antibiotics. Researchers found it to be a potent antibacterial agent against these resistant strains. Perhaps in the future, we will see CBN being used to fight off bacterial infections that our usual antibiotics can’t heal.


CBN may also be a powerful neuroprotectant. In one rodent study, researchers used CBN as a treatment for ALS and found that it was able to delay the onset of the condition. While human studies need to be done, this suggests that CBN may provide a powerful tool in the fight against ALS and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Appetite Stimulation

In rodent studies, CBN increased the amount of food that rat subjects ate, suggesting that it could be an effective appetite stimulant. Since some avoid THC (another well-known appetite stimulant) due to its intoxicating effects, CBN could potentially offer an alternative for those seeking the munchies without the high—but more research is needed.


CBN may also be helpful for those suffering from glaucoma. One study on rabbits found that CBN (as well as THC) reduces intraocular pressure—the biggest risk factor for glaucoma. Still, research is in early stages and CBN hasn’t been shown to be superior to other glaucoma medications. More research is needed to know if cannabinoids could ever effectively replace any traditional treatments for glaucoma.


CBN may also be a potent anti-inflammatory agent capable of helping those with rheumatoid arthritis. In one rodent study, CBN was shown to reduce arthritis. While more research needs to be done, this could end up being an incredible help to those suffering from this debilitating condition.

Popular Misconceptions About CBN

If you’ve read about CBN before, you may be surprised that you didn’t see “insomnia” on the list of medical benefits above. CBN is often praised as a super-sedative, but reputations can be deceiving.

Although there hasn’t been much research on CBN’s sedating effects (or lack thereof), one human study did look at this question back in the 1970s. While the study was small, none of the respondents reported that CBN made them feel sleepy.

So why does everyone say that it’s sedating?

In other words, the older cannabis that is high in CBN is also high in sedating terpenes. These terpenes, rather than the CBN, could account for the sedative effects.

Well there are two possible reasons, and they both lead back to one source: People noticed that older cannabis (which is high in CBN) makes them sleepy and assumed it must be the CBN.

First, it may be that the combination of CBN and THC is what actually causes the sedative effect.

In the same study that found CBN didn’t make subjects sleepy, researchers tested CBN alone, CBN with THC, and THC alone. While THC produced some drowsiness on its own, the combination of the two produced even higher levels of drowsiness. So perhaps those enjoying high CBN cannabis, which also contains THC, have noticed the synergistic effects and assumed the sedative effect was attributable to the CBN alone.

But even without the THC connection, there may be other factors which cause higher CBN cannabis to be sedating.

“Pure CBN is not particularly sedating,” explains leading cannabis researcher and neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo, “But it is typically found in aged cannabis in which the monoterpenoids have evaporated leaving the more sedating oxygenated sesquiterpenoids. This accounts for the discrepancy.”

In other words, the older cannabis that is high in CBN is also high in sedating terpenes (other active chemicals in the plant). These terpenes, rather than the CBN, could account for the sedative effects.

While CBN may not be sedating on its own, you may be able to take advantage of its synergistic effects with THC to get the sleep inducing effects you are looking for.

Another misconception about CBN is that high CBN products will always be non-intoxicating. While CBN alone is non-intoxicating, it can actually increase euphoric effects of THC. If you are looking to take advantage of CBN’s benefits without a high, make sure you are using products that don’t contain much THC.

How to Find CBN (Cannabinol) Cannabis Products

While CBN isn’t particularly plentiful in fresh or cured cannabis, it can often be found in older cannabis, particularly cannabis that has been exposed to a lot of oxygen. CBN is actually created from THC when it is oxidized (exposed to oxygen over time).

Still, leaving your cannabis out in the open air might not be the most efficient way of getting CBN. Brands are beginning to offer products with isolated CBN, usually in the form of tinctures or edibles (and, ironically, marketed as sleep aids). These pure CBN products are a great way to test out the cannabinoid yourself and see if it’s helpful for you.


Although it does not bind as well to cannabinoid receptors, CBN is actually known to generate powerful sedative effects, especially if combined with THC. This is actually one of the most obvious effects of CBN and research has shown that 5mg of the stuff is as effective as 10mg of diazepam and other similar pharmaceutical sedatives. It is often thought that CBN contributes to the drowsy and sleep-inducing effects of indica strains as they tend to have higher concentrations of this cannabinoid.

While it has the properties of a sedative, CBN is not psychoactive, and therefore it could actually be a useful way to medicate without getting high. That being said, the content of CBN in any bud is very tiny and seldom passes the 1% mark in cured bud, although only tiny doses are required for it to affect the body.

Studies have shown that CBN could contribute to stimulating bone tissue growth by causing an indirect recruitment of mesenchymal stem cells from surrounding bone marrow. Commonly known for their ability to transform into blood cells, these stem cells are also able to turn into bone and other tissues. Potentially making it useful in healing fractures.

Another effect, almost the opposite of being able to generate bone tissue, is the ability of CBN to ease the overgrowth of skin cells. While seemingly unimportant, in patients with psoriasis (a condition where skin regeneration happens 3-4 times faster than normal due to inflammation) this could be useful in helping to regulate the body’s production of skin cells. CBN also showed potential in treating psoriasis when applied as a topical, which according to a 2008 study, could also be effective way of treating MRSA and burns.

As with , CBN is an anti-inflammatory, but it also has pain relief properties which could help to treat burns by acting on TRPV2 receptors (also known as high-threshold thermo-sensors). Although trials are yet to come, the combination of CBN and could be an efficient way in treating burns victims both in pain relief and as an anti-inflammatory.


As a unique cannabinoid, CBN potentially has a variety of effects on the body that we could benefit from, such as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, pain relief, anti-insomnia and anti-convulsive effects, act as an appetite stimulant, and as a promoter of bone cell growth. Although it seems to work best symbiotically with and THC, its uses are well worth looking into.

So there we have it, another cannabinoid with a unique wealth of goodness to offer to for a variety of medical patients. As researchers are able to study CBN in more depth and certainly as attitudes towards cannabis are changed, we are sure that consumers will be able to find more and more CBN infused products that we can enjoy and benefit from such as topicals and ointments, edibles, oils and capsules. Meanwhile, don’t forget about that old bit of bud you have lying around: it might be useful!