CBN: what we know about this cannabinoid so far

CBN: what we know about this cannabinoid so far

CBN or cannabinol is a bit of the oddball out when it comes to cannabinoids beginning with the letter C, like CBD & CBG. Both in the way it’s formed as well as how it acts from a physiological standpoint. Maybe that’s the reason it hasn’t been widely studied yet? Could be. It’s a shame though because the few things we do know, clearly shows that CBN has interesting and beneficial potential. Wanna know what we know so far?   

Why is CBN unlike the other cannabinoids? 

First off, CBN is the last cannabinoid to come into existence in the cannabis plant. CBN is derived from tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), which in turn converts into delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and only then, when enough time, air, heat and UV light has hit the cannabis flower does the THC change over into CBN. 

You could say that CBN is the ‘leftover cannabinoid’, although that would be a bit dismissive of this helpful, yet largely misunderstood compound. Bottom line is that you will find the largest concentration of CBN in ‘old’ cannabis flowers, after all the THC has been transformed in CBN. 

How THC is converted to CBN

How CBN comes into existence 

Another difference that CBN has over its cousins is its psychoactive aspect. Some researchers classify it as a ‘mild psychoactive’, due to it being a direct descendant of THC, while others see it as ‘non-psychoactive. The jury is still out.

And that brings us to the - now almost mandatory - disclaimer:
All we know about CBN is preliminary! It’s one of the lesser-known and researched cannabinoids. The handful of studies done solely on this specific cannabinoid have almost all been done in vitro or on rats and mice. 

That’s not to say we’ve no idea of its potential benefit for us humans. There’s enough evidence to suggest that CBN may be an important compound in the future fields of medicine, we just need to do more research to back up that claim. So, before you read what those benefits might be, keep in mind that none of this info is ‘medical advise’ or to be taken as ‘facts’. It’s just a rundown of what we have observed so far.  (see the list at the bottom of this page for all the research papers I’ve referenced to write this article)

What are the potential health benefits of cannabinol (CBN)? 


Recently we’ve seen an explosion of sites claiming that CBN products may very well be the ultimate sleep-aid.
However, the only study showing that CBN has any potential a sedative sleep-aid stems from 1975 and had only five male participants.

Follow up studies that focused on this potential beneficial aspect of CBN have found no conclusive evidence that it’s indeed this compound. These studies all point to a combination of cannabinoids and or terpenes being a better bet when it comes to potential sleep medication than CBN alone. 

Pain relief

Like most other cannabinoids, CBN has been shown to have painkilling (analgesic) properties. 

A 2019 rat study found that CBN seemed to help these little critters with muscle pain. This would be good news for those who are suffering from chronic back/neck pain, temporomandibular disorder and fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, these results have not, as of yet, been replicated through human trials. 

Also, that same study pointed out that the best result was measured when the researchers gave the rats a 1:1 combination of CBN and CBD. 

Neuroprotective effects

Just like other, more well-understood cannabinoids such as CBD and CBG, CBN seems to have some neuroprotective properties. A study from 2005 found that CBN was able to delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in mice. However, it’s not clear at this time if it has the same effects on humans.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Numerous studies done in the last decade of research on cannabinoids have shown that many, if not all, cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, CBN is rarely mentioned directly as one main players in this particular field. 

There is, however, some evidence that CBN may reduce inflammation in rats caused by arthritis. More research is needed to fully understand this potential benefit and to see if this actually applies to humans as well.


Three studies, one from 2008 and two from 2020 have repeatedly shown that all major cannabinoids, including CBN, were effective in treating MSRA, which is a bacterial infection that is typically resistant to antibiotics. This could be critical research in the ongoing struggle against antibiotic resistance.

Bone and Skin Healing and Growth

Seeing that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in the healing process of our bone and skin cells, some evidence suggests that CBN may be one of the cannabinoids that activate stem cells to help make new bone cells as well as reduce bone loss and healing fractured bones.   

When applied topically, CBN has also been found to help reduce the overgrowth of skin cells; this may, in the future, be tremendously promising in the treatment of psoriasis.



Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man
I G Karniol, I Shirakawa, R N Takahashi, E Knobel, R E Musty
PMID: 1221432 DOI: 10.1159/000136944

Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain
Hayes Wong 1, Brian E Cairns 2
PMID: 31158702 DOI: 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2019.05.028

Cannabinol delays symptom onset in SOD1 (G93A) transgenic mice without affecting survival
Patrick Weydt 1, Soyon Hong, Anke Witting, Thomas Möller, Nephi Stella, Michel Kliot
PMID: 16183560 DOI: 10.1080/14660820510030149

Neuroprotective agents: Cannabinoids
A.J. Sánchez | A.García-Merino
Neuroimmunology Laboratory and Neurology Service, Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro, Majadahonda, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Joaquín Rodrigo 2, 28222 Majadahonda, Madrid, Spain
Received 11 October 2010, Accepted 3 February 2011, Available online 11 February 2011.

Cannabinoids, inflammation, and fibrosis
Robert B. Zurier, Sumner H. Burstein
Published: 19 July 2016

Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs
Prakash Nagarkatti,† Rupal Pandey,* Sadiye Amcaoglu Rieder,* Venkatesh L Hegde, and Mitzi Nagarkatti
Future Med Chem. 2009 Oct; 1(7): 1333–1349. doi: 10.4155/fmc.09.93 PMID: 20191092

Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study
Giovanni Appendino 1, Simon Gibbons, Anna Giana, Alberto Pagani, Gianpaolo Grassi, Michael Stavri, Eileen Smith, M Mukhlesur Rahman
PMID: 18681481 DOI: 10.1021/np8002673

The Role of Cannabinoids in the Global Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance
August 19, 2020
Alexia Blake, Gilad Landan, Jeremy Friedberg
Cannabis Science and Technology, July/August 2020 , Volume 3, Issue 6

The Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabinoids
John A. Karas,1 Labell J. M. Wong,1 Olivia K. A. Paulin,1 Amna C. Mazeh,1 Maytham H. Hussein,1 Jian Li,2 and Tony Velkov1,*
doi: 10.3390/antibiotics9070406 PMID: 32668669

Role of cannabinoids in the regulation of bone remodelling
Aymen I. Idris1,* and Stuart H. Ralston2
DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2012.00136 PMID: 23181053

Cannabidiol, a Major Non-Psychotropic Cannabis Constituent Enhances Fracture Healing and Stimulates Lysyl Hydroxylase Activity in Osteoblasts
Natalya M Kogan, Eitan Melamed, Elad Wasserman, Bitya Raphael, Aviva Breuer, Kathryn S Stok, Rachel Sondergaard, Ana VVillarreal Escudero, Saja Baraghithy, Malka Attar-Namdar
First published: 19 March 2015

Cannabinoids and the skeleton: From marijuana to reversal of bone loss
Itai Bab,Andreas Zimmer &Eitan Melamed
Published online: 21 Dec 2009

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