Cannabinoids refer to a wide variety of chemicals unique to the cannabis plant that interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the human body. Cannabis enthusiasts have probably heard of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the two most frequently mentioned cannabinoids. THC is the major active ingredient in cannabis and is responsible for the “high” users feel, whereas CBD has an anti-psychoactive effect that moderates this high and can help with anxiety.
However, there are many minor, lesser-studied cannabinoids that also bind to the receptors in our bodies and have their own effects and benefits. One such cannabinoid that is currently being researched for its health benefits is cannabinol (CBN).
WHAT IS CBN?
CBN is the oxidized form of THC. Most cannabis users are familiar with older marijuana losing potency over time. This is because the THC in the plant turns into CBN if left exposed to air, and so this older cannabis will have a lower THC content and higher CBN content. Despite CBN being weakly psychoactive, it actually has similar moderating effects as CBD does and can help reduce some of the negative side effects associated with THC.
Although technically not listed as a scheduled controlled substance in the US, CBN could legally be considered a chemical analog to THC and CBD which are both controlled substances. However, there is much legal ambiguity regarding cannabis products in the US, further fueled by contradicting federal and state laws about cannabis derivatives. Hopefully more research will be conducted in the future on CBN and other cannabinoids to provide some clarity and destinction at the legal level.
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF CBN?
CBN is poorly understood in comparison to the two major cannabinoids. Research on its benefits is limited, but some studies are quite promising and demand for CBN products like gummies and oils has been growing, especially among user groups affected by ALS, arthritis, and antibiotic resistance.
- CBN (and several other minor cannabinoids) were found to be potent against current clinical Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains that are resistant to the antibiotic methicillin. It’s known that these cannabinoids have antibacterial properties that still have yet to be fully understood but could be important in the fight against antibacterial resistance.
- CBN has been shown to increase speed of intake and total meal intake in rats, suggesting that it can be used to stimulate appetite. It could be a promising non-psychotropic alternative to some THC-based medicines!
- In another rodent study researching amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), CBN was shown to “significantly delay disease onset.” Although more research needs to be done, CBN may be a good non-psychotropic substitute to cannabis products containing THC and could help slow onset and ease symptoms of neurodegenerative conditions.
- CBN could also be used as an anti-inflammatory. In one recent study, CBN reduced collagen-induced arthritis, further contributing to abundant research showing that several cannabinoids are potential non-psychoactive antiinflammatory agents.
CAN CBN GET YOU HIGH?
While many of the benefits listed above include the fact that CBN is a good alternative to THC because it doesn’t have the same negative cognitive effects, CBN is still mildly psychoactive. Psychoactive, or psychotropic, medications (PMs) are drugs that affect cognitive and psychological functions. The effect that CBN has is about one quarter the potency of THC, and the effects are only measurable after being administered intravenously. As one published review of the use of cannabinoids in medicine puts it: “In view of the very low toxicity and the generally benign side effects of this group of compounds, neglecting or denying their clinical potential is unacceptable.”