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What is CBN and What Does it Do?

If you’ve spent any time learning about the world of cannabis, you’re probably familiar with THC and CBD, the two most abundant cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. Often described as the major “active ingredients” in cannabis, the cannabinoids are a fascinating topic in and of themselves: Powerful natural compounds that deliver all sorts of beneficial medicinal effects to our bodies.

Today, we’re going to focus on the lesser-known cannabinoid cannabinol, otherwise known as CBN. What is CBN? It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher: Though it was one of the first cannabinoids to be identified, CBN is also one of the least understood. Is it a sleep aid, a novel tool to help us repair damaged bones, an appetite stimulant, all or none of the above? Read on to learn the true story.

What is CBN: The Unique Potential of a Very Unique Cannabinoid

First identified way back in 1896, CBN was first thought to be the cannabinoid responsible for the cannabis plant’s distinctive euphoric “high.” That’s THC, of course, but it turns out there’s a connection: CBN might be called THC’s “younger sibling” because it’s created by the natural breakdown of THC as it’s exposed to oxygen. And like THC, CBN is psychoactive, but only about 25% as much as THC.

One of the enduring hopes about CBN is that it’s a powerful sleeping aid. This may stem in part from experienced cannabis users in the past sometimes describing old flower as “sleepy.” One rodent-based study found that CBN was indeed sedative; others not so much. In one small-scale human study from 1976, researchers found that CBN caused sedation in conjunction with THC, though not by itself.

But that shouldn’t be a disappointment. Other studies suggest that CBN may have a host of other roles to fill when it comes to our health.

What is CBN: A Tool to Repair Our Bones?

As we age, degenerative conditions like osteoporosis can become major challenges when it comes to health and quality of life. One study from 2009 found that CBN may reverse the bone loss associated with osteoporosis. A separate study suggests the CBN is one of several cannabinoids that may potentially kickstart the production of new bone cells via activation of stem cells.

What is CBN: Powerful Anti-Bacterial Medicine?

A study published in 2008 showed that CBN is effective against drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, one of the dreaded “superbugs” that is sounding warning bells in hospital wards and upending our notions of anti-bacterial medicine.

What is CBN: All-Natural Appetite Stimulant?

As anyone who’s undergone the challenge of cancer treatment knows, maintaining healthy muscle mass and bone density are crucial to a positive outcome. Cannabis is already a trusted appetite stimulant for many undergoing chemo or radiation treatments; now it appears that CBN may be a powerful tool on its own. One rodent-based study found that it stimulated test subjects’ appetite, while the better-known cannabinoid CBD had the opposite effect. Will these two cannabinoids form the basis of a futuristic diet plan? We’ll just have to wait and see.

How to Get CBN from Cannabis

At the moment, there aren’t many high-CBN cannabis products on the market, though that will change as our understanding of this powerful cannabinoid continues to grow. But knowing what we do about how CBN forms from the breakdown of THC, theoretically speaking, it’s easy to produce your own. By leaving a quantity of high-THC flower exposed to oxygen for a period of weeks or months, the THC will naturally degrade into CBN. Is this the best possible use of fresh cannabis flower? Arguably not. But if nothing else, it will give you the chance to experiment until more high-CBN products hit the shelves!



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