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Cannabinol, widely known as CBN, is one of the hundreds of unique compounds found in cannabis called cannabinoids. The compound is only found in trace amounts and offers unique benefits when compared to CBD oil.
While this compound has been studied far less than others like CBD and THC, it shows some early promise and is widely backed by positive anecdotal support. It's also rising in popularity because it is not psychoactive and thus will not get the user high.
Perhaps the most common way companies market CBN oil is as a sleep aid. Looking around at sellers of this cannabinoid, you'll quickly find plenty of anecdotal evidence that this molecule can provide a sedative effect.
While many people do reach for CBN for a good night's sleep, there is still little scientific research to confirm that it really is effective.
Many proponents of using this cannabinoid to promote a good night's rest cite a study published in 1975. This human study used a very small sample size of only 5 individuals and tested the molecule in conjunction with THC. The small sample size and combined use with THC muddied the message.
Some others use the concept of aged cannabis to explain CBN's supposed sedative impact. The theory suggests that flower, after being exposed to air for long periods of time, causes tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) to convert to CBN.
The hearsay around this compound's use as a sleep aid was put to test in a narrative review published in Aug of 2021. The reviewer Jamie Corroon reviewed the available scientific literature and concluded that:
"Evidence demonstrating that CBN itself elicits cannabis-like effects in humans is mixed, with the majority of available evidence demonstrating a lack of such an effect. Consequently, there is insufficient published evidence to support sleep-related claims. Randomized controlled trials are needed to substantiate claims made by manufacturers of cannabis products containing CBN."
It's worth reiterating that CBN hasn't been widely studied. While there are some initial promising signs, it is not definitive evidence that proves this compound has specific benefits. Keeping that in mind, here is what the current research says:
While we wait for definitive evidence for CBN's use, the good news is that studies across the cannabis space and this specific molecule are picking up pace. The volume for a search for 'cannabinol' on PubMed.gov shows a consistent increase in volume over the last several years:
CBN is unique from CBD in that it's not formed from the 'mother cannabinoid' CBG, but rather is a byproduct of the aging process. When this cannabis is exposed to air and/or ultraviolet light (i.e. UV rays from sunlight) the THCa in the plant converts to cannabinolic acid or CBNa which ultimately results in CBN after decarboxylation.
Extraction of this compound typically starts with hemp grown specifically for it's extraction. Certain strains can produce about 3-5 percent CBN. After growing and curing the plant material, CBN extraction works much like isolating any other cannabinoid. The plant material is extracted and the compounds are distilled into isolates.
To create end products, isolated CBN is added either to carrier oils alone, with other isolates, or to whole-plant extracts. The outcome is a product that increases the potency of this minor cannabinoid to levels not naturally available through something like a full-spectrum extract.
At the time of writing, there is little safety information specific to CBN and it's potential side effects. That said, the compound is present in trace amounts in full-spectrum products so safety may be able to be inferred. Full-spectrum hemp extracts are studied to be well tolerated with minimal side effects.
As with all cannabis products, you can mitigate many of the safety issues by sourcing clean, pure products that are lab-tested and verified to be free of contaminants like mold, heavy metals, residual solvents, and mycotoxins.
CBN products, like CBD products, are legal as long as they are derived from industrial hemp and contain no more than 0.3% THC. Thanks to the 2018 farm bill, these products are federally legal and can be purchased freely and even carried with you when you fly.
As we mentioned in the section on extraction, CBN is often isolated and sold either as a standalone product or in combination with another isolate (like a 1:1 CBD:CBN) or whole-plant product. Usually, you'll find these products as tinctures, but they can come in all the same forms that other CBD products do.
If you're looking for high concentrations of CBN, an isolate-added product is the way to go. If you prefer the natural balance of cannabinoids, you can find CBN in both broad and full-spectrum products in trace amounts - though full-spectrum will be more abundant.
Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we sell both full and broad-spectrum products containing CBN. Browse our selection and look to our lab reports for more information!