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Understanding CBN: The Next Chapter in Cannabinoid Research

Understanding CBN: The Next Chapter in Cannabinoid Research

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Among the hundreds of compounds cannabis has to offer, THC and CBD have long been in the spotlight. Now, minor cannabinoids such as CBN are slowly moving into the realm of public discussion as research reveals their potential applications in holistic medicine. 

Ironically, CBN is the first cannabinoid to be isolated; in 1896, the cannabinoid was isolated from the red oil resin of Indian hemp. By 1940, its chemical structure and chemical synthesis were achieved in U.K. and U.S. laboratories.  Within the next few years, CBD and THC were discovered and for decades dominated both scientific endeavors and public discourse.

CBN can help to promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep without the more intense effects. However, CBN is more often combined with other cannabinoids rather than taken on its own. Part of this is due to it being a more minor cannabinoid along with some research suggesting that the pairing of CBN with THC or CBD produces a more intense sedative effect than on its own. 

In this article, we’ll cover what CBN is, its potential benefits as well as how to take it.  

What is CBN?

closeup of a cannabis plant

CBN, or cannabinol, is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp.

Because of its lower binding affinity to ECS receptors, CBN is only mildly psychoactive with about 1/4 the potency of THC. This means that it doesn't necessarily produce the "high" associated with marijuana. You would need to take a significant amount of CBN to produce effects similar to a smaller quantity of THC and it’s really not intended for that type of experience. 

If THC is driving at highway speeds, CBN is a pleasure cruise through back country roads. It is known to provide a calm, relaxed state rather than send you to the pantry searching for munchies. 

How is CBN produced?

When a cannabis plant is harvested, the fresh flower contains a variety of cannabinoids. THC and CBD are the most abundant, while minor cannabinoids like HHC, Delta-8, and CBN are only present in trace amounts. As the flower is exposed to air, light, and heat, the THC molecules begin to undergo a chemical transformation known as oxidation. When this occurs, THC loses its psychoactive potency and becomes CBN. In other words, CBN is produced as THC degrades. So, CBN can be extracted from natural cannabis flower.

Alternatively, CBN can be derived synthetically from THC, or plants can be bred to produce higher concentrations of CBN. 

You might be thinking, “This compound sounds an awful lot like CBD.” And while you might be correct in that both are often used to help with relaxation and relief, there are fundamental differences that set them apart. 

CBD vs. CBN 

CBD and CBN sound similar and are both known to bind predominantly to the body's CB2 receptors. However, one of the biggest differentiators between the two is their psychoactivity. 

CBD has been a popular choice for those seeking relief from things like stress or muscle soreness, without altering their cognitive state. It is non-psychoactive.

CBN on the other hand is considered mildly psychoactive, but again its effects are significantly milder than THC. You may even see some research describing it as non-psychoactive due to how relatively tame the compound is. Sitting somewhere on the spectrum between CBD and THC, this translates to a calming effect without the more pronounced effects of THC. 

Interestingly, there is growing evidence that CBN and CBD or THC together can create a degree of “botanical synergy” or an entourage effect. Meaning, the calming effects of CBN can be amplified when taken with either of the two cannabinoids. 

How does CBN work?

woman using tincture dropper of cannabis oil

To fully grasp how any cannabinoid works, it's essential to first understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS(. The ECS is a vast network in the human body that plays a vital role in regulating physiological processes, including sleep-wake cycles and immune system function. It works under a lock-and-key model, with CB receptors as the "locks" and endocannabinoids as the "keys." Endocannabinoids, or endogenous cannabinoids, are chemical messengers your body naturally produces to regulate this system, and primarily include anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol.

However, phytocannabinoids- which come from cannabis plants- are similar enough in structure that they, too, can interact with the ECS. Without research into phytocannabinoids like THC, CBD, and CBN, the discovery of this vital bodily system in the 1980s would never have taken place.

CBN has been shown to have a higher binding affinity to CB2 receptors with some affinity for CB1. Alternatively, THC has a higher affinity to bind with CB1 receptors, with some for CB2 which might give some insight as to why effects can be amplified when taken together. 

CB2 receptors are found in places like the immune system, spleen, tonsils, and the gastrointestinal tract where they help maintain homeostasis and regulate immune responses, pain perception, and inflammation. 

The CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system and play a crucial role in influencing functions such as pain perception, mood, memory, appetite, and sleep. 

What are the potential benefits of CBN?

According to research, CBN’s calming effects can potentially help individuals with sleep disturbances fall asleep more easily and achieve deeper sleep. Additionally, these effects can reduce racing thoughts and stress levels helping to foster a sense of tranquility, and relaxation and promote overall well-being.

Some studies have also shown CBN can potentially help regulate the immune system, which in turn can reduce inflammation and inhibit pain responses.  This is due to the interaction with CB2 receptors throughout the ECS. 

The anecdotal evidence touting the benefits of CBN has continued to pile up.  Though research around CBN is still limited, its potential to act as a natural alternative for those struggling to fall asleep and those seeking holistic pain relief options has been an exciting discovery.  

Considering all this, it is important to note that there is stronger evidence around the effects of CBN when paired with CBD or THC, which is a detail often left out by companies pushing CBN as a miracle sleep aid. 

How to Use CBN

ORCA relax sleep pills in a night stand by the bed at night

It is more common to find CBN products that are combined with CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids in the form of tinctures, capsules, or edibles. And as we discussed in this article, that is probably the more effective way to consume this compound. If you are looking for something more mild, CBD + CBN might be the way to go. If you regularly consume THC and would like something with a stronger effect, pairing CBN + THC might be the better combination.

Due to the synergistic effects that allow for CBN to be more effective, you will likely need a much smaller amount than other cannabinoids to reap the benefits. As always, we recommend starting with a low dose (i.e. 3-6mg) and gradually increasing as needed to find an optimal dose. 

For example, our ORCA Relax pill regimen contains a soothing blend of CBN, CBD, and lavender oil. These natural ingredients work harmoniously to alleviate daily stress, helping you unwind for the evening so you can take on tomorrow. 

It's important to note that individual responses to CBN may vary, so experimenting with the amount you consume and timing can help you discover what works best for your specific needs. Additionally, using CBN in combination with other relaxation techniques like meditation, a bedtime routine, or creating a calm sleep environment can further enhance its relaxing effects.

If you are experiencing severe sleep loss, you should always consult with your doctor.


CBN holds promising potential as a natural aid for stress relief, improved sleep, and pain management, especially when paired with other cannabinoids. 

As with any supplement, it's essential to approach CBN use with care, seeking advice from healthcare professionals and gradually finding the correct dose and routine to support a healthy routine. With further exploration into the world of cannabinoids, CBN may emerge as a valuable tool in the pursuit of better sleep and overall well-being.

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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