What is Cannabinol? (CBN)

dried marijuana

Last updated on June 23, 2021


Cannabinol or CBN is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that is mildly psychoactive.

In this article, I would like to share with you the knowledge about the science of cannabinoids. Knowing about the different cannabinoids helps us to understand the overall therapeutic potential of the cannabis plant.

Moreover, several research studies on cannabis estimate that it has been in use by mankind for at least 6000 years. But the current pharmacological knowledge that we have access to is limited because progressive studies have been conducted only since the end of the 19 century. Hence, research inferences from these studies are still inconclusive. 

For example, just to enumerate the number of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, one study reports that there are 525 natural compounds out of which 85 have been identified. While another study revealed that there are 400 chemical compounds out of which 60 are identified. 

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Therefore we can assume that there exists a disparity between what is discovered or known and the time it takes to apply the knowledge into practice. The need for identification of the number of cannabinoids and evidence-based results about the various therapeutic properties of the cannabis plant are both increasing. This is the knowledge gap or research problem that needs to be addressed.

Understanding Cannabinol (CBN)

Before jumping into the science of CBN, let me remind you of a small story. 

The story of Tea. Drawing inspiration from Chinese mythology, sometime around 2737 BC, a Chinese emperor ordered his subjects to boil some water for drinking. While the water boiled, a strong wind blew a few leaves into the boiling water and changed its color and taste. The emperor was pleasantly surprised by this new flavor in the water. The rest is history. Little did the emperor know that what he tasted and tested would become one of the most popular and staple beverages of the world, the Tea.

In the same vein, studies claim that CBN was the first cannabinoid to be identified and isolated from cannabis, in 1899. The hypothesis behind the discovery of CBN is that the potential chemical compounds of the harvested cannabis plants got degraded due to lack of transportation and prolonged storage and poor quality control. Consequently, the degradation of THC in cannabis led to the formation of CBN (Cannabinol).

In short, Cannabinol (CBN) is the non-enzymatic oxidation by-product of THC. Formed after prolonged storage at high temperatures.

It is interesting to note that studies use the word ‘artifact’ to describe CBN. This could be because it is not naturally present in the plant but occurs as a result of prolonged storage or an investigative procedure. 

Genetics of CBN 

Yechiel Gaoni and Mechoulam are the two pioneers of cannabis research who discovered the structure of THC. They further isolated and purified the compound to determine the other cannabinoids from cannabis. Their study has reported 545 Cannabinoids, of which 104 are phytocannabinoids. 

According to a study, CBN was the first cannabinoid to be isolated and identified from Cannabis sativa. Based on this, it was speculated that THC could be the psychotropically active constituent of cannabis. Subsequently, the non-psychotropic compound CBD was isolated and determined.

This study also reported on the constituents of cannabis Sativa by grouping the so far known compounds into 13 groups, in which CBN type is known to have 10 different numbers of compounds. 

Dried cannabis buds in Jars
Dried cannabis buds in Jars

Characteristics of Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinol ( CBN), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and Cannabidiol (CBD) are the three primary phytocannabinoids. Based on their chemical structure, all three are highly lipophilic. They combine well with lipids or fats. They do not dissolve or blend with water.

Examples of some lipids could be fats, oils, waxes, phospholipids, and steroids. This lipophilic nature makes CBN as drug-metabolizing enzymes. 

In short, according to a study some of the properties of CBN could be pointed as:  

  • CBN is not metabolized by the plant, but from the exterior oxidation of THC from drying, storing, heating of Cannabis plants.
  • When cannabis is harvested, stored, and left to age, THC degrades, and CBN concentration increases, subsequently THC becomes CBN. 
  • This degradation makes it a weak psychotropic cannabinoid. Its psychoactive effect is low, approximately 8 to 10 times less than THC.
  • The effect of CBN is only measurable after intravenous administration.

Uses of CBN 

However, studying, understanding, and interpreting the complete therapeutic effects of CBN could be more time-taking.

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Published by AnooradhaUnni

Prefix the following words with ‘fierce’: Independent, creative, honest, and hard working. The outcome defines a typical scorpio rising individual. And I exactly fit into this divine scientific design! With close to two decades of successful stint in the Media industry, I felt I was surely missing a piece in my life puzzle. I took a break and set out to seek the purpose of my life. I travelled, lived out of a suitcase, let things flow into life without resisting, and after five challenging years, I found my rhythm. I decoded myself, and my ikigai! Thanks to Nordic Oil, CBD oil (1000 mg) with Curcumin. A perfect mix of ingredients that is made for my kind of personality. I love to write about Cannabis and Health and try my best to simplify esoteric concepts into simple ideas for life.

6 comments on “What is Cannabinol? (CBN)”

  1. Cannabinol make medical cannabis a perfect cure and resort for people who are suffering from insomnia, especially caused by stress and pains in the body. The inflammatory qualities make it a great component in the cannabis plant for people with chronic pains associated with conditions like MS and Arthritis. I hope we all feel good in no time and all of our pains begone soon. 🙂

  2. I love the Chinese story that led to the discovery of Tea, which is one of the most consumed hot beverage of all time. CBD is one of the historic cure used for many of the countries. When I visited 2 Asian countries to gather research material and conduct surveys, I was surprised that many people belonging to the rural areas of those states were aware of the Cannabis plant and they said they have used it for centuries. They never went to the doctor for any accidents or wounds and always used to make a salve out of Cannabis, Curcumin, and other natural home remedies.
    Great Article, Knowledge increased! 🙂

    1. Thank you Nadia for sharing your experiences with rural people. Very true, they embed health in their lifestyle. And thanks again for your generous appreciation. Always happy to read your comments:)

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