Most people have undoubtedly heard of CBD at this point. It’s showing up in almost every store, on televisions across the country, and in a variety of daily conversations. The therapeutic properties of this powerful cannabinoid have been studied and applauded by many and CBD has created quite a following for itself based on success story after success story of its medicinal uses. But what about some of the other cannabinoid compounds found within the cannabis plant?

Cannabis produces more than one hundred cannabinoids, many of them found in much smaller quantities than the popular THC or CBD. Because the level of these cannabinoids is so much lower than those of THC and CBD, it’s difficult for researchers to know exactly how many other cannabinoids exist in the cannabis plant but they have been able to gather data on the handful of cannabinoids that are present in more substantial amounts. What they’ve found about one cannabinoid called cannabinol (CBN) in particular is especially promising. 

The Endocannabinoid System

Before getting into the details of CBN, it’s important to understand how CBN and other cannabinoids work within the body. Cannabinoids have a very specific effect on the human system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) functions as a way to stabilize the body and return to homeostasis when trauma or danger are introduced. If some sort of disruption is introduced in the body, the ECS will activate and control the situation to make sure all systems it controls remain at an optimal level. This is a fundamental function of human physiology because all the internal systems need to be in a state of equilibrium to work effectively.  

There are three primary elements that make up the endocannabinoid system:

    • Endocannabinoids: Compounds that are produced by the body, but are very similar to the chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD or CBN.


      • Cannabinoid Receptors: Receptors found on the surface of cells throughout the body. Any endocannabinoids or ingested cannabinoids will bind to these receptors. The action of binding allows them to communicate with different systems in the body, helping the ECS maintain an equilibrium in each of the specific systems.


      • Enzymes: After endocannabinoids attach themselves to the cannabinoid receptors and the ECS has maintained stabilization, enzymes break down the endocannabinoids to prevent overcorrection. Each type of endocannabinoid has a specific enzyme that works at breaking it down effectively.


    The endocannabinoid system maintains equilibrium in the immune, digestive, and nervous systems. Because cannabinoids can so easily interact with the ECS they are able to have an effect on any number of issues that may arise within those systems, making them potentially powerful tools to use when battling certain conditions and diseases.

    What is CBN

    Just like CBD and dozens of other cannabinoids, CBN is a chemical compound that is found within the cannabis plant. This particular compound comes from the process of breaking down the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) molecules. Even though CBD and THC so far seem to be the stars of cannabis, CBN is slowly making its way to the front of the pack as well. 

    Like most of the other cannabinoids, cannabinol is non-intoxicating, but the CBN compound is actually created by the process of THC aging. This means CBN is generally found in higher quantities in older cannabis flowers that contain higher levels of THC. Some users actually seek out older cannabis in order to get the additional benefits of the larger quantities of CBN in the aged plant. 

    Research has found CBN to have the following benefits:

        • Anti-bacterial: Recent studies have shown CBN to be a powerful antibacterial compound. Researchers tested CBN on patients with various strains of MRSA and found it to be a potent treatment for the bacteria. This is especially important as MRSA is a notoriously antibiotic resistant ailment. This opens up the possibility that perhaps in the future CBN will be helpful in treating conditions otherwise untreatable by traditional antibiotics [1].


        • Neuroprotectant: A study on rodents found that CBN could be successfully used as a preventative treatment for ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Using CBN was found to actually delay the onset of the condition. Human studies are still needed, but this does suggest that perhaps CBN can act as a powerful weapon against ALS and many other neurodegenerative diseases [2].


        • Appetite stimulation: Studies performed on rodents noted that giving the subjects CBN increased the amount of food they ate. This could suggest that CBN works as a powerful appetite stimulant much like THC. However, unlike THC, CBN does not contain psychoactive properties that cause intoxication. Potentially meaning that CBN could be used for those seeking an alternative way to to increase appetite without feeling high [3].


        • Glaucoma: Researchers performed a study on rabbits and found that administering CBN reduced intraocular pressure in the test subjects. Intraocular pressure is the biggest risk factor for glaucoma, so being able to control it would mean having some sort of control over the introduction of glaucoma. It should be noted, however, that research is still very new and at this point CBN has not been shown to be more powerful than other medication currently being used to treat glaucoma [4].


        • Anti-inflammatory: Like other cannabinoids, CBN has the potential to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, especially helpful to those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. One study in particular found that CBN was successful in reducing arthritis in rats. Like other cannabinoids and treatments, this needs more studies performed, but so far the results are promising [5].


      Because it occurs naturally in the plant and is easily produced by simply heating THC or exposing it to oxygen, CBN is gaining traction as another cannabinoid with incredible therapeutic properties. 

      CBN vs CBD

      These two compounds may seem similar, but fundamentally they are two totally different molecules with two different origins. Traditionally, CBD comes from hemp plants as they hold the highest concentration of CBD making for the easiest and purest extraction. On the other hand, CBN comes from THC, meaning it can only come from marijuana plants. The amount of CBN present also depends heavily on the amount of heat and light the cannabis flower is exposed to and the age of the plant. CBN is simply a product of oxidation and degradation. 

      However, even though they are different at a molecular level, they do share a lot of the same properties and very similar therapeutic benefits. Neither are psychoactive, giving them both the opportunity to be helpful to individuals without an intoxicating effect. 

      Overall CBD has been found to have many more therapeutic benefits than CBN, however there haven’t been as many studies performed on CBN as have been on CBD so it’s possible that number could change rapidly as scientists spend more time looking into this promising cannabinoid. 


      As mentioned above, CBN is typically found in older marijuana plants. It occurs naturally when the THC-containing flowers are exposed to oxygen, however that is not the most efficient way of obtaining CBN products. You can already find CBN products online and in your local dispensary that are well suited to both newcomers and experienced users. These are typically in the form of tinctures or edibles. As the therapeutic benefits of CBN are further explored, we’re likely to see more and more products hit the shelves with specialized formulations and consumption options. This is truly just the beginning for CBN and its future as a powerful therapeutic cannabinoid is certain to keep moving forward and upwards.