What is CBN?

What is CBN? The history and biochemistry of Cannabinol

Cannabinol (CBN) is the oxidized, non-enzyme-based product of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is found in large quantities in long-term dried cannabis material. The acid form of CBN is also found in large quantities in the cannabis plant, but upon decarboxylation (heat), the acid is converted into CBN.

CBN was named in 1896, by Wood and his colleagues in Cambridge, but the correct structure was not defined until 1940 by Adams. Since only seven cannabinol-like lineages were noted in 2005, the list has been updated with four new phyto-cannabinoids, all of which share CBN's aromatized ring.

The concentration of CBN in cannabis products is defined by the product's age and storage conditions. It is a relatively minor component of fresh Cannabis because it is a product of THC oxidation. It is a weak CB1 and CB2 particle agonist, with only about 10% of THC's activity. It has potentially therapeutic properties against diseases where the cannabinoid receptors are upregulated. Unlike other cannabinoids, CBN is not derived from cannabigerol (CBG), suggesting an alternative biosynthetic creation. When CBN was discovered, it was thought to be an inactive cannabis component, but subsequently it was found that the molecule has many therapeutic properties, primarily due to its activity with the cannabinoid receptors (CBs). CBN has a lower affinity to CB1 (Ki 211.2 nM) and CB2 (Ki 126.4 nM) and was declared inactive after tests on humans, but combined with THC, it was found to have a strong anesthetic effect.

Cannabinol receptor activity

As mentioned above, cannabinol (CBN), like tetrehydrocannabinol (THC), works with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but with the strongest affinity for CB2 receptors. While CBN has shown agonistic activity towards CB1 receptors, there are conflicting reports about its activity over CB2 receptors.

Cannabinol has shown both direct and indirect agonistic properties, which are determined according to how high the concentration has been in the test. These discrepancies are not necessarily due only to the concentration of the cannabinol in the studies, but very likely also to the conformational stage of the receptors in the tissue. Cannabinol also affects biological targets outside the endocannabinoid system. It is a potent agonist over TRPA1 ion channels, effectively blocks TRPM8 ion channels, desensitizes TRPA1 ion channels to activation by the agonist allyl isothiocyanate.

The biological activity of Cannabinol

As mentioned above, cannabinol (CBN), like tetrehydrocannabinol (THC), works with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but with the strongest affinity for CB2 receptors. While CBN has shown agonistic activity against the CB1 receptors, there are conflicting reports of its activity over the CB2 receptors.

Like other phytocannabinoids, cannabinol (CBN) is proving to have relevant therapeutic properties against a large number of pharmaceutical targets. Like cannabigerol, CBN undertakes keratinocyte life extension, independent of the influence of cannabinoid receptors. CBN also shows anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory and potent effects against Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Furthermore, CBN is also a TRPV2 (high-threshold thermosensor) agonist, which offers the possibility of treating burns. Furthermore, CBN can stimulate the recruitment of resting mesenchymal stem cells in the bone marrow, which leads to growth in the bones and therefore increases the defense against chest force, although only at a very high concentration.

Therapeutic properties of Cannabinol

Due to the biological activities we mentioned above, cannabinol (CBN) has proven to be useful treatments over a wide range of ailments.

Appetite stimulant

Due to the biological activities mentioned above, cannabinol (CBN) has been shown to be useful as a form of treatment for a wide range of ailments.


Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infections have become a very serious challenge for researchers around the world who are trying to find solutions to the bacteria that are antibiotic resistant. CBN, along with cannabigerol and cannabidiol, has been shown to be effective against antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections, which suggests that it may be a form of treatment against the life-threatening infections.

Potential medication for ALS patients

In 2005, one showed examination of CBN inhibited the symptoms in mice that were genetically engineered to have the rodent version of Lou Gehrig syndrome. Lou Gehrig syndrome is a disease better known as Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). These findings suggest that CBN may be effective in relieving the symptoms in patients with degenerative motor neurological diseases.

Pain reliever

According to a study published in 2002, CBN has strong pain-relieving effects. Interestingly, CBN and THC are the only cannabinoids that combat pain by releasing endorphins and therefore causing blood vessels to relax, suggesting a link between them and CB receptor activity.


A 2003 study found that CBN stops allergy-related asthma in mice, possibly due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. The hypothesis of the study is that cannabinoids achieve this, by boosting the rodent's immune system, thereby easing the inflammation associated with the asthma attack.


CBN has a centrally controlled effect like tetrahydrocannabinol, although much less potent. However, studies suggest that CBN may be the most narcotic of all cannabinoids, suggesting that CBN is a promising treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders.

Potential medication for glaucoma

Together with tetrahydrocannabinol, CBN is a successful remedy for reducing ocular pressure leading to blindness in glaucoma patients. Perhaps by de-stressing the peripheral circulating system, one can reduce the heart rate of patients.

Synergy with natural terpenoids

Cannabinol activity has been shown to be enhanced by the concomitant administration of natural terpenoids. For example, the antibacterial activity of cannabinol is enhanced by Pinene (a terpenoid found in pine resin), while the anesthetic effects are enhanced by terpenoids such as Nerolidol and Myrcene. Nerolidol is found not only in the cannabis plant, but also in many other plants such as lemon balm, ginger, tetra, lavender or jasmine flowers. The myrtles are found naturally in cannabis, caraway, hops, thyme, parsley and foliage. Furthermore, CBN's anti-cancer activity is enhanced by the limonene, a terpenoid typically found in lemons.

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