With all the new research and interest in CBD and THC, you’d think we understand cannabis top to bottom. In reality, we barely know anything about this unique plant genus. 

But CBD and THC are just two of 113 known cannabinoids, yet we barely give the other 111 a second look. Case in point, let’s look at what is CBN. What are the benefits of CBN? What does CBN do? How does CBD and CBN differ from each other? And more. 

CBN may only be a minor cannabinoid, but it still plays a significant role. If we’re going to understand cannabis, we need to look at the whole picture. 

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid created by the breakdown of THCA in the Cannabis sativa L. plant. According to some research – CBN could offer life-changing medical benefits. 

We don’t have a vast library of information on CBN, even though its discovery predates CBD and THC by several decades. 

CBN first popped up in scientific literature in 1896, making it the first cannabinoid discovered. This was long before CBD (1940) and THC (1964). It’s surprising how little we know, given CBN predates both world wars. But that doesn’t mean we’re totally in the dark.

To understand CBN, it’s vital to discuss THC – specifically its idle pre-decarbed state, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). As THCA gets exposed to light and air, it oxidizes and transforms into cannabinolic acid (CBNA).  

Over time, UV rays slowly decarboxylate the CBNA, leaving behind CBN. This is why older cannabis has higher levels of CBN compared to fresher plants. 

CBN and Terpenes

Like all cannabinoids, CBN performs better with other plant compounds called terpenes. These oily substances are responsible for the aroma and medical benefits of a specific plant. 

When combined with other terpenes and cannabinoids – like CBN – it takes advantage of a synergistic relationship called the “entourage effect.” All the compounds within a plant complement and improve each other’s effects.

How Does CBN Work?

Based on current research, CBN has a low affinity for the CB1 receptors. These are in the central nervous system, so anything that binds to the CB1 group will cause intoxication (i.e., THC). 

However, CBN appears to bind well with the CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, mainly located in the peripheral systems. 

The weak affinity for CB1 has researchers stumped, with some studies showing CBN triggers mild psychotropic effects and others saying the opposite. 

The CB2 endocannabinoid receptors tie to various functions, like pain, immune function, inflammation, and digestion. CBN’s binding behavior with the CB2 group explains its many potential benefits – some of which are under debate.

What Does CBN Feel Like and What are its Effects?

CBN oil is available from a few vendors, but it’s far from popular. However, if you do get your hands on some CBN extract products, keep a close record of any health progress. A great product to try is this CBD and CBN oil by Colorado Botanicals.

Without human testimony, it’s hard to determine what CBN feels like. But based on what we see in animals, you could expect some or all of the following:

  • Relaxation
  • Increased appetite
  • Mild intoxication (debated)

There’s also a lot of information about how CBN is sedating and helps as a sleep aid. But that might not be the case, as we’ll cover shortly. 

What are the Benefits of CBN?

Although we have a lot to learn, there’s some promising preliminary work about CBN’s many medicinal benefits. 

Pain Relief

Like CBD and THC, CBN may have analgesic benefits. One 2019 study in Archives of Oral Biology injected live rats with CBD and CBN. The researchers found both cannabinoids displayed pain-relieving effects.

Most importantly, the authors wrote that a combination of CBD and CBN produced the best effects. 

They admit even combined CBD and CBN aren’t as effective as THC at reducing pain.


Glaucoma was one of the first conditions to put medical cannabis on the map. We know THC helps with glaucoma symptoms, but so might CBN.

A 2007 study by Kogan and Mechoulam examined THC, CBD, and CBN’s effects against intraocular pressure (IOP) in rabbits with ocular hypertension (OHT). Both THC and CBN helped reduce IOP, while CBD was ineffective.

Ocular hypertension occurs when eye pressure exceeds healthy levels and, according to the study, is a key risk factor for glaucoma.  Kogan and Mechoulan point out that perhaps THC and CBN don’t treat glaucoma but rather OHT.

Whether these cannabinoids treat the disease or just the symptom remains unclear. But based on what researchers saw, CBN could be as helpful as THC for those with glaucoma.

Appetite Support

CBN may not cause much – if any – intoxication, but it takes a page out of THC’s book regarding appetite. 

As we know, THC often leads to a case of the munchies. Some early research suggests CBN does the same, at least according to 2012 research published in Psychopharmacology.

The experimenters noticed increased food intake in rats receiving CBN. Interestingly, researchers noted the mechanism of action occurred through the CB1 receptors. 

Even though CBN doesn’t work well with the CB1 group, it appears (at least in this case) enough to notably improve appetite. If the results in rats translate equally to humans, CBN could be an effective alternative to THC for eating problems. 


Inflammation is a broad symptom that can affect many areas, including the digestive, immune, and musculoskeletal systems. CBD made big headlines in recent years over its potential anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Judging by a 2016 study published in Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, CBN may have copied CBD in this regard.

Researchers used rats to test the anti-inflammatory effects of several endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. They discovered CBN reduced arthritis inflammation in the rodent subjects.

More research is needed, but it’s possible CBN could work well against inflammation, especially when combined with CBD. 

Promotes Brain Health

Just because CBN is – at best – mildly intoxicating doesn’t mean it has no impact on the brain. Many cannabinoids, like CBD, show promising neuroprotective benefits that could help prevent or slow down diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or M.S. 

In a 2005 study published in the National Library of Medicine, experimenters tested CBN’s effects on rats with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They discovered that ALS progression dropped in subjects given CBN.

With time, CBN may become a valuable tool in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases. 


It’s not hard to find plenty of articles saying CBN could be an effective sleep aid. This isn’t a huge stretch, given CBN’s minor interaction with the CB1 receptors. 

Ironically, the most famous alleged benefit may be the only one least supported by science. There hasn’t been any recent research beyond a single 1975 human study from Pharmacology

Experimenters gave five male volunteers a placebo, CBN, THC, and a combination of both, with one week between each. The subjects reported no sedative effects with placebo or CBN alone.

Naturally, all subjects said they felt “drugged, drunk, dizzy, and drowsy” after using THC. But let’s not abandon that just yet. While CBN alone might not help, it looks handy for sleep when combined with THC. 

But interestingly, a combination of THC and CBN created the strongest intoxication. 

This explains why older cannabis tends to be more sedating, understandably leading to the belief that CBN is a sleep aid. 

However, the study’s small sample size isn’t nearly enough to prove anything. At best, it’s another argument for more research.

What is the Difference between CBN and CBD?

CBD and CBN share some things in common, but their differences are fundamental. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in all cannabis chemovars. In the U.S., you can legally purchase it as an industrial hemp supplement or in legal state dispensaries. 

CBD’s ability to control severe epilepsy is well-established. But evidence also continues to mount about CBD’s potential to help with things like nausea, pain, inflammation, and even acne.

How Does CBN Differ from CBD?

Based on what we know so far, CBD and CBN overlap a lot regarding potential medical benefits. But they’re far from identical.

The most glaring difference is that CBD gets directly produced by its host plant, while CBN only appears after a long oxidation process. 

Another way the two cannabinoids differ is in their interaction with THC. CBD is known to shorten and reduce the effects of THC. CBN, on the other hand, appears to increase THC potency. 

Finally, CBD doesn’t bind to either cannabinoid receptor, while CBN binds with both to some degree. 

Does CBD Get You High?

No, CBD won’t get you high. It doesn’t bind to the CB1 endocannabinoid receptor like THC or CBN, so CBD can’t cause any kind of intoxication.

Is CBN Legal?

Yes, CBN is legal. It’s not a controlled substance, but CBN could be labeled as an analog of THC. If this happens, it would technically fall into the “illegal” category. 

Select vendors may offer CBN oil, but considering how little we know, it’s best not to purchase these products unless we can establish reliable quality control practices. 

What are the Potential Side Effects of CBN?

The potential side effects of CBN aren’t clear. They likely exist, but we’ve studied so little that we just don’t have anything on record. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find extensive independent reviews attesting to CBN’s benefits. 

This is entirely an educated guess, but if we base this question on CBD’s side effects, then it’s likely CBN might share a few in common. Some hypothetical examples could be:

  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Appetite changes

Without more research and attention, we’ll never know if CBN has side effects.

How Can I Use CBN?

You can use CBN in oil or another extract form, if available. At the moment, CBN oil seems to be the only option, but it’s hard to find from a reputable seller. Capsules and other extracts might come later if CBN takes off like CBD. 

One problem is that CBN only forms as cannabis ages. Consequently, some people worry that the plant might be “expired.” Cannabis expiration dates are still a mystery, but the association with old weed does raise a few eyebrows – even if it might not be warranted. 

If you want a fantastic natural source of CBN, get it through THC-free broad-spectrum CBD oils. Colorado Botanicals carries an unbeatable line of cannabinoid-rich tinctures, with plenty of CBD, CBN, and other critical compounds. 

Colorado Botanicals stands out because their proprietary extraction process naturally retains way more cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Don’t take a gamble with some rare and untested CBN extracts. You can get it along with a complete list of other cannabinoids – often for much cheaper.   

What is CBN Oil?

CBN oil is a cannabis extract rich in cannabinol – a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. The CBN is extracted and then suspended in a carrier, like MCT, coconut, or olive oil.