If you know anything at all about cannabis, you’re probably well acquainted with the two major cannabinoids, THC and CBD. THC, of course, is what puts the “high” in cannabis; CBD delivers a wealth of medicinal benefits ranging from pain relief to anxiety reduction. But they’re hardly the end of the story. Researchers have identified roughly 150 cannabinoids so far, and it’s quite possible the list will continue to grow.
So let’s take a moment to introduce you to a “hot, new” cannabinoid: CBN. It’s gotten some buzz for its potential as a sleep aid, but it turns out that’s only the tip of the iceberg….
CBN: All-Natural Sleep Aid?
We were actually kidding when we described CBN as “new” a moment ago. The cannabinoid otherwise known as “cannabinol” was first identified way back in 1896. At first, scientists believed it was the chemical compound that got you high, but that changed with the identification of THC in 1964. As it turns out, CBN actually is psychoactive, but only about 25% as much as THC. In a sense, you could think of CBN as THC’s “younger sibling” because it’s created by the breakdown of THC in the presence of oxygen (more on this in a moment).
CBN gets a fair bit of press for its supposed sedative effects. But so far at least, the science is unclear on this front. One rodent-based study found that CBN acted as a sedative, but others have for the most part failed to corroborate these findings.
One small-scale human study from 1976 found that CBN caused sedation in conjunction with THC, though not by itself. And another study suggests that you need much more of it than THC to achieve the same sedative effects as THC by itself. Confusing things even more, still another study indicates that CBN actually inhibits the sedative effects of THC, even though the two are extremely similar in terms of their molecular structure.
All that said, stoner lore points to overaged cannabis as having “sleepy” effects. Is there any truth to this? Remember a moment ago when we pointed out that CBN results from the breakdown of THC? That suggests that it’s the higher CBN content making us sleepy. But of course, anecdotal evidence is much harder to confirm than clinical studies. So for the moment at least, we’ll go on the record saying that there’s no definitive proof that CBN is sedative, though many people have found this to be true in their own experience.
That said, there are other promising signs that CBN has something to offer; here are a few of the better-documented ones.
Bone Support As We Age?
For starters, there’s the question of degenerative conditions like osteoporosis—or loss of bone density—that presents major challenges as we age. One 2009 study found that CBN may help reverse the bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Another study suggests that it, in activating stem cells, may spur the production of new bone.
Especially in an age of overmedication, one of the most worrisome signs for hospital staff is the rise of drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA. That’s why a study showing that CBN is effective against Staphylococcus aureus, one of the most threatening of these new bacteria, is welcome news in the fight against these “super bugs.”
An All-natural Immune Booster?
There’s even indication that CBN might give a lift to the body’s natural disease-fighting network. One study noted that, along with the better-understood cannabinoid CBD, it may help modulate the normal functioning of the immune system. Might we see CBN supplements in the near future? The way things are going in the fast-moving cannabis world, it wouldn’t surprise us a bit!