CBN Molecule Over Cannabinoid Tincture

What is CBN: Benefits, Effects, and More

You've heard of THC and CBD, but have you heard of CBN, or cannabinol? Learn all you need to know about CBN benefits, effects, and more of this cannabinoid!

Discovering the world of cannabinoids extends beyond the well-known CBD and THC. While most cannabinoid products are synonymous with CBD oil, there's a diverse array of over 100 cannabinoids within the Cannabis sativa L. plant that often go unnoticed, but are beginning to become more known in the market. Among these supporting cannabinoids is CBN, or cannabinol, a compound that has been in existence as long as CBD and THC but hasn't received the same attention.

As curiosity around CBN grows, knowing more about this compound can help you navigate the cannabinoid market a little better to find the right products for you. What sets CBN apart from its more well-known counterpart, CBD? Where does CBN come from? And what are the effects and benefits of this cannabinoid?

So, if you're asking “What is CBN?” let’s delve into the intricacies of CBN, exploring its identity, its interactions with the body, the distinctions between CBN and CBD, and ways to seamlessly incorporate CBN into your daily routine.

What is CBN?

Despite the popularity of CBD and THC, CBN was actually one of the first cannabinoids to be discovered and researched by scientists. The molecular structures of CBN and THC are almost exactly the same, except for the four hydrogen atoms that THC lost through oxidation, a process that forms CBN. As a much milder form of THC, CBN is actually one of the strongest cannabinoids when it comes to promoting relaxation.

Regardless of its origins, cannabinol does not have the same intoxicating properties as THC and was legalized to be produced, sold, and consumed alongside CBD in the 2018 Farm Bill. With less than a quarter of THC’s potency, CBN is considered only mildly psychoactive and therefore will not produce the same “high” as products which contain more than the federally legalized amount of THC (0.3 percent).

How CBN is Formed

Cannabinol occurs naturally as the Cannabis sativa plant ages, but is only clearly detectable in older hemp plants. The levels of CBN only increase as the plant ages, as CBN is formed by degrading THC. CBN can also be converted from THC after it is extracted from the plant by heating it or exposing it to oxygen. Oxidation is the process with which a product or compound is chemically combined with oxygen. This process works by removing hydrogen atoms from one substance to form a new product. Just like when metal rusts.

THC turns into CBN as time progresses – meaning that the longer cannabis ages, the more CBN content it contains. It’s a strong indication that if hemp material tests are high in CBN, then it is significantly older.

CBN Research

Compared to CBD and THC, there isn’t much research surrounding CBN cannabinoids; however, it’s a compound that modern science had recognized in 1999 when the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was testing the potency loss of cannabis.

According to the UNODC study, the cannabis they tested had dropped its THC content by half of its original potency over four years. And as the THC became oxidized and exhausted, it converted to CBN. The UNODC also discovered that THC degradation happens most during the first two years of improper cannabis storage, which established a link between THC’s conversion into the CBN and cannabis vulnerability.

Woman Relaxing on Couch After Taking CBN Product

How Does CBN Work?

Your endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex network designed specifically to help your body achieve and maintain your overall and wellness. Cannabinoids such as CBN are able to interact with your body because of the endocannabinoid system. But that’s not all the ECS does.

The main purpose of your endocannabinoid system is to help your body maintain homeostasis, or a stable internal condition necessary for your survival. This means stabilizing both your mental and physical responses to internal or external stimuli. In other words, your ECS works to keep your mood level up, stress levels down, and heart rate steady when something around you changes. We also now know that the ECS is not only connected to the brain and nervous system, but your skin, bone, tissue, and multiple other biological structures as well.

CBN works with the endocannabinoid system much like CBD and THC cannabinoids. Like other cannabinoids, CBD and THC in particular, CBN also works through multiple pathways. CBD typically binds to your body’s CB2 receptors while THC, another well known cannabinoid, often binds to your CB1 receptors, thereby more easily influencing your central nervous system. CBN, on the other hand, commonly binds to both your CB1 and CB2 receptors.

You can enhance how cannabinoids interact with the ECS by using the entourage effect that happens when you use more than one cannabinoid at a time, such as combining CBD, CBN, CBC (cannabichromene), CBG (cannabigerol), and THC. These cannabinoids work together to boost the beneficial effects of each other, producing greater benefits than you would receive had you used a single cannabinoid. Full spectrum CBD products contain the most phytocannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and essential oils found inside the Cannabis sativa plant.

The entourage effect results you may see will vary between our broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD formulas. While THC is often used to achieve this effect, you do not need to include THC in order to see the benefits of the entourage effect. The inclusion of a minimal amount of THC only allows the entourage effect to become mildly more powerful.

What are the Benefits of CBN?

Unfortunately, the benefits of CBN aren’t fully understood at this time due to lack of current research. It’s clear that CBN interacts with the ECS to modify the effects of other cannabinoids. But researchers remain uncertain about how it acts on the body on its own. For now, it’s best to regard the benefits of CBN as part of the entourage effect, where a group of phytocannabinoids work synergistically. Currently, you’ll find CBN alongside CBG and other minor cannabinoids in hemp-derived wellness products that feature high concentrations of CBD.

The CBN cannabinoid, AKA cannabinol, is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa that may help promote a sense of deep relaxation. CBN is often referred to as “the sleepy cannabinoid” based on results based on testing in rodents. It’s the main characteristic that sets CBN apart from other cannabinoids. To date, most of the research regarding CBN’s sedative effects has not yet been conducted in human studies.

Specific terpenes may actually cause the effect observed in these tests. Terpenes are responsible for a cannabis plants’ scent, taste, and other typical features. Terpenoids, like monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids found in CBN, derive from terpenes and are oxygen-based. CBN’s relaxing quality links to a more extensive combination of sesquiterpenoids.

When used with melatonin in our award winning CBD PM for sleep formula, this combination of CBN, CBD, and melatonin is designed to help you have a good night’s sleep. Since many health concerns have been linked to a lack of sleep, including hemp extract blends with CBN in your nightly routine can help set you up for a restful night and a healthy future.

Woman Ready for Restful Night After Using CBN

CBN vs. CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?


While CBD and CBN share some similar properties as cannabinoids, they are still two unique cannabis compounds that vary significantly in origin and effects. When comparing CBN vs. CBD:

  • Source and Production: Abundant in hemp plants, CBD thrives in higher concentrations, making it a prevalent component in various hemp-derived products. The levels of CBN are intricately linked to the maturity of cannabis plants. As hemp ages, THC naturally degrades into CBN, contributing to its presence in more mature cannabis specimens.
  • Psychoactivity and Effects: Renowned for its non-intoxicating nature, CBD doesn't induce euphoria or the characteristic "high" associated with cannabis use. While not as potent as THC, CBN possesses a mild psychoactive quality. Its reputation as "the sleepy cannabinoid" stems from its observed sedative effects in certain conditions.
  • Entourage Effect: CBD and CBN are both able to influence the psychoactive effects triggered by THC. They act as modulators, potentially affecting the intoxicating impact of THC.
  • Interaction with Receptors: With a primary affinity for CB2 receptors, CBD's interaction is more focused on peripheral systems, influencing immune responses and peripheral nervous functions. Despite having a lower affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors compared to CBD and THC, CBN's broader interaction spectrum allows it to engage in varied biological pathways, contributing to its multifaceted effects.


Cannabinol possesses some unique qualities that make it different from the other phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. Here are the differences between CBN and THC:

  • Source and Production: CBN is created through the decarboxylation of THC, a process that involves the removal of a carboxyl group through heat or oxygen exposure. This conversion intensifies as cannabis ages, making it an indicator of matured cannabis.
  • Psychoactivity and Effects: At elevated levels, THC can induce a pronounced psychoactive effect, contributing to the characteristic "high" associated with cannabis use. In contrast, while CBN isn't entirely non-psychoactive, its potency is significantly milder, measuring only one-fourth that of THC. This makes CBN less intoxicating than THC.
  • Entourage Effect: Despite CBN being less intoxicating than THC on its own, it establishes a synergistic relationship with THC, and can enhance  THC’s euphoric qualities.
  • Interaction with Receptors: CBN showcases versatility in receptor interaction by attaching to both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. This broad engagement sets it apart from some cannabinoids, including THC. Additionally, CBN shares alternative mechanisms of action with THC, contributing to its diverse effects.

Person Adding CBN Tincture to Tea for Relaxation

Learning More About CBN Products

While CBN products aren't as widespread as CBD, there's a subtle shift occurring. This scarcity is largely attributed to the limited research on CBN and its lack of abundance compared to CBD and THC products. However, this doesn't imply that CBN is entirely elusive. Many hemp-based CBD products include various terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids, including CBN. Although the CBN content might be relatively modest, these products are designed to leverage the entourage effect.

When selecting CBN products, it is crucial to opt for items from trusted brands that offer clarity regarding their ingredients and undergo third-party testing. We recommend choosing products sourced from reputable hemp producers in the United States. Items crafted with US-sourced hemp adhere to stringent federal regulations and rigorous testing standards. Lab reports and Certificates of Analysis (COAs) generally provide a detailed breakdown of the cannabinoids present and their respective quantities. This transparency empowers consumers to make informed choices regarding the quality and consistency of their CBN.

In this article, we addressed the question, “What is CBN?” But did you know there are over 100 cannabinoids found in hemp plants? To learn more about CBN, or how CBN and other cannabinoids could benefit your lifestyle, take a look at our frequently updated blog. Interested in staying up to date on the latest CBN news and cbdMD’s upcoming special offers? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and X, or chat with someone live today!