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CBN – What is it?

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Among the palette of the many phytosubstances found in cannabis, there are about 100 different cannabinoids – more and less common. Cannabinol, despite being the first to be discovered, is one of those lesser known and also less researched compounds compared to CBD or THC. What exactly is CBN and in what ways is it related to Tetrahydrocannabinol – we will try to explain it in this article. 

What is CBN?

The compounds called cannabinoids have diverse properties, and one might say that each one works in its own individual way. This is primarily due to their chemical makeup – which is why, among other things, there is so much diversity among hemp strains, each with a unique cannabinoid and terpene profile. In the case of CBN, we are dealing with a compound that is found in large quantities in strains with high content of THC. However, there is a condition that must be met in order to increase its amount in dried hemp. As it turned out, cannabinol is a non-enzymatic by-product of Tetrahydrocannabinol oxidation. Its highest concentration is found in hemp raw material stored for a long time after cutting the plant – then under natural conditions THC is converted to CBN by oxidation. There is no specific variety that is naturally rich in this compound. Studies show that cannabinol has a much weaker effect compared to THC, reaching about ¼ of its potency. CBN was the first cannabinoid to be discovered and isolated, which took place in the late 19th century, while its synthetic counterpart was created in the 1930s. 

CBNA in fresh dried hemp

Fresh dried hemp usually has a small amount of this compound. It is then present in an acidic (inactive) form, i.e. CBNA (cannabinolic acid), which changes into CBN, i.e. the active form, during the process of cannabinoid activation, or decarboxylation. It has also been discovered that small amounts of acidic forms of THC (THCA) under prolonged exposure to sunlight or UV rays convert to CBNA, which can then be activated by the decarboxylation process mentioned above. 

CBN and the endocannabinoid system – how do they work together?

Like other cannabinoids, cannabinol also affects our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of receptors scattered throughout the body whose job it is to keep all systems in balance, in other words ensure their homeostasis. CBN, like THC, binds to both CB1 receptors (located, among others, in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus) and CB2 receptors, which can be found mainly in the cells of the immune system or spleen, but it shows greater affinity to the second type of receptors. Although the effect of cannabinol within the ECS is much weaker compared to THC, the compound has the ability to inhibit the activity of many enzymes, including cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, and many cytochrome enzymes, and can also stimulate the activity of phospholipases. As a cannabinoid that directly affects cannabinoid receptors (as opposed to CBD, which affects them indirectly), it is considered to be an excellent complement for this compound – enhancing the so-called synergistic effect of substances contained in hemp. Although we don’t yet know everything about how this compound works, new scientific findings will certainly be published within the next few years, as ongoing research is very promising.

CBN – is it psychoactive or not?

Since CBN is mainly formed in cannabis as a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (i.e. cannabinol derived from it), this implies a presumption that it has consciousness-altering properties. The psychoactive effects of THC are scientifically proven to alter perception – the functioning of the senses and the perception of reality, which has become somewhat emblematic of marijuana consumption. In scientific research into the effects of CBN carried out over the past 10 years, it has been speculated that it may have psychotropic effects – because it is derived from a compound with such effects, only much weaker. In fact, it turned out that the isolated substance does not have such properties, and the presence of CBN alongside THC to some extent modulates the effects of this compound, including in terms of altering consciousness. As for now, cannabinol is considered a substance that is not psychoactive, which is why it is legally available in many countries, including Poland.

CBN – legal status

Currently, cannabinol is not on either the “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs” or the “Convention on Psychotropic Substances”, the official registries of consciousness-altering substances. As a result, products containing this compound are available in many European countries as well as in the USA, Australia and Canada. Due to its origin (it is an analogue of THC), it is important to consider the local regulations in your country, as they may differ, also across Europe. In Poland, only hemp products manufactured based on fibrous hemp are allowed for sale, including CBN oils or isolates.

See also: 

CBG – Everything You Need to Know

CBD and depression. Anxiety and cannabinoid supplementation

Stay young longer – CBD and its anti-aging qualities

 

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