It’s 2019 and the world’s all “CBD this” and “THC that.” Which, fair enough. But with over one hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, spare a thought for the little guys; the come-ups, the compounds we’re only just beginning to explore the true medicinal value of.
Meet CBN. A cannabinoid so potentially game-changing, it’s been likened in efficacy to Valium. If you’re one of the 60 million Americans with insomnia, whether because of physical pain or mental stressors, you might want to watch this space. CBN is catching on.
Known for its pain-relieving qualities as much as its sedative effects, a meager few preliminary studies have linked CBN with interesting anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, immunity-related, and appetite-stimulant outcomes too. But we both know you’re reading this because you want to sleep better. Will get to that. For now, let’s break down what we’re actually dealing with here.
CBN is non-psychoactive or else mildly psychoactive—as opposed to CBD, which is straight up non-psychoactive. The reason for this is found in the origin of CBN—oxidized THC.
Think back to that time you smoked the stale old flower you found in the bottom of a drawer, dried up and scratchy as it was. Did it—I don’t know—give you a heavy body high and then put you straight to sleep? Yes, it probably did. That’s because nature’s most sedative natural cannabinoid is formed when THC compounds meet oxygen. Science!
This is also why researchers have only just discovered the potential benefits of CBN; they likely assumed it was a THC by-product and deemed it unworthy of further study. A study by science and technology company Steep Hill Labs was the first to propose that the compound was not only important in the therapeutic regulation of the endocannabinoid system, but it was the most sedative of all.
Indeed, the research company claims that the consumption of 2.5 to 5mg of CBN has the same results as using 5 to 10mg of diazepam (that’s Valium to you).
The study also asserts that CBD and CBN work together to provide an even better sedative synergy. Why? That needs further research, but it’s clear from the study that CBD and CBN aren’t actually that similar. While CBD increases production of endocannabinoids that promote homeostasis (aka a nice balanced bod), CBN has little affinity with our CB1 and CB2 receptors. Meaning, we still don’t know how CBN actually works. (More research please, science! I know you can hear me).
"Nature’s most sedative natural cannabinoid is formed when THC compounds meet oxygen. Science!"
But according to Steep Hill Labs, the synergistic nature of the compound doesn’t end there. “CBN is synergistic with both CBD and THC for inducement of sleeping,” they write in a statement. “When mixed with correct ratios, CBN becomes an effective sleep aid of five to six hours duration.”
The point about CBN and THC being synergistic is also an important one, because in a study conducted in the ‘70s, none of the participants reported feeling sleepy after ingesting CBN. What gives? One working theory is that it’s the combination of both CBN and THC that creates the sedative effect. But old, stale flower is also going to be high in sedative terpenes, so there’s a chance certain terpenes play a key role in the sleep-inducing qualities being credited to CBN too.
So should you take CBD and CBN together? THC and CBN? Or CBN and terpenes? Well, since there’s only been like two studies in relation to this question, my vote is to try it all. Once again, the whole plant is more than the sum of its parts.
Of course, CBN isn’t as prolific as its mainstream bud CBD just yet. Meaning the easiest way to ingest it in its most synergistic and therefore effective form, is to smoke some flower. And much like the work of Taylor Swift, you might find you like the old stuff—at least for the purposes of sleep—is better than the new stuff. Weird suggestion, I know, but next time you stock up at the dispensary, try putting some flower aside for a couple of months.
If that’s not your vibe, remember that CBN’s not listed as a controlled substance; it can and is extracted from hemp, so it’s as legal as CBD. This means you can easily start some light experimentation with a full-spectrum CBD—full spectrum meaning all other cannabinoids and terpenes will be present in trace amounts.