What is Cannabinol(CBN)? Is CBN an inactive cannabinoid?


Cannabinoids such as D9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have gained significant interest due to beneficial/therapeutic effects for a series of syndromes, including Dravet syndrome, epilepsy, anxiety, schizophrenia, chronic pain, even for cancer, as well as for recreational purposes, e.g. euphoria.

Other than the two most popular cannabinoids, THC and CBD, Researchers have found more than 200 rare cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Initial research proved these rare cannabinoids to be more potent than THC and CBD. These rare cannabinoids are different from each other in terms of their effects and medicinal benefits. Cannabinol (CBN) is one of the most important rare cannabinoids.

What Is Cannabinol (CBN):

Cannabinol (CBN) is found in cannabis leaves in a very low concentration ranging between 0.1 and 1.6%.  Cannabinol is present as the primary metabolite of THC in the cannabis plant. Oxidative degradation of THC produces cannabinol. The concentration of cannabinol in the cannabis plant increases as the plant ages. Moreover, storage conditions may also affect cannabinol concentration.

More studies have shifted their focus on CBN and other relevant degradation products due to the increasing attention to the cannabis plant and its potential benefits. The production of CBN is not controlled but depends on several parameters, such as plant growing conditions, processing, storage, etc.

Is CBN an inactive cannabinoid?

Cannabinol was considered an inactive cannabinoid during the initial stages of its discovery. Later on, the researchers found cannabinol to have twice a lower affinity for CB1 receptors and three times higher affinity for CB2 receptors than THC. Due to the higher affinity of cannabinol for the CB2 receptor, it affects the immune system more than the CNS.

Which is better? CBD or CBN?

Of all cannabinoids, CBD is the second most abundant compound. Advanced biotechnology has helped manufacturers to breed some strains that contain higher amounts of CBD. In contrast, CBN is a by-product of another plant cannabinoid. However, both CBD and CBN share some similarities. Because both these compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, they have similar uses.

CBD is claimed to help prevent the harmful effects of THC, such as anxiety or paranoia. CBD does not produce euphoria or altered senses. Several effects of CBN are similar to those of THC. CBN binds the CB1 receptor and promotes sedate feelings.

What Are the Benefits of CBN (Cannabinol)?

  • Antibacterial: CBN studies found it to be a potent antibacterial agent.  Researchers found CBN to be a potent antibacterial agent against MRSA bacteria resistant to traditional antibiotics.  Perhaps CBN may be used to fight off antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in the future.
  • Appetite Stimulation: THC is a well-known appetite stimulant but is often avoided due to its intoxicating effects. A recent study in rats suggested CBN as an appetite stimulant as it increased the amount of food that rat subjects ate. However, CBN’s appetite stimulation effect is still to be strengthened by more research.
  • Glaucoma: CBN may also be helpful to treat glaucoma. A study found that both CBN and THC reduce intraocular pressure. This study is a base to treat patients with glaucoma. However, because the research is in the early stages, we can’t predict if cannabinoids such as CBN and THCV could effectively replace traditional glaucoma treatments.
  • Anti-Inflammatory: CBN may help patients with rheumatoid arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory property. CBN was shown to reduce arthritis in one rodent study. We expect CBN to be used one day to fight this debilitating state.


  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32200177/
  • https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1096/fj.201600646r
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202504/

Saba IqbalAuthor posts

Dr. Saba Iqbal is a contributing writer for BioMedican. She's a clinical pharmacist turned writer. Dr. Saba's education includes a doctoral degree in pharmacy (Pharm D) from the University of Sargodha, Pakistan. In search of a career that would take advantage of her medical and pharmaceutical skills, Dr. Saba found medical writing – a career path a few medical students consider. In her journey "from a medical bench to pen," she has worked with several startups for many years managing content on biotech products, pharmaceuticals, drugs, devices, and techniques. While keeping up with the latest trends in medical writing, she aims to use her writing skills to clearly communicate complex scientific, medical, and health information to the potential investor and general audience.

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