Cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
However, the criminalization of marijuana in the mid-20th century led to a lack of modern research on the health benefits of the plant and its active ingredients like cannabinoids and terpenes (more about those later).
Thankfully, a new era of reform means there are more studies (and more interest) than ever before.
Further research is needed to confirm early results, but so far, small studies and anecdotal evidence have been promising.
Cannabis has been shown to have a wide range of potential therapeutic uses. A recent article released by Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island highlighted some of the possible benefits of one cannabinoid, CBD, which included:
- Helping lowering blood pressure
- Reducing inflammation
- Aiding in the fight against addiction
- Helping reduce anxiety
- Relieving symptoms of GI disorders
- Assisting in preventing seizures
CBN is another cannabinoid getting a lot of attention. What is CBN? Short for cannabinol, it’s a minor cannabinoid with a big future.
Little is currently known about this compound, but it’s thought it may help promote relaxation and sleep. But before diving into CBN, let’s explore the basics of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabis compounds: the building blocks of the plant
As we mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of different chemical compounds in cannabis. The main active ingredients are called cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoids are mostly responsible for marijuana’s effects. The most well-known and prevalent cannabinoids include THC, CBD, CBG, THC-V, THC-A, CBD-A, CBC, and CBN.
Terpenes are what give cannabis (and all plants) its familiar aroma and flavor, playing a secondary role in the effects. The main cannabis terpenes are myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, pinene, linalool, terpinolene, ocimene, and limonene.
But how do these cannabis compounds work together in the body? It’s all in the ECS.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the entourage effect
Everything that goes into the body has to be processed. Cannabis compounds rely on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to provide the unique effects they have to offer.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system exists within the nervous system of all mammals, not just humans. It’s thought to help promote balance and harmony.
The ECS is made up of thousands of receptors called CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as naturally occurring cannabinoids and enzymes. When you consume cannabis, whether you smoke cannabis flower, dab a cannabis concentrate, or eat a cannabis edible, the cannabinoids within are processed through the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
But it’s not just cannabinoids that travel through the ECS—the other compounds within the plant bind to the receptors too. This leads to a scientific phenomenon called the entourage effect.
The entourage effect vs the ensemble effect
There has been some evidence that cannabis compounds work best when all together thanks to a theory called the entourage effect.
The idea is that each component—cannabinoids, terpenes, and other active ingredients—is crucial to one another.
The compounds act as an entourage to help enhance the abilities of each other, specifically the cannabinoids. Think of it like a recipe: sure you can leave certain things out, but the final product may not be as good.
Breaking it down even further, scientists point to an “ensemble” effect, with specific blends of compounds working in concert together versus as an entourage with a star of the group (aka the cannabinoids). A good analogy is the entourage effect is an orchestra surrounding a conductor while the ensemble effect is the smaller groups of musicians in each section.
The role of cannabinol (CBN) in the ensemble effect
Cannabinoids like CBN are crucial in both the entourage and ensemble effect because they are thought to be enhanced in these processes. CBN and other compounds can be isolated from the plant and may work alright on their own, but it’s the ensemble and entourage effects that take place when other active ingredients are present that allow cannabinoids to have their full benefits. Therefore, to get the most relaxing effect from CBN, it may be best to consume it with other cannabinoids and terpenes.
What we know about CBN for sleep
As the cannabis market matures, there’s more demand for variety. As the number of CBN offerings rises, you may wonder: what is CBN good for?
The majority of products containing this compound are marketed with sleep in mind. Anecdotal reports show that CBN tends to make its consumers more relaxed. But what does the science say?
Peer-reviewed studies on this subject are very limited, but one study from 2021 showed that CBN promoted better quality sleep. Much more research will need to be done before the cannabinoid can be officially touted as a sleep aid, but there is one theory as to why people report feeling more drowsy after taking CBN.
CBN is closely related to the cannabinoid THC, which tends to have sedative properties. CBN is created when THC is exposed to oxygen and heat, often being found in old, dry cannabis buds that have oxidized. A small study of THC and CBN in the 1970s did explore this connection, finding a synergy between the relaxing effects of the two cannabinoids when taken in tandem.
So while CBN and THC are indeed different, with THC having much more of a psychoactive effect, some of their more relaxing effects could be explained through this connection.
CBN edibles gain steam
Cannabis edibles have become one of the most popular product types at dispensaries. Edibles contain concentrated versions of cannabis typically in butter or oil form. Consumers wishing to reap the benefits of cannabis without having to smoke or vape love edibles for their ease of use, precision dosing, and potent effects.
A recent survey from the Sleep Foundation revealed that 70% of young adults report consuming cannabis to help them sleep. This fact, combined with the explosive popularity of edibles, has gotten the attention of the cannabis industry.
Many brands understand there are a variety of reasons why someone would want to consume cannabis, and are beginning to introduce products targeted at specific outcomes.
Relaxation and sleep are big parts of this trend, with operators seeking to create specially-formulated blends of cannabinoids and terpenes with these effects in mind, especially CBN.
CBN edibles have been steadily gaining market share with new SKUs debuting all the time. Many contain CBN oil, much like CBD products, but others contain CBN isolate, which is a crystal-like powder typically manufactured in a laboratory setting.
What about CBN oil for sleep?
CBN oil is one common (and simple) way to consume the cannabinoid. The oil is made by processing raw cannabis flower through an extraction machine, typically using alchohol, CO2, or another solvent. The machine is able to strip the cannabinoids away from the plant, resulting in a thick oil that can be eaten or even dabbed like cannabis concentrates.
The demand for CBN oil for sleep has been steadily rising thanks to an increase in the number of people hoping to gain the cannabinoid’s benefits. CBN oil is appealing to consumers because it tends to have a quick onset and is easy to dose.
CBN tinctures and CBN gummies for sleep: a comparison
Since there are no high-CBN strains of cannabis flower, consumers must look to concentrates, edibles, or oils if they want to incorporate CBN into their wellness regimens. CBN tinctures and CBN gummies for sleep are the most prevalent CBN products but is there a difference?
CBN tinctures, which are typically alcohol-based liquids, are well-liked because they are a more pure version of the cannabis plant. They usually kick in quickly because they travel to the ECS from membranes in the mouth. However, they may not have a great flavor and tend to be more expensive.
CBN gummies for sleep are likely the most popular CBN edible because they’re familiar and come in a variety of tantalizing flavors.
While they may take a bit longer to work since they are processed through the liver, the metered dosing and convenience make them the winner among consumers.
Many people are curious about CBN for sleep, but it may take time before we know for sure if the cannabinoid can lead to restful slumber.
But thanks to the compound’s synergy with other cannabis compounds, CBN will likely be revealed as a key player in the plant’s many potential benefits including rest and relaxation.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.