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A Quick Guide to Cannabinoids: CBN

  • by Alfonso Colasuonno

Cannabinol, or CBN, is a common phytocannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is one of the more versatile cannabinoids, possessing mildly psychoactive properties, several therapeutic benefits, and one of the most fascinating histories of any cannabinoid.

But is CBN a cannabinoid that you should explore?

Read on to find out if this cannabinoid might be right for you.

A Quick History of Cannabinol

Cannabinol was isolated from a red oil cannabis extract by Thomas Barlow Wood, W. T. Newton Spivey, and Thomas Hill Easterfield in 1896; CBN was the first phytocannabinoid to be isolated.

In 1932, a further advance in the science behind CBN occurred: Robert Sidney Cahn clarified CBN's molecular structure.

Eight years later, two research groups achieved chemical synthesis of CBN. One was led by Lord Todd of the United Kingdom. The other was led by Roger Adams of the United States.

Interestingly enough, Roger Adams was a descendant of President John Adams. Much like the Founding Father who was his forebear, Roger Adams was not afraid to stir things up. Adams raised the ire of drug czar Harry Anslinger, who was not amused by Adams’ enthusiasm for cannabis.

Since its discovery, CBN was thought to be the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. It wasn’t until the mid 1960s, when Yehiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam discovered that THC provides the bulk of cannabis’ high, that this erroneous belief was dispelled.

After decades of prohibition, CBN is now legal in the United States.

This has come about as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, which clarified that cannabinoids derived from hemp (i.e. cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) are legal. This change now puts the United States in line with the United Nations, which had not classified CBN as a scheduled narcotic in their 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

CBN: A Closer Look Print by Goldleaf

The Science and Medicinal Benefits of CBN

CBN is found in higher quantities in cannabis that has been aged or improperly stored. The reason why is because when cannabis is exposed to air or ultraviolet light for an extended period of time, then THCA converts to CBNA, or cannabinolic acid. CBN is then formed from the decarboxylation of CBNA.

Most cannabis cultivars contain less than 1% CBN initially (i.e. before it’s exposed to light, oxygen, or has been aged).

Evidence suggests that CBN is effective medicinally as an:

When CBN and THC are used together, they produce an entourage effect that leads to a stronger high and better sleep.

Unlike several other cannabinoids, there are no known side effects of cannabinol. Even so, if you have a medical condition, please consult with your doctor before trying CBN.


If you’d like to track how a health-related ailment of yours responds to CBN, other cannabinoids, or cannabis cultivars and products, consider picking up Goldleaf’s acclaimed Patient Journal or view the infographic print.

Tagged with: Cannabis Education Wellness

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