Cannabis products are becoming increasingly popular as both state and federal laws continue to allow more people legal access to their use. One of the historically less widely recognized cannabis compounds, CBN, has begun to gain more traction with the general public over the last few years.
What is CBN?
CBN vs Other Cannabis Compounds
While THC and CBD are both naturally found in high concentrations in cannabis plants, there are many other compounds found in lower percentages in these plants. In fact, more than 100 different cannabinoids have been identified. One such compound is cannabinol, or CBN. While small levels of CBN occur in cannabis plants naturally, CBN is also produced by breaking down the THC molecules. This is done through exposing THC to heat and light and allowing it to age.
CBD is found in naturally high concentrations in hemp plants while it is present in much lower concentrations in marijuana plants. Conversely, THC is found much more abundantly in marijuana plants. Because CBN is a derivative of THC, it comes primarily from marijuana plants as well
CBN is technically a mild psychoactive, although it generally does not produce a feeling of being high. Additionally, it can create some of the same metabolites in the body as THC.
Health Benefits of CBN
The most widely accepted health benefit of CBN is its use as a sleep aid. However, CBN has not been as widely researched as other cannabinoids.
Most of the research and data available for CBN has been taken from animal studies. Despite this, researchers have found promising results for several other medicinal uses of CBN.
As CBN continues to grow in popularity, more data will likely become available, as is the case with CBD and THC.
CBN for Sleep
CBN is most widely marketed and used as a sleep aid due to its sedative effects. In fact, it is considered by many to be the best sleep-inducer of all cannabinoids.
Researchers have concluded that 5 mg of CBN is as effective in aiding sleep as 10 mg of Valium but produces approximately 10% of the psychoactive effect of Valium. 
Because of this, CBN may be a suitable sleep aid for people who do not tolerate traditional drugs commonly prescribed for sleep disorders.
CBN for Sleep Problems Related to Anxiety
Researchers have studied the calming effects of CBN on sleep and anxiety linked to sleep problems. Scott Shannon, MD from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado conducted a 2019 study in which participants who reported their primary concern was either anxiety or poor sleep were given CBN supplements in doses ranging from 25mg to 175 mg daily and their symptoms were measured over several months.
Dr. Shannon’s team found that 79.2% of participants improved in anxiety levels within the first month and the result was maintained throughout the study. Additionally, 66.7% of participants benefited from improved sleep within the first month, and while these results fluctuated over time, the overall percentage remained largely the same. The researchers concluded that CBN may be an effective treatment for anxiety-related disorders and sleep problems caused by anxiety. 
Madison Wright from the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto published a 2020 study which examined the effects of CBN on anxiety linked behaviors. They found that CBN produces effects in both human and animal models which are anxiolytic, antistress, anti-compulsive, and panicolytic. Her study concluded that CBN is an effective treatment for behaviors and symptoms linked to anxiety, including poor sleep. Her team also concluded that CBN is safe, well-tolerated, has few adverse effects, and demonstrates no potential for substance abuse .
Are There Any Side Effects?
There are no known reported side effects for CBN. It should be noted however that CBN products and functions have not been as widely researched and documented as those of other cannabinoid compounds. It is therefore possible that CBN produces some of the same mild side effects as other cannabinoids. The side effects of CBD, for example, are listed as mild diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in appetite.
Some anecdotal reports from CBN users list the side effects as drowsiness and mild loss of appetite. Because CBN is most-widely marketed as a sleep aid, the effect of drowsiness is more likely an intended effect rather than a side effect.
Is CBN Legal?
Like other cannabinoid products which contain less than 0.3% THC, CBN products have been federally legal since the passing of the 2018 Federal Hemp Farm Bill.
However, individual states may have their own restrictions and laws. Please check your state law for your specific regulations.
Cannabis products have exploded in popularity as states and the federal government have begun to legalize more products for recreational and medicinal use.
Although CBN has not yet reached the popularity of other products, researchers have produced several interesting studies which demonstrate the health benefits of CBN, especially for use as a sleep aid.
As CBN continues to grow in popularity and use, more people are discovering its potential benefits and lack of significant side effects.
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- From Cannabis sativa to Cannabidiol: Promising Therapeutic Candidate for the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases (nih.gov)
- Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study – PubMed (nih.gov)
- What is CBN (Cannabinol)? – CNBS
- Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Use of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety: A Short Synthesis of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Evidence – PubMed (nih.gov)