Cannabinol (CBN) is just one of many lesser known cannabinoids found in cannabis that has attracted attention in recent years. It is a mildly psychoactive chemical compound that interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors of our endocannabinoid system, though it seems to have a higher affinity for CB2 receptors.
It's often said that CBN is a product of degraded tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but this simple explanation isn't quite right as the process is a bit more complicated. Tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THCA) is what converts to THC when heated or exposed to UV light, a process called decarboxylation.
However, when THCA is exposed to open air for long periods of time, it oxidizes as it loses hydrogen molecules and transforms into the acidic cannabinoid CBNA. We can see a physical change in the trichomes during this stage, as the resinous glands turn from clear and opaque to amber in color.
This is why properly storing your cannabis in air-tight containers is so critical, as you don't want the properties of the resin covering your flowers to change over time. The exposure of CBNA to heat or UV light is how we finally end up with CBN.
Even though it may seem counteractive to the desires of cannabis consumers to let precious THC degrade, we know CBN to have therapeutic properties of its own. CBN is perhaps the most sedative of the known cannabinoids and is often sought out to treat insomnia and relax body tension. It's quite potent, as most patients need only between 2.5 and 5mg of CBN to feel the effects for several hours.
Cannabis consumers also use CBN medicinally for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibacterial properties, making it a popular addition to topical salves and lotions. In 2008 a team of researchers from the Università del Piemonte Orientale in Italy found that CBN and four other cannabinoids “showed potent activity against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains of current clinical relevance.”
Though research into CBN is in its infancy, there are studies that suggest it can help with even more ailments, ranging from treating psoriasis and burned skin to osteoporosis. These findings only strengthen the argument to support further research into cannabis and all of its chemical compounds.