You've most likely heard about THC and CBD and how both can be used for a number of therapeutic benefits, like stress relief and pain management. But have you heard of CBN? It stands for cannabinol and is a compound that's been getting a lot of buzz lately, especially in the sleep space.
CBN is being used more frequently in sleep-aid products, with claims that it can help calm the mind and body and help you drift off to sleep faster. Now, I don't know about you, but I've been experimenting with different sleep aids, particularly in the past year when the stress of the pandemic was at an all-time high. I've tried melatonin, meditation before bed, breathing exercises, CBD/THC gummies, herbal tinctures… The list goes on. And for a while now, I've been curious about CBN and how effective it can be with getting shut-eye.
So I decided to talk to a couple of experts to get their take on CBN and any general tips for trying out products with the compound. Consider this your guide. Keep in mind that the availability of CBN products will depend on where you live and your own state's cannabis laws. In short, don't break the law if it's not available to you!
What Is CBN?
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Like CBD, CBN is derived from the cannabis plant. Ruvini Wijetilaka, MD, at Parsley Health, the largest holistic medical practice in the U.S., explains that CBD doesn't cause a "high" and is known for reducing inflammation, anxiety, stress, pain, and more. CBN is created through an oxidation process where the manufacturers expose THC to heat and light, which causes it to break down, leaving behind CBN. Michelle Mendoza, the director of buying at Sweet Flower, adds that CBN can be found in larger quantities in aged cannabis.
"Research into CBN is a lot newer, but what we believe so far is that it affects our central nervous system in ways that help the body remain in a state of balance emotionally and physically," Wijetilaka says. "In scientific terms, CBN is known to bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system (ECS) that help to normalize our mood and appetite, combat pain and inflammation, and treat skin conditions."
While CBD doesn't cause a "high," CBN does promote a mild hypnotic feeling, says Jason DeLand, the executive chairman and co-founder of Dosist. "There is open debate on if CBN induces a mild psychoactive effect. Although, it will help usher in a calming effect, especially when paired with other cannabinoids such as CBD," he adds.
In fact, the psychoactive effects are still being studied. Mendoza says in smaller doses of 1 to 15 milligrams, there seems to be very little "high" associated with it, but the jury's still out if it changes in higher doses.
Wijetilaka explains that because CBN is derived from THC, it has similar properties in how it works in the body. THC and CBN both bond to specific receptors in the body (the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors), which are known to have psychoactive effects and create the high associated with cannabis. "However, CBN has a much gentler punch. In the simplest of terms, it's lower-strength than THC," Wijetilaka says. "While some sensitive people may notice some effects if they take too much CBN, getting 'high' is not common. With CBD, because of how it activates in the body (it doesn't bond to CB1 receptors), it's impossible to get a high. And unlike CBN, CBD cannot produce effects of euphoria or other altered senses."
How Does CBN Help With Sleep?
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When paired with THC, CBN can produce a gentle sedative high, which might be helpful if you're having trouble sleeping. "With the growing number of seemingly successful CBN products on the market focusing on the promotion of healthy sleep, the evidence to date indicates that a combination of THC and CBN in a micro-dosed ratio is the key to its maximum potential in aiding in the promotion of healthy sleep," Mendoza explains. "And though the science is still being uncovered on exactly what CBN's full range of medicinal benefits are, what we do understand about cannabis is that it is the entourage effect (the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes within the plant) that unlocks its full potential."
Wijetilaka cites studies by Melanie Bone, a physician focused on cannabis and women's health, which have shown that 2.5 to 5 milligrams of CBN have similar effects to a moderate dose of Valium. The research suggests that CBN can be helpful for people who have a hard time sleeping because of anxiety.
How to Consume CBN
If you're interested in trying CBN, it's best to consult your doctor first, Wijetilaka says. For general recommendations, she says the dosage depends on the brand, but you'll want to start low and slow.
"Most of the current CBN products (e.g., Camino Midnight Blueberry and Wyld Elderberry Gummies, etc.) have between 1 to 5 millgrams of CBN as the recommended starting dosage, with the majority of these products additionally having a ratio of THC as an accompaniment ingredient," Mendoza says. "The 360-degree view of a product's total ingredients really is the thing to take into account because while CBN may not have any immediate psychoactive effects, THC surely does!"
General Dos and Don'ts for CBN
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Before you try any CBN products, here are some more general tips for a better experience:
1. Consult your doctor: We went over this before, but it's so important. "Many studies have shown that cannabinoids may shift how the body metabolizes drugs and therefore could impact the efficacy of your prescription medications if consumed together," Wijetilaka explains. "This is why it's important to consult your doctor first, before trying CBN, to ensure there are no other drug interactions to worry about."
2. Check the ingredients: "Did you know the top three selling gummy brands in California are all made with animal parts? It's cheaper and lasts on the shelf for years. But at Dosist, we believe cannabis-based products should be plant-based and all-natural, not made with gelatin, which comes from pigskin," DeLand says.
3. Look at the certificate of analysis: "Credible brands readily publish each batch's COA (certificate of analysis) on their website and are transparent about where CBN, in this instance, is sourced," DeLand says. "For example, our customers can conveniently find all COAs for Dosist products simply by visiting the Dosist and Dosist Health websites." Mendoza adds that you should also check for pesticides, heavy metals, and microbials to make sure that you're consuming what you think you're consuming.
4. Limit usage of other sleep aids: "In order to understand how effective CBN truly can be in aiding in the desired effect, one should try to limit or cut out the consumption of other aids intended to help achieve the same desired effect, while simultaneously ingesting CBN products," Mendoza says.
5. Avoid certain activities: "Since CBN can cause grogginess or a feeling of sedation, you should avoid heavy lifting or driving while taking CBN," Wijetilaka says. "It's also not a great idea to mix CBN with alcohol or other sedating substances as the combined effects could be strong."
6. Start slowly: Again, you'll want to build up to it. "The other thing to keep in mind is that CBN is rarely sold on its own. Usually, it's sold in a mixture—CBD and CBN, CBN and THC, or other combinations," Wijetilaka says. "These combos work well because they create an 'entourage effect' where you get a stronger effect when the compounds are combined. However, because the combos are more powerful than the individual extracts, it's important to tread lightly and start at a low dose until you know how it will affect you."
7. Get some expert recs: If you're in the Southern California area, Mendoza suggests visiting one of the four Sweet Flower locations and talking to the knowledgeable staff, who can help you find the right product. "And if you are not in Southern California, I would still recommend taking a trip to any licensed retail dispensary in your area to have the same conversation with their staff," she says.
8. Enjoy it: Don't forget about this part! "Make dosing with CBN at night as convenient as possible," DeLand adds. "Whether that's setting your product next to the nightstand or beside the desk monitor in your home office. If it's conveniently placed in a line of sight, it will be easier to dose with before bed."
More Sleep-Aid Products
Moon Juice's Dream Dust is an adaptogenic blend of ashwagandha, jujube, polygala, chamomile, and Schisandra to relieve stress and promote deep sleep. Just add the supplement powder to tea, milk, or hot water.