Since its much-heralded arrival into the international mainstream, the cannabis plant’s two most abundant cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have become household names around the world. Concurrent studies and reports by medical researchers have introduced very real possibilities of their integration into modern medicine, as well as their viability as an alternative to conventional drug treatments.
Now medical science is exploring beneficial aspects of lesser-known cannabinoids, particularly cannabinol (CBN) and CBN isolate, for its own medicinal and therapeutic potential.
What is CBN (Cannabinol)?
Cannabinol is mildly psychoactive and is a unique cannabinoid in that it grows in concentration with the aging of cannabis. This is due to the fact that as cannabis is exposed to oxygen and heat, its THC directly degrades into CBN. For this reason, CBN was thought to be little more than a waste byproduct until recent international studies proved otherwise.
While CBN is present in extremely limited quantities across most commercially-grown strains, cannabis that’s been kept or aged awhile consistently shows higher levels of CBN. For this reason, hobbyists and researchers alike use older cannabis to explore the effects of this elusive minor cannabinoid.
What is Cannabinol (CBN) Isolate?
The most commonly available form of CBN extract currently on the market is CBN isolate. Isolate is produced via a variety of processes, including the refinement of extracts created by solvent or CO2 extraction.
The isolation process strips out all secondary cannabis components from CBN — such as other cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenoids and inactive compounds — to produce a flavorless and odorless final product with a CBN concentration of over 99 percent.
How it’s Made: A Closer Look at CBN Extraction
There are two preferred methods of extraction across the cannabis industry when creating CBN isolate, solvent extraction and CO2 extraction.
The first involves the use of solvents, such as ethanol, applied directly onto cannabis or hemp plant matter to separate out their cannabinoids. While solvent extraction is cost-effective it does have one downside, namely the co-extraction of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is green in color, bitter to taste and wholly undesirable in the production of CBN isolate, making it a priority for removal via additional refinement processes.
CO2 extraction is heavily preferred by most mid- to high-end product manufacturers, and with good reason. Using industrial-grade closed loop systems, CO2 is cooled and pressurized into what is known as a “supercritical” state. Supercritical CO2, in its simultaneously liquid and gaseous state, is then passed through cannabis or hemp plant matter (much like a solvent) to extract cannabinoids and terpenes without co-extracting chlorophyll.
While CO2 extraction is significantly more costly than other extraction methods, it is the current industry gold standard in the manufacture of cannabinoid isolates.
CBN isolate that abides industry production standards yields exactly 1mg of CBN per milligram of isolate. This makes it highly suitable for infusion into a variety of products including medicines, balms, creams and even beauty supplies. With its lack of taste or aroma and extremely high concentration, CBN isolate is quite versatile in its range of possible applications.
While lower quality isolates will net anywhere between 0.5-0.7mg of CBN per milligram, industry-compliant isolate products are incredibly easy to use or infuse in specific doses due to their 1:1 ratio of concentration. These products typically sport a compliance certification label somewhere on their packaging, and are understandably sought out over others.
CBN Isolate for Sleep
CBN is already being hyped as a so-called “sleepy cannabinoid” with sedative effects, but the truth is there isn’t enough evidence to support that categorization as of this writing.
The primary supporting arguments among speculators are that THC breaks down into CBN with prolonged exposure to oxygen and heat (i.e. aging), along with the fact that cannabis loses psychoactivity while gaining sedative potency as it gets older. Because of this inverse relation in levels of THC and CBN, some cannabis enthusiasts and growers deduce that CBN must be the sedative component in the equation. However, the limited scientific research that exists on CBN doesn’t bear out this assertion.
A 1975 study by Karniol, Shirakawa et al reported no discernible sedative effects in isolated CBN.
Using human subjects, the study tested the effects of CBN, THC, and a combination of the two in three separate experimental phases. While CBN produced no effects on its own and THC caused some drowsiness, there was a marked increase in the sedative effect produced when both were used in combination.
The researchers concluded that while CBN itself has limited sedative potential, its use in combination with THC and specific sedating terpenes would be worth additional study and experimentation.
Other Medical Effects of CBN Isolate
CBN’s efficacy as a sleeping aid will require further experimentation, and existing research on the cannabinoid is quite limited overall. However, it is being explored for a number of specific health-positive properties in currently ongoing clinical trials.
Here are some of CBN’s most notable potential benefits, in no particular order:
- A 2008 laboratory study by Appendino et al found CBN to be an effective antibacterial agent, particularly against antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA bacteria. As more evidence is produced of its antibacterial properties, CBN may be incorporated into the of future antibiotic treatments.
- A series of rodent studies have also shown CBN to have significant neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and appetite-stimulating. A 2016 study by Zurier and Burstein, for instance, found that CBN not only reduced symptoms but even improved the condition of mice suffering from arthritis.
Another study by Weydt et al showed success in the use of CBN as treatment for mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), reducing symptoms of the disorder and delaying its onset. These findings have triggered speculation as to the possibility of CBN being used to complement various forms of treatment for neurodegenerative disease.
Finally, a 2012 study by Farrimond et al showed a marked appetite increase in rats that had been administered doses of CBN. While THC already serves as a potent appetite stimulant, CBN could prove to be an effective alternative with further testing.
Uses for CBN Isolate
CBN isolate is currently being used for infusion into a broadening range of products, including topicals, tinctures and concentrates.
Health supplements commonly infused with CBN include diffuser oils, full-spectrum CBD and organic tea products.
CBN can even be found in oil cartridges for personal vaporizers and pod systems.
DIYers can also buy CBN isolate and incorporate specific doses into homemade pastries, jams or even vape e-liquids.
Wholesale CBN Isolate
While CBN is a minor cannabinoid that’s been long overlooked for much more popular cannabis compounds like THC, CBD and terpenes, medical researchers show a steadily growing interest in CBN’s potential benefits.
We feel the same way here at True-Blue, which is why we are investigating the possibilities of supplying CBN isolate and other CBN products in the near future.
As solid data is established in scientific literature via human studies and clinical trials, it’s likely more minor cannabinoids like CBN will eventually receive the recognition they deserve for their role in the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant.