The cannabis flower is a sensitive herb; proper drying, curing, and storing play a huge role in the quality of the final buds. If improperly dried, cured, or stored, the chemical composition of the flower will change over time.
When THC is exposed to air, wind, or light over a period of time, those precious and potent cannabinoids slowly begin to change into CBN.
CBN (cannabinol) is quite a mysterious cannabinoid, much like all cannabis cannabinoids that haven't been researched adequately in the United States due to federal prohibition. But thanks to international cannabis researchers as well as some pioneering U.S. scientists, we are beginning to see that CBN is a fascinating compound with extraordinary medicinal qualities similar to CBD.
CBN is difficult to find in high doses as it is often viewed as “degradation.” Let's just say growers aren't searching for those high-CBN strains, but 10 years ago CBD was very rare to find in popular cannabis strains.
The potential properties of CBN include:
- Pain Relief
- Appetite Stimulant
- Bone Cell Growth Stimulant
Currently, most cannabis contains less than 1 percent CBN, but a little does go a long way. CBN develops over time, like a fine wine getting better with age. If you can't find high-CBN cannabis at your local dispensary, simply throw some weed into a pop-top or bag (non-airtight container) and come back to it in a couple weeks or months.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted a study in 1999 to test the potency loss of cannabis over time. The study showed that after four years, the THC content in the flower dropped to half of its original potency. This study also showed that as the THC dissipated and oxidized, it was actually converting to CBN; the sample of cannabis started at 0% of CBN and after four years significantly increased. The UNODC also found that THC levels degraded fastest during the first two years of improper storage. The study concluded, “A relationship between the concentration ratio of CBN to THC and the storage time was developed and could serve as a guide in determining the approximate age of a given marijuana sample stored at room temperature.”
What are the Medicinal Benefits of CBN?
A Steep Hill Labs analysis has shown that only 5 mg of CBN can be just as effective as a 10 mg dose of diazepam, a popular pharmaceutical sedative from the “benzo” family that is used to treat anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, muscle spasms, and seizures.
The life cycle of CBN goes a little something like this: cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is converted by enzymes in cannabis into one of three other cannabinoids -- cannabichromene carboxylic acid (CBCA), cannabidiol carboxylic acid (CBDA), or tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (THCA).
Once that initial conversion occurs, there is a plethora of THCA filling the cannabis flower. As that THCA is exposed to oxygen over time, it loses hydrogen molecules which converts it into CBNA. Just like any other acidic cannabinoids, CBNA converts to CBN when exposed to heat or light.
A 2008 study conducted in Italy tested the antibacterial properties of cannabis which showed CBN has the ability to actively fight methicillin-resistant staph infections (MRSA) when applied topically as a lotion or salve. On top of fighting bacterial infections, CBN can also aid burns and psoriasis when applied topically.
In a study conducted with mice in 2005, after being given a blend of CBN and THC, there was a significant improvement in lung function, a reduction in immunoglobulin E (IgE), and a decline in the overproduction of mucus in the lungs. The findings, which could have implications for asthmatics, were published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.
Similar to THC, research has shown that CBN has similar benefits to patients suffering from glaucoma, except CBN doesn't carry the same intoxicating effects as THC. Both cannabinoids have the ability to reduce intraocular pressure inside the eye, working as an anti-inflammatory and relieving pain from the intense pressure.
Where Can You Find CBN?
It can be difficult to find flower that is high in CBN for sale at your local dispensary. However, if you have an old stash you have forgotten about laying around the house — that's a goldmine for CBN. And while not the most immediate, you can always purchase high-THC cannabis and let it sit around for a while until a significant portion of that THC converts to CBN.
While very low in CBN percentage, there are some strains naturally higher in CBN content that you can look out for: Strawberry Haze, Jorge's Diamonds, A-Dub, Amsterdam Flame, Death Star, Cataract Kush, Kosher Kush, Pineapple Chunk, Purple Sour Diesel, Red Dragon, and Shark Shock.
If you're lucky enough to cultivate your own medicine, a quick trick for high-CBN is to harvest about 7-10 days after the harvest sweet spot — essentially over-ripening the flower.
Also, making your own sleep meds via CBN capsules is easy and inexpensive; all you have to do is low simmer some old weed into coconut oil until fully infused (about 5-7 hours), then place into a capsule maker. Some users have noted, if taking capsules, the sedative effects of CBN are stronger when taken with food.
While CBN products are still a rarity, more and more companies are isolating this precious cannabinoid and developing products to provide it to the masses. And if you find an old nug lying around and it's somehow not covered with lint, go ahead and roll it up -- it might contain more CBN.