CBN: Rigorous Research is Needed to Back Up Potentially Inflated Claims

Many people have discovered the health benefits of CBD. From relieving anxiety to taming inflammation, CBD has a growing fan club.  As reports, “It is expected that U.S. consumer sales of cannabidiol (CBD) will reach around 1.8 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, which would represent a significant increase from around half a billion U.S. dollars in 2018.”
Yet, CBD is just one cannabinoid that is available to savvy consumers; Cannabinol (CBN) is now making its presence known. Although CBN is a fairly minor cannabinoid in young cannabis plants, as the plant ages, it creates CBN. As the website, CNBS explains, “Fresh marijuana typically contains very little CBNA or CBN because this cannabinoid begins to appear as the plant material ages. If decarboxylated marijuana isn’t consumed, over time, the THC in it begins to turn into CBN.”


Although the effect properties are significantly different, CBN and THC are structurally very similar.
Scientists have found a way to accelerate this maturation process that leads to more CBN by exposing cannabis plants to ultraviolet light, making it more commercially accessible. And much like CBD, CBN has a purported host of health benefits. Lately, the focus has been on CBN’s ability to promote a restful night’s sleep. This is ramping up its appeal, as insomnia is becoming a silent epidemic. According to The American Journal of Managed Care: “Approximately 30% to 40% of adults in the United States report symptoms of insomnia at some point in a given year,” and  “about 1 in 5 cases of short-term insomnia transitions to chronic insomnia, which can persist for years.”  
Like THC and CBD, CBN works on our endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is composed of cannabinoid receptors and is “a widespread neuromodulatory system that plays important roles in central nervous system (CNS) development, synaptic plasticity, and the response to endogenous and environmental insults,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The ECS plays a crucial regulatory role in a number of significant physiological processes. The journal Frontiers In Molecular Neuroscience states, “a number of emotions and behaviors, such as fear, anxiety, depression, stress-coping, and reward-driven behaviors are critically modulated by the ECS.” 
However, current evidence about the soporific effects of CBN on our ECS is scant.  Steep Hill laboratories states, “Initially, it was reported that CBN was a promising adjunct in the treatment of insomnia, but with the advent of a few small trials, sedative qualities have not been observed. Further study is required.” The Prof of Pot, a website dedicated to the objective analysis of cannabis and marijuana also has a very tempered view about the promise of CBN to improve sleep through a sedative effect, stating: 
“Without any adequate study focused specifically on sedative or sleep effects of CBN, I cannot say for sure whether it has these effects or not. But I find it extremely surprising that these effects were barely noted in any of the clinical studies. More companies are developing CBN products and marketing them as sleep aids and I would like to see evidence to back it up.”
To complicate matters, the prevailing research on CBN is flawed because it typically studies the cannabinoid in conjunction with THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. In failing to isolate these cannabinoids from one another, these experiments violated a fundamental component of research design: ruling out confounding variables. As Meg Hrtlkey writes in Leafly: “In addition to questionable methods, the results point to sedation only when CBN was used in combination with THC—a finding that could be attributed to the phenomenon known as the entourage effect, wherein cannabinoids work synergistically with one another, as well as with other components of cannabis (like terpenes and flavonoids), to create a stronger effect.”
To truly understand what CBN can do, it needs to be uncoupled from other cannabinoids and studied in isolation using large sample sizes and double-blind placebo structures. And while taking CBN is unlikely a health issue, it is quite expensive. ACS Labaroties states, “Currently CBN is an expensive cannabinoid due to the fact that it is still much more rare to find and difficult to extract. CBN isolates (similar to CBG prices) are transacting at around 4 to 10 times the CBD isolate market according to PanXchange.  While the price may vary from supplier to supplier, the average cost appears to be about $30,000 to $50,000 per kilo.” 
As research expands due to the inevitable lessening of federal and state restrictions, more valid and reliable information will undoubtedly emerge about the actual benefits of CBN. Until then users will have to be willing to pay high prices for a product that is rich in anecdotal evidence but lacking rigorous scientific exploration. 

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