Cannabinol, also known as CBN, is one of the many chemical compounds in cannabis and hemp plants. Not to be confused with cannabidiol (CBD) oil or cannabigerol (CBG) oil, CBN oil is quickly gaining attention for its potential health benefits.

Like CBD and CBG oil, CBN oil doesn’t cause the typical “high” associated with cannabis.

While CBN has been studied far less than CBD, early research shows some promise.

Many people confuse CBN and CBD — it’s hard to keep track of all those similar acronyms. That said, there are a few key differences between CBN and CBD.

The first difference is that we know way more about CBD. While research on the benefits of CBD is still in its infancy, it has been studied far more than CBN.

You might also notice that CBN oil is harder to find than CBD oil. Because the latter is more well-known and well-studied, there are plenty of companies that produce CBD. CBN is less accessible (at least for now).

Companies that sell CBN oil often market it as a sleep aid, and indeed, there is some anecdotal evidence that CBN could be a sedative.

Many people use CBN to help them sleep, but there’s very little scientific research to suggest it can really help.

There’s only one (pretty old) study that suggests CBN is a sedative. Published in 1975, this study only looked at 5 subjects and only tested CBN in conjunction with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. THC may be responsible for the sedative effects.

One reason why people may have made the connection between CBN and sleep is because CBN is more prominent in old cannabis flower.

After being exposed to air for long periods of time, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) turns into CBN. Anecdotal evidence suggests that aged cannabis tends to make people sleepy, which could explain why some people associated CBN with more sedating effects.

However, we don’t know for sure if CBN is the cause, so if you find that an aged bag of long-forgotten cannabis makes you sleepy, it could be because of other factors.

In short, very little is known about CBN and how it might impact sleep.

Again, it’s worth noting that CBN hasn’t been well-researched. While some studies on CBN are certainly very promising, none of them definitively prove that CBN has health benefits — or what those health benefits might be.

With that in mind, here’s what the limited amount of available research says:

  • CBN might be able to relieve pain. A 2019 study found that CBN relieved pain in rats. It concluded that CBN might be able to soothe pain in people with conditions like fibromyalgia.
  • It might be able to stimulate the appetite. Stimulating appetite is important in people who may have lost their appetite due to conditions like cancer or HIV. One rodent study showed that CBN made rats eat more food for a longer period of time.
  • It could be neuroprotective. One study, dating back to 2005, found that CBN delayed the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in rats.
  • It might have antibacterial properties. A study conducted in 2008 looked at how CBN affects the MRSA bacteria, which causes staph infections. The study found that CBN could kill off these bacteria, which is usually resistant to many types of antibiotics.
  • It could reduce inflammation. Many cannabinoids have been linked to anti-inflammatory properties, including CBN. A rodent study from 2016 found that CBN reduced the inflammation associated with arthritis in rats.

Further research might be able to verify the benefits of CBN. Research in humans is especially needed.

CBD is known to interact with certain medications, especially medications that come with a “grapefruit warning.” However, we don’t know whether this applies to CBN.

Still, it’s best to err on the side of caution and talk to your healthcare provider before trying CBN oil if you take any of the following:

  • antibiotics and antimicrobials
  • anticancer medications
  • antihistamines
  • antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)
  • blood pressure medications
  • blood thinners
  • cholesterol medications
  • corticosteroids
  • erectile dysfunction medications
  • gastrointestinal (GI) medications, such as to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or nausea
  • heart rhythm medications
  • immunosuppressants
  • mood medications, such as to treat anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders
  • pain medications
  • prostate medications

There are no known side effects of CBN, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. CBN simply hasn’t been studied enough to know.

Pregnant and breastfeeding people as well as children should avoid CBN until we know that it’s safe for them to use.

Regardless of your health status, it’s always a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider before trying any supplement, including CBN oil.

CBN oil is often mixed with CBD oil in a single product. It usually comes in a glass bottle with a small dropper attached to the inside of the lid.

As with CBD products, CBN products aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means that any person or company could hypothetically produce CBD or CBN — they wouldn’t need specific permission to do so, and they wouldn’t need their products to be tested before selling them.

This is why it’s so important to read the label.

Opt for CBN products that are tested by a third-party lab. This lab report, or certificate of analysis, should be readily available to you. The test should confirm the cannabinoid make-up of the product. It might also include a test for heavy metals, mold, and pesticides.

Always choose products made by reputable companies, and don’t hesitate to contact companies for more information about their process or to request their certificate of analysis.

While CBN is becoming increasingly popular, there’s very little research around its exact benefits, including its potential use as a sleep aid.

If you want to give it a try, make sure to do your research and buy from reputable companies.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.