CBN: The Sleepy Cannabinoid in Old Weed


Have you ever wondered why really old weed makes you sleepy? I know from personal experience, my dad is always asking me for my old buds because he says nothing works better to knock him out cold. My dad’s unique preference made me wonder, what is it about old weed that does the trick for insomniacs?

Let’s just say what I found is that old weed is not bad weed! It’s just misunderstood. 😉

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 something else … that’s right, they 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 have learned that CBN is a fascinating compound with extraordinary medicinal qualities similar to our beloved CBD.

So far, the discovered benefits of CBN include:

  • Anti-Insomnia
  • Pain Relief
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Anti-Convulsive
  • Appetite Stimulant
  • Bone Cell Growth Stimulant

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 barely present in popular cannabis strains and look at it now!

Currently, most cannabis contains less than 1% CBN, but a little does go a long way. The great thing about CBN is that it 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 for a potent sleep medicine.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 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.

Medical Jane breaks down the biological process of how CBN is created, “cannabinol (CBN) stems from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) in cannabis. The [cannabis] plant naturally produces enzymes that convert CBGA to one of 3 major cannabinoids: cannabichromene carboxylic acid (CBCA), cannabidiol carboxylic acid (CBDA), and 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.

So we now know the CBN in our buds is responsible for making us sleepy, but CBN has some other incredible qualities as well. 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 treat burns and psoriasis when applied topically.

CBN, when combined with THC, has shown promise in treating asthma as well. On a study conducted with mice in 2005, after 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.

Similar to THC, research has shown that CBN has similar benefits to patients suffering from glaucoma, except CBN doesn’t carry the same psychoactive 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.

While a great amount of cannabis and cancer research remains untapped, there is huge promise from international studies. One study in mice shows the effectiveness of cannabis in treating specific types of tumors. When Delta-9 THC and Delta-8 THC were combined with CBN, they were found to attack and prevent the growth of a specific cancerous lung tumor by the name Lewis Carcinoma. CBN has also shown to halt cancer cell growth in a variety of other cancerous tumors.

Where Can You Find CBN?

As mentioned earlier in this article, it is 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 gold mine for CBN. And while not the most immediate, you can always purchase high-THC cannabis and let it sit around for awhile 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 right on the vine.

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 than can be purchased on Amazon without breaking the bank. 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. Mary’s Medicinals in Colorado, California, and Washington have CBN-specific capsules and topical patches available.

Learn more about the diverse spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes in the articles below:

THCV: Learn About the Cannabinoid Helping Veterans with PTSD

New Study: CBG Cannabinoid Works As Appetite Stimulant

The Powerful Cannabinoid Fighting Prostate and Breast Cancer

Pots’ Stinky Terpenes Give a Heads Up on High

About Author

Allie is a NW-based content curator for and an organic farmer at TKO Reserve. She has been a professional in the marijuana industry since she was 18 years old, spending the first five years of her career working for Dope Magazine as lead photographer. Allie has worked on mainstream projects such as Idiot's Guide: Growing Marijuana, Branding Bud: The Consumerization of Cannabis and her own self-published book, As The Grass Grows.


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