What is CBN Isolate?

Cannabis is one of the world’s most fascinating plants, not only because of the conflicting opinions it evokes but also because of the large number of compounds it contains. According to Rock and Parker in Constituents of Cannabis Sativa, cannabis contains more than 550 chemical compounds, about 100 of which are phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are the compounds responsible for the effects most people associate cannabis with. But what is CBN Isolate?

Cannabinol (CBN), the first phytocannabinoid to be identified, is a minor phytocannabinoid that, while not as well-known as CBD or THC, is no less important. Wood, Spivey and Easterfield discovered it in 1896, and Robert Sidney Cahn identified its structure in 1932.

cannabinoid isolate

What are cannabinoid isolates, and how do you make CBN isolate?

An isolate, in the cannabis industry, refers to the purest form of a substance that only contains one cannabinoid; ergo, CBD isolate only contains pure CBD and CBN isolate only contains pure CBN.

To make an isolate, in our case CBN isolate, you first need to extract oil from the whole plant biomass. Most companies will use older hemp plants to form their biomass as the THC they contain breaks down into CBN as the plant matures. Carbon dioxide extraction and pressurized liquid extraction are two of the most common methods of oil extraction. Once the oil has been extracted, it needs to undergo winterizing, decarboxylation and distillation.

Distillation separates the cannabinoids formed after decarboxylation, leaving you with pure CBN in either crystalline or powder form. The product has no scent as the terpenes- the compounds responsible for cannabis’ unique scent were removed during the isolation process.

The Relationship Between THC and CBN

THC and CBD share a very special relationship – THC converts into CBN – and here’s how it works.

Cannabinoids do not exist in the form most people are familiar with in the raw cannabis plant; they exist as acidic precursor molecules. This means that if you take a raw cannabis plant, you won’t get CBD or THC; you will instead get the precursor molecules tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), and Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).

Fresh cannabis contains high quantities of THCA, which, when exposed to air or ultraviolet light for a prolonged period of time, converts to Cannabinolic acid (CBNA). CBNA is a delicate, unstable molecule that quickly converts to CBN through decarboxylation.

The relationship between CBN and THC was the subject of a 2008 paper by Karniol et al. In their study, they found that CBN increased the effect of THC on some aspects of physiological and psychological processes.

High CBN Strains

A key factor that makes cannabis such an interesting plant is the large variety of strains and varieties available. While some of the strains occur naturally, breeders develop others to have high quantities of a specific cannabinoid.

Several strains have a high quantity of CBNA, however, this comes with a caveat- high is relative. While some THC-heavy strains can have more than 20% THC, CBN-heavy strains can contain as little as 1% CBN. Another point to note is that strains that have a high quantity of CBN often have a high quantity of THC.

Some high-CBN strains, which would be great for making CBN isolate, include:

Super Green Crack

Leafly describes Super Green Crack as a true sativa that will give you a great energy boost to start the day. It’s made by crossing Green Crack and Super Silver Haze. According to DocMJ, lab data indicates that it contains about 0.79% CBN.

Death Bubba

Matteo Suleyman of Sea to Sky Cannabis developed the Death Bubba strain by crossing Death Star with Bubba Kush. It has a pungent scent that combines grass and skunk. It can contain as much as 27% THC and 1% CBN.

Cadillac Purple

Cadillac Purple is a strain developed by Dark Heart when they interbred Purple Urkle, Blackberry Kush and The Black. This strain contains about 0.3% CBN and is popular with people looking for a calm, soothing feeling.

cbn vs cbd

What are the differences between CBD and CBN?

As CBN is becoming more popular, there’s a natural urge to compare it to CBD to see if it will have as big of an impact on the public consciousness. While there are some similarities between the two, the differences are greater.

Let’s start with the similarities, the key similarities between CBD and CBN are:

  • They are both cannabinoids.
  • They both interact with the body through the endocannabinoid system.
  • You can consume them in generally similar ways such as gummies, oils, tinctures and CBN isolate.

Some of the differences between CBD and CBN include:

  • The quantity and quality of research available
  • Although CBN was discovered in 1896, and CBD in 1940, scientific research has focused more on CBD, therefore we know more about how CBD interacts with the body and with other compounds.
  • While this gap in the quantity of research might not be bridged any time soon, scientists are taking a more active interest in CBN. The National Library of Medicine lists over 150 active, ongoing studies into CBN.

The Chemical Structure

A cannabinoid’s chemical structure is usually responsible for its effects. Without going into too much detail, cannabinoids usually have a similar base structure made up of three rings, an A-ring, B-ring and a C-ring. Various molecules, such as a hydroxyl group, an alkyl chain, and a prenyl group, can attach to any of these rings, giving rise to the unique cannabinoids with their unique effects.

With this in mind, CBD has a hydroxyl group (OH) attached to its A-ring, which researchers believe is critical to how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system. CBN, on the other hand, has a ketone group (C=O) attached to its A-ring.

This difference, while slight, has a great impact on how CBN and CBD interact with the body. It allows CBD to have an indirect effect without having to bind to the main endocannabinoid receptors, while CBN has a more direct effect, weakly binding to receptors in a similar way to THC due to their structural similarities.

Intoxication

Another key difference between CBD and CBN is how they make you feel. CBD does not produce an intoxicating effect while CBN produces a mild intoxicating effect. According to Jason Wallach, CBN is ten times less potent than that of THC.

Quantity available in the plant

CBD and CBN also differ in how prevalent they are in the cannabis plant. As we’ve seen previously, some CBN-heavy strains contain as much as 1% CBN, and while this may be high for CBN, it pales in comparison to CBD-heavy strains. Some CBD-rich strains like Harleyquin and Cannatonic both contain 9% CBD, while Sour Space Candy contains 13% CBD.
CBN and CBD together

In a 2023 paper published in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, researchers investigated CBN’s effectiveness in improving sleep quality. The study had 321 participants who either received (a) placebo, (b) 20 mg CBN, (c) 20 mg CBN + 10 mg CBD, (d) 20 mg CBN + 20 mg CBD, or (e) 20 mg CBN + 100 mg CBD for seven consecutive nights.

They found that although CBN did have a positive impact on the quality of sleep, the combined use of CBD and CBN did not improve CBN’s effect.

What are the benefits of CBN?

While there has been a dearth of research on CBN, the existing studies paint it as a useful cannabinoid with various benefits, including, as we had previously mentioned, potentially improving the quality of sleep.

Other benefits of CBN include

Pain Relief

In a 2019 paper, Hayes Wong and Brian Cairns investigated whether injecting either CBD, CBN, or a mixture would reduce pain in rats caused by injecting a protein called NGF. They found that both CBD, at a dosage of 5mg/ml, and CBN, at a dosage of 1mg/ml, independently reduced pain.

When given as a combination, they were more effective, and the effect lasted longer. However, the researchers noted that a higher ratio of CBD to CBN might inhibit CBN’s effectiveness.

While more research is needed, this study showed the potential of CBN in providing pain relief for chronic muscle pain disorders, including fibromyalgia and temporomandibular disorders.

cbn benefits

Glaucoma treatment

Glaucoma is an ocular disease that affects the optic nerves and is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. It is characterized by an increase in intraocular pressure and the progressive damage of a special type of eye cell known as the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), resulting in irreversible vision loss.

In a recent paper, Somvanshi et al. studied whether CBN could be a viable therapeutic in treating glaucoma by directly protecting retinal ganglion cells and modulating intraocular pressure. Most treatments for glaucoma only provide indirect protection for RGCs, and there is a significant need for therapies that offer direct protection.

Their research indicated that CBN products could fill this void as it offered direct protection to the cells and reduced intraocular pressure.

Treatment of Epidermolysis Bullosa

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, epidermolysis bullosa is a rare disease where the skin easily blisters because it’s really fragile. In some cases it can be really debilitating requiring constant medical care.

InMed Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in the development, manufacturing and commercialization of rare cannabinoids, is currently researching whether their CBN cream could provide relief to people dealing with Epidermolysis Bullosa. In a 2023 press release, they announced that their cream was well-tolerated on both normal, intact skin as well as on open wounds.

InMed’s senior vice president of pre-clinical research and development, Eric Hsu, praised CBN’s potential anti-inflammatory properties that could be “beneficial in healing chronic wounds where healing has been prevented by prolonged inflammation.”