CBN in the UK

by Laura Howarth May 01, 2023

CBN in the UK

There has been an explosion of interest in CBD in recent years, both in the scientific community and in the health and wellness space. The bulk of the scientific studies into cannabinoids has focused on CBD and THC, so not much is known about some of the more obscure cannabinoids, including cannabinol, or CBN.

While we might have learnt a lot about how CBD interacts with the body, this is only one of many cannabinoids worthy of further exploration. CBN is a very interesting cannabinoid since it isn’t found in abundance in freshly harvested plants. 

Instead, CBN is created when THC degrades over time. Aged cannabis products are thought to be very high in CBN. But while CBN might be structurally similar to THC, there are some distinct differences.

Fast facts

  • Cannabinol (CBN) was the first cannabinoid to be isolated
  • It is close in structure to THC
  • CBN has some psychotropic properties but is only around 25% as potent as THC
  • There have been very few scientific studies into CBN
  • It is not legally available as a standalone product in the UK
  • It is thought to help improve sleep, reduce pain and offer neuroprotective properties

Differences between CBD and CBN

CBD vs. CBN molecules

CBN was the first cannabinoid to be isolated from cannabis in 1940. While the names are similar, CBN (cannabinol) is more closely related to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It isn’t found in abundance in freshly harvested plants. Instead, CBN is formed when THC breaks down, either by drying, storing or heating it.

CBN is mildly psychoactive, but it only has around 25% of the potency of THC. As it has intoxicating properties, it is not legal in the UK.

CBD products that are widely available throughout the UK will typically have around 0.0025% CBN, among other cannabinoids. You can view the certificate of analysis for any product to see the cannabinoid breakdown contained within.

Whereas CBN products are rare, the cannabinoid can be found in trace amounts in many CBD oils. It is thought to contribute to the entourage effect. Cannabis users may be curious to know that CBN is thought to modulate the action of THC both by prolonging the duration of the “high” and limiting the side effects.

What are the benefits of CBN?

Holding hemp leaf

There have been very few studies on the use of CBN, so it’s difficult to say with confidence what it can do and how it would be best to use it. Anecdotally, we know that some people turn to CBN-rich products to help with sleep.

The few studies that have been conducted on CBN and its benefits could offer some clues as to why users find it helps them to sleep. The other theorised benefits of CBN are that it offers some pain relief, is anti-inflammatory and may offer neuroprotective benefits.

Reducing the barriers to sleep, including pain and inflammation, could help individuals to create the right conditions for a restful night.

A 2009 study in mice found that CBN could delay the onset of symptoms of ALS in mice. And in a 2019 study in rats found CBN could help decrease muscle sensitisation. This research suggested that CBN might be effective for the treatment of pain conditions, including problems with the temporo-mandibular joint and fibromyalgia.

More research is needed to understand the benefits of CBN, the correct serving size, and the safety profile.

Are there risks associated with taking CBN?

At present, there are no known health risks associated with CBN, but this is not because we know it to be safe. There simply hasn’t been enough research to know if it is safe.

Users could potentially fail a drug test after using CBN, simply because CBN is so structurally similar to THC and is created from degraded THC. Since CBN is mildly intoxicating, there is also the chance that it could be added to drug testing in the future, so it’s important to be aware of changing regulations.

There could also be a safety risk if you were to use it before driving, for example. As mentioned above, there is still a lot we don’t know about the safety profile of CBN, so it is difficult for anyone to say with confidence that it is or isn’t safe.

Is CBN legal?

UK flags
CBN is not legal in the UK but it can be present in trace amounts in CBD products. CBN is one of 12 controlled cannabinoids listed in the UK Home Office guidelines. It can be present in CBD products with a limit of up to 1 mg per product. 

As we learn more about cannabinoids and their effect on the human body, these guidelines could be subject to change. Travelling with CBN is also a grey area, as different territories have different rules about which cannabinoids are permitted and which are banned.

Since CBN is a by-product of THC breaking down, it will likely remain a controlled substance for the foreseeable future. 

CBN isn’t widely available, but there are a small number of companies that advertise the CBN content of their products. There is still a lot we don’t know about CBN and how it interacts with the body. We don’t yet know if it is well-tolerated at high doses or over long periods. Buyers ought to be cautious.

Key takeaway

CBN is an exciting cannabinoid that is sure to garner plenty of attention from the scientific community over the coming years. As we learn more about this THC by-product, it could help to shed more light on the entourage effect and how we can harness the maximum benefit of cannabinoids.

If you were looking specifically for a CBN-based product but would now prefer a CBD product drop us a message or give us a call and we’ll be happy to advise. Or choose a CBD oil formulated from Indica strains of hemp, which are anecdotally thought to offer a more calming effect.

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Laura Howarth
Laura Howarth


Laura Howarth is a specialist CBD author based in Manchester, UK. She is passionate about sharing her love for CBD through educational articles and in-depth guides.

1 Response

Kevin Cunningham
Kevin Cunningham

September 04, 2023

I have used cbd oil for pain relief
I would like to try cbd+cbn as the relief from cbd is not as effective as it was

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