There’s a lot of talk about different cannabinoids, and the growing unregulated cannabinoids market. One of the cannabinoids of interest is CBN, for its possible ability to help with sleep. Unlike many cannabinoids which require synthetization, CBN can be made pretty easily, and not as a synthetic. Read on for tips on how to make your very own CBN.
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What is CBN
Before getting into how to make CBN, we need to know more about what it is. The cannabis plant is made up of many components including flavonoids, terpenes, chlorophyll, lipids, cannabinoids, and other compounds. In fact, the main association with cannabis, is the cannabinoid delta-9 THC, sometimes erroneously called ‘THC’. This term actually stands for ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’, which can involve more cannabinoids than just delta-9, but somehow that slang term has prevailed, even showing up in medical literature. However, what we are actually speaking of, is delta-9 THC.
Cannabis plants can be split into two general types of plants, though both categories fit under the umbrella of ‘cannabis’. One, which we refer to as ‘hemp’ has lower amounts of delta-9 (which actually shows in a live plant as the acid THCA), and higher amounts of CBD (which shows in a live plant as the acid CBDA). On the other hand, ‘marijuana’ is now the term used for plants higher in THCA than CBDA.
Both THCA and CBDA are ‘phytocannabinoids’ because they appear in the plant. And both convert in the presence of light and heat to their respective cannabinoid counterparts THC (delta-9) and CBD. But this is not the end of the story. Once converted to delta-9 and CBD, these new cannabinoids can eventually degrade further into what we call ‘degradants’. These degradants can be entirely new cannabinoids. And this is where CBN comes in. CBN is the main degradant of delta-9, for which the vast majority of delta-9 will become. This makes CBN a rather prevalent cannabinoid in comparison to others like delta-8 or THCV, which only ever show in miniscule amounts. The chemical formula for CBN is C21H26O2, and it’s considered only minorly intoxicating.
While it’s hard to say exactly what CBN is capable of, there is a growing belief that it could be related to properties like the ability to help with sleep and anxiety. This thought came around because of the noticed effect of older cannabis (which is more degraded than a new flower), making people more relaxed and tired. Plenty of research is currently being done into the possible existence of these properties. Apart from a sleep aid, CBN has many other similar benefits to delta-9 THC and other cannabinoids.
The history of CBN
Weirdly enough, CBN was the first cannabinoid of the cannabis plant to be discovered. This was not the goal at all, though, as the goal was to find the intoxicating element of the plant, for which CBN was confused. This research to establish the intoxicating element was already underway in the late 1800’s, being led by different scientists, namely Thomas Easterfield. And it was his discovery that led to the finding of other cannabinoids like CBD and THC.
To find this intoxicating element, cannabis was distilled into what was referred to as a ‘red oil’, and this was the first form to be studied in modern times. This red oil was discovered by Dr. Thomas Easterfield, who was a member of the Cambridge Group, and a lecturer at Cambridge University. When he first wrote about this ‘red oil’, he gave it the name ‘cannabinol’. These days we know that term to specifically mean the compound CBN, but at the time, it was related to the red oil distilled from the plant, as well as what was thought to be the intoxicating factor.
It was thought at that time that cannabinol was a narcotic substance, which was later clarified to be untrue. Easterfield was the first to isolate cannabinol, which, he stated in his late 1800’s writing, as being the intoxicating factor. Perhaps Easterfield would have gotten further, but a couple incidences got in the way of research.
One involved the accidental death of two collaborators in a lab accident. The other is a strange story of the voluntary ingestion of a large dose of CBN by another guy, leading to this guy getting extremely high and somehow catching on fire. Don’t worry, it was extinguished and he was fine, but research stopped upon media reports exaggerating the circumstances for smear campaigns against cannabis (started that early!) Research was halted for decades.
Things didn’t really pick up again until the 1930’s when Dr. Robert S. Cahn began studying CBN again. Cahn started calling the red oil ‘crude cannabinol’, and started using the term ‘cannabinol’ for the actual cannabinoid compound. Through his research he was able to validate that CBN was not the intoxicating factor. Cahn did map the structure of CBN, but many questions were still left unanswered until future scientists finally discovered CBD and THC. Separately, Easterfield and Cahn made the initial discoveries into CBN.
How to make CBN
When it comes to how to make CBN, the important thing to remember is that it’s a degradant of delta-9 THC, and that means you can make CBN from regular marijuana. Though it can be made from a hemp plant, since a hemp plant has considerably less THCA, it would require synthetization, rather than being made naturally. The best way to make CBN, therefore, is by using high-THC marijuana plants.
So how do you make CBN? It’s actually quite easy. Just add the things that naturally convert THC to CBN, light and/or heat. Both of these options essentially speed up time, allowing for a quicker degradation process that allows for CBN to be made. When made industrially, CBN is often created using solvents and metallic catalysts. However, if you do it yourself, not only do you know you’re getting the right product, but you can actually make a cleaner product. This can go for many cannabis products, where DIY methods can often net a better result when done correctly.
Heating: If you want to use the heating method (and you probably do as its more defined), you need to go through the regular process of decarboxylation that turns THCA into delta-9. However, in this case, you need to go a little further, to degrade the delta-9 in order to make CBN. Regular decarboxylation to convert THCA to delta-9 is usually done for no more than 20-40 minutes at a temperature of 230-250°F. These temperatures are low enough that the further conversion to CBN and degradation of other plant compounds, isn’t a problem. In this case, though, you would decarb at higher than 302º F, for a total of 15 minutes, although some publications say that 300º F for one hour also works. And that’s it. After this, you can go on to use the bud to make oil, butter, or whatever other product you know how to make, or can find instructions for.
UV light: The other option to age the plant in order to make CBN from delta-9, is with UV light. Unfortunately, less has been published about the specifics for this method, apart from the fact that a very intense light would need to be used. How intense, and for how long, is harder to say. Perhaps in the future, as CBN becomes more popular, this topic will get further flushed out.
There is, however, plenty of information about how light effects the cannabis plant, and much can be gleaned from this explanation:
“In cannabis, Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) naturally degrades to cannabinol (CBN) over time. Light exposure supplies energy and speeds up this process. The ratio of THC to CBN in a stored sample of cannabis can actually be used to indicate age and quality of storage.
Lindholst (2010) examined tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) in cannabis extracts. Samples exposed to daylight degraded at a half-life of 35 days, while those kept in darkness degraded at a half-life of 91 days (an approximate 250% difference).”
While this is not specific, it does indicate that if you leave your weed out in bright sunlight, or put it under a UV light, that the process of converting delta-9 to CBN is much faster. I didn’t see an exact consensus on how to do this online, but several message boards contained different instructions by different people, and interested parties should check through to find more specific information if this is a desirable method to try. Personally, I suggest using the heat method.
How this differs from other minor cannabinoids
The cannabinoids market of today offers tons of options of both naturally occurring and synthetic cannabinoids. What’s the catch? Even the naturally occurring ones (besides THC and CBD) don’t occur in high enough amounts for extraction without synthetization. Meaning if you’re buying a product, even if it’s something like delta-8, which most definitely is naturally occurring (as likely another minor degradant of delta-9), your product will have gone through processing. This likely means the involvement of harsh chemicals or processes that may not be safe, and which aren’t currently being regulated.
Beyond that, the lack of regulation means its hard to know you’re getting the product you’re paying for, and that it’s not a fake, or filled with adulterants. For this reason, this has become a questionable market in terms of safety and product quality. And this goes for any cannabinoid product that fits the category of requiring synthetization. It also goes for many other cannabis products, but minor cannabinoids in particular we already know cannot be easily and directly extracted for use.
The difference with CBN is that it can be made to appear in large enough amounts, by simple methods that don’t involve synthetic processing. However, for the other reasons mentioned, this doesn’t mean that because you’re buying a CBN product, that it will be real. And that brings us to the other difference with CBN and other minor cannabinoids. Much like delta-9 itself, it can be made DIY style, giving users the ability to make a clean product, and to know for sure what that product is.
CBN likely has plenty of medical benefits, and one seems to be the ability to help with sleep and anxiety, though this is not formally stated. Research has been inconclusive, and is ongoing, but message boards are already filled with people talking up these qualities. Perhaps in the future we’ll know more. Let’s remember one thing. The government never likes when people can make their own products, or buy them outside of regulation, since it means less money in taxes for the government.
The push to say CBN isn’t effective for sleep could be more related to trying to save it for the pharmaceutical market, or simply to keep people from buying it, than trying to help people find a safe method to promote sleep. This is supposition, but something to consider in the whole ongoing cannabis debate, and with the rapid growth of the government backed pharma market.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.