Is CBN the new Melatonin?

Stephen Andrews
15 Nov 2021

Minor cannabinoids such as CBN, which is short for Cannabinol, have often been eclipsed by their more famous counterparts CBD and THC. The advance of cannabis extraction technologies has however enabled the proliferation of substances such as CBN. Billed to improve sleep quality, CBN acts as a powerful relaxant and is at the same time a formidable anti-inflammatory that helps against pain and inflammation. CBN only has mild psychoactive effects; therefore, the high this cannabinoid generates does not match that of THC's.

According to some data, sales of edible products infused with CBN have surpassed a figure of over $65 million in California, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon over the last year. It's a burgeoning new market. Kiva's Camino Midnight 5:1 gummies which contain CBN and THC in a ratio of 5:1 has been one of the best-performing products in California for most of 2021. The gummies contain a calming combo of CBN, relaxing terpenes, chamomile, and lavender extracts to promote regular sleep cycles and more sound sleep. THC is added in the gummies formula to augment CBN's sedative effects. 

That the CBN industry segment is growing indicates the fact that new brands and types of products are entering the market on a weekly basis. Just earlier this November, Charlotte's Web introduced its first-ever Calm Spray and Sleep Spray. It's the company's first product developed around CBN and CBG; the second stands for Cannabigerol, another minor compound, which is the precursor of compounds like CBN and CBD. A company announcement said CBN and CBG were combined with botanicals such as Valerian and Skullcap to help support a good night's sleep. 

The discovery of CBN goes back to the early days of cannabis research. According to the British Journal of Pharmacology, CBN is the first cannabis compound to have been isolated from a cannabis extract in the late 19th-century. Then, by the 1930s, the first to have its structure determined and in 1940, to have scientists attain its chemical synthesis.

However, research on CBN has stalled as fresh cannabis contains very little CBN. The effort demanded to manufacture consistent organic CBN hasn't been practical at all, up until recently. Marijuana or hemp plants need to be exposed to air or sunlight for a prolonged period of time for THCA to degrade and morph into CBNA. Decarboxylation of CBNA is what gives CBN as the end result.

More market projections suggest that CBN products are expected to hit sales of $2.4 billion by 2025. That is a significant chunk of the U.S. sleep-aid market, valued at around $31 billion in 2020. CBN properties are very similar to products like melatonin. A sleeping hormone, melatonin, is classified as a dietary supplement by the FDA. Hopes are that CBN is soon added in the same category. 

CBN can be manufactured from both marijuana and hemp. Marijuana is the better choice of the two since it contains more THC. However, hemp-derived CBN remains, for now, the preferred option among cannabis operators who want to ship CBN products across all 50 states. Extraction from THC-rich marijuana plants is allowed only in states that regulate a legal recreational market. If CBN becomes enlisted as a dietary supplement, the FDA should no longer exercise control over it. 

The prospect of improved legal status of CBN, as well as attractive market growth projections, should not be the sole reasons which give cannabis companies a stimulus to invest in technologies that speed up CBN production anyways. Companies need to recognize this momentum as a historic opportunity to boost the quality of sleep medicines overall on the market.

A lot of the available over-the-counter sleep medicines contain antihistamines, the same compound which helps treat allergies. Tolerance to the sedative effects of antihistamines builds up quickly in the body, and in the long run, most sleep medicines are less likely to induce a better sleep cycle. Moreover, some sleep prescriptions can cause feeling unwell and groggy in the morning. 

CBN products that prove they do not have the same weaknesses as other traditional sleep medicines will quickly pick the attention of millions of people who look forward to better sleep hygiene. For this, more scientific research is also needed to obtain a comprehensive snapshot of CBN's short and long-term effects on the human brain and body. 

In the meantime, consumer awareness of CBN's positive physiological benefits continues to grow. As more medical users build trust in CBN-based products, whether in the form of gummies or transdermal patches, you can be sure this is a market on the rise, and it will only continue to rise high.

Stephen Andrews