The structural similarities between CBN and THC
Its structure, chemically similar to that of Δ9-THC, was reported for the first time in 1940, and for two decades CBN was the only cannabinoid to be structurally explained.
Compared to Δ9-THC, the presence of an aromatic ring confers to CBN molecule a very high stability. Due to this characteristic, CBN has been used as a marker for the identification of narcotic cannabis in archeological findings.
CBN shows a weak psychoactive power, and similarly to THC it binds to cannabinoids receptors (CB1-R and CB2-R), with a higher affinity for CB2-R, mainly expressed on a variety of immune cells, such as lymphocytes (T and B), macrophages and dendritic cells.
The medicinal properties of CBN
From the medical point of view, CBN has shown a variety of properties:
– Antibiotic and antibacterial – especially against a variety of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains.
– Immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory – by stimulating CB2-R thus triggering the programmed death (apoptosis) in immune cells and inhibiting the production of a variety of cytokines (released by cells especially of the immune system and involved, among others in inflammatory processes).
– Appetite stimulant – probably by interacting, with a weak affinity (about 10%) with both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the human endocannabinoid system. Such an effect is further potentiated by Δ9THC, that, when co-administered, may synergistically induce powerful hyperphagic and anti-anorexic effects.
– Ocular tension lowering – especially after chronic administration
– Topical skin agent – CBN has potential as a component in topical applications, inhibiting keratinocyte proliferation via CB-R independent mechanisms, suggesting a potential role in psoriasis.
– Anti- cancer – (breast and ovarian cancer in particular) and bone formation – by stimulating the recruitment of marrow mesenchymal stem cells in a quiescent (inactive) state.
– Sleeping aid – such an activity is mainly attributed to CBN derivatives (rather than to CBN itself) exhibiting a significant prolongation of sleeping time and catalepsy. In a 1975 study on the effects of interaction between D9-THC and CBN, 5 male volunteers have referred an enhancement of drowsy feelings, among others, when CBN was administered in combination with D9-THC, compared to THC alone (of note, such effects were not observed when volunteers have received CBN alone).