MAR 07, 2022 9:00 AM PST

Cannabis compound CBN supports mitochondrial function

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

Cannabinol (CBN) has been established as a neuroprotective, but a recent study reveals just how CBN protects mitochondrial function. A study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that CBN promoted maintenance of mitochondrial function. Oxidative damage causes mitochondria to curl up in response to the overproduction of reactive oxygen. Oxidative stress can mutate DNA mitochondria, damage the mitochondrial respiratory chain, and alter mitochondrial defense systems. CBN prevents mitochondria from curling up and maintains their role in efficient cell energy production. 

Scientists suspect oxidative damage is related to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, so the Salk Institute researchers treated nerve cells with CBN and then introduced an agent to cause oxidative damage. CBN inhibited harmful oxytosis targeted at mitochondria, and it protected the nerves independently of cannabinoid receptors. The findings suggest CBN is a powerful cannabinoid that can revolutionize neurotherapeutics. 

Dr. Pamela Maher, head of Salk’s Cellular Neurobiology laboratory believes this study has positive implications for many brain disease treatments. According to Maher, “Mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in changes in various tissues, not just in the brain and aging, so the fact that this compound is able to maintain mitochondrial function suggests it could have more benefits beyond the context of Alzheimer’s disease.” CBN’s efficacy in maintaining mitochondrial function suggests it may be a key element in effective neuroprotective treatments. 

Little to no CBN exists in a cannabis plant, so it must be activated by carboxylation. THC converts into CBN with oxidation, but CBN does not have as strong of a psychoactive effect as THC. CBN acts like a sedative without creating a “high” feeling. 

A recent review of research published in Cannabis Cannabinoids Research concluded that preclinical and clinical research on CBN’s sleep-promoting efficacy is dated and limited. Therefore, the Salk Institute study provides direction for future research on CBN’s medicinal value in treating sleep disorders as well as brain disease.  


Cannabis Cannabinoids Research, Eureka Science Alert, Free Radical Biology and Medicine


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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