Educational

What’s The Difference Between CBN vs. CBD?

Chances are that if you’re familiar with CBD, you may have also heard of CBN. Both CBD and CBN are naturally-occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, but their different effects on the body do not make them substitutes.

CBD, the better-known of the two, is undergoing extensive medical application research as of this writing. CBN, on the other hand, is still relatively untrod ground and needs to be further researched before it can be applied medicinally. 

We’ll explore a few topics in the remainder of this post: 

  • CBN vs. CBD: how are they different and how are they similar?
  • What are CBN’s documented effects as of right now?
  • Why are CBN products so expensive? 
  • And, are there any long-term risks associated with CBN use?

What are CBN and CBD, and how are they similar?

CBN is short for cannabinol and CBD is short for cannabidiol. Together, they help comprise the more than 100 cannabinoids produced by cannabis plants.

If you’re like many folks, you’re likely more familiar with CBD than you are with CBN. CBD products like hemp flower and CBD oil have exploded in popularity because of the 2018 Farm Bill. In short, this version of the farm bill defined cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight to be considered industrial hemp thereby opening the door for the production, extraction, and sale of other non-intoxicating cannabinoids. 

Many people like to use CBD products to help manage sleep, manage symptoms of anxiety, and quell chronic pain. Read more here.

CBN is a similar molecule to CBD, with a few minor chemical alterations. Relatively little is known about CBN’s effect on the body, but what we do know and what we expect to be true will all be covered below.

CBN, CBD, and your endocannabinoid system

CBN and CBD are both non-intoxicating cannabinoids. When either is consumed, they interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system(link)— a large network of receptors and enzymes that control a whole host of your bodily functions including, 

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Memory
  • Fertility
  • Central nervous system (CNS) development
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • And many more…

Some research also suggests that cannabinoids tend to produce more potent desired effects when they are consumed together, rather than in isolated instances. This tendency for cannabinoids to produce more powerful effects when combined is called the “entourage effect” 

Where does CBN come from?

CBN is an interesting cannabinoid as it mainly appears in cannabis as a by-product of THC oxidation. This means that as it’s exposed to heat and light, THC breaks down in CBN. 

This fact means that the level of CBN found in cannabis flower is not determined by genetic factors— breeding programs used to maximize cannabinoid content such as in high-THC or high-CBD flower. Instead, the amount of CBN present in your flower is a result of environmental factors:

  • How airtight was the container your cannabis stored in?
  • Was your cannabis exposed to UV light or excessive heat? 
  • How old is your cannabis? 

With age and greater exposure to the environment comes greater CBN content. If your goal is the maximize the CBN content in your cannabis product, the best way to achieve said goal would be to allow your product to oxidize. 

Fun Fact: CBN was the first naturally occurring cannabinoid to be isolated in its pure form. Scientists first did so in 1896 and thought that CBN was the compound that created cannabis’s distinctive high. Later research found that it was actually THC, CBN’s precursor, that did so.

Effects of CBN vs. CBD

CBD’s possible effects have been and are currently being researched. Some of these effects include: 

  • Helping reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. 
  • Helping reduce feelings of nausea
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Helping the user manage sleep 

CBN, while being one of the first cannabinoids discovered, is still relatively unknown. So far, we know that CBN helps with the following: 

Other Potential Benefits of CBN

One of the most exciting avenues of research that is currently being pursued is that of CBN’s sedative effects. In a study shared by Steep Hill Labs in 2017, researchers found that a 2.5-5 milligram dose of CBN was found to be as effective as a 5-10 milligram dose of diazepam— a pharmaceutical sedative. It should be noted that this study was not published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Why is CBN so expensive?

CBN products are expensive because CBN is harder to isolate. We can breed cannabis plants that produce high levels of CBD or THC, but to get higher concentrations of CBN we must wait for THC to oxidize. 

Alternatively, we can synthesize CBN, but doing so requires expertise, lab equipment, and time— all of which don’t come cheap. As of now, many cannabinoid companies have decided that other cannabinoids are more worth their time and resources to pursue.

CBN vs. CBD: long-term risks and side effects

CBD is generally considered safe though there are some minor side effects that present when the cannabinoid is consumed in high amounts. The most common are:

  • Change in appetite 
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Upset Stomach 
  • Weight change

As of this writing, there aren’t any known side effects of CBN use. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any, it just means that CBN hasn’t been studied enough to know what they are.

CBN vs. CBD: Other Frequently Asked Questions

CBN vs. CBD: Are they the same?

No, CBN and CBD are not the same. They are both cannabinoids— yes. But CBD and CBN are two distinct chemical compounds. CBN is much less common than CBD and interacts with your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptor, while CBD doesn’t directly interact with any CB receptors.

CBN vs. CBD: Which is better for sleep? 

Current research would suggest that both CBD and CBN provide users some sleep benefits, though CBN may edge out the advantage. Past and current research suggests that consuming CBN, in combination with its precursor THC, produces a highly sedative effect in users. 

CBN vs. CBD: Can you take both together? 

Yes, you can mix CBN and CBD together. In fact, doing so may just produce more powerful desired effects. Some research done on animals suggests that mixing both CBN and CBD, to create a small entourage effect is effective for treating pain. 

Some CBD products that are designated “full-spectrum” and some “broad-spectrum” will actually include both CBD and CBN.

Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93

Izzo, Angelo A., et al. “Non-Psychotropic Plant Cannabinoids: New Therapeutic Opportunities from an Ancient Herb.” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, no. 10, Elsevier BV, Oct. 2009, pp. 515-27. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.tips.2009.07.006

Yetman, Daniel. “CBD vs. CBN: Benefits, Differences, Potential Side Effects & More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 14 Jan. 2021, https://www.healthline/health/cbd-vs-cbn

“The Difference between CBN vs CBD | Weedmaps.” Weedmaps, 13 Sept. 2019, https://weedmaps.com/learn/cbd/cbn-vs-cbd

“Steep Hill | Global Leader in Cannabis Testing and Analytics.” Steep Hill, https://www.steephill.com/blogs/34/Cannabinol-(CBD):-A-Sleeping-Synergy. Accessed 12 Jan. 2022.

Hudak, John. “The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization and the Status of CBD: An Explainer.” Brookings, Brookings, 14 Dec. 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/.