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Article: What's the Difference? | CBD vs. CBN

What's the Difference? | CBD vs. CBN

What's the Difference? | CBD vs. CBN



All cannabinoids are key components in the cannabis plant, and there are many of them. This includes major cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is one of the major cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Now, others like cannabinol, or CBN, are being discussed for their uses. So, what’s CBN, and how does it compare to CBD?

Read on to learn more about CBD and CBN and how they could possibly be beneficial in your daily life.

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

In short, CBN is not the same as CBD. However, there are some similarities:

  • Both are active chemicals in the cannabis plant. 
  • Also, both interact with your endocannabinoid system. 

What’s the endocannabinoid system, and what does it do?

The endocannabinoid system is a series of molecules and receptors throughout the body. It is connected to our nervous system, and it plays an important role in multiple different processes, from our mood to digestion. 

Cannabinoid type receptor 1 (CB1) is the most studied receptor in this system, even though there are others. The way different cannabinoids bind with this receptor has a big impact on their effect. When THC binds, for example, it leads to a euphoric or intoxicated feeling. When CBD binds to the same receptor, it may lead to feelings of relaxation without the intoxicating high of THC.

CBD: Benefits, effects, and uses

CBD is one of the most popular cannabinoids discussed today, and it is found at high concentrations in the cannabis plant. CBD has become increasingly popular in its use as a complementary and alternative therapy for a range of health conditions. 

What are the benefits and uses of CBD?

CBD has been well-researched in its possible uses. Some of these CBD uses include:

CBD and CBN can be found and consumed in a variety ways:

  • Oils
  • Capsules
  • Edibles (foods and gummies)
  • Vapes and other smoking devices
  • Topicals (applied directly on the skin)

What are the effects of CBD?

CBD has been thought to provide an overall sense of calm. CBD can mellow out feelings of anxiety and paranoia, which has shown to be helpful in balancing the intoxicating effects from THC.

CBN: Benefits, effects, and uses

When THC is oxidized, or exposed to excessive amounts of heat and light, it turns into CBN. This comes into play when we discuss the benefits of CBN. If a THC product is left out and exposed to the elements, many of these THC molecules will turn into CBN. 

What are the benefits and uses of CBN?

CBN hasn’t been studied as much as CBD. But there are some things we do know about it. Like other cannabinoids, CBD and CBN have both been identified as being anti-inflammatory. A few of the other most promising uses of CBN are for: 

What are the effects of CBN?

CBN also binds to the CB1 receptor. Just like CBD, it doesn’t bind nearly as tightly as THC. This explains why many people refer to CBN as the “THC without the high.” It also explains why there are overlapping effects, like in sleep. 

Can CBN help with sleep disorders?

THC has been studied for its use in sleep disorders. There have been some small studies on CBN and sleep, but more research is needed. It is thought that CBN’s sedative properties are due to its ability to work alongside other compounds in the cannabis plant (known as the entourage effect), like aromatic terpenes (such as myrcene and linalool).

CBD vs. CBN: Side effects 

Everyone reacts to cannabis products differently. And any possible side effects from taking CBD or CBN can occur in both small and big doses. When it comes to cannabis products, dosing recommendations don’t take into consideration your age or weight, as is done with many prescription medications. This is important to know, as the correct dosage for you may be different than the one recommended by the manufacturer on the label. 

CBD and CBD have similar common side effects:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Sleepiness (more so for CBN)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you are interested in learning more about CBD, CBN, and other components of the cannabis plant, you should feel comfortable asking your provider if these products can help you.

Can you mix CBD and CBN?

Yes, you can mix CBD and CBN. Some products have both cannabinoids in them. Others may only have one or the other. But both can be taken together.

What’s more, some research suggests that mixing them together will help them work better than taking them separately. Cannabinoids and other parts of the cannabis plant work well with one another. Taking them together would allow you to take less of each one — and still get the same results. This phenomenon is referred to as the ensemble effect, or the entourage effect. For example, one recent study in animals showed the combination of CBD and CBN for treating pain.

What’s the difference between CBD and CBN?

Both CBD and CBN are cannabinoids. But, as you can see, they are not interchangeable. They are found at different quantities in the cannabis plant, and they interact with our endocannabinoid systems differently. Here are some main differences:

  • CBD has been extensively studied, while the research on CBN is still preliminary. 
  • Research supports the use of CBD for anxiety and pain relief over CBN.
  • CBD and CBN have been investigated for sleep. However, if used alone, CBN is preferred to CBD for sleep. 

The only CBD-based prescription medication in the U.S. is Epidiolex, which is used to treat rare seizures. That being said, there is early research looking into CBN and its anti-seizure properties, but more research is needed to determine whether CBN could be used for seizures.

Why is CBN more expensive than CBD?

CBN is considered a minor cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. This means that it occurs at lower concentrations than the two major cannabinoids, CBD and THC. Because of this, it is more difficult to isolate CBN for medicinal and research purposes. 

When THC is oxidized, or exposed to excessive amounts of heat and light, it turns into CBN. This comes into play when we discuss the benefits of CBN. If a THC product is left out and exposed to the elements, many of these THC molecules will turn into CBN. 

Also, CBN does not occur naturally. It takes time to wait for THC to oxidize and turn into CBN, which creates a hurdle when trying to add CBN as an ingredient in products. Depending on the quality of the formulation, CBD can be purchased for as little as $0.10 per mg. Meanwhile, the cost of CBN could be up to 10 times the price per mg

Are CBD and CBN legal?

CBD and CBN are legal in most states, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. However, some states have their own laws for CBD products, such as:

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire 
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota

The laws here may apply to whether or not the CBD products come from hemp or marijuana, for example. Or these states may treat all CBD products as an illegal drug. Wherever you are, it’s best to check the local laws before buying or traveling with any cannabis products.

The bottom line

As cannabis continues to become more widely used, it is important to know the differences between these cannabinoids and other components of the cannabis plant. Each serves their own purpose for optimizing our health and well-being. If you have any questions, discuss the possibility of using CBD and CBN with a healthcare provider who is familiar with using cannabis medicine. You can work together to see if it is the right fit for you.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance use, help is available. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to learn about resources in your area.

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