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CBD vs. CBN: What’s the Difference?


Hemp and marijuana plants contain rich chemical compounds including cannabinoids and terpenes. In fact, there are more than 100 cannabinoids that have been identified. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As cannabis becomes more legalized and widespread, more research is being done, which means more cannabinoids are being discovered. One of those cannabinoids is cannabinol (CBN). 

As more consumers seek out cannabinoid therapies, it’s important to understand what the science says about these cannabinoids so far, and what questions still need to be answered. Let’s dive into the similarities and differences of CBD vs. CBN and how they can potentially be utilized as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

The Similarities and Differences of CBD vs. CBN

While there are specific differences between these two cannabinoids, there are some similar properties. Both CBN and CBD are chemical compounds of the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. They are also both non-intoxicating, which means you won’t get a “high” feeling from consuming CBD or CBN. 

How the Endocannabinoid System Works

Every living animal has an endocannabinoid system, which is full of molecules and receptors that keep the body in homeostasis. Endocannabinoids are directly connected to the nervous system and play a central role in various body functions, from digestion to mood regulation. According to research, CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most important facets of the endocannabinoid system. The way cannabinoids like CBD, CBN and THC bind to these receptors has a major impact on the effects they have. 

How CBD and CBN Bind to CB1 Receptors

Even though they have similar names, CBN and CBD are unique molecules that interact differently with the endocannabinoid system. CBN binds to CB1 receptors in a similar manner to THC, albeit with less strength. On the other hand, CBD doesn’t have a strong bind to CB1 receptors, which means CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a more mysterious way. 

Scientific Research

One important difference between these cannabinoids is the level of understanding we have about each of them. Decades of extensive research has been conducted on CBD, while studies on CBN are still scarce and preliminary. 

CBD Benefits and Uses

Scientists have discovered numerous potential benefits of CBD over the years. Studies suggest that CBD may be beneficial for alleviating the following conditions:

Consumers can use CBD in the form of oils (tinctures), sprays, capsules, topicals, edibles, vapes and raw flower.

CBN Benefits and Uses

Did you know CBN derives from THC? When THC is exposed to heat and light, it degrades and becomes CBN. Therefore, there are some overlapping benefits and uses of CBN and THC. Preliminary research suggests that CBN may be useful for the following:

However, it is worth restating and emphasizing the fact that much more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of CBN.

Effects of CBD and CBN

CBD may induce a sense of calm and peace, alleviating feelings of restlessness and irritability. In rare circumstances and higher doses, both CBN and CBD can produce some unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness, oversleeping, changes in appetite and diarrhea. 

Are These Cannabinoids Legal?

Hemp-derived CBD and CBN products with less than 0.3% are legal on the federal level due to the Farm Bill being passed in 2018. This has allowed us to open up more discoveries for cannabinoid research. 

CBD vs. CBN: Which Cannabinoid Is Right for You?

As cannabis products increase in popularity, it’s important to know the differences between cannabinoids and which one is best for specific uses. According to many individual testimonials, cannabis products are starting to be used in conjunction with epilepsy and cancer therapy, which researchers and healthcare professionals hope will help reduce reliance on opioids. But before you begin a regimen of cannabis products, you should discuss CBN and CBD with a health care provider who is knowledgeable about medical cannabis. Choosing the right cannabis product depends on your health condition, genetics and desired outcomes. 

CBD and CBN are two powerful cannabinoids with various benefits. However, more research is still necessary for us to fully understand their benefits and uses. Whether you are looking to alleviate symptoms of a health condition or add cannabinoids as part of a wellness routine, you should rely on guidance from a trustworthy health care provider. 

Kasey Donovan is a copywriting and SEO specialist, music lover, and cannabis enthusiast. In his free time, he is having fun with his son Atticus, wife Jesse, and two corgi-mixes, Zira and Ellie.