CBN vs CBD: Similarities, differences, and everything in-between

Among the many acronyms that stand for various cannabinoids within cannabis and hemp plants, it can be hard to keep up with each compound. This is especially true for cannabinoids that share two letters, like CBD and CBN. Both of these cannabinoids have various medicinal benefits that are mediated through a system in our body known as the endocannabinoid system.

Yet, despite the similar nomenclature, both CBD and CBN vary in terms of properties, medicinal uses, and effectiveness. For instance, CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. It also has no psychoactive properties at all, so it does not get you “high”. Moreover, recent evidence concludes that CBD has many therapeutic properties in treating a wide variety of medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, pain, inflammatory conditions, epilepsy, and many others.

On the other hand, CBN exists in cannabis in very scarce amounts. Of note, CBD is not produced by the metabolism of cannabis; however, it is produced by the degradation of another cannabinoid named delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although CBN is not as psychoactive as THC, the increased consumption of CBN might get you “high”. In addition, the effects of CBN in the endocannabinoid system are very weak, especially if CBN is taken orally.

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN), like CBD, is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike CBD, CBN is the by-product of degrading Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When THC ages, it decays into CBN, which means that there are generally higher levels of CBN in older cannabis flowers. Nonetheless, CBN has differing properties from THC and other cannabinoids, which is why it is actively being studied by researchers around the world. People originally thought that CBN was responsible for the cannabis high but found out later that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) produces the intoxicating effects of cannabis. It was discovered that CBN is, in reality, an oxidation product of THC, as THC will slowly turn into CBN when exposed to heat and light.

CBN also appears to have a range of potential benefits. Similar to THC, CBN acts on the body’s CB1 receptor, though in a milder way. For example, a study notes that rats given CBN had an increased appetite, which is a similar effect of THC. However, rats given CBD had a reduced appetite. Also, studies show early evidence that supports CBN’s use as an:

Furthermore, CBN has been shown to reduce the heart rate in patients with arrhythmia (increased heart rate) without affecting the blood flow through the coronary blood vessels that supply the heart. It also acts as an antiplatelet agent. These observations highlight the great promise of CBN as a potential therapeutic agent in reducing cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks) in patients with heart diseases. However, it should be noted that the available body of evidence remains scarce, and more studies are still warranted to reach a definitive conclusion regarding CBN’s therapeutic efficacy in the above-mentioned diseases.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many phytocannabinoids or cannabinoids that come from plants found in hemp plants. It is arguably one of the most well-known cannabinoids and can be found in countless products, from capsules to bath bombs. It naturally works to boost our supply of endocannabinoids, or cannabinoids produced by our bodies. Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high. As a matter of fact, broad-spectrum hemp extract is formulated to have no THC at all.

Additionally, CBD has numerous potential uses in the body, although much of the evidence is still new. At present, a refined type of CBD called Epidiolex is approved for use as an anti-convulsant for severe drug-resistant epilepsy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Research also notes other potential benefits of CBD, which include the following:

This makes the compound possibly useful in a wide range of conditions, hence, its major rise in popularity. CBD also blocks the intoxicating effects of THC, which prevents several unwanted side effects.

How do CBD and CBN differ?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are two fundamentally different molecules that have two separate origins. Even though industrial hemp plants and high-CBD marijuana strains have been high levels of CBD, the CBN level in a cannabis flower or concentrate is based on the amount of heat and light it has been exposed to and how old it is. Yet again, this is because CBN is a by-product of light and heat on THC, which in technical terms makes it a product of oxidation or degradation.

In spite of the essential difference in the origin of these two components, they still share a lot of similarities in their purported medicinal effects. Neither of them produces an intoxicating high on its own, but both affect the high when combined with THC. Nevertheless, the presence of CBD lessens some of the negative effects of THC, such as paranoia or anxiety, and the presence of CBN produces a gently sedative high, which can be beneficial for people wanting to use cannabis for better sleep.


  1. https://www.cureus.com/articles/25300-comparison-of-efficacy-of-cannabinoids-versus-commercial-oral-care-products-in-reducing-bacterial-content-from-dental-plaque-a-preliminary-observation
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/cannabinol

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