What’s the difference between CBN and THC?

beaker with cannabis oil cbn vs. thc

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you purchase products featured in this content or purchase from vendors featured here. Our professional curators independently research and recommend products and services, with no newsroom involvement. Merchants can pay for a sponsored listing and may choose to rewrite their summary. When that happens, we label the listing as “Sponsored” and highlight it in grey to differentiate the merchant-provided content from our writing.

Have you heard words like THC, CBD, and CBN being thrown around lately and wondered why? Well, just in case you’re not in the know, the federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill a few years ago, effectively making hemp legal.

What does this mean? It means compounds like CBN, THC, CBD, etc., are now federally legal. And thanks to this law, cannabis research has ramped up, and new cannabinoids are emerging faster than we can keep up. Scientists contend there are roughly 100+ cannabinoids, with more yet to be discovered.

For now, let’s focus on those that have already been discovered. Let’s look at CBN vs. THC and learn how these two cannabinoids compare.

CBN vs. THC Key Takeaways

  • THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. It displays an array of potential health benefits, including pain relief, sleep promotion, and immunomodulation.
  • CBN is formed when THC degrades when exposed to air, light, and heat.
  • Despite the close link to THC, CBN is weakly psychoactive but doesn’t cause overt psychotropic effects.
  • CBN is considered an analgesic and anti-inflammatory but is widely marketed as a sleep aid.

What is CBN?

CBDistillery CBN+CBD Sleep Tincture Oil 450mg 1:3 150mg CBN + 450mg CBD 30ml

$59.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

Cannabinol (CBN) is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid formed when THC oxidizes. This happens when cannabis material is exposed to light and air. Heat speeds up the conversion of THC to CBN, so it can be included in the list of elements that aid the formation of CBN.

Since CBN forms from the oxidation of THC, it is mainly found in aged or poorly stored cannabis material. This makes it one of the cannabinoids that don’t originate from an acid precursor like CBD and THC.

CBN is one of the ‘big six’ cannabinoids in cannabis research. Its effects are well-studied, but like other minor cannabinoids, there are gray areas that need further investigation.

What is THC?

THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. It is formed when the precursor cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) converts to THCa and decarboxylates to form THC.

The “high” users get from taking cannabis is its most noticeable psychoactive effect. This cannabinoid is also the benchmark for evaluating the narcotic potential of cannabis material. The higher the THC content, the more narcotic the material is.

For this reason, the 2018 Farm Bill stipulates that legal cannabis (hemp) cannot have more than 0.3% THC content by dry weight. In fact, this is the main difference between hemp and marijuana.

The idea behind capping the THC content of hemp at 0.3% is to ensure the public does not access psychotropic cannabis products disguised as hemp. Any cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC is illegal on the federal level, however 38 states have legalized the plant in some form.

How Do CBN and THC Work?

Sleepy Zs CBD, CBN Gummies - (30ct) 750mg

$49.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

All cannabinoids exert their effects via the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). This network of endogenous ligands or neurotransmitters, enzymes, and receptors collectively establishes and maintains body balance.

The ECS is also involved in other critical functions such as learning and memory, reproduction, growth and development, eating, and metabolism.

This shows you how critical the ECS is to optimal body functioning. Endogenous ligands, also called endocannabinoids, are central to the proper functioning of the ECS. They are called so because they resemble phytocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are essentially chemical messengers that relay signals between nerve cells. They are typically produced on demand, so it is difficult to know their optimal levels. The main endocannabinoids are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Researchers think there are other neurotransmitter chemicals produced by the body whose roles are still unknown.

Within the ECS are two types of receptors – CB1 and CB2. The former are mainly found in the central nervous system (CNS), while the latter predominates the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and immune cells.

Cannabinoids interact variably with these receptors triggering wide-ranging physiological and behavioral responses. For example, THC binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptor hence its powerful effects. Further, THC also exhibits several non-CB receptor activities at the 5-HT3A receptors, TRP ion channels, and other G-protein receptors.

CBN, on the other hand, displays a weak affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors and is thought to be 25% as potent as THC. Nonetheless, it binds relatively more strongly to the CB1 receptor than the CB2 receptor. Studies also attribute some of CBN’s effects to interactions with non-cannabinoid receptors like the TRP ion channels.

Do CBN and THC Get You High?

CBDFx CBD + CBN Oil Calming Tincture

$39.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

Because CBN comes from THC, it is often perceived to be psychoactive. However, its potency is too weak to generate noticeable psychoactive effects for most people.

THC, however, is a different ball game. It is known to induce strong psychoactive effects dose-dependently. For instance, in low to moderate doses, THC causes a “high” that most users associate with feelings of euphoria and happiness. There are suggestions that it may also boost creativity and focus.

In fact, one of the reasons for THC’s popularity is its “high” effect.

How to Take CBN and THC?

Currently, THC and CBN are available in a variety of modalities. Edibles, inhalables, and topicals are some of the most popular.


Edibles are regular foods, treats, and beverages infused with cannabis extracts. These can be homemade (e.g., brownies, cookies, and smoothies) or commercial (e.g., gummies, energy bars, capsules, oils, tinctures, etc).

CBN and THC-infused edibles are quite common and popular among cannabis users. Commercial products like gummies, capsules, pills, etc., are trendy due to their ease of use and convenience.

Gummies, capsules, and pills are ideal for users who are always on the move because they can be taken anywhere. They also allow precise dosing because their cannabinoid content is usually indicated on their labels.

Furthermore, they also support micro dosing – an attribute that low-tolerance users may find particularly appealing.

But if you have some time on your hands, why not search the internet for hundreds of cannabis recipes you can make from home? The advantage of homemade edibles is that you control the ingredients used. You can also tailor-make them to suit your preference, e.g., if you are a high-tolerance user.


As the name suggests, inhalable CBN and THC products are inhaled. While THC is present in many strains of cannabis, CBN is typically only found in finished goods such as vape carts and pens. Distillate, live resin, and other viscous concentrates are the products typically consumed in this manner.

Vape carts and pens are advantageous because they eradicate smoke, which can harm your health. These devices have a heating mechanism that vaporizes the material in the chamber. The user inhales the vapor to derive the benefits of the cannabinoids.

Besides being smokeless, inhalables are fast-acting. They go into the lungs and are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Also, their bioavailability is relatively higher, unlike edibles which undergo the first-pass effect.

However, the effects of inhalables wear off equally fast, so frequent dosing might be required.


Cannabis topicals have become a massive hit among fitness enthusiasts and gym rats. Of course, the name that comes to mind in this regard is CBD but CBN and THC also possess potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for exercise-induced conditions.

Topicals work by penetrating the skin and accessing the receptors in the skin. The skin is porous, and the millions of hair follicles offer entry points for cannabinoids to reach the receptors.

Moreover, the penetrating power of these topicals can be enhanced with penetration enhancers. Like inhalables and sublinguals, topicals work pretty fast, even though they might not be effective against deep-lying pain and inflammation.

What Are the Similarities Between CBN and THC?

Wellicy Sleepy Time CBN Gel Capsules (750mg)

$79.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

A fundamental similarity between CBN and THC is that the former originates from the latter. As mentioned earlier, CBN forms when THC degrades. In fact, this is why CBN is nicknamed the “weaker” THC.

Another similarity between CBN and THC is their relationship with the CB receptors. Both cannabinoids are CB1 and CB2 agonists, although CBN has a lower potency. This is the reason it does not cause psychoactive effects.

In principle, CBN and THC are both psychoactive since they activate the CB1 receptors.

What is the Difference Between THC and CBN?

The main difference between CBN and THC is how they are formed. THC is formed when THCa decarboxylates and forms THC. However, CBN doesn’t originate from its acid precursor like most cannabinoids.

The other difference between THC and CBN would be their potency. Both cannabinoids are actually psychotropic but differ in potency levels. CBN’s potency is roughly 25% of THC, thus its lack of overt psychoactive effects.

CBN vs. THC Potential Benefits

THC’s potential health benefits are well-established, given the tons of research on it. Here are some of the possible benefits that are backed by research.

  • Inhibits neuropathic pain
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-nausea
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Sleep promotion
  • Improve blood circulation

CBN also displays a raft of potential health benefits, such as:

  • Pain relief
  • Anti-inflammatory effect
  • Sleep promotion
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Antibiotic
  • Promotes bone formation

CBN vs. THC Potential Side Effects

CBN’s toxicology profile is not well understood owing to the little research on it. So, we always emphasize that this doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Even the most acclaimed cannabinoid of the bunch—CBD—exhibits some mild side effects.

As for THC, its side effects are mostly noticed at high doses. Newbies may also experience unpleasant effects regardless of the amount of THC taken. So, what effects are we talking about here?

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Red eyes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased heart rate

It’s for these reasons that THC is strictly controlled, even if it’s derived from hemp.

CBN vs. THC: Which One Is Better?

Wellicy Sleepy Time CBN Gel Capsules (750mg)

$79.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

We use cannabinoids for different reasons, and depending on these, you may prefer one over another. For recreational users seeking some mind-bending “high,” THC would undoubtedly be better. But, for users seeking better sleep quality without the overt mind-altering effects of THC, CBN would be the logical choice.

Generally, cannabinoids display a broad range of effects. So your health/recreational needs typically dictate the cannabinoid you take.

Can You Take CBN and THC Together?

Yes, you can take CBN and THC together. CBN research may be in its early stages, but there are suggestions it suppresses the effects of THC. This makes combining THC and CBN appealing, especially for users who don’t like THC’s strong mental effects.

Another reason for taking CBN and THC together is the “entourage effect.” This theory hypothesizes that cannabinoids work better together. Indeed, full-spectrum cannabis products are anecdotally considered more potent than broad-spectrum and isolates. This is because they contain all the bioactive compounds, meaning more synergism.

What is the Legal Status of THC vs. CBN?

In March 2018, hemp-derived THC became legal, and so did CBN. But while THC might be legal, it’s strictly regulated to ensure it doesn’t appear in high concentrations in hemp products. The federally accepted upper limit is 0.3%.

CBN is also legal as long as it’s obtained from federally compliant hemp. But the laws governing the legality of cannabinoids are constantly evolving, so it’s a good idea to keep yourself acquainted with them.

Conclusion — THC vs. CBN

Dosist CBD Sleep thc-free dose drop 750mg CBD + 150mg CBN 15ml

$38.99  in stock
as of June 1, 2023 3:50 pm

THC is probably the most famous cannabinoid thanks to the “high” it gives users. Most of the effects of cannabis are attributed to it as it’s the most dominant compound in cannabis. But having said that, if there is a cannabinoid that needs extreme care when using, it’s THC.

Despite its potential health benefits, chronic use can lead to serious health complications. Similarly, acute use also produces side effects that could impair optimal functionality regardless of whether you are an experienced user or a beginner. But with proper use, THC and CBN have a decent safety profile.

Where to Buy CBN and THC Products Online

If you’re looking for some quality CBN products, here are a couple that should definitely be on your grocery list.

First up is a CBN Oil from NuLeaf Naturals. This full-spectrum oil made from whole-plant extract contains all the naturally occurring compounds of cannabis to ensure a synergistic interaction for an authentic cannabis experience. It contains a synergy of CBN, other cannabinoids, and terpenes with a total potency of 60 mg/mL.

Next up are these brilliant CBD + CBN gummies from Wyld CBD. These Elderberry gummies come with 25 mg of CBD and 5 mg of CBN per gummy. This combination of cannabinoids will gently lull you into a long, restful sleep!

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you click links in this content. Our professional curators independently research and recommend products and services, with no newsroom involvement. Merchants can pay for a sponsored listing and may choose to rewrite their summary. When that happens, we label the listing as “Sponsored” and highlight it in grey to differentiate the merchant-provided content from our writing.