What’s the difference between CBN vs CBD? Here’s everything you need to know

It’s no secret that cannabis-based products are surging in popularity. Many states have legalized cannabis, and CBD products can be found almost everywhere – you might’ve even spotted it on the shelves at your local grocery store. But with this increased popularity comes a rise in other cannabis-based products, including Delta-8 THC, and now cannabinol, also known as CBN.

But what is CBN? And how is it different from other cannabis products, like CBD? We asked the experts, and here’s what we learned.

Understanding the differences between CBD vs CBN

When you look at cannabis, there are more than 100 cannabinoids – AKA a group of substances found in the cannabis plant. You’re probably familiar with two of these: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the cannabinoid most of us are familiar with because it’s the substance in cannabis responsible for the psychoactive or “high” effects commonly associated with cannabis use.

CBD, on the other hand, is the other main cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, and it is non-psychoactive. This means CBD doesn’t produce that “high” feeling, and – in fact – offers a whole host of other potential health benefits, including treating stress and anxiety, pain, and even insomnia. It has even been studied for its impact on weight loss.

CBN, or cannabinol, was actually the first phytocannabinoid isolated from cannabis back in the 1930s. It is created by the breakdown of THC over time via light, heat, or oxygen,” explains Dr. Felecia Dawson, a physician and cannabis advocate. “It’s much weaker than THC at the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1) and does not appear to be intoxicating when taken orally.”

Does CBN have any benefits?

Unlike CBD, which has been studied widely in both animals and humans, there aren’t many studies on the use and benefits of CBN. A 2019 study in rats looked at the combined use of CBD and CBN, and researchers found that the combined use of these compounds produced more muscle pain relief than the individual compounds themselves, but – as mentioned earlier – the effect on humans hasn’t been well studied.

“Very little is known about CBN,” explains Dr. Jeff Chen, founder of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative and CEO and CoFounder of Radicle Science. “It appears to be 1/4th as intoxicating as THC, where CBD is completely non-intoxicating. Nonhuman studies on CBN have shown potential for anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, and neuroprotective properties. CBN is commonly used to help with sleep, but this is all anecdotal. There is only one human study ever done on CBN showing that it may have sedative properties, and it was done ages ago in 1975 and only involved 5 people!” 

Which should you choose? CBD or CBN

It’s hard to give a recommendation without more information, but you might want to stick with CBD or – if you live in a state where it’s legal – cannabis. While CBN appears to have some potential benefits, both CBD and cannabis are far more widely studied, meaning it’s easier for you to decide for yourself if the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

Does that mean CBN is bad? Not necessarily.

“One day we may demonstrate that CBN has all the benefits of THC, e.g. analgesia, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, etc. without the impairment,” says Dr. Dawson. “For now, we know a whole lot more about CBD.”

If you want to try a product that contains CBN or CBD or both, the most important thing is to make sure you’re buying it from a company that you can trust. Many of these products are currently unregulated, so you’ll want to do your research before you click “buy.”

Dr. Dawson’s recommendation? Try to stick with an organic or Clean Green Certified product that provides transparency around their production process, as well as third-party quality testing, to ensure you’re receiving a high-quality product.

RJ Andersen