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CBD vs CBN: What’s the Difference?

Levi Roberts

by Levi Roberts

May 6, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Fact checked by Emily Mullins Medically reviewed by Dr. Abraham Benavides
CBD vs CBN: What’s the Difference?

There are so many cannabinoids hitting the market these days that it’s hard to keep up! Cannabinoids are all the rage in the cannabis industry today, but CBD and CBN have escaped the stoner bubble and entered the health and wellness sphere as well. Because of this — now more than ever — people have a lot of questions! But don’t worry, we have answers. Keep reading to find out more about CBD vs. CBN.

TL;DR: CBD vs. CBN Benefits and Differences

  • CBD (cannabidiol) is a well-studied cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis, used for anxiety, sleep, and pain relief, available in various forms like oils, gummies, and tinctures.
  • CBN (cannabinol) is a lesser-known cannabinoid from oxidized THC, gaining popularity for its potential sedative and therapeutic effects, commonly found in oils and gummies.
  • CBD is more prevalent, easier to collect, and extensively studied, whereas CBN is derived from THC breakdown and is less abundant and less researched.
  • Both CBD and CBN are legal when derived from hemp and are non-psychoactive, meaning they won’t get you high.

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis. 

CBD products have been on the market for many years at this point. Thanks to this, you can find CBD in lots of forms, including:

  • Gummies
  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Balms and salves
  • Pills

CBD is also infused into cannabis products – namely edibles – in order to achieve certain CBD:THC ratios. For example, a gummy may be infused with extra CBD to achieve a 2:1 ratio (or even higher), which is common for indica edibles aimed at sleep and relaxation.

CBD effects

CBD has many potential effects, and is being heavily researched to see how it can best be used therapeutically. 

People use CBD for a lot of different things, such as to ease anxiety, induce sleep, and relieve pain. This recent small clinical study found that: 

“CBD-rich treatment has a beneficial impact on pain, anxiety, and depression symptoms as well as overall wellbeing only for patients with moderate to severe symptoms; however, no observed effect on mild symptoms.”

Similarly, another study boldly states that “there is clear evidence supporting the utility of CBD to treat epilepsy.” This study is a recent literature review, meaning it crunches data and conclusions from previous human and lab trials, making its accumulated position stronger. Furthermore, it also lists some areas of CBD research, illustrated below:

“Various medical conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety, pain/inflammation, schizophrenia, various substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others.”

As you can see, CBD is a powerful cannabinoid with promising results.

What is CBN?

CBN is short for cannabinol. CBN is a cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis, and occurs when THC oxidizes.

CBN is on the rise in popularity, and seems to just now be catching traction. It’s most commonly sold as an oil or gummy.

Another way that people care about CBN is in their cannabis strain ratios. With the rise in legal dispensaries – and hence lab results for the specific strains you may be buying – you’re often able to see the exact percentage of each of the tested cannabinoids in the strain. 

If you’re a fan of CBN, you may look for a strain with a high CBN percentage. You could also properly age your own cannabis since THC will naturally break down into CBN even under ideal storage conditions.

CBN effects

CBN is marketed as having sedative effects, but one study begs to differ.

They argue that the current studies have small sample sizes, the questionnaires are self-reporting, and the dosages contained in the studies are higher than most products on the market. Yikes! 

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That being said, CBN studies are few and far between, so let’s not jump the gun. It’s one of the newer cannabinoids on the block, so we have to give scientists time to do the proper research and uncover all that CBN has to offer.

Beyond sleep-inducing claims, limited evidence also suggests potential uses in:

Major Differences Between CBD vs CBN

People often get confused about the differences between CBD and CBN because of their similar names. It’s an easy mistake to make!

As mentioned earlier, CBD and CBN are both cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis plants. They are extracted from hemp to be used in products found both in dispensaries and health and wellness stores/websites.

CBD is more popular than CBN because it’s easier to collect and has been on the market for longer. It’s also been studied more extensively. 

Remember that CBN comes directly from the natural breakdown of THC by heat and UV light. THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, and oxidized THC loses the four hydrogens and becomes CBN, just cannabinol. Since hemp plants have very little THC in the first place (<0.3% THC by law), there is even less CBN to extract for retail.

You’ll commonly find CBD products as pure isolates, whereas CBN is often mixed in with other cannabinoids. CBN is found in hemp in smaller amounts than CBD is, so it’s harder to isolate enough of it to warrant its own product.

Final Thoughts

CBD and CBN are popular products for a reason! As the market continues to grow, there will be more and more cannabinoids to keep up with and learn about. It’s important to be a well-educated consumer, especially in unregulated markets.

Remember, these products didn’t exist just a few years ago. We’re lucky to be living in an age where hemp and cannabis products are readily available and able to be studied. 

So let’s keep fighting for cannabis legalization in states that haven’t gotten the memo – all the while enjoying our favorite cannabinoids!

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s go over two common questions regarding CBD and CBN.

Are CBD and CBN legal?

Yes, CBD and CBN are both legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, if they come from hemp. This bill states that any hemp-derived products are federally legal. Hemp is defined as a plant containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.

CBD and CBN are both commonly derived from hemp, so they’re completely legal! But CBD and CBN in cannabis products with more than 0.3% THC can only be state-legal.

Will CBD or CBN get me high?

CBD or CBN will not get you high. CBD and CBN are non-psychoactive and are responsible for other effects in cannabis. Non-psychoactive cannabinoids still contribute to your experience, just not the “high” itself.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before deciding on the treatment of a medical condition.

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