A bright green hemp leaf stand in the foreground while in the background there are more blurred leaves and part of a chemical diagram of the CBD molecule

CBD vs CBN: What’s the Difference?

There are well over 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and CBD and CBN are but two of them. So, you can probably (and correctly) assume that each cannabinoid has its own sets of plusses and minuses. In order to more fully understand these compounds, you can start by learning the differences between CBD and CBN. 

What is CBN?

It’s easiest to think about CBN as a weaker version of THC. CBN happens when the THC in the cannabis plant breaks down over time. CBN and THC are alike in that they both cause people to feel “high” when taken in large quantities. Sadly, scientists don’t know that much about CBN because they haven’t done that many studies on it. 

Related Article: What is CBN: Things You Need to Know About Cannabinol

A drawing of the chemical structure of CBN

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that’s found in the cannabis plant. In terms of popularity, CBD is more popular than CBN. This cannabinoid is mostly extracted from the hemp plant, which is a variety of the cannabis plant. CBD is federally legal to buy and sell across the United States and can be pretty much bought anywhere from gas stations, to vape shops, to grocery stores, and online. CBD is also used in creams, soft gels, drinks, gummies, beauty products, and more. CBD vs CBN: Are They Legal?

As we just stated, all hemp-based CBD products are legal to buy and sell throughout the United States as long as they contain 0.3% or less THC. When it comes to marijuana-based products, the federal government considers them to be a Schedule I drug, and are therefore federally illegal. However, every state has a different law on its books regarding both medicinal and recreational marijuana. 

CBD products can come in three varieties: full-spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate. Full-spectrum and broad spectrum products contain many or all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients in the hemp plant. Broad spectrum products, however, have had all of the THC removed from them. Conversely, CBD isolate products only contain 99% pure CBD as the rest of the hemp plant’s parts have been filtered out using a special process. So, in order to take advantage of all that the hemp plant has to offer — including CBN and the other cannabinoids — then you should opt for full- or broad spectrum products. 

Differences Between CBD and CBN

A hemp flower lying on a stark white surface

CBD and CBN and two very different chemical compounds within the cannabis plant. While CBD is produced by the cannabis plant, CBN only occurs when THC oxidizes, or breaks down. Also, while CBD will not cause anyone to feel “high,” CBN does have some psychoactive properties linked to it, albeit very minimal when compared to high amounts of THC. 

Also, scientists have done large amounts of research on CBD and are just scratching the surface on CBN. Therefore, not much is fully known about how CBN affects people. Moreover, because CBN is more difficult to isolate, products that contain only CBN are more expensive. So, if you’re looking to try CBN, your best bet is to purchase a full-spectrum CBD product from a reputable brand. These types of products contain a wealth of cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients that work together in a synergistic manner. 

How do CBD and CBN Work in the Body? 

Both cannabinoids are also active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. CBD and CBN interact with some of the same receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, however, they each evoke different effects. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS is connected to the nervous system and is important in helping to regulate various bodily processes and systems like the digestive system and the immune system. 

Typically, cannabinoids bind to the body’s CB1 or CB2 receptors to bring about different effects. CBN binds to the CB1 receptor just like CBD does, however, it doesn’t bind as tightly to it as THC does. This is why many people feel that CBN is like THC, but without quite the same “high” sensation that it can cause. 

CBD vs CBN: Which is Better?

Two boxes of CBD oil rest on a sunny rock, with a sun hat, sunglasses, and a spray of orange flowers close by.

The CBN products that are out on the market include:  

  • Oils
  • Capsules
  • Tinctures
  • Tea Bags
  • CBN Isolate
  • Disposable Vape Pens

CBD products currently available to consumers are more plentiful than CBN and include:

  • Gummies
  • Soft Gels
  • Creams
  • Patches
  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Lotions
  • Salves
  • Skin Care Products
  • Vape Pens
  • Pet Products
  • Hair products

While not much is known about CBN in isolation, you’re most likely better off purchasing full- or broad spectrum CBD products so that you can experience CBN in conjunction with all of the other amazing parts of the hemp plant. 

CBD vs CBN: Which is Stronger?

This could be somewhat of a trick question since everyone’s body is different, including any strengths or deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system. The higher the strength of a product, the more potent it will be. Having said that, when you opt for a full- or broad spectrum CBD product, you’ll be able to take advantage of more of what the hemp plant has to offer versus if you go with a CBN isolate product alone. 

When there are multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients in a product, they evoke what is known as the entourage effect. In this phenomenon, the parts of the hemp plant boost up each other’s positive aspects while lowering one another’s negative ones. Therefore, full- and broad spectrum products tend to engage more fully with the body’s endocannabinoid system vs one cannabinoid that’s working by itself in isolation. 

How to Use CBD and CBN Together

Someone holding an open jar of CBD cream and getting some on their fingertip

CBD and CBN can be mixed together. In fact, most full- and broad spectrum products contain both cannabinoids in them, while others may only have one or the other. The good news is that they can both be taken together. Scientists are discovering that using both cannabinoids together may enable them to work better. When you take many cannabinoids together, you may need to take less of each cannabinoid to get the same results. 

CBD and CBN can be taken together in oils, gummies, tinctures, creams, salves, soft gels, and much more. The choice of product is completely up to you and depends on what your goals and needs are as well as your overall lifestyle. The main point is to purchase high-quality products from trusted brands so that you can be sure to get the most out of all the hemp plant has to offer. 

Related Article: How To Use CBD and CBG Together

CBD vs CBN: What are the Side Effects?

Scientists have said that CBD is relatively safe and contains only a few mild side effects. Some of the most common side effects linked to CBD are: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Changes in Weight
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth

One important thing to remember when using CBD products is that they can negatively impact the way some medications are metabolized by the body. Therefore, you should speak with your pharmacist, primary care doctor, or prescribing physician if you have questions, concerns, or if you’re taking any medications that contain a “grapefruit warning.” 

Interestingly, because not much is known about CBN due to the lack of scientific studies, there are currently no known side effects linked to the cannabinoid. This simply means that CBN hasn’t been studied enough by the research community to discover any side effects. 

Summary: CBD vs CBN

Both CBD and CBN are chemical compounds found in the hemp and marijuana plants, which are both varieties of the cannabis plant. There’s plenty of information available on CBD because of all of the research done on it, however, because very few studies have been conducted on CBN, scientists don’t know all that much about it. 

Since CBN occurs at lower concentrations than CBD, it’s more difficult to isolate CBN for products and for medicinal or research purposes. It’s mainly because of this reason that CBN products are as expensive as they are. In comparison, CBD is a lot easier to extract and is more plentiful, therefore, these types of products are more affordable by comparison. 

The bottom line when thinking about CBD and CBN is that as hemp and marijuana products become more popular, it’s smart to understand the differences between cannabinoids and other parts of the cannabis plant. Your own experience with these compounds may be different than your friends’ or family members’ experiences, so the real test is in gathering your own empirical data.