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CBD vs CBN: What's the Difference?
July 21, 2022

CBD vs CBN: What's the Difference?

Currently, federal law permits the sale of industrial hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC. As a result, the use of products derived from hemp continues to grow exponentially. And given the popularity of hemp, more products are coming on the market, including CBN. So, what’s the CBD vs. CBN debate you keep hearing about? Or specifically, what’s the difference between the two compounds?
Well, gone are the days when cannabis sale was strictly a backstreet affair, where people had to duck behind buildings to avoid bumping into law enforcers. And if you were found in possession of cannabis or using it, you were likely to end up behind bars. Fortunately, its legalization in most states for medicinal or recreational use means more people can access it.
Cannabis contains over 100 compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds are chemicals that usually cause various effects on the body once they interact with the receptors making up the endocannabinoid system (read on to learn more about this).
I guess it’s safe to assume that you’ve probably heard of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. For those who’re not in the know, THC is the compound that makes people “high” due to its psychoactive elements. On the flip side, cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive, implying that you’ll likely not feel “high” if you use a product containing it. Let’s examine the differences in detail. But first…

A Popularity Contest

Although cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) have similar qualities, they’re different compounds or molecules derived from hemp plants. Generally, CBD tends to be more abundant, as it’s produced directly by the plant. On the other hand, CBN is produced as a result of THC oxidation (exposure to oxygen).
CBD products are also more popular than CBN-derived alternatives. Perhaps, the limited human studies on CBN’s potential benefits explain why it’s not a prominent family member.
Besides THC, CBD is the most common or abundant cannabinoid found in hemp. As a result, a producer can create a more potent strain of CBD. But, the same isn’t the case with CBN- as we’ll point out.

The Endocannabinoid System

Don’t let the wording faze you. The endocannabinoid system comprises molecules and receptors spread throughout the body. The system links up with the nervous system and is responsible for facilitating functions such as mood regulation and digestion.
Cannabinoid type receptor 1 (CB1) is a predominant receptor in the endocannabinoid system. How the chemicals in hemp products (cannabinoids) bind with CB1 largely determines the overall effect.
For instance, when you consume a CBD gummy, CBD binds to the CB1 receptor, making you feel relaxed. Conversely, consuming THC results in a feeling of euphoria or intoxication after interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system. As you’ve noted, the product you use determines the range of effects you’re likely to experience. Experts also believe that every cannabinoid may have a unique effect on your body, depending on how it interacts with your system.

CBD: A Counterbalance

Although THC is known for its intoxicating effects, CBD, on the other hand, offers potential health benefits. As such, it’s often perceived as THC’s counterbalance as it helps regulate the adverse effects you may experience if you use THC. These include psychotic reactions such as anxiety and paranoia.
Several studies note that a high concentration of THC can cause the said reactions in healthy users. If you’re predisposed to mental illness, you may also experience similar adverse effects. Fortunately, CBD use appears to mellow out the known side effects of THC, leading to a more sedate or manageable high.

Potential Upsides of CBD Use

You can buy CBD in various forms, including tinctures, gummies, concentrates, vapes, and more. Its versatility makes it a common choice for many consumers. Plus, it’s claimed to help in managing various types of pain. Among the known uses of CBD include:

  • Depression management
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Alleviation of cancer symptoms
  • Treatment of epilepsy and other types of seizures


Interestingly, CBN or cannabinol was initially isolated from the cannabis plant as far back as the early 1930s. But, other sources suggest this happened much earlier.
To create CBN, producers or manufacturers let THC break down by exposing it to light and heat or by merely letting it age while exposed to oxygen- just like fine wine, I guess! This implies that CBN is merely a byproduct of THC’s oxidation process. So, what is the implication of such a process?
For starters, it means that environmental factors (and not cannabis’ genetic composition) are responsible for the level of CBN in a cannabis product. These include:

  • The amount of THC in harvested cannabis flowers
  • Level of exposure to sunlight or heat.
  • How long the flowers have been exposed to heat

For instance, if you don’t refrigerate your buds and expose them to direct light, they will oxidize. In turn, this leads to a higher concentration of CBN than in fresh cannabis flowers or other products. It’s also why you’re unlikely to chance upon a high CBN strain in the market.

Level of Intoxication

However, CBN doesn’t produce the same effects as THC when it attaches to the cannabinoid one receptor or CB1. And while CBD is not intoxicating, some users claim that CBN has a mildly intoxicating effect.
This may also explain why it’s often dubbed “THC without the high.” Still, it’s virtually impossible to tweak the concentration of CBN in a product, as THC breaks down on its own to create the compound.

The Entourage Effect

Unfortunately, researchers have conducted fewer studies relating to CBN as they have its close cousin, CBD. But that’s not to say CBN doesn’t offer benefits. But, for best results, researchers believe you’re likely to experience a more powerful effect if you consume a combination of cannabinoids. In short, the more the compounds, the greater the potency. The effect is also commonly called the “entourage effect.”
Case in point, in 2019, a study to evaluate the combined use of CBN and CBD established that these molecules offered more relief for muscle pain than if the compounds were used separately. However, the study only included animal participants (especially rats), and human studies may be required to validate such claims.
Similarly, a study establishing the impact of using a THC-CBN combo in 2011 found that the approach delivered a more sedated high. Also, some nonhuman studies suggest CBN may have anti-inflammatory properties. Besides, some users claim that it helps them sleep better. However, these assertions are just anecdotal.
Most manufacturers of CBN products market them as sleep aids. However, more studies are necessary to prove or back these claims. But given its touted benefits, perhaps the use of CBN alongside CBD can help relieve symptoms of insomnia and help you relax.
Given the subtle differences we've discussed, one thing is clear: CBD is the more popular cousin in the cannabis family. And if you’re interested in a wide range of CBD or THC-CBN combos, feel free to browse Purple Lotus’ wide selection. You can find us at to learn more about our cannabis-derived products.

Purple Lotus,

752 Commercial St San Jose CA 95112,

(408) 456-0420

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