CBD Vs CBN: What’s The Difference?

CBD vs CBN — what is the difference between the two?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are among more than 100 cannabinoids that have been found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds with the potential to interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, an internal bodily structure in both humans and animals that regulate pain, inflammation, mood, sleep, and many other functions.

Though they sound similar, CBD and CBN have varying molecular structures, which elicit different reactions in the body. However, they do have some similarities. We’ll get to the disparities between the two cannabinoids soon enough.

If you are even somewhat connected to the world of cannabinoids, you may be more familiar with CBD, the more widely known cannabinoid. CBD products have boomed in popularity, coming in various forms such as oils, tinctures, topicals, capsules, and edibles. People tend to use CBD products to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression,  manage chronic pain, and even for help in getting a good night’s sleep.

Where does that leave CBN? While being potentially as beneficial as CBD, there has been little human research on the potential benefits of CBN. However, a few studies support its ability to act as a sedative and reduce pain.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the potential benefits and differences between CBD and CBN. One of the most prominent factors is how they interact with the endocannabinoid system.

CBD Vs CBN: The Endocannabinoid System

What is the endocannabinoid system, and what does it do?

The endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors throughout the body. It is connected to the immune system and nervous system, playing an essential role in regulating pain, inflammation, digestion, sleep, mood, and many other aspects of wellness.

The most-studied receptors are CB1 found in the nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord, and CB2, which is found throughout the immune system. The way that certain cannabinoids bind with these receptors has a significant impact on how people respond to them.

For example, when tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binds to CB1 receptors, it evokes a feeling of an intoxicated and euphoric sensation. CBD has an affinity for CB2 receptors, but if it were to bind with the same receptor, it may lead to a feeling of relaxation without the psychoactive high of THC.

Similar to THC, CBN also binds to CB1 receptors. Like CBD, it doesn’t bind to the receptors nearly as much as THC does. This is the reason people identify CBN as “THC without the high.” It may also explain why there are overlapping effects when it comes to sleep stimulation.

This is a significant difference between CBD and CBN. CBD binds with CB2 receptors, and CBN binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, with the latter having a stronger affinity. Though both cannabinoids mainly interact with CB2 receptors, they pose varying bodily responses. 

CBD Vs CBN: Potential Benefits And Reactions

As different cannabinoids continue to become more popular and widely used, it is more important than ever to understand the disparities between every cannabinoid, as well as other components of the plant. Each cannabinoid serves its own purpose for regulating your health and well-being.

Let’s start with CBD.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the more widely known cannabinoids along with THC. Unlike THC, CBD does not elicit a “high” sensation and is known to promote relaxation. 

According to the evidence we have today, these are some potential benefits of taking CBD:

1. Chronic pain management

Many cases of chronic pain management are a result of injury, illness, and surgical procedures. A 2018 study showed that CBD may be effective at reducing chronic pain by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. 

In another study, seven patients who had recently had a kidney transplant took 50 to 150 mg of CBD twice a day for three weeks. Two out of seven patients experienced total pain reduction, four had partial pain improvement, and one experienced no changes. Though the results differ, the effects are promising.

2. Anxiety and depression management

Studies have found that CBD may be a potential alternative to traditional medications for treating depression and anxiety. Due to the pervasive nature of mental health conditions, long-term use of some pharmaceutical medicines may lead to abuse or dependency. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD exhibits no effects indicative of abuse or dependence, making it a promising option for chronic and long-term health and wellness concerns, such as anxiety and depression.

A 2014 review showed that CBD appears to act as an antidepressant and antianxiety compound in animal models of depression. The cannabinoid exhibits an anti-stress effect after short or long-term use.

Researchers are still not precisely sure how it works, but it is theorized that CBD’s benefits with anxiety and depression could be due to its interaction with 5-HT1A receptors, which also explains its potential for treating epilepsy and seizures.

3. Epilepsy and seizure reduction

According to a 2020 review of studies, CBD could be a potential treatment option for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, namely:

  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

In fact, CBD under the name Epidiolex has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat two rare forms of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The drug may also reduce seizures associated with epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).

4. Sleep improvement

Many people say that taking CBD helps them sleep. There is some research that supports CBD’s ability to improve sleep quality, but more conclusive studies are needed before fully grasping its potential, especially since sleep disorders have a wide variety of triggers.

In a study from 2019, participants with anxiety and sleep disorder were given 25 to 175 mg of CBD every day. During a follow-up after a month of continued use, almost 80% reported an improvement with anxiety symptoms, and 66% stated improved sleep quality.

Speaking of better sleep conditions, this might just be the perfect segue to get into CBN’s therapeutic benefits. 

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is another cannabinoid in the plant, just like CBD. However, their origins are highly different. CBN is a product of oxidation; when THC is exposed to heat and light, it breaks down and leaves CBN behind. 

This is the reason most cannabis strains do not contain high levels of CBN on their own. There is no way to cultivate a strain with high CBN levels by itself, and even then, the amount depends on varying factors, such as THC levels and exposure to elements like heat, light, and time.

CBN may not have as many studies on it compared to CBD, but there are some things we definitely do know about it. Like many other cannabinoids, CBD and CBN both have anti-inflammatory properties. There are a few other promising uses for CBN: 

1. Relieving pain

A 2019 animal study found that CBN could reduce myofascial pain (a chronic pain disorder) in rats. The study also showed that a combination of CBN and CBD was even more effective than either of them acting alone.

The researchers concluded that CBN and CBD may relieve chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia and temporomandibular disorders, which include headaches and facial pain.

2. Stimulating appetite

A 2012 animal study showed that CBN induced an increase in appetite. CBN made it so the rats ate food more frequently and for a longer period of time. 

This renders CBN a therapeutic alternative to help increase appetite in people who struggle to maintain an appetite due to many factors and illnesses, such as cancer, its treatment, and eating disorders.

3. Improving bone health and regeneration

Research shows that CBN may aid in stimulating the production of new bones by activating the stem cells in charge of facilitating the growth of bone cells. 

The study also indicates that CBN may help treat fractured bones and reverse the decline of bone loss. Because of its bone-regenerating properties, scientists are currently looking at CBN as a potential therapy for osteoporosis. 

4. Promoting restful sleep cycles

Now, we get to the main event. Above all of CBN’s reported benefits, its potential to promote and improve sleep is the most widely known and talked about. Though research is lacking to support CBN’s ability to help with sleep, the anecdotal evidence is rife with promising reports.

As of now, the most conclusive study advocating its positive role for sleep is from 1975. In a study with five male participants, it was discovered that a combination of THC and CBN had stronger sedation and promoted better sleep compared to THC’s effects alone.  

Though the research may be outdated, people have reported CBN to be highly beneficial for their sleep troubles. According to a Reddit forum regarding people’s responses to taking CBN, one user had this to say:

“I have pain, and CBN near bedtime has been a game-changer for my sleep.”

“We tried CBD and CBN for sleep, and CBN is far more effective (in our opinion).”

Another Reddit forum about the effects of some cannabinoids had people raving about CBN for sleep. This is what users said about it:

“CBG will keep you up. THC will give you restless sleep (not all people). But CBN… that knocks me out. Expensive, but worth it.”

“CBN has definitely helped my insomnia.”

These promising reviews beg the question: Can CBN potentially help with sleep disorders? For instance, THC and CBD have been widely studied for their impact on sleep disorders. Though there are existing studies on CBN and sleep, more research is needed. 

CBD Vs CBN: What’s The Difference?

Let’s start with their similarities:

  • CBD and CBN both have the potential to alleviate chronic pain and reduce inflammation. 
  • Neither CBD nor CBN is likely to produce a “high” sensation as THC does. CBN may do so if taken in high amounts. 
  • CBD and CBN can potentially help with sleep and relaxation, as they both have properties as a sedative.

That being said, they are not interchangeable. These are some of CBD and CBN’s prominent differences:

  • CBD and CBN are acquired in significantly different quantities.
  • They interact with the endocannabinoid system differently.
  • CBD has been extensively studied, whereas studies on CBN are still in the preliminary stages.
  • Research supports CBD use for anxiety, depression, epilepsy, whereas CBN is promising for appetite stimulation, deep sleep, and bone health.
  • CBD is currently FDA-approved to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. CBN is yet to be FDA-approved for any condition.

Most of the disparities between CBD and CBN lie in the fact that the latter is yet to be extensively studied. For example, there are studies looking into CBN for anti-seizure properties, but more time and research are needed before making any conclusions. 

And the core of their differences lies in how they interact with the endocannabinoid system. For example, people anecdotally claim that high-CBD strains hinder the adverse effects of THC, such as restlessness, anxiety, and paranoia. And people sought high-CBN products for their strong sedation effects, which help them sleep.

Another difference is that CBN is technically a psychoactive compound, as it borrows some of its properties from THC. However, it binds to CB1 receptors at a much lower strength, making the psychoactivity extremely mild and may only be felt by individuals who are particularly sensitive to impairment. 

Lastly, manufacturers can easily breed plants to have a higher amount of CBD. With CBN, manufacturers cannot directly adjust the amount of the cannabinoid in the plant, as it is a breakdown of THC. 

Because CBN is inherently low in quantity, research cannot move as fast as it does with CBD, which is the second most common cannabinoid found in the plant. To put it simply, if research on CBD is in its early stages, research on CBN is in its infancy.

CBD Vs CBN: Can You Take Them Together?

Yes, you may mix CBD and CBN. In fact, some products have both cannabinoids in them. Others may only have one or the other, but you may take both together.

What’s interesting is that some research suggests that mixing them may help them work better than taking them separately. Evidence shows CBN working positively in tandem with other cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC. This may be due to its interaction with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CBD Vs CBN: Legalities

CBD is federally legal in the United States, given that it was produced from the hemp plant. The 2018 Farm Bill allowed for the legal distribution of hemp and its derivatives. The federal rule specifically announced the legality of hemp-derived products, which includes different forms of hemp-derived CBD. 

That being said, every state has varying degrees of restrictions, so it would be best to check and research your state’s provisions regarding CBD and CBD products.

Legalities are tricky with CBN, as it is derived from THC, a prominent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. As a standalone, CBN is not scheduled under any federal laws, but marijuana-derived CBN poses a little bit of a problem. 

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana pertains to “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plants, its seeds or resin.”

So, is CBN legal? It depends on the source. CBN is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the hemp plant. Though in low concentrations, it is the only source allowed by federal law. Marijuana-derived CBN remains to fall under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

CBD Vs CBN: Bottom Line

Here are the key takeaways of CBD vs CBN:

  • CBD and CBN are both cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but they are distinct in their functions and effects on the body. One should not be used in place of the other.
  • CBD is more extensively studied for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and seizures, while CBN is thought to be more helpful for sleep, stimulating appetite, and relieving pain.
  • Consult a medical professional before taking either CBD or CBN.

A hundred cannabinoids have been discovered, and only a few of them have gotten the spotlight that they deserve. 

We simply need more time and research to fully understand how CBN affects the body. One cannot truly know the disparities between CBD and CBN until knowing the potential extent of either cannabinoid. We can refer to the evidence we have today but take them with a grain of salt. We are still in the early days of research.

Hopefully, with time, more medical claims regarding CBD, and especially CBN, will be further substantiated with comprehensive and legitimate studies. It’s only a matter of time until we know more.