CBD vs CBN: What’s The Actual Difference?

Cannabis plant products have triggered a lot of curiosities in recent times. Those exploring safer alternatives to various physical and mental ailments wonder if cannabis-based products can offer a good remedy to these disorders.

Well, an influx of information on these products is fueling this curiosity even further and thus attracting more people towards them.

It is interesting to note that there are over 100 compounds that find their origin in the cannabis plant, however, only 2 have been able to seek people’s attention so far, THC and CBD.

Of late, there is one more product derived from the cannabis plant that has triggered their interest, which is CBN.

This new inclusion has led to many new questions.

What is CBN? Does it have any similarity with CBD? What differences do the two have? Do they really have any medicinal properties? And do they also have any adverse effects?

Ok, let us take these questions and a few others as well.


Well, CBD and CBN both belong to the same family called cannabinoids.

While CBD stands for cannabidiol, CBN is the abbreviated form for cannabinol.

The percentage of CBD in a cannabis plant can go up to 40% whereas the CBN percentage is merely 1% in it. However, once the plant grows old and gets exposed to heat and oxygen, the percentage of CBN increases significantly.

CBD vs CBN – The Production Process

Production of CBD

There will be a little bit of biology and chemistry involved in understanding the process.

Cannabigerol acid (CBGA) produced during the biosynthesis process in the plant reacts under a catalytic enzyme to form compounds like THCA, and CBDA, etc. These compounds are present in the cannabis plant even at the time of harvesting.

The breakdown of these compounds takes place under the influence of heat and light. And through this process, CBDA breaks down into CBD. This process is called decarboxylation.

You can also trigger this process by subjecting the plant leaves to heat through lighting it on fire, that is precisely what they do while smoking.

So, this is how CBD is produced.

Production of CBN

With natural aging, THCA present in the plant breakdowns to CBNA. CBNA subsequently breaks down to CBN. So, if the harvested plants are allowed to age, gradually more and more of THCA would breakdown to CBN.

However, this process is pretty slow. And through decarboxylation, the process of breakdown can be significantly accelerated.

Effects of CBD and CBN on Our Body

It is interesting to note that our body produces cannabinoids through its endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for many functions of our body, for instance; regulating our sleep, memory, pain sensation, mood, motor functions, and our appetite, etc.

The moment we consume any cannabinoid externally in the form of THC, CBD, or CBN, it stimulates our endocannabinoid system to release more cannabinoid in our bloodstream which in turn, affects functions like sleep, appetite or pain sensation, etc.

How High You Get with CBD And CBN?

THC present in the cannabis plant possesses psychoactive properties and is responsible for getting you high.

Now, because CBD and CBN are also processed through the same cannabis plant as THC, they are also sometimes assumed to trigger the same feeling of high as THC.


Many of the CBD products use Full Spectrum CBD oil in their process. It means while extracting oil from the cannabis plants all the cannabinoid compounds present in the plants are extracted. This includes compounds like terpenes, phytochemicals, and also the THC. The combination of these compounds is more effective than CBD extracted in isolation.

And this is how many of the CBD products contain THC. However, THC concentration is far too low to cause any feeling of getting high.

In most CBD products, THC levels are less than 0.3%.

Moreover, CBD products made of Broad Spectrum oil and CBD Isolates do not contain any THC.


It is interesting to note that the discovery of CBN in cannabis plants dates back to 1940 i.e. before THC, which was discovered in 1942. It was a common belief among the doctors that CBN was responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

Some studies have reported sedative effects of consuming CBN, but these observations have yet to be medically concluded.

A small dosage of CBN does not give any indication of getting high; however, it can be experienced in its consumption in higher dosage.

It means that though not too strong yet CBN has light psychoactive effects. However, it needs more extensive studies and research to establish this as a fact.

Benefits of CBD and CBN

Benefits of CBD

Factually speaking there isn’t much research available to prove the health benefits of CBD.

It is owing to the fact that till very recently hemp-based products were clubbed with highly psychoactive marijuana in the US drug regulatory requirements. Now, FDA has eased out these requirements for hemp products like CBD.

This has paved the way for more extensive research on the health benefits of CBD and other hemp products.

That said, there are some medical disorders where the positive effects of CBD have been objectively proven and approved. These include two disorders related to epilepsy viz. Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome for patients aged 2 years or above.

However, the potential benefits that CBD can provide to various health benefits have a long list including helping with reducing anxiety, insomnia, pain, and even cancer-related symptoms.

Benefits of CBN

CBN is an even new cannabinoid in the world of health and fitness. Therefore, even fewer studies are available on its health-related benefits.

It has shown to have sedative effects and this property of CBN promises to help those who spend their whole night waiting to have those few hours of sweet rejuvenating sleep, in vain.

Apart from this, many potential benefits of CBN include the treatment of some other disorders as well.

Side-effects of CBD and CBN

This is one of the most critical aspects of any new medicinal system, particularly in the absence of enough studies available on their positive and adverse health effects.

Though there has been no report that has indicated any serious side-effects of CBD and CBN so far yet some cases of tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight have been observed with CBD.

The sedative effects of CBN can have some side effects on a high dosage.

It would be, however, prudent to be extra cautious in consuming these products in the absence of any negating results.

Interactions with Other Medications

Apart from the side effects, another important aspect that needs constant attention is their possible interaction with other medications. Again, in the absence of any concrete research, we cannot ascertain the impact of these products on other medicines.

Consuming them together may have adverse effects on your health or may make the already running medication ineffective or also may not provide the desired effects of CBD or CBN itself.

Therefore, it is advisable to consult a medical professional before supplementing with these products while on other medications.

To be on the safer side, a topical treatment is preferable over the oral intake, which would at least not interfere with your digestive system.

Moreover, even while applying the cream or balm, it is highly advisable to seek doctor’s advice in case of any rashes, irritation, or any other abnormal symptoms appearing on the skin.

A Word of Caution

Last but not the least, with the influx of these products in the market, many local sellers may try to take advantage of this situation and sell substandard products. They may mix some additives that may not be good for your health.

Therefore, it is very important to procure these products from reputed brands and through reliable vendors. Moreover, it is advisable to read the labels of the product very carefully.


Finally, we can say that CBD and CBN have many similarities but many differences as well.

If they are similar, as both are cannabinoids, extracted from the cannabis plants, the difference lies in their extraction process.

They are similar, as both trigger the endocannabinoid system of our brain, the difference lies in the fact that CBD can treat more ailments than CBN.

Another similarity is that neither CBD nor CBN gets you high. This makes them a safer alternative to traditional medications.

However, there is a definite need for more research & studies about their favorable and unfavorable impacts on our health. As of now, there are only two epilepsy-related disorders that have been approved for CBD medication and none for CBN as yet.

Besides, it requires more extensive studies to evaluate the effects of their interactions with other medicinal compounds.

Till these studies are carried out extensively, it is advisable to take due precautions in procuring and consuming both CBD and CBN products.

In any case, it is recommended to consult your doctor before going ahead with these products and never ignore any abnormal symptoms observed after consuming them, orally or otherwise.

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