CBD vs. CBN: What’s the Difference?

Updated on November 23, 2020

To date, scientists have discovered over 100 unique cannabinoids. Most of these cannabis-specific substances are, however, variants or analogs of a group of core cannabinoids that includes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC).

While CBD has already become wildly popular, CBN is just starting to receive attention. Learn the differences between CBD and CBN to find out which cannabinoid is right for you.

What is CBD?

Next to THC, CBD is one of the world’s most popular cannabinoids. Originally popularized by stories about its profound effects in children with epilepsy, this non-intoxicating cannabinoid has since become a go-to substance for people of all ages with chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and other conditions.

Instead of stimulating the brain’s CB1 receptors, which flood your nervous system with dopamine, CBD primarily interacts with your TRP receptors, which control inflammation, and your 5-HT receptors, which control serotonin. As a result, CBD is not intoxicating, but it offers profound effects throughout the body that most users find mild and relaxing.

What is CBN?

In the earliest days of cannabis research, scientists believed that CBN was the dominant cannabinoid present in Cannabis sativa. It didn’t take long, however, to discover that CBN was actually an oxidized form of THC, which was invariably the dominant cannabinoid present in cannabis until breeders produced CBD-rich strains.

Naturally present in reasonably high concentrations in aged Cannabis sativa buds, cannabis producers have associated CBN with sleepiness for decades. Recently, research has been conducted into the appetite-stimulating, neuroprotective, and antimicrobial potential of this cannabinoid. Like CBD, CBN is non-intoxicating.


While CBD and CBN may be similar in many ways, these cannabinoids also have considerable differences. Compare and contrast CBD and CBN to determine which cannabinoid is right for your particular circumstances.


  • Non-intoxicating: Like CBD, CBN is non-intoxicating, which means that it won’t get you high. While users report that these cannabinoids offer noticeably different effects, neither CBD nor CBN will make you feel high.
  • No significant side effects: While CBN has not been researched as thoroughly as CBD, neither cannabinoid appears to have significant side effects. We’ll need to conduct more research into CBN to determine its exact safety profile, but all available research indicates that CBD is essentially free of serious side effects.


  • Production: CBN can only be produced by oxidizing THC or using special processes that transform CBD. It is not possible to produce high-CBN strains of Cannabis sativa. Therefore, sourcing CBN is relatively difficult, and this cannabinoid remains significantly more expensive than CBD, which can be produced in cannabis plants at concentrations exceeding 25%.
  • Effects: While remaining non-intoxicating, CBN appears to share some of the beneficial aspects of THC. For instance, this cannabinoid has been studied for its appetite-stimulating effects. CBN has also been studied for its antimicrobial effects, which CBD does not appear to share. At the same time, CBN does not appear to interact with your brain’s TRP or 5-HT receptors.

Which cannabinoid is right for you?

If you’re seeking help with a particular condition, you might want to choose one cannabinoid over another. For instance, people commonly use CBD for pain, but the pain-fighting potential of CBN appears to be minimal or even nonexistent.

People with appetite or nausea issues who don’t want to use THC due to its intoxicating and addictive attributes might want to use CBN instead. CBN has also been researched for its ability to combat glaucoma, which is another condition for which THC is commonly prescribed.

If you simply want to enjoy the benefits of the Cannabis sativa plant to the fullest extent possible without getting high, however, you might want to use CBD and CBD together. The latest research indicates that combining cannabinoids results in a synergistic phenomenon called the entourage effect, which makes each cannabinoid stronger than it would be on its own.

How to use CBD and CBN

Inhalation is the most potent way to use CBD or CBN. While CBN isn’t present in hemp flower products in high concentrations, it’s possible to reintroduce CBN isolate into vape cartridges, and in some cases, hemp vape cartridges contain both of these cannabinoids put together.

Combine CBD and CBN to experience the most potent effects, or use these two non-intoxicating cannabinoids individually to target their unique benefits. The choice is yours as you explore everything that CBD and CBN have to offer.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.