CBN vs. CBD: What’s the Difference


There is a new cannabinoid making waves called CBN or Cannabinol but is it the same as CBD (cannabidiol). Both cannabinoids are found in the hemp plant with CBD being more abundant than CBN.

CBN plays a large part in the hemp puzzle even though it isn’t present in high percentages. There are some key differences between CBN and CBD, including how they affect the body.

Research is starting to show that each individual cannabinoid has its own unique effect on the body and is determined by the specific ways any given cannabinoid interacts with a consumer’s endocannabinoid system.

There also is a fundamental differences in how CBN and CBD are produced within the hemp plant and in the chemical makeup of these cannabinoids. The differences between CBD and CBN produce very distinct effects on the human body.

What is CBD?

CBD is a naturally occurring chemical compound called cannabinoid that is found in the hemp plant. CBD is the second most abundant compound in the hemp plant. It has been found to have therapeutic benefits and has grown in popularity over the last few years.

What is CBN?

CBN is a naturally occurring chemical compound called cannabinoid that is found in the hemp plant. It doesn’t come directly from the hemp plant but is a result of processes within the plant. CBN is actually a by-product of THC content where it is produced through oxidation, heat and when the plant ages. CBN has been found to have therapeutic benefits.

How do cannabinoids form?

Most cannabinoids start out as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) but after the cannabinoid is exposed to enzymes, ultraviolet light, oxygen and heat CBGAs make various changes during the plant’s life cycle. CBGA will gradually transform into different cannabinoids throughout the plant’s life.

As the hemp plant matures, natural enzymes transform the CBGA into either THCA, CBDA, or CBCA. When the acids are exposed to heat (decarboxylated) they will transform into THC, CBD, CBG or CBC.

If however, THCA is exposed to ultraviolet light (such as from sunlight) and oxygen, THCA transforms into CBNA (cannabinolic acid). This CBNA, when exposed to heat, decarboxylates into CBN.

Old buds or flowers of the hemp plant that have not been stored away from light or in airtight containers begin to oxidize. As a result, they will have higher levels of CBN when compared to fresher products or products that have been stored properly.

CBD vs CBN: What’s the Difference?

To fully understand what sets these cannabinoids apart, it helps to compare and contrast them.

How are CBD and CBN similar? 
  •      Both are active ingredients in the hemp plant.
  •      They’re cannabinoids.
  •      Both are recognized as being harmless, safe and non-toxic.
  •      Neither one creates a euphoric, psychoactive high like THC.
  •      Both are useful for therapeutic purposes.
  •      Both interact with a series of receptors in your body collectively known as the endocannabinoid system.
  •      When consumed with other cannabinoids they are more potent and have greater effects. This is called the “entourage effect“.
How are CBD and CBN different?
  •      CBD and CBN are different molecules.
  •      Hemp contains CBD from the start.
  •      Fresh hemp typically contains very little CBN because this cannabinoid begins to appear as the plant material ages.
  •      CBN is not determined by genetic factors, the amount of CBD is determined by genetic factors.
  •      The amount of CBN in the hemp plant is determined by environmental factors.
  •      They have different therapeutic purposes.
  •      CBD is available in high concentrations within the hemp plant where CBN is not.
  •      When CBN is combined with other cannabinoids the side effect can be very sedating.
  •      CBD can actually lessen or neutralize the psychoactive effects of THC. The interaction between CBN and THC is unclear currently.
  •      CBN is barely psychoactive (and can only cause a high if ingested in extremely large doses).
  •      CBN binds directly to the CB1 receptor, where CBD does not.
  •      It’s currently not possible to breed hemp plants that produce high levels of CBN.


While the two cannabinoids have some similarities and differences. They are both cannabinoids from the hemp plant, they are formed in different ways and both have uses in alternative therapy for their therapeutic purposes.

While CBN has many uses that do not apply to cannabidiol, cannabinol is still the most useful cannabinoid. Understanding how these cannabinoids work can help you more precisely craft your hemp consumption to give you the experience you’re looking for.

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