What Is CBN? and How Is It Different From CBD? Everything You Need to Know

January 28, 2021

CBN is a special component found in marijuana. Manufacturers derive CBN from tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A). THC-A is a precursor compound to THC, which causes the high found in marijuana. 

THC-A produces CBN when it oxidizes. Manufacturers can expose THC-A to heat, creating CBN at a faster rate. Whole marijuana leaves can produce CBN if they age or are exposed to high levels of oxygen. 

CBN does not produce a high, though it does have a small psychoactive effect. For people with low metabolisms, it can be mildly intoxicating. 

As far as scientists are aware, there are no side effects of CBN. Doctors generally advise pregnant and breastfeeding people to avoid it. They do not advise people under the age of 18 to take it. 

Very few scientists have studied CBN. The United Nations has only studied it to find out how THC-A produces it. More research needs to be done before scientists can make conclusive claims on the compound.

Related article: THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect!

What Is CBN Used For?

  1. The biggest use for CBN is as a sleep aid. The evidence is anecdotal, but many people find that the compound helps them sleep.

  2. CBN may work as a pain reliever. One study from 2019 found evidence of pain relief in rats. People with muscle pain disorders like fibromyalgia may receive the strongest benefits from it.

  3. CBN may stimulate the appetite. Another study on rats showed signs that the compound encouraged rats to eat bigger meals. These rats did not have diseases, so the effects on cancer and HIV patients are uncertain.

  4. CBN can also delay the onset of ALS by at least two weeks. Long-term survival was not affected, but the study indicates that the compound may affect the neurons. Its effects on reducing pain suggest that it soothes nerve damage. 


PRO TIP: CBD May Possibly Interfere With Your Daily Medication. Its interactions are similar to grapefruit, which can disrupt proteins in the liver. 

Do not use CBN alongside antibiotics, blood thinners, or GI medications. Talk to your doctor if you want to take CBN for pain management. It can interact with certain pain medications, especially for GI pain. 


Cannabis Plants Produce CBD and CBN Differently

During the process that the plants go through to make THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, they first make temporary compounds – intermediates in the process. THC and CBD are produced as acids and need to broken down to be of use to you.

As for CBN, it's produced in two different ways. In one, it is a breakdown product from the THC, which reacts even further as it degrades and then produces CBN. Another way that CBN can be made is through aging of the cannabis plants. 


PRO TIP: You know those old strains that left in the display case in dispensaries for few months before they run out of their stock, the bleached ones because of the lights, those tend to have higher CBN than normal, due aging and light exposure.


What Is the Difference Between CBD and CBN? 

The CBN vs CBD debate has raged amongst marijuana consumers. The key point of contention is how each reduces pain. 

There is stronger scientific evidence to suggest that CBD reduces pain. Meta-analyses of scientific data have found strong effects for CBD in pain relievers. CBD is more versatile than CBN, with manufacturers putting CBD in skin creams and beverages. 

Now, viva la difference as they say in France. There are some subtle differences between CBD and CBN.

Related article: How to Choose Marijuana Strains 

  1. CBD and CBN are mostly free of the side effects that you get from smoking or eating marijuana and typically do not cause a high. This provides many advantages in using them to treat pain, seizures, or insomnia. However, CBD may produce a weak high when taken in larger amounts (over 100mg). Though some people can become intoxicated through CBD, fewer people report getting high off of it.

  2. CBN's advantage is in sleep relief. Some people have used CBD to induce sleep, but most users report mixed results. Most anecdotal examples of CBN suggest it is a strong aid for sleep, even with insomnia and sleep disorders.

  3. Most users say that CBN stimulates their appetite more than CBD. CBD does not affect ALS onset or relief from symptoms. 

Though CBD and CBN are prominent compounds of marijuana, they are not the only ones that produce health benefits. Scientists are studying cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC) for their effects.

Out of these four compounds, CBN is the most effective at inducing sleep. CBG may provide strong pain relief, while CBC may control inflammation. 

How Can You Use CBN? 

Some suppliers provide CBN in the form of oil. Most CBN oils contain traces of CBD, and many organic CBD products contain traces of CBN. Read labels carefully before buying the product. 

The oil comes in a glass bottle with a small dropper. Place a few drops under the tongue and hold the oil there. Your tongue contains numerous blood vessels, which will carry the CBN into all parts of your bloodstream. 

You can mix oil into drinks. Cold drinks work better than warm drinks. Insert a few drops and then mix thoroughly so the oil doesn't separate. 

As you use CBN, take stronger doses. Build up from a few drops to a full dropper of oil. Chart your progress in a journal or with your doctor, and adjust your use accordingly. 

Consider taking CBN alongside other marijuana compounds. Marijuana has an "entourage effect," in which one compound gains potency when other compounds accompany it. You may see stronger benefits, but consider the effects of the other compounds. 

Some suppliers make CBD gummies and candies. CBN gummies are not available, though a few companies are exploring CBN's uses. You may find CBN in CBD or THC gummies. 


PRO TIP: The FDA does not regulate CBN or CBD products. Do your research on the companies you are buying from. Make sure a third-party lab tests the products for mold and pesticides. 



More Research Will Discover the Benefits of CBN

While both compounds are used to treat pain, seizures, inflammation, and insomnia, CBD has a long list of additional uses. These include the treatment of brain disorders like anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. Other uses include treating nausea and osteoporosis.

Although there is a long list of benefits for CBD compared to CBN, some of that is probably because CBD has been known for much longer. So, there has been more opportunity to conduct research on it. It is highly likely that the CBD boom is way ahead of the science, but future research will unearth many more health benefits for CBN.