CBN VS CBD: Which Should I Choose?

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By now you've likely heard of cannabidiol (CBD) and its many potential benefits in the health and wellness space. It's become so popular, there's a good chance you can find a product at your local grocery store.

CBN or cannabinol is another cannabis plant compound that's starting to gain more recognition as more research emerges about its unique health benefits towards sleep and relaxation.

If you were to look for CBN products just a few years ago, you would have had a hard time sourcing it as it's not present in cannabis plants in significant quantities like CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But with advancements in cannabinoid extraction methods, you can find more and more CBN products appearing on the market.

In this article, we'll discuss the differences between the two cannabinoids and help you decide which cannabis compounds fit best into your wellness regimen.

Key Takeaways: 

  1. CBN and CBD are two of over a hundred cannabis plant compounds called cannabinoids that interact with the endocannabinoid system to exert their potential benefits.
  2. CBN exists in mature hemp plants in very low quantities (less than 1%), and it's a metabolite of THC. It naturally occurs as the THC molecule degrades due to UV exposure and oxidation.
  3. CBN is slowly growing in popularity and it's often marketed to support, sleep, feelings of nervousness, and pain.
  4. More research is needed on the effects of CBN on the human body, but it does show promise in preclinical trials for improving overall sleep quality when combined with other cannabinoids.
  5. There's not enough substantial evidence to show that CBN isolate can support sleep or discomfort better than CBD or THC.

What Does CBN Mean?

Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds found in the cannabis Sativa plant. Of these cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most well-known and studied. But there is another cannabinoid that has been gaining attention lately: cannabinol, CBN.

CBN's Discovery In The Cannabis Plant

When researchers were first investigating the active compounds in cannabis in 1896, cannabinol was the first cannabinoid to be discovered and was believed to be responsible for marijuana's psychoactive effects. It was quickly found to be a minor cannabinoid found predominantly in aged cannabis plants but in still relatively low concentrations (less than 1%). CBN is a metabolite of THC. It forms as THC degrades from oxidation.

CBN is best known today as a sleep aid, and some cannabis researchers believed it's the primary compound that elicits a heavy body feeling or "couch-lock" from some hemp and marijuana strains. This theory was debunked in more current studies looking at CBN isolates and found that CBN acts in conjunction with CBD and THC through the entourage effect to produce the most profound effects towards relaxation.

Quick Recap On What CBD Is...

It's not news that cannabidiol (CBD) has taken the wellness world by storm in the last seven years.

CBD is one of the main cannabinoids found in hemp plants. It's non-intoxicating and has been the subject of many peer-reviewed studies for its potential medical benefits. So far, there's only one FDA-approved CBD pharmaceutical called Epilodex prescribed for treating rare and difficult to treat forms of epilepsy.

Because CBD research has found the compound to be very safe and well-tolerated in humans, many people turn to over-the-counter and online CBD products to support a variety of wellness goals from pain relief, sleep support, athletic recovery, and support their mental health.

Before we get into comparing CBD's benefits with CBN, let's discuss how cannabinoids work in the body to exert their potential health benefits.

How Do Cannabinoids Work?

The endocannabinoid system is one of the most fascinating and least understood systems in the human body. This system controls a variety of important physiological processes, including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory. And, although we're still learning about it, research suggests that the ECS may play a role in conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

Despite its importance, many people don't know much about the endocannabinoid system or how it works.

The ECS is a system of cannabinoid receptors and associated proteins that regulate important functions like inflammation, appetite, sleep cycles, or mood.

The three key components are:

  1. Endocannabinoids act as transmitters for our bodies' natural cannabis-like chemicals; these molecules activate cell surface receptors
  2. Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are found on the surface of cells throughout the body.
  3. Enzymes that break down the cannabinoids once they've performed their functions.

It turns out that the cannabis plant's cannabinoids are molecularly very similar to some of the endocannabinoids that our body produces.

Cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and CBN have molecular shapes that fit like a key into the cannabinoid receptors. The matching process of unlocking certain receptors affects the body's physiological processing.

CBN Vs. CBD: What's The Difference?

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, so does the research into its many compounds. CBD and CBN are two of the most talked-about cannabinoids when it comes to sleep and relaxation, but what’s the difference between them? And what benefits do they offer?

Here’s a closer look at CBD and CBN:

  1. CBD is a major cannabinoid while CBN is a minor cannabinoid. It's found in less than concentrations 1% in mature hemp flowers.
  2. The primary receptor target of CBN is the CB1 receptor. CBD doesn't have an affinity to these receptors but it has interactions with both CB1 and CB2 receptors and may help increase the levels of the body's naturally produced endocannabinoids.
  3. Because CBN activates the CB1 receptor, it can have mildly psychoactive effects in some people when taking very large doses—though it's not used to achieve a high. CBD is non-psychoactive and doesn't produce intoxicating effects in high doses.
  4. Researchers found that the primary benefit of CBN is its potential as a muscle-relaxant to support improved sleep quality and pain relief while CBD acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory—more research is needed to understand the full effects of CBN.
  5. CBN products tend to be more expensive because the process to produce CBN products is more complicated and expensive as it doesn't naturally exist in very large quantities in the cannabis plant, unlike CBD.

THC Vs CBD Vs CBN Cannabinoid Structures

The shape of the cannabinoid molecule plays an important role in understanding its pharmacology—how it interacts in the body to produce its potential benefits.

As a metabolite of the THC molecule, CBN binds to the same receptors (CB1 and CB2 receptors). While they activate the same receptor sites, it doesn't appear that CBN produces a high, although some people who take larger doses may feel slight psychoactive effects.

While CBD is known to interact at these receptor sites, CBD's benefits come from other actions such as preventing enzymes from breaking down naturally produced cannabinoids, and interactions at the vanilloid receptors, and GABA in the brain.

How Do You Use CBN and CBD Products?

How Do You Use CBN and CBD Products?

Types of CBN Products

Compared to CBD products, CBN products aren't as easy to come by. Since there hasn't been as much attention on CBN's potential benefits until much more recently, there aren't many manufacturers producing it.

But the cannabis industry is quickly evolving as new research emerges about the potential benefits of other cannabinoids. We've encountered much more CBN-specific products in the last year from CBN gummies, oil, and capsules.

The best way to use CBN or CBD products is in a concentrated extract infused in a carrier oil as they come in a variety of strengths, are easy to use, and allow you to customize your doses more accurately than smoking it or eating cannabis-infused treats.

1. How To Use Hemp Flower

CBD hemp flowers are much more available on the market than CBN hemp flower strains, but you can find aged hemp flower that contains higher than average CBN.

The most common application of hemp flower is to smoke it as a joint, vaporizer, or brew it as a tea.

Smoking hemp flowers will give you the fastest-acting effects, but they're much harder to dose for accuracy, and smoking isn't ideal for everyone.

To keep your flowers fresh, store them in an amber-colored air-tight container in a cool and dry place to prevent the cannabinoids and terpenes from degrading.

2. How To Use CBN and CBD Oil (Tincture)

Hemp extract oils will come in a wide range of strengths as indicated by the number of milligrams. The application of CBD and CBN oil will depend on what you plan on using them for.

Many people use CBN oil the same way as CBD. The dose of CBD and CBN is very similar, so you can follow the same dosage recommendations depending on your weight and wellness goals. For those wanting to take advantage of the potential sedative properties, they'll take higher doses (25–60MG) of CBD oil or full spectrum CBN oil an hour or two before their ideal bedtime.

CBD seems to have a wider range of health benefits and is also appropriate for daytime use to support energy levels and concentration.

3. How To Use CBN and CBD Gummies

Hemp extract infused gummies are a great way to add more convenience to your supplementation. Gummies will contain a pre-set amount of the cannabinoid, they're easier to take on the go and taste great.

The body's endocannabinoid system does take time to adjust to supplemented cannabinoids, so if you're someone who struggles with taking your CBD or CBN oil consistently, gummies may be a better option for you.

Why Is CBN More Difficult To Produce Than CBD?

THC, CBN, and CBD (and other cannabinoids) are found in trichome resin glands speckled on cannabis flowers. CBN is most abundant in older plants as THC degrades, but even still, it's found in very low concentrations.

To get higher levels of CBN, you can breed cannabis plants with the desired traits, and then use specialized extraction methods to preserve the heat and light-sensitive compounds.

Is CBN Legal?

CBN is legal. The only cannabinoid that remains a restricted compound is THC due to its potential for abuse and intoxication.

Some states have legalized THC and marijuana for medical programs and recreational use, but if you're looking to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC, make sure your cannabinoid products are derived from hemp crops with less than 0.3% THC.

Cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC is classified as marijuana.

Both CBD and CBN are regulated under the Farm Bill Act 2018 that legalized the farming and production of hemp crops and their derivatives. The issue is that it's very inefficient to harvest CBN from hemp as CBN is a byproduct of THC degradation, which means manufacturers need significantly more hemp plants to produce CBN extracts than if they were to use marijuana plants.

Before adding any CBD or CBN product to your cart, make sure the company discloses the source of the extract to avoid legal hot water.

CBN Vs CBD — Which Should I Choose?

As more popularity surrounds the hemp plant in the health and wellness spaces, interesting studies are emerging to show us that CBN is a cannabinoid we should pay attention to. Most studies up until now focus on THC and CBD, but different cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, and CBN are slowly making their debut into the spotlight.

Let's compare CBD to CBN to particular use cases based on the research available. We want to reiterate that we still have a long way to go in understanding CBN as research is still in the early stages.

To Support Myofascial Pain And Discomfort

Both CBD and CBN have been shown in studies to support comfort from chronic pain.

A study published in 2019 found that a combination of CBD and CBN induced longer lasting reduction of pain sensation in murine subjects than either compound alone [1]. This shows us that full spectrum cannabis products are much more effective than isolate compound for supporting discomfort.

When shopping for a CBD or CBN product read the third-party lab report for the list of other cannabinoids that can contribute to the entourage effect for more profound benefits.

To Support A Healthy Appetite

CBN is shown to act as an appetite stimulant.

Eating disorders, hormonal changes, prescription drugs side effects, and illnesses can significantly reduce one's food intake, leading to dangerous nutrition deficiencies.

CBN and THC bind to CB receptors that may influence one's desire to munch out, while CBD seems to have the opposite effect as appetite suppression. In a rat study, CBN increased the subjects' feeding duration and frequency without dangerous side effects [2].

To Support A Good Night's Sleep

Both CBD and CBN have been shown in studies to support sleep quality.

If you've been searching for CBN products online, you've likely seen them marketed as the new sleep aid. The truth is that CBN only supports sleep when combined with other cannabinoids, which means CBN isolate products won't do much for slowing down nervous thoughts, but it may help with muscle relaxation.

There are many different reasons why people struggle with sleep—stress, pain, and jet lag seem to be the top culprits. If you're struggling to fall asleep because of anxious thoughts, CBD may be a better fit as it has actions at GABA receptor sites to help slow down the stress-response [3].

That being said, CBN has been shown to be an effective muscle relaxant in pre-clinal trials on its own and in combination with CBD, which may help those who have physical restlessness fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night [1].

CBN is shown to act as an appetite stimulant.

The Takeaway: CBN and CBD Comparison

The cannabis industry is expanding to novel cannabinoids as more research emerges about the potential uses of these compounds. While it may still be difficult to source quality CBN products as they're a lot more labor intensive to produce, they're worth trying if you're looking to try something new to support muscle discomfort and a good night's sleep.

We recommend looking for CBN extracts in full spectrum or THC-free broad spectrum as most of the research shows that CBN is best when combined with other naturally occurring cannabinoids than on its own.

All Neurogan CBN products are made from mature hemp plants grown on the West Coast and extracted using the gold-star of extraction methods, CO2 extractions to preserve a diverse range of cannabinoids and terpenes for a more potent and well-rounded CBN product.

To learn more about CBN, THC, CBG, and CBD and their potential uses in wellness, you can find more blog posts on our website or sign up for Insider Scoop for industry news and exclusive offers on products sent directly to your inbox.

The Takeaway: CBN and CBD Comparison


  1. Wong, H., & Cairns, B. E. (2019). Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain. Archives of oral biology, 104, 33-39.
  2. Farrimond, J. A., Whalley, B. J., & Williams, C. M. (2012). Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology, 223(1), 117-129.
  3. Bakas, T., Van Nieuwenhuijzen, P. S., Devenish, S. O., McGregor, I. S., Arnold, J. C., & Chebib, M. (2017). The direct actions of cannabidiol and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol at GABAA receptors. Pharmacological research, 119, 358-370.

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