Differences between CBD and CBN

Considering that CBD and CBN are both cannabinoids with almost similar acronyms, it would be easy to assume that they are identical in structure and function. But on the contrary, CBD and CBN have entirely different chemical structures, origins, and effects.
The two cannabinoids have been known to offer their users similar therapeutic benefits; however, their production and how they interact with our bodies are totally different.

What is cannabinol, and what does it do?

CBN is the acronym for cannabinol. It was first discovered in 1896, becoming the first cannabinoid to be identified.
Initially, researchers thought that CBN was the compound that caused the ‘high’ associated with cannabis, but later on, they discovered that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) was responsible.
The researchers found out that CBN was an oxidation product of THC, meaning THC will turn into CBN when exposed to heat and light.
Environmental factors play a significant role in determining CBN levels in a cannabis plant. Depending on where cannabis extracts or old cannabis are stored, CBN levels may be low or high.
For example, if the CBN is left in the light, the light will trigger the oxidation process, and CBN will be in abundance.
Considering that genetics play no role in determining CBN levels, the only way to obtain high CBN strains is through CBD and THC oxidation.
CBN is non-intoxicating. However, to date, there hasn’t been enough data to enable us to understand the full effects of CBN in humans due to limited research.
THC is known to interact with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors. The ‘high’ associated with THC results from the compound binding to the CB1 receptors and activating them. These receptors (CB1 and CB2) are located in the central nervous system and throughout the body.
CB1 also binds with the CB1 receptors, but with eight times less the strength of THC. Through an approach known as ‘strength in numbers,’ the cannabis plant offers a myriad of therapeutic benefits to its users.
The cannabis plant contains many compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, oils, and flavonoids. These compounds, when combined, give the user the entourage effect.
Each strain is different, and the THC levels and presence of the other compounds vary. This explains why users will have different experiences when taking various strains, hence the entourage effect.

What are the benefits of CBN?

As mentioned above, the research into CBN is quite limited, hence the need for more studies. The data available indicates that this compound can offer its users several therapeutic benefits.
According to a study conducted in 2011, THC and CBN combined resulted in a high that was characterized by a powerful sedation and couch lock. Users will have a better relaxing high after consuming older cannabis or any cannabis plant that has been exposed to a lot of heat or light.
The researchers also found out that CBN has anticonvulsant and anti-inflammatory properties. In rats, the researchers found the same compound to aid in appetite stimulation and displayed analgesic properties when combined with cannabidiol (CBD).
Unfortunately, further research into this cannabinoid is limited, considering it is not yet possible to breed cannabis strains with high CBN levels. Researchers have to synthesize CBN to conduct further studies.
There is a possibility that the tranquilizing effects that are experienced in an aged cannabis plant could be as a result of the terpenes with low molecular weight, which stick around in the plant for a very long time, and not the increased levels of CBN over time.

What is cannabidiol, and what’s its function?

CBD is a naturally occurring non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in abundance in the hemp plant and small quantities in a marijuana plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis plants, followed by CBD.
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, all hemp-derived CBD is legal if it contains less than 0.3% THC levels dry weight.
Following this step by the government, the health and wellness market has been flooded with hemp-derived products from numerous brands.
The states in the US are divided when it comes to the legalization of hemp and marijuana. Some states have legalized both products, others allow marijuana for medical purposes, and others have banned the products altogether.
The FDA does not permit any CBD-based brand to advertise their products as dietary supplements or for the brands to make any medical claims. Epidiolex is the only drug that the FDA has approved in treating intractable epilepsy, i.e., Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.
CBD has displayed numerous therapeutic benefits, from the studies conducted to personal testimonies from users.
In recent years, it has received unending attention in the medical scene and consumer market. Available research only suggests that CBD supports the treatment and management of nausea, mild and chronic pain, and seizures.
CBD may have antibiotic properties, which can be effective in treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a treatment-resistant bacterium.
CBD counters the effects of THC, which include anxiety and paranoia. These regulatory properties help in keeping the ‘high’ in check.
According to some studies, high THC levels may cause paranoia and anxiety, especially in individuals with a low THC tolerance and those with a predisposition for mental illness.
What is not clear is the amount of CBD required to regulate these side effects of THC.

How do these two compounds differ?

CBD and CBN differ in their origins and at a molecular level.


For CBD, it is found in high amounts in hemp plants and marijuana strains with high CBD levels.
CBN levels are determined by the amount of exposure a cannabis plant has had to heat or light and how old it is. As mentioned before, CBD is produced through degradation or oxidation caused by exposure to heat or light.

Therapeutic benefits

CBD and CBN do share some similarities when it comes to the therapeutic benefits they offer their users. They are both natural products with no intoxicating effects, and they do interfere with the high caused by THC.
However, the interference differs. CBD tries to tone down the paranoia and anxiety associated with THC. In contrast, CBN causes mild to moderate tranquilizing effects, making it best suited for anyone looking for a compound that aids in sleep.

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