Cannabinol (CBN) is cannabinoid in cannabis/hemp that’s heavily marketed as a sleep aid. Some people find that it’s more effective than cannabidiol (CBD), another cannabinoid, for this purpose, and many are even using CBN to substitute melatonin.
While CBN can indeed provide sleep support, all this hype may have kept some people from knowing about the full range of benefits this cannabinoid has to offer. Like CBD, it’s a versatile cannabinoid with real therapeutic potential.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between CBN and CBD so you can choose the option that best supports your wellness.
What is CBN?
Cannabinol, or CBN, is a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in the cannabis/hemp plant. “Hemp” is simply cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
Scientists discovered CBN nearly 100 years ago, but it’s but it was relatively unknown and unused by the general public for decades.
However, some THC users began to realize that smoking hemp flower containing high amounts of CBN along with THC produced a mellower, drowsier high than flower that didn’t contain as much CBN.
This led many people to believe that CBN had sedative properties. Although the research on this is mixed, anecdotal evidence suggests CBN is indeed beneficial for sleep.
But it’s also beneficial for other things: scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests CBN may help with pain and anxiety, too.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is also a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in hemp. Although there are more than 100 cannabinoids in hemp, CBD, along with THC, stands out for its many therapeutic benefits – as a result, it’s widely used and sold.
Preliminary research (and some clinical evidence) indicates that CBD may have therapeutic potential for pain, inflammation, anxiety, stress, insomnia, epilepsy, and more.
CBN vs. CBD Differences: A Visual Summary
If you’re just looking for the key points, we’ve packaged all the main differences between CBN and CBD into a chart:
The Effects of CBN vs. CBD: How They Make You Feel
CBN has very noticeable effects. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s mildly psychoactive and will cause a slight high; most people report that CBN is roughly one-fourth as strong as delta 9 THC (the THC in weed).
Unlike THC, which many people find to be energizing, CBN creates sedative effects for the mind and body, making it ideal for evening use.
The effects of CBD, on the other hand, aren’t as obvious. While research suggests CBD may be slightly energizing in small doses and sedative in large doses, for the most part, many people who take CBD report very few noticeable feelings.
Instead, CBD use is characterized by a reduction in the physical or mental discomforts you’re experiencing.
People who have used CBD report that it makes the discomfort (be it pain, anxiety, etc.) seem “more distant” and “less important” – in other words, CBD reduces the negative feelings, rather than creating overtly positive feelings.
Benefits & Uses of CBN
There hasn’t been very much research done on therapeutic CBN use. However, we have a handful of studies, as well as firsthand accounts, that indicate CBN may have several key benefits.
CBN may promote restful sleep via bringing sedative, relaxing effects.
Research on mice indicates that CBN may prolong sleeping time, and anecdotal evidence suggests CBN induces a full-body sedative high effect.
CBN is also commonly used as a replacement for over-the-counter melatonin supplements.
Other studies show that CBN interacts with the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which are capable of inhibiting pain and inflammatory sensations.
One study found that CBN reduces myofascial pain in rats. The study also found that a 1:1 combination of CBD and CBN was more effective for pain than CBN alone. From these results, the researchers concluded that a combination of CBN and CBD may help with pain from temporomandibular disorders (jaw pain) and fibromyalgia.
Anecdotally, many people report success with using CBN for sciatic pain, muscle pain, and other forms of pain and inflammation.
Although no formal research has investigated whether CBN may render anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, anecdotal evidence suggests CBN may be beneficial for stress and anxiety due to its mentally relaxing effects.
CBN May Enhance THC
Anecdotal accounts corroborate this; most people describe this effect as a calmer, drowsier version of the normal THC high.
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Benefits & Uses of CBD
Although more clinical evidence is needed, compared to CBN, CBD has been researched quite a bit. Based on the studies, here are some of CBD’s potential benefits.
Several studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggest that CBD may have anxiolytic properties.
In one study, participants were subjected to a public speaking test that was designed to increase their anxiety levels. Those who took CBD saw decreased levels of anxiety compared to those who didn’t.
A research review, which looked at many different studies on CBD and anxiety, found that CBD may reduce physiological and behavioral responses to stress and anxiety.
Another review found that overall, CBD has “considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” though more research is needed.
Research suggests CBD may have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects for both acute and chronic pain.
Scientists conducted a survey of 253 CBD users to better understand how effective it is for pain. Overall, results were positive: participants reported that CBD helped their pain (59.0%) and allowed them to reduce their pain medications (67.6%).
Small clinical studies have found that CBD may reduce inflammation and pain, even in topical form. One study found that “transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling” in addition to rendering other improvements.
A research review looking at a variety of studies on CBD for sleep concluded that CBD may provide therapeutic support for insomnia.
CBD may directly promote mental relaxation, but its benefits for sleep are also due to its therapeutic uses for anxiety and pain.
Several studies show that CBD may render therapeutic benefits for those suffering from epilepsy and seizures. But perhaps the most compelling evidence is that CBD is FDA-approved to treat certain forms of epilepsy in the form of the prescription drug Epidiolex.
Epidiolex clinical trials show that CBD may improve Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy most commonly found in children. Patients of this condition who took CBD only experienced half as many seizures as those who received a placebo. And other Epidiolex trials show similar results.
In terms of regular CBD products, a study found that epilepsy patients who took CBD reported a 21% increase in psychological health, a 17% decrease in depression, and a 19% decrease in anxiety over a four-year period.
So not only may CBD directly address the root of the problem, but it can also boost overall quality of life for those with epilepsy.
As a result of its therapeutic benefits, CBD is commonly used as an alternative to Keppra, a drug commonly prescribed for epilepsy.
In addition to CBD’s major benefits and uses, there is a small body of research suggesting CBD may have therapeutic potential for people addicted to opioids, cocaine, and psychostimulant drugs.
This research also found that CBD may be beneficial for cannabis and tobacco addiction in humans. However, more research on CBD as an anti-addiction agent is needed.
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CBN vs. CBD: How They Work In Your Body
Cannabinoids like CBN and CBD work by supporting your endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a receptor system in your body that’s responsible for regulating your vital functions. It influences every system your body uses for moment-to-moment functioning, including the inflammatory and pain responses and the sleep-wake cycle.
There are two types of receptors in your ECS:
- CB1 receptors, which produce mental effects when interacted with
- CB2 receptors, which produce physical effects when interacted with
CBN can interact with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which explains its ability to render both mental and physical therapeutic benefits.
CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t interact heavily with either the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, it prevents the breakdown of your endocannabinoids (internal cannabinoids), thereby supporting your ECS as it works to balance your mind and body.
Research also shows that CBD may impact serotonin transmission. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that produces happy, calm, and focused sensations. CBD may improve how serotonin is transmitted within the brain, thereby increasing these beneficial effects.
Side Effects & Drawbacks of CBN and CBD
Although CBN and CBD both have many benefits, they also have side effects and drawbacks to be aware of.
Potential side effects of using CBN include:
CBN will create a mild head high when you use it. Many people see this as a benefit, but you may see it as a detriment.
Additionally, due to its chemical similarity to THC, CBN may cause you to fail a drug test due to it showing up as THC.
Potential side effects of using CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
One potential downside of CBD is that it doesn’t render particularly overt sensations or feelings. If you’re looking for something that will give you a stronger experience, you’d need to opt for CBG, CBN, or cannabinoids like delta 8 or delta 9 THC.
CBN vs. CBD: Which is Better for Pain?
There is research suggesting that both CBN and CBD may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. However, CBD is currently backed by more research showing its benefits for physical discomfort than CBN.
CBD has the benefit of being able to promote mood and relaxation without getting you high – this means it can be used throughout the day for discomfort. CBN, on the other hand, will get you high and reduce cognitive functioning, which isn’t ideal if you have work or class during the day.
The lack of research on CBN for pain makes it difficult to definitively say which cannabinoid is more beneficial. But as a rule of thumb: if you need or want the head effect, CBN is better for pain, but otherwise, opt for CBD.
CBN vs. CBD: Which is Better for Sleep?
There isn’t much clinical evidence showing that either CBN or CBD is a proven sleep aid; for each cannabinoid, there are studies suggesting they may have benefits, but nothing that specifically states the extent of these benefits.
However, we’d recommend CBN over CBD for sleep. Because CBN renders sedative effects in addition to addressing physical discomfort, it’s generally a more powerful sleep aid than CBD.
CBD still has benefits for sleep, though, especially when taken in combination with THC.
Can You Mix CBN and CBD?
Mixing CBN and CBD is not just safe: it’s very beneficial.
CBD renders comprehensive benefits, but it doesn’t have very noticeable effects. Taking some CBN along with it can render a deeper, more relaxing experience.
Additionally, CBD may be slightly stimulating in smaller doses. Combining it with CBN may reduce these energizing sensations if they’re not something you want.
Conclusion: Which Cannabinoid Should You Choose?
Ultimately, whether you choose CBN or CBD comes down to the experience you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a cannabinoid that’s able to address mental and physical discomfort, and do so without you noticing its effects too much, CBD is what you need.
On the other hand, CBN may be a better choice if you’re looking for mild psychoactive and sedative effects, rather than the extremely powerful, stimulating highs of delta 8 or delta 9 THC.
CBN vs. CBD: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions our customers frequently ask us about choosing between CBN and CBD.
What’s the difference between CBN and CBD?
CBD is non-psychoactive, while CBN is slightly psychoactive and will create a mild head high. CBN can be understood as a weaker form of THC; it’s roughly 75% weaker.
Is CBN better than CBD?
While CBN is different from CBD, it is not necessarily better. Both cannabinoids may render benefits for anxiety, sleep, and pain, but CBD has more research backing it. CBD may also have therapeutic potential for seizures and addiction treatment, things for which CBN may not be as beneficial.
Is CBN better than CBD for sleep?
While both CBN and CBD have benefits for sleep, CBN may have a slight edge. Unlike CBD, CBN has sedative, slightly psychoactive effects that make it the ideal cannabinoid for getting into a restful state.
What does CBN do to the body?
CBN creates sedative, slightly psychoactive effects by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system, a receptor system that regulates your vital functions.
Does CBN make you sleepy?
Scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests CBN produces a high and has sedative, sleep-inducing effects.