CBN vs. CBD: Differences, benefits, uses, & more

Learn the basics about both CBD and CBD, including how they differ and what the benefits are.

CBN vs. CBD: Differences, benefits, uses, & more
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The health and wellness community is finally coming around to the benefits of cannabinoids. These powerful compounds are found in the cannabis plant and take many forms, from hemp extract tinctures to infused edibles and other types of cannabis products.

You’ve probably heard of cannabidiol (CBD) by now, but lesser-known compounds like cannabinol (CBN) are entering the conversation thanks to their unique attributes and uses. 

Part of getting the most from your health and wellness regimen is knowing exactly what each of these compounds can do for you and why they work. It’s time to clarify the differences, wellness benefits, and uses between CBN and CBD and offer some recommendations to enjoy these powerful cannabinoids.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a specific category of naturally occurring compounds from the Cannabis sativa plant, with over 113 types officially identified so far. With known therapeutic benefits for the body’s endocannabinoid system, these compounds have gained much attention in recent years, combined with changes in the legal landscape and the growth of the cannabis industry. 

Some cannabinoids in high potency are intoxicating and psychoactive, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which produces sensations associated with a marijuana high. Others, such as CBD and CBN, interact with ECS receptors differently and don’t create intoxicating effects. These non-psychoactive cannabinoids can help support general wellness and offer specific benefits like sleep support or relaxation.*

While cannabinoids are usually discussed individually, they also work extremely well together in a synergy known as the entourage effect. This boosts the potential benefits of single compounds because different cannabinoids interact with a broader range of ECS receptors.* 

Additionally, plant terpenes can combine with cannabinoids and other natural ingredients in whole plant extracts, further amplifying the entourage effect in premium CBD and CBN products.*

We’ve only just begun to understand the effects of cannabinoids and the power of the entourage effect, but there has been significant progress in just a few short years. Learning more about the health benefits of these compounds and how they work with the body’s endocannabinoid system will be integral to the next chapter of the hemp health and wellness movement.*

What is CBN?

Cannabinol is one of the most intriguing compounds in the cannabis plant, and the benefits of CBN have only recently come into focus. CBN occurs naturally but is typically found in lower concentrations compared to CBD and THC. 

In fact, CBN levels in live cannabis plants are thought to gradually increase throughout the plant’s life cycle, converting from THC via oxidation and other biological processes. This explains why CBN-rich plants are usually harvested later and why older plants tend to feature higher concentrations of CBN.*

These factors mean that CBN is harder to come by and tends to fetch higher market prices, especially with increased demand in the cannabis industry. Producers are now looking for ways to prioritize CBN extraction by using specific strains and production methods now that the benefits of CBN are more widely accepted.*

The most popular current formulations of CBN emphasize the soothing, relaxing, and sleep-supporting benefits of the compound, among other properties associated with cannabinoids in general.*

We’re keeping an eye on CBN as a promising cannabinoid. Sunmed's Sleep CBN Tincture features lavender and valerian root to maximize the benefits for our customers.

How does CBN affect the body?

CBN interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors similarly to CBD, interacting and binding loosely with CB1 and CB2 in the brain and central nervous system. Zooming in further, we see that CB2 is the primary molecular target of CBN, meaning it has a higher affinity to support muscles, joints, skin, and the immune system.* 

In the colloquial understanding of the ECS, this suggests that CBN is more focused on producing “body” relaxation effects, as opposed to the “mind” effects of compounds like THC. CB2 receptors are also linked more closely to the sleep-supporting processes, like circadian rhythm, that may help individuals achieve deep and restorative REM cycles.* 

This has earned CBN its reputation as the “sleepy cannabinoid” in contrast to general wellness compounds like CBD.*

Still, CBN is a safe and non-intoxicating compound that won’t get you high, despite being derived from THC. You can confidently incorporate CBN-rich hemp extracts into your evening routine in the form of tinctures, gummies, or other delivery methods.* 

For users looking for a relaxing daily addition to their wind down routine, CBN shows a lot of promise — which is why we’ve formulated products around this compound for nighttime relaxation and fulfilling sleep. 

Keep in mind that the best CBN products will also include generous amounts of other cannabinoids and terpenes rather than isolated extracts that won’t offer the entourage effect.*

Is CBN legal?

CBN is legal under the Farm Bill in the United States and is increasingly gaining legal status in other markets around the world. 

Because it’s not an intoxicating, psychoactive compound, CBN is associated  closely with CBD and doesn’t bring about concerns like serious side effects or overly sedative properties. CBN products are legal as long as they contain no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC by dry weight. 

With that said, we recommend using CBN in the evening only and opting for different cannabinoids for the morning or afternoon. This is how you get the most from the hemp plant and balance your cannabinoid receptors in a safe, sustainable way.

What is CBD?

Behind THC, cannabidiol (CBD) is the most widely researched cannabinoid in the world. It’s non-intoxicating, non-psychoactive, and offers many therapeutic benefits, from soothing sensations to easing feelings of discomfort.* 

CBD is also the most versatile and adaptive cannabinoid available, making it a great supporting cast member in specialized hemp extracts for everyday use. That’s why you’ll find CBD products formulated for morning energy, afternoon focus, and evening relaxation and sleep support.*

The abundance and availability of CBD also mean that CBD products are extremely varied and specialized. You’ll find CBD hemp extracts sold as tinctures, gummies, gel capsules, and various topical creams and skincare products.

Based on the sheer variety and diversity of potential benefits, CBD is a great way to get started with hemp wellness, whether you opt for full spectrum products with trace amounts of THC or broad spectrum goods with non-detectable THC.*

How does CBD affect the body?

CBD affects the body by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, though the exact processes vary based on the presence of different cannabinoids and compounds.*

When introduced to the ECS, CBD molecules bind loosely with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, offering balanced effects for relaxation, healthy stress response, a healthy inflammatory response, soothing properties, and even muscle health.*

CBD is known as a great holistic supplement for calming the mind while reducing physical tension and discomfort.* It also plays a central role in the entourage effect, making it a universal compound in hemp extract products across the board.

The wide range of CBD wellness effects means it can be used throughout the day, provided you use CBD products optimized for particular activities and goals. Our CBD products include invigorating morning blends, nighttime sleep support blends, and plenty of general wellness tinctures for daily mental and physical support.*

Is CBD legal?

CBD is federally legal thanks to the Farm Bill, with a limit of 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Only full spectrum CBD products contain traces amounts of THC, and even then — you won’t get the psychoactive effects from THC by taking the recommended amounts.*

The legalization of CBD has led to the creation of many innovative products and has helped millions of people, so it’s nothing short of a victory in the general wellness field.

How do CBN and CBD differ?

CBN and CBD differ in structure, effects, concentrations in the cannabis plant, and practical usage. These compounds interact differently with the endocannabinoid system based on how they bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors.

While CBD is accepted as an adaptive cannabinoid with a wide range of benefits, CBN is more specialized in its effects for evening relaxation and sleep support.

This isn’t to say that CBD doesn’t help you sleep; all of our CBN products are also rich in CBD to enhance overall benefits with the entourage effect. However, we encourage users to stick with CBN products for sleep and utilize general CBD products for morning, midday, or evening use.

When is CBN preferable over CBD?

Learning the pros and cons of different cannabinoids is key to living the CBD lifestyle the right way. CBN is preferable in some cases, while CBD may be the better choice in others. Here are some examples of when to take each one and what to expect.

CBN for sleep support

CBN earned its reputation as the sleep cannabinoid for a reason. It interacts primarily with ECS receptors that support relaxation and deep, restorative REM sleep, plus additional benefits.*

Whether you’re looking to enhance sleep quality, lessen anxiety or reduce daytime fatigue, our Full Spectrum Rest Gummies have clinically proven results after 6 weeks.* 

CBD for general wellness support

If general wellness and mind/body balance is your goal, CBD is the perfect starting point. Our top-selling Full Spectrum Organic Tincture is loaded with cannabinoids and terpenes from the entire hemp plant — offering far more benefits than a standard CBD product.*

CBD for general wellness can be taken with your morning coffee, mixed in with your afternoon tea, or shaken with your protein smoothie after a tough workout. Learn to use CBD throughout your day to get the most from this amazing compound and reap the benefits 24/7.*

Both for easing feelings of tension

Both CBN and CBD can be used to ease feelings of tension, whether in a mental or physical sense. Too much tension can cause discomfort and throw us off emotionally, so the right amount of CBN or CBD offers support when you need it most.

Just be sure to stick with CBN formulas for your evening routine, since this compound may detract from your alertness or focus during high-energy activities. Use these different cannabinoids correctly, and you’ll always be a step ahead of tension and discomfort.* 

The bottom line

CBN and CBD are often mentioned together as comparable non-intoxicating cannabinoids. While they do share similarities, their differences are notable and should influence how you incorporate each one into your daily routine.

Our collection of hemp extracts features cannabinoids from across the board, and we spell out the benefits of each to help you create a perfectly balanced wellness routine. See for yourself how hemp extracts can add to your quality of life, from feeling balanced throughout your days to getting deep, fulfilling sleep. 

Sources:

How CBN Can Improve Your Sleep, Mood, and Health | Psychology Today

Concentrations of THC, CBD, and CBN in commercial hemp seeds and hempseed oil sold in Korea | NIH

A systematic review of minor phytocannabinoids with promising neuroprotective potential | NIH

CBN: a sleep aid or not? | Sleepstation

Beyond CBD: Here come the other cannabinoids, but where’s the evidence? | Harvard Health Publishing

CBN for Sleep | Sleep Foundation

Farm Bill | USDA

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids | NCBI

The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain | NCBI

Cannabinol | C21H26O2 | PubChem

Cannabinol: History, Syntheses, and Biological Profile of the Greatest “Minor” Cannabinoid | PMC

Cannabinol - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Cannabidiol use and effectiveness: real-world evidence from a Canadian medical cannabis clinic | PMC

Cannabidiol: Uses, Interactions, Mechanism of Action | DrugBank Online