CBN vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?

You're a stoner, and you've heard people throw around terms like THC, CBD, and, more recently, CBN. While these are all different cannabis compounds, it can be a little difficult to understand what each term means.

Don't worry, we got you. Getting to know these compounds and their therapeutic effects is all part of your hemp plant education and the key to smart marijuana use. The more you know, the more you’ll get out of your bud.

This article breaks down the differences between each cannabinoid and their uses, and we've even included a few cannabis product recommendations for you (you're welcome).

What is a cannabinoid ?

First and foremost, we gotta define what a cannabinoid is before getting into the nuts and bolts of things. To put it simply, cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis. They belong to a class of chemicals that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This network of neurotransmitters and receptors is found in most mammals and is one of the older evolutionary systems discovered — it’s kind of wild.


This suggests that humans evolved to form a beneficial relationship with cannabis over hundreds of thousands of years, suggesting that our link to marijuana might be even deeper than we thought. We love that.

Although all cannabinoids interact with the ECS, they target receptors and transmitters in different ways. For example, CB1 receptors are primarily concentrated in the brain and the nervous system, while CB2 receptors are most common in secondary organs, bone marrow, and even the skin.

Both types of receptors are key to experiencing all the benefits (and good vibes) of cannabinoids, but the distinction is key. As we’ll find out, each cannabinoid impacts these receptors differently, changing how we experience their effects and how we use them.

For now, you have the basics of cannabinoids well understood. THC, CBN, and CBD — these are all cannabinoids, and they deliver different effects based on the concentrations, ratios, and delivery methods.

And while these three might be the most popular right now, there are actually over 100 distinct cannabinoids found in cannabis. Don’t be surprised if more cannabinoids make their way into the spotlight in years to come as researchers uncover more about cannabis and its endless mysteries.

What is CBN?

CBN (or Cannabinol) is a cannabinoid found specifically in cannabis. It's fat-soluble and mildly psychoactive, although it doesn't create a high like THC.

CBN comes from the degradation of THC through oxidation. This means that as cannabis plants age and are exposed to light and heat, CBN concentrations get higher (no pun intended).

This has led some cannabis products to prioritize harvesting older cannabis plants or intentionally oxidizing cannabis to increase the amounts of CBN. Now that certain products emphasize CBN for relaxation and sleep-supporting effects, this has changed how producers approach the cultivation and sourcing process.

In terms of effects, CBN binds loosely with cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. However, the psychoactive effects of CBN are not strong and probably won’t lead to impairment unless taken in huge amounts.

Since the use of CBN is fairly new, there's not a ton of research out there on this particular compound. While we aren't medical professionals and are unqualified to make any medical suggestions, there are some folks who have made some anecdotal claims that CBN helps support their quality of sleep. For those interested in CBN, look for supplements with higher ratios of this compound along with low THC concentrations to get the best effects.

What Is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) might be the most famous cannabinoid of the bunch, known for producing psychoactive effects and determining many of the state and federal laws of today. THC is found in higher concentrations in certain cannabis strains, particularly cannabis sativa, and is the main active ingredient in modern medical marijuana.

THC delivers its psychoactive effects through the usual channels and endocannabinoid receptors, but the impact is more direct and intense. This causes THC users to experience time distortion, sensory changes, and other side effects involving faculties and perception (the high you know and love).

In some cases, higher amounts of THC can lead to side effects and impairment, leading to its illegal status under certain state laws. But, as we all know, smart and careful THC consumption can also have considerable medical health benefits.

If you decide to use THC for recreational purposes, be sure you’re prepared for these psychoactive properties and plan for the effects of THC. You’ll probably want some snacks handy.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid that is found in cannabis and hemp. It's non-psychoactive, meaning you won't get high from intake, and comes in a variety of consumption methods, including gummies, beverages, soft gels, vape carts, oil tinctures, and more.

CBD has been researched for decades, but only in the past few years has this compound skyrocketed in popularity. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized non-THC cannabinoids nationwide, CBD was made widely accessible as a wellness supplement. The chemical structure of CBD causes it to interact with ECS receptors but in a way that calms and soothes your mood, making you feel super relaxed.

Many CBD products are known for providing benefits like recovery, soothing tension, and balancing the body for total wellness. You can find a wide range of edibles, CBD oil products, and more, all with different cannabinoid ratios and unique properties.

For those interested in how CBD works, the best way is to try it out. Find a product including CBD and start with a small serving size to experience its effects. You may find that the effects of CBD offer the benefits of cannabis that help you most without the presence of THC.

What's the Difference between THC, CBD and CBN?

While all are cannabinoids, the easiest way to differentiate between the three is that THC is the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high, CBD is non-psychoactive, and CBN is slightly psychoactive.

CBN can also be understood as the weaker version of THC - it's about 90% weakter to be exact. On top of this, cannabinol has a very specific relationship to THC. Rather than coming directly from the cannabis plant like CBD, CBN is created directly from THC as it degrades. Taking about 10 mg of CBN is roughly equivalent to taking 1 mg of THC.

Keep in mind that many modern cannabis products offer multiple cannabinoids and terpenes at once, creating a synergy known as the entourage effect. Combining CBD and CBD, for instance, can provide soothing and tension relief while also helping you achieve deeper sleep through the night.

It’s also worth testing cannabis products with trace amounts of THC, such as full-spectrum CBD oil, giving you the benefits of the entourage effect in a more subtle form. Knowing this, you can start to put together your cannabinoid game plan and choose the right compounds based on your needs.

With some safe experimentation and vibe checks, you’ll be able to use cannabis to your advantage, from performance and recovery to recreation and pure enjoyment.

What’s the Best Way To Use CBN, CBD, and THC?

Your use of cannabis will always come down to your preferences, tastes, and the health effects you want to experience. A small serving of CBD may help you focus during the workday, while dank medical cannabis with THC is the best way to unwind at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, a CBN-focused edible or topical can help prime your body and mind for sleep, allowing you to get the deep rest you need. Balance is the key here, and every component of cannabis brings something different to the table of wellness.

At Burb, we aim to help you rediscover all aspects of the cannabis plant and learn how they can help you feel the best possible. Explore our collection of CBN, CBD, and THC products to see how these cannabinoids work and get to know the world of cannabis like never before.

CBN Products For Purchase

We're excited about CBN and all it has to offer. We've created a short list of our fave CBN products that are avaible for online and in-store purchase. Check it out below!

MediPharm Labs CBN1 2 is a pharma-quality high-CBN Nighttime Formula containing 10mg/ml of CBN and 20mg/ml of THC made using refined CBN material produced at MediPharm Labs using strict manufacturing standards to bring you the highest quality and purity. This high-quality formulated oil has a subtle cannabis flavour. The coconut/palm-based MCT carrier oil has 10mg/g of CBN per ml to 20mg/g of THC per ml and 300mg total of CBN and 600mg of THC per 30ml bottle.

Real Fruit Elderberry CBN Gummies

Wyld's Elderberry gummies support a restful nighttime experience with THC + CBN. CBN (Cannabinol) is a cannabinoid, which is a compound found in the Cannabis plant, just like CBD is. However, CBN offers many alternate benefits to CBD, such as greater sedation, especially when used in conjunction with other cannabinoids like THC.

Organnicraft Nitro Cookies

A hybrid cross of Gas Mask and Animal Cookies that is very cerebral and psychoactive. A strain with high THC and traces of CBN that has notes of pine, earth and fruit.

Further Reading...

Now that you're a CBN expert, brush up on the rest of your cannabis knowledge with our other articles: 7 Cannabis Terpenes Explained, A Guide To Shatter, and A Guide To Cannabis Diamonds.

By Nadia Bortolazzo
Nadia is an MA graduate and a Digital Marketing Specialist at Burb. Her writing is guided by her interest in challenging and expanding the ideologies surrounding cannabis culture.
Instagram: @nadiabortolazzo.