Today, we’re going to discuss CBN and CBD, and their:
- differences, and;
- use cases.
We reviewed 21 studies and found that CBD and CBN are both similar and different in many ways.
By reading this article, you will be able to get a better understanding of how CBN and CBD can affect the body.
Table of contents:
What Is CBN?
CBN, or cannabinol, is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant.
Although CBN and CBD are both cannabinoids, CBN is less well-researched.
It's an oxidation by-product of THC. It forms when THC inside the cannabis plant breaks down from:
- heating, or,
You may wonder if CBN will get you high.
Similar to THC, CBN binds to and acts on the CB1 receptor. This means that CBN can be mildly psychoactive at extremely high doses.
While there is limited research on the compound, some studies have shown that CBN:
- May have nerve-protecting effects, specifically for neurological disorders such as ALS (1).
- May provide pain relief related to chronic muscle disorders (2).
- May potentially help with sleep when combined with THC, although research is limited (3, 4).
What Is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is another cannabinoid found in cannabis. It's one of the most well-researched cannabinoids.
It has numerous benefits, including:
- anti-inflammatory effects (5)
- pain-reducing effects (6)
- anxiety-reducing effects (7, 8)
- improvement of sleep, potentially due to its anxiety-relieving benefits (9)
As science continues to back many of the health benefits associated with CBD, the industry continues to bloom.
The most widely used CBD products currently are oils and tinctures.
What Are the Similarities Between CBN and CBD?
Since CBN and CBD are both cannabinoids, it's valid to assume they share similarities.
Effects of CBN and CBD
CBN and CBD interact with some of the same receptors in the body. These include:
- TRPV1, which influences pain response (10)
- GPR55, which may influence anxiety and inflammation (11, 12)
- Cannabinoid receptor 1 and 2, or CB1 and CB2 (13)
By interacting with the same receptors, CBN and CBD can induce similar benefits and side effects within the body. This will be discussed below.
Benefits of CBN and CBD
Pain Relief: A study conducted on rats in 2019 suggested that both CBN and CBD may alleviate feelings of pain (2).
This is attributed to the cannabinoids’ interactions with the TRPV1 receptor.
Sleep: Both CBD and CBN may be associated with enhanced sleep in specific circumstances.
However, findings are contradictory. This requires further analysis, which we will unpack at a later stage.
Anti-inflammation: Research is highlighting the effect that cannabinoids have on fighting inflammation (14).
CBN and CBD both seem to induce anti-inflammatory responses in the body.
This may be useful for conditions such as arthritis, although further research is needed.
Side Effects of CBN and CBD
Both CBN and CBD can have sedative-like effects on the body.
This means that they both may cause drowsiness and fatigue at high doses.
Some users claim that CBN has more potent sedative effects than CBD. This also has been our experience reviewing various CBN products. This can be good if you're looking to sleep. But the other side is that CBN can produce grogginess and fatigue in much lower doses than CBD.
What Are the Differences Between CBN and CBD?
Although CBD and CBN are both cannabinoids, they differ in many ways.
Effects of CBN vs. CBD
As mentioned previously, both compounds interact with similar receptors.
However, it must be noted that CBN actually binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, whereas CBD only weakly interacts with them. But CBD interacts more strongly with the endocannabinoid system, including the CB1 and CB2 receptors, in an indirect way.
Direct activation of the CB1 receptor can cause psychoactive effects. This is exactly what THC does.
This is why CBN may potentially exhibit psychoactive properties in large doses, whereas CBD would not.
Benefits of CBN vs. CBD
A systematic review has highlighted the benefits that CBD has towards addictions (15).
According to the review, both animal and human studies suggest that CBD can be used as an intervention for addictive behaviors.
A number of studies that CBD helps regulate addictive behaviors towards:
- Opioid, and;
- Psychostimulant addiction.
On the other hand, there are currently no studies on the therapeutic effects of CBN towards addiction.
Other than that, a lot of the claimed benefits of CBD and CBN overlap.
But there's more scientific and anecdotal evidence supporting CBD's benefits for purposes like:
- anxiety relief,
- reducing inflammation, and,
- relieving pain.
This doesn't mean CBD is more beneficial for these purposes. We won't know which cannabinoid is more effective for what until more research goes into both cannabinoids.
Side Effects of CBN vs. CBD
- Drug interactions,
- Alterations in appetite and weight, and;
- Changes in blood pressure.
On the other hand, CBN’s side effects are still unclear. This does not mean that it doesn’t have any, but that the research is still in its early stages.
User reports and our own experience show that CBN can cause grogginess and tiredness at lower doses than CBD.
Some users report these side effects with doses starting from 30mg CBN. While a dose of 30mg CBD will rarely cause side effects for anyone.
CBN vs CBD for Pain
As previously mentioned, both CBD and CBN have potential pain relief benefits.
It is time to take a deeper look.
How can CBD reduce feelings of pain?
According to a recent review article, CBD has multiple mechanisms of action when it comes to relieving pain (17).
- While it has low affinity for cannabinoid receptors, it's an inverse agonist of the CB2 receptor (18). There's evidence that CB2 receptor inverse agonism can inhibit immune cell migration and contribute anti-inflammatory effects (19).
- CBD inhibits the breakdown of an endocannabinoid known as Anandamide (AEA). Higher levels of AEA may contribute to pain relief (20).
- It inhibits the TRPV1 receptor. Decreased TRPV1 levels are also associated with reduced pain (21).
Similar to CBD, CBN has potential as a pain reliever. This benefit has also been attributed to the inhibition of the TRPV1 receptor (22).
Although less potent than CBD, one animal study found that CBN can inhibit anandamide breakdown as well (23).
Although weaker than THC, CBN also acts as an agonist (activator) of the CB1 receptor. Activation of the CB1 receptor has been associated with reduced pain.
Looking at how CBN works, it's likely that it has pain-relieving properties as well.
Since research on CBN’s effects is still limited, a combination of both CBD and CBN are recommended for pain relief.
CBN vs CBD for Anxiety
A review article has highlighted the healing benefits of CBD for patients struggling with anxiety and depression (24). A recent study has reinforced these claims by highlighting CBD’s effect on short term stress responses (25).
CBD activates a serotonin sub-type receptor, the 5-HT1A receptor. Studies show that CBD that this activation may be responsible for its anti-anxiety effects (26).
5-HT1A receptor activation, is associated with a reduction in stress levels.
In contrast, the effects of CBN on stress and anxiety are not yet known.
Does this mean that CBN has no influence on stress and anxiety?
No. Various user reports on public fora like Reddit show that CBN could work as an anxiety-reliever.
But there's no scientific study that looked at the effects of CBN on anxiety.
CBN’s user reports stating its anxiety-reducing effects, highlight the need for further research.
CBN vs CBD for Sleep
But how exactly does CBD help with sleep problems?
The exact mechanism of action is still not known. However, as mentioned previously, CBD may help regulate sleep due to its anxiety- and stress-relieving effects.
And what about CBN?
CBN’s potential effect on sleep is what garnered attention from the public. Today, there are countless companies selling CBN oils online.
While there is limited research highlighting CBN’s potential to act as a sedative, there are countless anecdotal references online from users who consume CBN oil for improving sleep.
On the other hand, a recent systematic review stressed the lack of scientific backing for the claimed benefits of CBN for sleep (4).
Despite this, users are still standing by the benefits of CBN oil for sleep. This underlines the need for further research to put an end to the debate.
Types of CBN Products
Since new studies on the benefits of CBN are surely underway, you might be interested in learning about the different types of CBN products available.
Similar to CBD products, CBN can be found as:
- Oils and tinctures,
- Vape products.
Once more research is conducted, you might begin to find CBN in other forms.
From what we know so far, CBD and CBN have many similarities and differences.
Both CBD and CBN could be useful for relieving anxiety and pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation.
That said, the effects of CBN aren't well-researched currently. CBD has more scientific evidence to support its use for these purposes.
And although they interact with some of the same receptors, how they interact can differ on a case-by-case basis.
CBN also may have more potent sedative effects than CBD. While this can be a benefit, it also means that CBN can produce side effects like fatigue and grogginess in lower doses than CBD.
With the new spotlight on CBN, more literature on the effects and benefits will be made available soon.
With that being said, CBN is proving to be a safe cannabinoid, with potential benefits to be discovered.
Go to our CBD Hub to learn more about CBD-related topics.
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