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CBN vs CBD: What's the Difference?

 CBN vs CBD: What's the Difference?

Hemp-derived products are used to provide a variety of beneficial effects, from promoting healthy sleep cycles to helping you relax. But with so many products on the market, it can be difficult to determine which active ingredients are best-suited to your goals.

For example, if you see a store stocked with CBN gummies and CBD gummies, it’s natural to wonder if there’s actually a difference. Both CBN and CBD are cannabinoids, the molecular compounds unique to cannabis plants. These are two of more than 100 known cannabinoids with different benefits and uses.

...there’s good evidence that CBD and CBN work better together than apart.

In this short guide, we’ll go over the differences between CBD and CBN and the best ways to incorporate these compounds into your routine.

CBD 101

After THC, CBD is the cannabis plant’s most famous cannabinoid. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is readily available in legal hemp plants that contain less than 0.3% of the psychoactive compound THC. In fact, it accounts for 40% of hemp plant extracts.

There’s a reason why hemp-derived CBD products have spawned a massive industry. This cannabinoid interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of nerve receptors that are thought to regulate:

  • sleep cycles
  • appetite
  • mood and emotional regulation
  • stress response
  • immune system function
  • memory

CBD Benefits

Why doesn’t CBD have a psychoactive effect?

It all comes down to the way it interacts with the ECS.

THC binds with the nerve receptors in the ECS system, which can overwhelm them. The result leads to a “high” effect, which can include relaxation and euphoria alongside less desirable experiences like nervousness and lapses in memory.

To that end, CBD does not bind with nerve receptors. As such it has a milder, more supportive effect.

Although scientists are still studying the specific pathways for interaction, early studies suggest that CBD can help the ECS return to homeostasis when the nervous system is thrown off kilter.

As a result, CBD may provide the following benefits:

  • Support better sleep – Sometimes, you’re dead tired, but your mind starts racing as soon as you crawl into bed. Other times, you fall asleep with no trouble at all, only to startle awake a few hours later and find you’re unable to get back to sleep. Making CBD a part of your nighttime routine could help.
  • Calm and relax – The signs of stress are unique for each of us. Maybe you notice your heart thumping or perhaps your telltale sign is sweaty palms. No matter the symptom, stress is an uncomfortable feeling. Luckily, CBD may help you downregulate your nervous system and get some relief.
  • Soothe soreness – Minor discomfort is a part of life, whether the root cause is your marathon training or the angle  of your head when you’re watching Netflix on the couch. CBD can be absorbed transdermally (through the skin). Apply it at the site of soreness to find some soothing relief.
  • Reduce post-exercise inflammation – When we exercise, our bodies recognize the microtears to our muscles as an invading threat. Then, they kick into high gear, creating inflammation that signals the body to send reparative resources to the torn sites. While this is a totally natural process, it can be less-than-comfortable! Luckily, CBD offers a potential natural remedy for post-exercise inflammation.

Which Type of CBD Is Right For You?

There are myriad ways to incorporate CBD into your life. It is easy to find CBD oil, CBD edibles and CBD topicals for sale online and have your desired product shipped directly to your home.

Many people find that CBD or a CBD product works best with consistent use, so it’s all about choosing the method that is easiest to integrate into your lifestyle. But there’s one more thing to keep in mind: Some CBD products are full-spectrum, while others contain CBD isolate. Let us explain:

  • CBD isolate uses an advanced extraction process to remove CBD from the hemp plant (without other molecules). This versatile extraction technique yields odorless CBD crystals or powder that can be added to everything from soda to bath bombs. However, it does not contain other cannabinoids or their beneficial effects.
  • Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD contain CBD along with all of the other cannabinoid compounds and terpenes in the hemp plant. (Broad spectrum CBD does not contain THC). One of our favorite helper compounds is CBN. With full-spectrum CBD, you can experience CBN’s beneficial effects, too!

CBN 101

What’s left out in CBD isolate? For one, CBN.

CBN, aka cannabinol, is a minor cannabinoid with its own impressive properties.

Where does CBN come from? It is a metabolite of THC. That means that when THC breaks down (due to heat, plant age and other factors), it converts into CBN. Mature hemp plants naturally contain CBN. 

CBN Benefits

CBN’s potential benefits are similar to those of CBD, but with some interesting twists. They include:

  • prolonging sleep – Do you get the recommended eight hours of shut-eye per night? There’s some evidence to suggest that CBN has a potential sedative effect. This is why many people consider it a natural sleep aid that can actually help you stay asleep longer. Combined with CBD, CBN may help you further improve your quality of sleep.
  • helping other soothing compounds – Many topical balms for sore muscles and achy joints contain capsaicin, the spicy substance in chili peppers. One study found that CBN helps our bodies absorb this compound and enjoy its relieving effects. This makes CBN a great addition to topical balms formulated with plant-based ingredients.
  • maintaining appetite – CBN could help you maintain a healthy appetite. Sometimes, you just don’t want to eat. Whether the root cause is grief, illness or another issue, you need to keep your strength up to feel better! If you need inspiration to chow down, CBN could potentially help.

Where to Find CBN

Whereas it’s common to find CBD isolate in gummies, capsules and other products, CBN is most frequently encountered in full-spectrum hemp products including CBD oil.

It is possible to find powdered CBN isolate or CBN oil from some online sources. If you’re interested in experimenting with the substance, be completely sure that you’re purchasing it from a reliable vendor who uses safe extraction methods to avoid any potential adverse effects due to mislabeling or poor quality.

Why Two Cannabinoids Are Better Than One

As we’ve covered, CBD and CBN have many similarities and offer various wellness benefits. Both cannabinoids:

  • are derived from hemp plants.
  • work with the ECS to maintain homeostasis.
  • can potentially support healthy sleep cycles.
  • may help soothe sore joints and muscles.

Choosing Your Cannabinoid

So which cannabinoid is right for you?

The secret is that you don’t have to choose. In fact, there’s good evidence that CBD and CBN work better together than apart.

It all comes down to a concept known as the entourage effect. This describes how cannabinoids and terpenes work better together (as part of an entourage) than separately.

Last year, the FDA issued warnings to at least 15 hemp manufacturers that didn’t meet their label claims.

Why is this the case? Our nervous systems are incredibly complex, and different compounds nourish and support them in different ways.

CBN and CBD’s Sweet Symphony

Derived from Cannabis Sativa, or hemp, CBN products and CBD products offer various wellness benefits. Both CBN and CBD are non-intoxicating cannabinoids, meaning they don't have a psychoactive effect, but they impact the body differently by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 that are part of our endocannabinoid system (ECS).

In full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oil, powerful cannabinoids work alongside terpenes, the substances that give cannabis its distinctive odor. CBD makes up about 40% of hemp extract, but it gets a helping hand from numerous other substances.

Why does CBD need support? Think of it this way: Would you rather eat a quarter cup of sugar or a chocolate chip cookie?

You need lots and lots of sugar to make a good cookie. But fatty butter and bitter chocolate give the sweetness structure and support. And although the cookie is sweet, you also need salt; a pinch makes sugar taste even sweeter. Maybe you even have a secret ingredient you add to your recipe. Cinnamon or cloves can add a layer of warm spice for even more delicious complexity.

Likewise, CBN can give CBD that little something extra. And of course, numerous other terpenes and cannabinoids lend their help to give full-spectrum CBD oil its full potential effect.

How to Identify and Use CBD and CBN Products

To enjoy CBD and CBN together, look for the following labels:

  • full-spectrum hemp – Derived using methods like ethanol extraction, full-spectrum hemp products include CBD, CBN, CBG and the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • broad-spectrum hemp – While full-spectrum hemp legally contains less than 0.3% THC, broad-spectrum hemp is specifically modified to remove all traces of THC. This may include heating processes that actually break THC down into additional CBN
  • CBD distillate blend – If you want extra CBD and the entourage effect, look for products that contain full-spectrum hemp alongside CBD isolate. You’ll still get the benefits of CBN alongside the double dose of CBD.

What are the best ways to use CBN products? Here are some ideas to get started enjoying this cannabinoid in addition to CBD.

  • Apply full-spectrum hemp balm topically. CBD may help to soothe soreness, while CBN can increase your absorption of other beneficial, plant-based ingredients like arnica and menthol
  • Take CBD oil before bed. Full-spectrum CBD oil can be used any time of day, but making it a part of your nighttime routine maximizes the chances that you’ll benefit from CBN’s potential sleep-prolonging effects.

Cannabinoids of All Stripes From Zebra CBD

When you’re purchasing and hemp-derived CBD products, it’s key to buy from a reliable source. Last year, the FDA issued warnings to at least 15 hemp manufacturers that didn’t meet their label claims.

Zebra CBD is the only company that provides a Label Accuracy Guarantee™. We set strict standards for our expertly formulated, pesticide-free CBD products and conduct laboratory testing to ensure they live up to them.

Check out our full-spectrum CBD products to enjoy CBD and CBN’s fullest range of potentially helpful effects.


Psychology Today. Research Shows 9 Potential Health Benefits of CBN.

Forbes. The CBD Industry is Here to Stay.

Biospace. Exploring the Lesser Cannabinoids.

FDA. FDA Warns 15 Companies.

Co-founder of Copycat Copywriters, Adam has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies on a wide array of topics, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

About the Author

Adam Biederman Image

Adam Biederman

As co-founder and lead writer of Copycat Copywriters, one of Adam’s primary areas of expertise is within the budding CBD and cannabis space. He has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies, producing a collection of white papers, press releases, blog posts, articles and ebooks about a wide array of industry-related subjects, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

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