CBD vs. CBN: Benefits, Differences, Potential Side Effects & More – Healthline

Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are two of the more than 100 cannabinoids that have been identified in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemicals that have the potential to interact with a series of receptors in your body collectively known as the endocannabinoid system.

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably more familiar with CBD than CBN.

CBD products have exploded in popularity since some states have begun to legalize recreational cannabis. Many people use CBD products to reduce anxiety symptoms or to help manage chronic pain.

There’s been very little human research on the potential benefits of CBN. But there are a few very small studies that suggest it may have the potential to reduce pain and act as a sedative.

Let’s take a look at the potential benefits and differences of CBD versus CBN.

CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, meaning that it doesn’t make you feel high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). People commonly take it to treat pain and anxiety, among other conditions.

Research on CBD is still in the beginning stages, but some early studies have had promising results and found that CBD has a good safety profile.

CBD is sold in a variety of forms, including:

Here’s what the research says so far about CBD’s potential benefits:

Anxiety and depression management

Early studies have found that CBD may be a potential alternative to traditional medications for treating anxiety and depression. Researchers still aren’t exactly sure how it works, but it’s thought that CBD’s benefits could be due to its action on 5-HT1A receptors.

In a 2019 Brazilian study, 57 participants were given either a placebo or 150, 300, or 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD before giving a public speech. The researchers found that participants given 300 mg of CBD had significantly reduced anxiety.

In a 2019 study led by Dr. Scott Shannon, participants with an anxiety or sleep disorder were given 25 to 175 mg of CBD per day. At a follow-up a month later, 79.2 percent of participants reported improved anxiety symptoms.

Neuroprotection and seizure reduction

A 2020 review of studies concluded that CBD could be a potential treatment option for a variety of neurogenerative diseases.

Research is ongoing on CBDs potential to treat:

CBD under the name Epidiolex has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes (two rare forms of epilepsy) and seizures caused by tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).


Many people report that CBD helps them sleep.

There’s some scientific evidence that CBD may improve sleep quality, but more research is needed to fully understand its potential.

In the same 2019 study led by Dr. Scott Shannon, the researchers found that 66.7 percent of participants reported improved sleep quality after a month of taking between 25 to 175 mg of CBD daily.

Pain relief

Research has found that CBD may be effective at reducing chronic pain by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

In a 2018 study, seven patients who had recently undergone a kidney transplant took 50 to 150 mg of CBD twice per day for 3 weeks. Two patients had total pain improvement, four had partial pain improvement, and one had no change.

Cancer treatment

Research has found that CBD may reduce symptoms caused by cancer treatment, such as pain and nausea.

Some very early studies have also found that CBD may have anticancer benefits.

A 2019 review of studies examining in vitro and in vivo studies found CBD may help slow tumor growth and increase tumor cell death The study focused on pancreatic cancer.

CBN comes from the breakdown of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. It’s mildly psychoactive, but it generally doesn’t produce a high like THC.

CBN isn’t studied as often as CBD. At this time, there’s extremely little research examining its potential benefits. CBN products are commonly marketed as sleep aids, but much more research needs to be done to back these claims.

Here are some of the common uses and potential benefits of CBN:


Many people report that CBN helps them sleep. However, there’s only one study showing that it can potentially act as a sedative — it’s from 1975 and had only five male participants.

In the study, participants given a combination of THC and CBN experienced stronger sedative effects than with THC alone.

Pain relief

A 2019 rat study found that both CBD and CBN were able to reduce myofascial pain in rats. A combination of CBN and CBD was even more effective than either alone.

The researchers concluded that CBN and CBD may be able to relieve pain from temporomandibular disorders and fibromyalgia.

Neuroprotective effects

One older 2005 rat study found that CBN was able to delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). However, it’s not clear at this time if it has the same effects on humans.

Anti-inflammatory effects

There’s some evidence in rats that CBN may reduce inflammation caused by arthritis. However, human research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits.

Despite their similar names, CBD and CBN are different molecules.

CBD is usually the second most common cannabinoid in a cannabis plant. Manufacturers can breed cannabis plants to have a higher amount of CBD.

Manufacturers can’t directly adjust the amount of CBN in a plant, as it’s created from the breakdown of THC. Exposing THC to heat can speed up the breakdown of THC into CBN.

Research on both cannabinoids is in the early stages. However, there’s currently much more research on CBD. Because of this, CBD is generally much easier to find.

CBD is currently FDA approved to treat two rare types of epilepsy, as well as seizures caused by TSC. CBN isn’t FDA approved to treat any conditions.

CBD is generally safe and has a good safety profile. The most common side effects are:

  • diarrhea
  • tiredness
  • changes in weight and appetite

CBD in a dose-dependent manner may increase the risk of liver damage when mixed with some medications, such as:

  • leflunomide
  • lomitapide
  • mipomersen
  • pexidartinib
  • teriflunomide
  • valproate

There are no known side effects of CBN — but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means that CBN hasn’t been studied enough to discover them.

It’s important to talk with a doctor before taking CBD, CBN, or other new supplements. A doctor can recommend a starting dose and tell you if the product has the potential to interact with any of your current medications.

Although CBD or CBN may have the potential to aid your current treatment, you shouldn’t use either as a replacement for proven therapies and treatments.

CBN and CBD are two cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Research on both is in the early stages.

To date, there’s been more research on CBD. There’s some evidence that it can help treat conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.

CBN needs much more human research before conclusions can be drawn about its potential benefits.

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