When researching cannabinoids, you may have heard about cannabinol (CBN) but what is exactly is it and how does it compare to CBD? Discover the difference between CBN vs CBD, and more in our latest guide!


In 1896, CBN (cannabinol) became the very first cannabinoid to be partially identified by a curious British Chemist names Robert S. Cahn. It wasn’t until 1940 that CBN was examined closer in full form, but research into this cannabinoid halted not long after due to legality concerns.

When CBN was first discovered by Mr. Cahn, the thought was that this was the constituent in cannabis that delivered intoxicating effects. Of course, it was later determined in 1964 that THC was to blame for the “high” effects.

Today, research into the many constituents of hemp has captivated the public. The more accustomed society grows to hemp and CBD in everyday life, the more cannabis components bubble to the surface as constituents worth our attention. CBN is a good example. Let’s take a closer look at CBN, how it differs from CBD, and why CBN would likely not be possible without THC.

CBN vs CBD – What’s the Difference?

Two cannabinoids with similar names, it would be easy to assume that the conversation about cannabinol vs cannabidiol wouldn’t bring about a lot of differences to discuss. Just the same, these two compounds are far different than they first appear. Both are considered cannabinoids, but beyond the relationship, CBD and CBN are quite different. A few of the primary differences between CBN and CBD include:

  • CBN levels are not determined by the genetic factors of the plant; CBD levels are related to plant genetics
  • CBN in hemp occurs due to environmental exposure and levels can go up after cultivation and processing the hemp
  • CBN directly binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS); CBD affects the ECS in an indirect way

CBN is also much harder to find as a product than CBD. For example, it would be rare to find full CBN oil or even strains that are excessively high in CBN.  Why is CBN hard to find? The reason comes down to the science of the hemp plant, the chemical makeup of CBN, and a unique relationship between CBN and that other noteworthy cannabinoid—THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol).

What Is Cannabinol?

What is Cannabinol | TIMBR Organics

CBN is a cannabinoid, but this cannabinoid is perhaps one of the most unique in the group. The reason cannabinol is not technically genetically determined is that the cannabinoid comes about when THC is oxidized. In simple terms, THC turns into CBN overtime when THC is exposed to either light or heat.

CBN is actually found more prominently in old plant matter from the cannabis family. For example, slow-processed cannabis hashish can have higher CBN concentrations.

If you have ever used marijuana regularly or spent time with those who do, you may be familiar with the suspicion often touted that “old weed makes you sleepier.” You could speculate that old cannabis could contain higher levels of CBN due to light or heat exposure, and some scientists agree. In fact, even cannabis extracts or dried hemp flower could have higher levels of CBN if left unrefrigerated, unsealed, or out in the sunlight.

CBN Effects in the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinol Benefits

Like THC and unlike CBD, CBN does have an affinity for the CB1 receptors found in the endocannabinoid system, as well as some effect on CB2 receptors. However, current research supports the idea that CBN may have a broader effect on these receptors, which means the compound could produce similar therapeutic effects as THC, but in a notably much milder way. In fact, CBN seems to bind to the endocannabinoid receptors with ten-times less strength than THC.

Of course, THC is most noteworthy because of its classification as an intoxicating cannabinoid. THC binds to the same receptors as CBN and generates the well-known “high” feeling. On the contrary, CBN does not seem to do the same when it comes to intoxicating effects; possibly because of the lightly binding action with the ECS receptors CBN is known for.

As an adage, CBN is thought to help support the actions of other cannabinoids in action often referred to as the entourage effect. Scientists believe the therapeutic effects of plants in the cannabis family deliver a heightened effect when consumed together, and CBN could be a contributor to this effect.

Possible Cannabinol Benefits

CBD, THC, and even CBG, and even certain terpenes have some pretty extensive research published. Yet, the benefits of cannabinol are just coming to light, and more research is definitely needed to make any definitive claims.

Because cannabinol is technically only present when other cannabinoids have oxidized, deriving enough CBN for research purposes is not as simple as it can be with other hemp constituents. However, this relatively recent cannabinoid to take the spotlight does offer some promising research to consider. Much like CBD and other cannabinoids found in hemp, it is possible CBN could serve up a wealth of therapeutic advantages.

Some research published in “Cannabis Pharmacology: The Usual Suspects and a Few Promising Leads” has shown that CBN may possibly offer several therapeutic uses due to certain properties similar to CBD, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Anti-convulsant properties
  • Antibiotic properties

While early evidence supports the possible cannabinol benefits, many studies done to date have been small-scale and some have been animal studies. For example, in a comparative study published in 2012, CBN seemed to increase appetite levels much like THC. Another example, a study on cats with glaucoma in 1984 found that CBN seemed to reduce intraocular pressure.

One of the latest studies on cannabinol effects was done in 2019. In this small animal study, dosing rats with CBN seemed to provide similar pain-relieving effects as THC.

Perhaps the most promising study offered on CBN benefits to date is one published in 2017 that proposes CBN could be effectively used as a sedative. Researchers noted that CBN in small doses seemed to be as effective as certain prescription sedatives like diazepam. However, later research seemed to conflict with earlier findings so further examination is necessary.

High CBN Strains to Explore

High CBN Strains | TIMBR Organics

Since CBN is born when THC is exposed to certain environmental factors, high-CBN hemp strains are not easy to find. Hemp is naturally low in THC by nature, and for legal purposes, marketable hemp products can only contain 0.3 percent THC. Normally, you will only find detectable levels of CBN in hemp products that have been processed in a way that oxidizes what little THC is present.

Nevertheless, intelligent botanists are constantly working behind the scenes to create cannabis strains more capable of having a high CBN content. And, some cultivators have started age-curing their crops to encourage higher CBN levels. Therefore, it is possible to find CBN on some level in certain products. For example, both of our disposable CBD vape pens, Fire OG and Jack Herer, contain detectable amounts of CBN.

Add CBN to Your Lifestyle with TIMBR Organics

From the cannabinoids to the terpenes, hemp is proving to be one of the most captivating plants—one well worth getting to know. While research is just getting started where cannabinol is concerned, what we already know is exciting. If you are ready to try out CBN in a full-spectrum, smokable hemp form, make sure you opt for a quality product.

Whether you’re into smoking hemp or vaping hemp oil, at TIMBR Organics, we offer a great selection of top-shelf hemp products including hemp flower, disposable CBD vape pens, and hemp pre-rolls, and hemp cigarettes.

Not sure which product to try first? Pick up the TIMBR Organics Sample Kit, which gives you the best of all our smokable hemp products.


This article is not intended to serve as a substitute for advice or consultation from a certified doctor or health professional. Before trying CBD or hemp flower products, it is strongly advised to conduct your own research and consult with a licensed doctor. While the World Health Organization considers cannabidiol to be “generally well tolerated with a good safely profile,” more research is needed to properly evaluate the safety and efficacy of CBD for general use.

TIMBR Organics products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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