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Written by Petar Petrov

Judging by their names, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) may seem like first cousins, but that’s simply wrong, as their very origin and principle of action are fundamentally different.  With that being said, they do share some similarities and can even complement each other.

For starters, CBN is the result of THC oxidation. When exposed to heat, light, and/or time, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) converts into CBN. This makes CBN a very sparse cannabinoid. Conversely, CBD is the second most prominent cannabinoid, even though it also stems from a different molecule.

That may sound a little degrading toward CBN, and even though it’s literally “degraded” THC, it also has some nice benefits to offer.

Like CBD, CBN is not intoxicating. With that being said, it is THC’s by-product after all, and, as such, it binds to the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor, be it only at approximately 10% of THC’s affinity.[1] Because of this, the anecdotal evidence that CBN’s effects can border with mild intoxication seems plausible.

On the note of the apple not falling far from the tree, like THC, CBN has also been found to increase appetite, at least in pre-clinical research, whereas CBD actually reduced food consumption.[2] CBN’s effects on feeding, if backed up by further study, could be a nice alternative to using THC for people who need to address poor appetite.

CBD, on the other hand, is believed to negate or balance out THC’s psychoactive effects, and more particularly side effects like paranoia.[3]

However, CBN and CBD have been studied together in the context of pain relief in pre-clinical models. Both cannabinoids were found to alleviate myofascial pain, and combination treatment heightened the effect.[1] These results show that these two compounds may work better together for some conditions like chronic pain despite their different characteristics.

In addition, just like CBD, CBN also may possess anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant properties.[4] While many people claim that CBN may help with sleep, there are no data to effectively back that up.

As you can see, CBN and CBD are very different, yet carry some similarities. This is a recurring theme in cannabis science overall, which is perhaps at the core of the entourage effect and the unique relationship cannabinoids share, like a group of best friends, united and completed by their differences.

So any new information we learn about the minor cannabinoids doesn’t blow CBD benefits out the window! Instead, it provides options to try these new isolate compounds or use them in combination with CBD to see what they can do together.

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  1. Wong H & Cairns BE. Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain. Arch Oral Biol. 2019;104:33-39.
  2. Farrimond JA, et al. Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012;223(1):117-129.
  3. Niesink RJ & van Laar MW. Does cannabidiol protect against adverse psychological effects of THC? Front Psychiatry. 2013;4:130.
  4. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1344-1364.

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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