CBD vs. THC vs. CBG vs. CBN Explained: A Beginner’s Guide 

It’s not all just about CBD! The cannabis industry has seen extensive retail growth over the past decade. This is thanks to changing legalization laws and ongoing research that supports cannabis’ medical use. 

At the center of cannabis products are the main ingredients called cannabinoids. These are chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant that interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the body and mind.

While there are over one hundred known cannabinoids, a few common compounds have been studied enough to enter into the mainstream market. Here’s a beginner’s guide to CBD vs. THC vs. CBG vs. CBN!


The first and most common type of cannabinoid is CBD or cannabidiol. It’s arguably the most popular and familiar cannabinoid because of its non-psychoactive components. This means it doesn’t cause the euphoric ‘high’ effect, making it helpful in creating wellness-based cannabis products. 

Furthermore, because CBD is the second most prevalent compound in the hemp plant, it’s the easiest and cheapest to extract. Some of the research-backed and potential health benefits include: 

  • Relieving general pain
  • Decreasing inflammation 
  • Lowering anxiety and stress
  • Reducing seizures
  • Improving sleep 

Companies like Hemponix have developed high-quality CBD in many forms to make it more accessible and effective. These come in the form of CBD oil tinctures, gummies, beverages, baking ingredients, and topical creams sold as isolates or full-spectrum products. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prevalent compound in the cannabis plant. It’s most well-known as the main component found in marijuana because it has psychoactive effects that create a ‘high’ sensation when smoked or ingested. 

Due to this, THC is kept to very low potency volumes of less than 0.3% in most states. This reduces the intensity and minimizes side effects from occurring. That said, THC has been shown to have medical use when applied correctly that could help with: 

  • Chronic pain 
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Spasm and convulsive disorders
  • Appetite loss

In addition, THC, in the form of a Food and Drug Administration-approved medicine, dronabinol, is used to treat nausea in chemotherapy and oncology patients as part of a medical cannabis program. As a product, it’s also sold as oil tinctures and concentrates, as well as delta-8 edibles and topical creams. 


The next cannabinoid is the lesser-known cannabigerol or CBG, that’s relatively new to the cannabis product market. It begins in the form of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), just like CBD and THC, and is then processed into the final substance after heat and light exposure. 

Furthermore, because CBG is produced in small amounts within the cannabis plant, it requires precise extraction to remain effective. This makes it more costly for cannabis businesses to produce CBG products, which is why it’s often more expensive and rarer than other types of cannabinoids. As for its potential health benefits, CBG could have a therapeutic effect on the mind and body, such as: 

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Relieving pain
  • Treating anxiety and depression
  • Providing neuroprotection
  • Providing antibacterial support 

Most CBG products are sold as oils in pure, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum forms. These can be ingested orally, under the tongue, or topically onto the skin in muscle pain areas.   


Cannabinol (CBN) is one of the newest cannabinoids on the cannabis retail product market. It’s not produced naturally by the cannabis plant but by breaking down THC. This leaves it mildly psychoactive but doesn’t typically produce the intoxicating ‘high.’ 

Because research on CBN is in its early stages and at the preclinical trial level, its potential health benefits are still undergoing careful research. However, current testing suggests that CBN could be an effective sleep remedy for people with insomnia. This also includes possible benefits such as:

  • Pain relief
  • Reducing symptoms of glaucoma
  • Inflammation relief
  • Providing neuroprotection

While CBN may not be widely available on the market, it’s still sold by select cannabis brands and companies as oils and tinctures. It’s more common to find CBD products that contain CBN within them than pure CBN oils sold on their own. 

Differences and Similarities 

All of the above cannabinoids such as those supplied by Bluebird Botanicals have shown promising results for having therapeutic health benefits. The most common treatments are pain relief, anti-inflammatory, reducing anxiety, and aiding insomnia. 

They’re also sold in similar product types, such as oils, edibles, tinctures, and food ingredients. The major differences between cannabinoids are the psychoactive effects and the quantity that can be produced or extracted. Cannabinoids and CBG can’t produce that ‘high’ sensation, while THC and CBN have a strong to mild effect, depending on their potency. 

The most common cannabinoids used in the cannabis industry are CBD, THC, CBG, and CBN. They’re sold as food ingredients and personal care products for easier consumption. While they share similarities like therapeutic effects that can improve consumers’ health, each has its unique composition and effect on the body and mind.

Jennifer Dawson

Jennifer Dawson is an experienced freelance writer who specializes in food and nutrition. Working in fitness marketing previously gave her a good feel for the industry and since going freelance she has been able to explore her preferred topic areas such as diet types, nutrition and food. Outside of work, Jen enjoys traveling, swimming and spending time with her young family.

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