How Do THC, CBN & CBD Relate to Marijuana Potency?

by Nebula Haze

Table of Contents

THC, CBN and CBD: What Every Grower Needs to Know

THC / CBN / CBD Rundown (the Science)

The Practical Stuff: How Growers Control Cannabinoid Levels


THC, CBN and CBD: What Every Grower Needs to Know

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research on cannabinoids (the stuff in marijuana buds that makes these particular flowers so special).

Marijuana in your hand

I am dedicated to getting you the best and latest information, in a simple, easy-to-understand format, so you can grow marijuana that fits your needs.

Today I will share you what I’ve learned about the 3 main cannabinoids that we know the most about in marijuana, THC, CBN and CBD.

Chances are, you’ve heard of THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol), one of the main components of marijuana that causes its unique mind-altering effects on humans.

Not too long ago, we thought that THC was the main cannabinoid that affected the “potency” and effects produced by marijuana.

However, in addition to THC, there are many other cannabinoids found in marijuana, including CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, THCV, and many others.


Sativex is actually made from marijuana plants

Did you know?

Prescription drug Sativex has been created which contains 50% each of THC and CBD derived directly from a marijuana plant.

Sativex appears to be very well tolerated and doesn’t have many of the side effects associated with Marinol, which is made of 100% THC.


We’ve learned that, while THC is likely responsible for many the pain relieving (and more trippy) effects of marijuana, we also need to study the effects the other cannabinoids have on our health and how we feel after using marijuana.

Now some people love high-THC levels and don’t need or want any of the other cannabinoids. For other people, the positive effects of THC are only felt when enough other cannabinoids are present, too.

THC, CBD and CBN are the most studied cannabinoids found in high levels in marijuana. By understanding the simple relationship between these three cannabinoids, you can tune your grow into your unique needs.

What does it mean when marijuana buds are “18.2%” THC, “0.1%” CBN and “0.5%” CBD?

More trichomes don't necessarily mean more potency

It means that of all the cannabinoids present in the sample, 18.2% of them are THC, 0.1% of them are CBN and 0.5% of them are CBD.

What does this mean to you? It means having a lot of trichome production does not necessarily mean higher potency. The resins inside the trichome may or may not contain high levels of active ingredients.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these numbers do not in any way indicate “weight by volume.” In other words, sometimes two samples of weed can have the same numbers, and can have similar effects, but one sample could be way stronger because it has higher levels of cannabinoids overall.

So tell me, which is better, THC, CBN or CBD?

As a grower, you will get the best results when you choose a specific strain and prepare your plants in order to specifically cause the effects you’re looking for.

The best results seems to come from using marijuana that has a mix of cannabinoids that are suited to your needs.

For example, high-THC strains have many positive benefits, yet too much THC by itself, without other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN, can cause disorientation, lapses in memory and anxiety.

For those who find these effects unpleasant, choosing strains with higher levels of CBD, or using harvest and curing methods that promote the creation of CBN often prevent many of these negative side effects.

In other words, the levels you want of THC, CBD, and CBN are truly a matter of personal preference.



THC / CBN / CBD Rundown (the Science)



THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC is the main psychoactive component in marijuana buds, and mimics the action of anandamide, which is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the brain.

Quick Summary of THC

  • THC seems to provide certain positive health benefits, especially when combined with other cannabinoids
  • THC has the strongest psychoactive effects
  • THC can cause feelings of creativity, curiosity, or excited well-being
  • High THC levels may cause people to feel anxious, disorientated, drugged or “messed up”

THC appears to…

  • Relieve Certain Types of Pain
  • Be Neuroprotective (helps stop brain from degenerating over time)
  • Cause Relaxation
  • Cause Euphoria
  • Contribute to Altered Space-Time Perception

How to get high levels of THC in your buds:

  • THC levels in buds are determined mostly by strain (genetics). Most popular strains these days are high in THC unless otherwise stated. Choose a high-THC strain to get the highest levels of THC. Learn about a few trusted strain breeders.
  • THC is found primarily in trichomes on marijuana buds and (for some strains) on leaves, stems, and other parts of plant
  • Increasing overall resin production in a high-THC strain will usually increase your overall THC levels
  • Harvesting when trichomes are milky white or cloudy with just a few amber trichomes starting to appear will result in highest levels of THC
  • This page covers how to grow dense buds, but nearly all the techniques will help ensure your buds grow to their full THC potential, too.

Having a high THC content by itself does not necessarily mean that the marijuana is great. It’s important to look at the whole experience caused by the plant, which includes considering the effects of CBD and CBN.

In fact, the following negative effects of THC are often prevented when higher levels of CBD or CBN are present:

  • Lapses in Memory
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety



CBN (Cannabinol)

Quick Summary of CBN

  • CBN is also psychoactive, though much less so than THC
  • The presence of CBN with THC may reduce the feelings of anxiety that some people feel with high levels of THC
  • CBN contributes to more of a body “couchlock” effect
  • CBN promotes uninterrupted sleep
  • Too much CBN can make people feel groggy or sleepy

How to get high levels of CBN in your buds:



CBD (Cannabidiol)

Quick Summary of CBD

  • CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t make you feel impaired
  • CBD seems to have many positive health implications
  • The presence of CBD can alter some of the subjective effects of THC. Higher levels of CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC, which can be a great way for some patients to get the medical benefits of THC without having to feel “high”.

Learn more about CBD on

We’ve always known about CBD, but originally we didn’t think it had much of an effect on people. Further studies have proven we were very wrong, CBD has a big effect on the subjective experience of using marijuana, as well as for your health.

CBD appears to:

  • Reduce pain
  • Prevent seizures and spasms
  • Relieve some types of inflammation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Protect Your Brain (has neuroprotective effects)

CBD has also been shown to:

  • Have a calming effect
  • Act as an antipsychotic for people suffering from schizophrenia
  • Offer relief for some patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, and Epilepsy
  • Possibly help stop the growth of cancer by inhibiting cancer cell growth
  • Prevent the memory impairment and disorientation associated with THC

How to get high levels of CBD in your buds

  • Like THC, CBD content in buds is primarily determined by strain (genetics)
  • CBD is often confused with CBN, which can be affected by harvest methods
  • There is not much you can do to increase levels of CBD besides choosing a high-CBD strain
  • CBD is often naturally found in higher amounts in low-THC varieties of cannabis such as hemp and is also often found in higher levels in auto-flowering strains which are derived from a type of wild hemp
  • In recent years, some high-THC strains have been particularly bred to also include higher levels of CBD

A list of a few high-CBD strains 

Many of the most popular strains today have little to no CBD and a strain is usually considered “high-CBD” if it has more than 2% CBD. However, many of the specially bred medical strains have higher levels of CBD, up to 15% CBD or more. As far as growing your own supply of medicine, generally you’ll get the most consistent high-CBD results with clones, though high-CBD strains from seed have come a long way over the last few years as the strains are stabilized.



The Practical Stuff: What You Need to Do as a Grower to Control Cannabinoid Levels in Your Marijuana Buds

Now we’re going to jump into the practical and show you exactly what you need to know so you can control the levels of each of these 3 cannabinoids in the marijuana buds you grow.

A cannabis leaf held against the hood of an HPS grow light


3 Steps to Controlling THC, CBD, and CBN levels in your marijuana buds

1.) Pick Your Strain (genetics play a big factor for THC and CBD)

If you’ve grown a few different strains before, you probably already realize that the genes of your plants plants play a big role in the results of your marijuana grow.

When it comes to influencing your levels of THC and CBD, the strain you start with is basically the most important factor.

Genetics largely determine the amounts of THC and CBD produced in your buds.

Remember: Unlike THC and CBD discussed in this step, the most practical way to control CBN levels is using the correct harvest, drying, and curing methods. We’ll discuss these in a moment.

Because genes determine many of the cannabinoids levels, for best results you must find a strain which has the effects you are seeking.

Looking for marijuana strains with high THC levels?

THC levels are commonly bragged about. THC is the most psychoactive component of marijuana buds.

Many of the more famous, “ultra-potent” strains are high-THC (low CBD) strains, as well as most pure Sativas.

Looking for marijuana strains with high CBD levels?

Strains with “Afghan” or “Afghani” lineage tend to have higher levels of CBD, as do most non-psychoactive varieties like Ruderalis (auto-flowering) and hemp.

Afghan strains are potent and easy to grow, generally have high CBD content and produce great yields. Therefore strains with Afghan lineage are usually a great choice for beginning growers looking for a marijuana strain with higher levels of CBD.

Ruderalis (auto-flowering) plants are high-CBD yet stay very tiny, so are only recommended for stealth grows or those looking for small amounts of medicine.

2.) Harvest At the Right Time (plays a factor for THC and CBN)

While you cannot control CBD levels with harvest methods, you can influence the the amount of THC and CBN in your buds by choosing the right time to harvest your plant.

CBD levels seem to remain relatively stable for most of the harvesting period.

Pick the right time to harvest by watching:

  • Pistils (“white hairs” that grow from new buds)
  • Trichomes (crystals or resin glands, the glittery stuff on your marijuana buds)

Watch Pistils

This is the simplest harvest method. Watch the pistils/hairs growing on the buds and harvest based on how many have darkened and curled in.

  • For a speedier high, harvest when about 40% of white hairs have darkened and curled in
  • For highest THC levels and buds that make you soar, wait until buds have fattened and 50-70% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
  • For higher CBN levels, which cause more of a relaxing effect, wait until new white hairs stop growing, and 80-90% of the hairs have darkened and there are few white hairs.

Watch Trichomes

For the marijuana scientist, watching the trichomes gives you a bit more insight into what’s going on with your plant’s cannabinoinds.

Plus it’s really fun to look at trichomes through a jeweler’s loupe or microscope.

  • Early on, when there are still many clear trichomes, buds tends to produce a heady, wired kind of high. THC levels are lower at this point, though they’re ramping up each day.
  • For highest THC levels, harvest when nearly all the clear trichomes have turned milky white. This will produce buds with the most mind-altering effects.
  • For a more relaxing effect, wait to harvest until many of the milky white trichomes have darkened to amber/gold. These amber trichomes have a bit less THC, but more CBN. The presence of CBN often reduces the anxiety some people feel from high THC levels.


There is a lot of variation between strains and people’s preferences, so it is highly recommended you experiment with your plants to see what works best for you.

Important Tip: Exact harvest time isn’t as critical as we once thought. 

Don’t stress too much, often buds have similar levels of cannabinoids even when harvested weeks apart.

How do I experiment with harvest time if I only grow 1 or 2 plants?

It is totally okay to harvest different parts of your plants at different times.

Just make sure there is enough green foliage left to support the plant.

Some growers say that harvesting different parts of the plant at different times is stressful for the plant, and that is true.

It’s also been shown that stress near harvest time actually causes an increase in resin/cannabinoid production, which most growers find beneficial.

While you’re in the harvest window, your plant puts all her effort into making the most awesome buds possible.

As long as you have a healthy plant, I highly recommend harvesting different parts of the plant at different times to (labeling them so you remember which one you harvested when!) and find out what works best for you.

Learn more about when to harvest marijuana here (more pictures)


3.) Dry and Cure Buds Properly

Most growers agree that drying buds slowly and then curing buds in an air-tight space improves the taste and smell of buds.

Many growers also agree that curing your marijuana buds for 2-4 weeks or longer actually seems to increase the subjective potency of buds.

Curing buds for a longer period causes some of the THC to turn into CBN, which happens as the THC is exposed to air.

Some people also speculate that having a bit of CBN helps “activate” THC effects.

Whether it’s because of this process or or something else, curing marijuana buds has an effect on potency, in addition to improving the taste and smell.

Curing for too long (over 6 months) does not continue to cause any increase in potency. Buds actually start getting less potent as much of the THC degrades.

You can safely store buds longer when marijuana is kept in a dark, cool, dry airtight environment.

Remember: marijuana buds should always be dry prior to any kind of long-term storage, and you may have dry them again if you store them somewhere that has high humidity.

Learn more about curing marijuana here



About Nebula Haze and Her Love of Cannabinoids

I personally use cannabis for the treatment of anxiety, and to prevent seizures. I like to have slightly higher CBD and CBN levels in my buds. Because of this, I tend to choose higher-CBD strains, harvest later and cure buds longer.

On the other hand, I know many growers who prefer cannabis with high THC and low CBD and CBN levels because the result can be more ‘up’ or ‘trippy.’ These growers choose low CBD strains and tend to harvest their buds several weeks earlier than I would.

We both love the buds we grow.

To see what suits you best, I strongly recommend personal experimentation with strains, harvest times, and curing length.

This is one of the best aspects of growing your own weed, you can choose to produce buds that do exactly what you want.

Now everyone’s individual experience is going to be different, there’s no one-size-fits-all.

Yet now you have something most other growers don’t; you are armed with the knowledge you need to tune into your own perfect grow.


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Happy growing!

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