The cannabis plant contains over 100 cannabinoids, but two are much more popular than the rest: cannabidiol (CBD) and, of course, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana plants, and is notorious for its psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, boasts many of the same therapeutic qualities as THC, with none of the mind-altering effects.
However, these two compounds aren’t the only potent cannabinoids native to cannabis. Delta-8-THC is a cannabis compound that’s similar to THC, but with several key differences. In this guide, we discuss what delta 8 is and how it can be used for its therapeutic value.
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What Is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8-THC is one of more than 100 cannabinoids (active compounds) in the cannabis plant. It is chemically different from delta-9-THC by just a few atomic bonds – the double bond is on the 8th carbon rather than the 9th. Although this difference sounds minor, it gives delta-8-THC a completely different profile from delta-9.
Double bonds have more electrons than single carbon bonds, and interact differently with the endocannabinoid system.
The ‘delta’ part of the name refers to the double bond – both delta-8 and delta-9 have double bonds. The difference is the location of the bond. Organic chemistry deals with carbon atoms – chains of carbon atoms – and the respective number refers to the site of the double (delta) bond in the chain. Ultimately, double bonds have more electrons than single carbon bonds, and for this reason, they interact differently with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
How Is Delta-8-THC Different from Delta-9-THC?
Delta-8-THC is similar in structure to delta-9-THC, but it does have significant differences in terms of how it interacts with the ECS on a molecular level. Like delta-9, this cannabinoid binds to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) and also influences CB2 receptor activity.
Based on early research and anecdotal reports, delta-8 is like a light version of delta-9-THC. It produces a mild sedative effect, albeit with less intense mind-altering effects compared to delta-9.
As an analog of delta-9, the delta-8 version of THC has demonstrated anxiolytic, analgesic, appetite-stimulating, neuroprotective, and antiemetic properties in research settings. This is despite inducing milder psychotropic effects than delta-9-THC.
What Are the Effects of Delta-8-THC?
The principal value of delta-8-THC is its low potency, which means lower levels of psychoactivity. In fact, research suggests delta-8 is anywhere between 50% and 75% less potent than D9. For this reason, delta-8-THC is less likely to cause anxiety than delta-9. However, the compound appears to offer many of the same health and therapeutic benefits as its popular cousin.
Experts often describe the effects of delta-8 THC as weaker and more tolerable than D9. The compound produces a mild sedative effect – and even a mild high in some instances – and thus allows users to stay clear and focused while enjoying the same general effects that are consistent with delta-9-THC.
In other words, delta-8-THC offers a clear high that rarely triggers anxiety or paranoia – making users feel less altered and more in tune with themselves. It improves perceptibility and heightens the senses, making things like outdoor activities more enjoyable.
What Are the Potential Benefits of Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC is still relatively new in the cannabis world. Unfortunately, this means that little scientific evidence exists on the medical value of the cannabinoid. However, the limited amount of research that has been done suggests that delta-8 holds remarkable medical potential.
Users report that delta-8 has the same medical efficacy as delta-9-THC, albeit with a better ability to stay focused.
Perhaps the most significant benefit is that delta-8-THC has the potential to provide therapeutic effects in low doses, with minimal psychoactive effects. Some users report that delta-8 has the same medical efficacy as delta-9-THC, but with a better ability to stay focused while performing daily tasks.
In terms of molecular activity, delta-8-THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the CNS and CB2 receptors in the immune system. Thanks to this versatile molecular action, the cannabinoid boasts a wide range of potential medical benefits, including the following:
Powerful anti-emetic: One of the most well-known uses of delta-8 is as an anti-emetic (nausea reducer). In a 1995 study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, researchers gave delta-8 THC to children aged 3 – 13 who were going through cancer treatment. The children saw a remarkable improvement in nausea and vomiting, and interestingly, did not experience psychoactive effects.
Appetite-stimulator: Delta-8 may work to improve appetite and help patients get the nutrition they need. A 2004 study on mice supports these findings.
Potent anxiolytic: Delta-8 THC can produce similar effects to delta-9 THC, but without the anxiety or paranoia-inducing effects. As described above, the psychoactive effects of this cannabinoid are far less potent than D9. Many users report a calming effect and whole-body relaxation when using delta-8.
Pain-reliever: Delta-8 THC appears to have the same pain-relieving effects as its more potent counterpart, delta-9 THC, but without the potent cerebral effects.
Powerful neuroprotectant: Delta-8 THC may also be a helpful neuroprotectant, making it an exciting prospect for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A 1987 study found that mice treated with the cannabinoid experienced an increase in the level of acetylcholine in the brain. This is an important neurotransmitter that plays a key role in memory and learning.
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
Delta-8-THC is currently within a legal gray area. Unlike delta-9 and CBD, there are few official regulations on this cannabinoid. Since the compound can be derived from hemp, however, which is a legal plant, manufacturers are assuming delta-8-THC is allowed. In fact, some brands make synthesized versions of delta-8 by refining the molecular structure of CBD.
Nevertheless, the language surrounding delta-8-THC is complicated. There may be further laws introduced in the future as the popularity of this cannabinoid grows.
How to Take and Dose Delta-8-THC
Although delta-8 is weaker than delta-9-THC, users should still exercise caution. It’s unclear how cannabinoids will affect you until you have tried them, which is why it’s advised to go low and slow.
In terms of dosage, manufacturers often double the amount of delta-8-THC compared to similar products that would contain delta 9. So, while a typical THC edible may contain 10mg, delta-8 gummies often contain 20mg or even 25mg. Depending on your THC tolerance, you may need to half this.
Users have the option to vape, dab, or consume delta 8 products, and the market will only continue to expand in the years to come.
It’s still important to note the relative lack of research on delta-8-THC. As a result, it’s vital to be careful. As for how to take delta-8, there are now numerous methods. Users have the option to vape, dab, or consume edibles, and the market is only expanding.
How Is Delta-8-THC Made?
Like other cannabinoids, delta-8 comes from cannabis. It is most abundant in dry cannabis flower, but its concentration seldom exceeds 1%. There are no delta-8-THC rich strains.
Considering the federal restrictions on marijuana, most manufacturing companies choose to extract delta-8 from hemp. This typically involves extracting the more abundant CBD, then filtering and refining it into a synthesized form of delta-8-THC.
The complicated process means that delta-8 products may be more expensive than other cannabinoids.
How to Find High-Quality Delta-8-THC
Since delta-8-THC is relatively new to the market, it can be tricky to find the best products. Nevertheless, its stability and efficacy make it an incredibly valuable cannabinoid. It has numerous potential medical benefits, and is also far less psychotropic in comparison to delta-9-THC. This means that users can consume the cannabinoid and still go on with their normal daily lives.
Be sure to keep your eyes on this compound, as it’s likely that big things are coming. For now, make sure you buy from a reputable brand with lab reports.