The cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, but there are two that are much more popular than the rest: Cannabidiol (CBD) and, of course, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is the most abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and is notorious for its psychoactive effects. It’s the cannabinoid that drew everyone to cannabis in the first place, so to speak. CBD, on the other hand, is the cannabinoid renowned for its medicinal value.
However, these two compounds aren’t the only powerful cannabinoids native to cannabis. Delta-8-THC is a cannabis compound that is similar to THC but with several key differences, which we will address below.
What Is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is one of the more than 100 cannabinoids 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 miniscule, delta-8 THC has an entirely different profile to delta-9 THC and has been fascinating the medical marijuana community in recent years.
Now, we know you may still be a little confused, so we are going to try to break it down. The delta part of the name refers to the double bond – meaning both delta 8 and delta 9 have double bonds. The difference comes down to the location of the double bond. Organic chemistry deals with carbon atoms – chains of carbon atoms – and the respective “8” or “9” in the name of the cannabinoid refers to the location of that double (delta) bond in the chain.
So, delta-9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon in the chain, while delta-8 has the double bond on the 8th. Ultimately, double bonds have more electrons than single carbon bonds and interact differently with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). While this may not seem like a big difference, the location of the double bond can be very significant when we’re dealing with subatomic particles.
Thanks to the molecular similarities between these two cannabinoids, delta-8 THC can offer incredible therapeutic effects with significantly lower psychoactive potency than delta-9 THC.
That said, delta-8 THC only exists in fractional concentrations in the cannabis plant. Therefore, labs and extractors utilize selective breeding and molecular isolation methods in order to extract concentrates that are abundant in delta 8.
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 some significant differences. Like delta-9, this cannabinoid binds to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, as well as to CB2 receptors.
Based on early research and anecdotal reports, delta-8 is like a “light” version of the traditional delta-9 THC. It produces a mild sedative effect, but without the mental stimulation delta-9 typically induces.
As an analog of delta-9, the delta-8 version 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 main value of delta-8 THC is found in its low potency, which means lower psychoactivity. In high doses, delta-8 THC appears to cause less anxiety than delta-9 THC. The lower potency, together with the potential medical benefits of this compound, prompted researchers to delve deeper into its conversion. They concluded that while delta-8 THC has similar psychoactive effects to delta-9, it’s 50-75% less potent.
Often, experts describe delta-8 THC as being an easier, more tolerable version of the traditional THC, producing a mild sedative effect without much mental stimulation. This means it allows users to stay focused and get on with their jobs while enjoying the same soothing effects one would get from delta-9 THC.
In other words, delta-8 THC offers a clear high which doesn’t trigger any confusion or anxiety – making users feel less altered and more in tune with themselves. It improves perceptibility and heightens the senses, making outdoor activities like cycling and hiking more enjoyable.
The Therapeutic Value of Delta-8 THC
Delta-8 THC is still a relatively “new” cannabinoid in the cannabis world – people are only just starting to talk about it. This means that not much scientific evidence exists on the medical value of the cannabinoid just yet. However, the research that has been done, along with anecdotal evidence, suggests that delta-8 holds remarkable medical potential.
Perhaps the biggest 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 of delta-9 THC, but with a better ability to stay focused while performing daily tasks or working.
Delta-8 THC binds with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and CB2 receptors in the immune system. Thanks to this versatility, the cannabinoid presents a wide array of potential medical benefits:
Potential Benefits of Delta-8 THC
- Powerful Antiemetic: One of the most well-known uses of delta-8 is as an antiemetic (nausea reducer). In a 1995 study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, researchers gave delta-8 THC to children aged between 3 – 13 who were going through cancer treatment. In all cases, these children saw a remarkable improvement in nausea and vomiting. Also interestingly, they didn’t experience psychoactive effects.
- Appetite-Stimulator: Delta-8 has been shown to improve appetite to help patients get the nutrition they need. One 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. The psychoactive effects of this cannabinoid are reported to be alert-focused and uplifting, yet relaxing and calm. Many users report a vigorous and body-relaxing effect when using delta-8.
- Pain-Relieving: 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.
The Extraction and Use of Delta-8 THC
Delta-8 THC is most abundant in dry cannabis flowers, but at a concentration that seldom exceeds 1%. This means that its benefits aren’t easy to obtain through traditional methods like vaporizing or smoking.
Because the cannabinoid occurs naturally in cannabis plants in very small amounts, there isn’t such a thing as delta-8 THC rich strains. Substantial amounts of delta-8 can only be obtained through a specialized process of isolation, extraction, conversion, and refinement.
That said, in states where cannabis has become a well-established industry, like California, delta-8 THC products are becoming increasingly available as vapable extracts and other alternatives, such as sublingual drops.
Delta-8 THC edibles are not recommended. Delta-8 transforms into delta-11 THC as it passes through the digestive tract, which means that there is no real benefit to eating delta-8 THC.
Final Thoughts on Delta-8 THC
The stability and efficacy of delta-8 THC make it an incredibly valuable cannabinoid of the cannabis plant. It has numerous potential medical benefits and is also far less psychotropic in comparison to delta-9 THC. This means that users can consume this cannabinoid and still go on with their normal daily activities.
Be sure to keep your eyes on delta-8 THC because we are sure there are big things coming for this compound.