THC is the main psychoactive component and one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis. But you may not realize that there are various types of THC. Take a closer look at delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC to see how they are similar and different.
Most people who only know about a handful of the cannabinoids found in cannabis will be aware of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, abbreviated as delta-9-THC. When most people use the term THC, this is the specific cannabinoid they mean.
Delta-8-THC is an analog of THC that has neuroprotective, analgesic, appetite-stimulating, anxiolytic, and antiemetic properties. Most importantly, it has a reduced psychotropic potency compared to delta-9-THC.
There are our major cannabinoids in dried cannabis, including both delta-9-THC and delta-8-THC. Delta-8-THC, however, has very low concentrations, typically around 0.01 percent, in the dried flower.
Compared to delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC only has a few atomic bonds that are different. Although less strong, it is still potent and offers a “high.” The effects also tend to be less sedative. It is also important to note that concentrations of delta-8-THC in cannabis are much smaller than those of delta-9-THC.
Both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC are psychoactive, but delta-9-THC is slightly more psychoactive. Research agrees that comparing the strength of delta-8-THC to delta-9-THC in terms of potency would give you a 2-3 ratio. This makes delta-8-THC more potent than THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin). THCV is about 25 percent as potent as THC and gives the energetic “high” to certain strains.
Both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC have the same number of atoms in their molecular structure. The difference is where the double bond is positioned on the molecule, with “delta” indicating the location of that double bond.
If you look at where delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC end up in the body, you will not spot many differences. Both have the same primary landing site, which is CB1 or cannabinoid receptor 1. This receptor is responsible for sleep, pain, movement, mood, and other functions.
The difference comes from the fact that delta-8-THC can also connect to CB2 or cannabinoid receptor 2. CB2 is part of the immune system’s communication.
Using delta-8-THC or delta-9-THC will give you similar reactions, including the psychoactive effects, pain relief, and being relaxed. The difference is that the slightly reduced potency of delta-8-THC tends to make users feel more clear-headed and lucid. It also tends to have more of an energetic feel to it than delta-9-THC.
Most people who use delta-8-THC also report that they do not notice a loss of focus or productivity when using it. By contrast, a loss of productivity or focus is common with delta-9-THC users.
You will hear descriptions of people who have used both types of THC. They indicated that delta-8-THC gave them a less impaired “high” and that they were clear-headed, engaged, and without anxiety or fogginess.
Some studies in rodents indicate that delta-8-THC increases acetylcholine. This is a brain chemical responsible for memory and learning. Experts believe that acetylcholine deficiencies contribute to cognitive and memory issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease. As such, delta-8-THC may eventually provide a treatment or prevention strategy for these types of conditions.
A 1975 study explored the impact of delta-8-THC on rats with cancer. They discovered that the cannabinoid shrank the tumor size. That same study also showed dose-dependent reductions in tumor growth and size from delta-9-THC, a decrease in tumor size from CBN, and no changes from CBD. In other words, delta-9-THC reduced growth while delta-8-THC not only reduced growth but also shrank the tumors.
A 1995 study in Jerusalem involved giving kids between ages 3-13 with hematologic cancers delta-8-THC. They had previously received different treatments for their disease. Before and after chemo, the kids received the delta-8-THC treatments, which successfully prevented nausea and made side effects negligible. This shows the promise of delta-8-THC, even though the study is now old and had a small sample size of just eight patients. The research did repeat the experiment for 480 treatments, with a 100-percent effective rate.
Some people claim that using delta-8-THC could help them overcome hangovers, with some clinical science supporting this claim. The ability of delta-8-THC to help with hangovers likely comes from its combined ability to provide energy and reduce nausea. Because of its slightly reduced potency compared to delta-9-THC, using it for hangovers can leave you clear-headed.
Most of the THC extracts that you find on the market today will feature delta-9-THC. Unless the extract specifies otherwise, you should always assume that the THC within it is delta-9-THC.
However, some companies are creating extracts or distillates of delta-8-THC. This is growing in popularity as a way to get the same benefits of delta-9-THC extracts but with reduced psychoactive effects.
One of the companies offering a delta-8-THC extract is Oleum. This company makes the product via thin-film distillation, which is fractional distillation. The process isolates delta-8-THC by controlling scientific equipment, vacuums, and temperature. It developed a process that lets its team convert delta-9-THC into delta-8-THC. The process also lets it isolate and purify cannabinoids by getting rid of undesirable compounds, like impurities and solvents.
The unique method used by Oleum lets it create a much more concentrated delta-8-THC product than other available products. Most of the dried cannabis flower you come across will have less than 1 percent delta-8-THC. As such, companies that want to create a higher concentration need to convert, isolate, extract, and refine the dried cannabis flower. In the case of Oleum’s AquaTek D8 Distillate, the product contains 58 percent delta-8-THC. It also has 7.9 percent delta-9-THC and 0.35 percent CBD.
The company does not include any additives or preservatives in this product. Instead, the ratios come about naturally based on the starting material and the processes that the dried cannabis undergoes. The company also keeps each distillation specific to a particular strain. This lets it record the resulting concentrations and profiles so it can create consistent products in the future.
Another one of the many companies offering delta-8-THC products is Evolab. Those who use its product report slightly reduced psychoactive effects as well as having more energy compared with vaporizing delta-9-THC. According to Ecolab, delta-8-THC is more upbeat, productive, and energetic than delta-9-THC.
A quick online search will show you numerous other products that focus on delta-8-THC. Just some of the other companies offering these products include Empire Experience, Marley Naturals, and C&D Farms. More are likely to keep arising.
One of the common themes among companies that offer products with delta-8-THC is that they will convert some of the delta-9-THC in cannabis into delta-8. Without this step, the concentrations of delta-8-THC would be too low.
The most common method of converting delta-9-THC to delta-8-THC involves using a spinning band distillation system. You start by extracting and winterizing crude cannabis oil. Combine this with 4 percent acidic alumina silicate. You then distill the cannabis oil, collecting the resulting THC distillate as normal. The combination of the boiling heat flask with the acidic alumina silicate will cause a change to the THC’s molecular structure. This method leads to a conversion rate of 90 to 95 percent at a minimum.
Of course, you should not try converting delta-9-THC to delta-8-THC yourself. This is something that requires professional equipment and chemicals that could be dangerous if used incorrectly. You do not want to hurt yourself during the process. You also do not want to create a dangerous substance instead of delta-8-THC accidentally and then ingest it.
Even with the increase in the availability of delta-8-THC products, it is much easier to find delta-9-THC. This starts with the fact that delta-9-THC appears in cannabis in higher concentrations. That means that if you smoke marijuana or consume a cannabis edible, you will automatically ingest higher quantities of delta-9-THC than delta-8-THC.
From there, the number of product offerings of each is not equal. Since delta-9-THC appears in cannabis in higher concentrations, it is easier for manufacturers to create products that include it. Nearly any product on the market that says it contains THC will have delta-9-THC. By contrast, delta-8-THC requires special care to increase its concentration since cannabis plants naturally have such limited quantities.
Even so, the two are among the four major cannabinoids found in cannabis. This means that cannabis has them in higher concentrations than other cannabinoids. In other words, simply smoking cannabis will give you more delta-8-THC than it would most other cannabinoids, although you will still get more delta-9-THC.
Experts feel that delta-8-THC has a great deal of potential. It provides similar benefits to delta-9-THC, such as pain reduction and nausea relief, but is more stable and efficient. The reduction in the potency of psychoactive effects can also make it useful in the future, especially in applications when people do not want the psychoactive components.
The main reason that delta-8-THC is so important is its potential benefits. Experts believe that like delta-9-THC, it can stimulate appetite, relieve pain, enhance memory, protect the brain from inflammation and stress, reduce anxiety related to stress, and help with vomiting and nausea.
Experts believe that delta-8-THC could help people with inflammatory brain conditions, nausea, mood-related problems, loss of appetite, cancer, anxiety, and dementia, among other conditions.
The reduced potency also makes it a strong choice for those who cannot get full symptom relief with just CBD and need a small quantity of THC to help. This benefit plays off the entourage effect, which is how CBD combined with THC can frequently produce better outcomes than just CBD alone. That applies to everything from pain relief to nausea.
Some people will even notice that adding delta-8-THC to delta-9-THC produces the entourage effect. This would let you spend less on the cannabis products you take or take smaller quantities while getting enhanced effects.
The best thing about delta-8-THC is that it may offer an alternative to delta-9-THC for those who react poorly for some reason. Although the difference in potency is slight, this may be enough to make delta-8-THC a possibility without negative reactions for those who have poor reactions to delta-9-THC.
Unfortunately, cannabis’s Schedule I classification makes it nearly impossible to research delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC in the United States. This means that experts cannot conduct clinical studies with humans, holding back the advances in using these types of THC.
Considering that both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC have products now available and ongoing research, it is natural to wonder about other delta-THCs. Scientists know that delta-1-THC, delta-2-THC, etc. exist but they are not that important for humans. This comes down to the location where those compounds’ chemical bonds occur. It is chemically impossible for humans to be affected by these other delta-THCs. As such, you should not expect to hear about them anytime soon.
Delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC are incredibly similar, with slight differences in chemical structure. When most people discuss the THC found in cannabis, they refer to delta-9-THC. This is the better-known type of THC, and it is present in larger concentrations in cannabis. Both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC are present in higher quantities than most other cannabinoids, as both are considered in the four major cannabinoids. Even so, there is a vast difference in the quantities present.
While delta-9-THC is typically present in cannabis in full percentages, delta-8-THC is only present in fractions of a percent. This makes it harder to find delta-8-THC products as manufacturers must increase the concentration. They achieve this through various methods, including converting delta-9-THC to delta-8-THC.
Either of these two forms of THC produces similar benefits, like pain relief and a “high,” but in different ways. Delta-8-THC is a bit less potent and produces a “high” that lets you keep your clear head.
The bottom line is that delta-8-THC is still less known but holds a great deal of promise in treating a range of conditions.