What exactly is Delta-8 and how is it different than regular THC?

Most can consumers probably know that tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is a molecule produced by cannabis (marijuana) which causes an effect on the brain. This chemical compound also delivers many medicinal benefits including anti-inflammatory and anticancer qualities.

What most people don’t know however, is that there are actually several different molecules with psychoactive effects inside of marijuana plants; some deliver this kind of feeling to humans while others do not have such properties at all.

Examples of isomers (compounds with the same formula but a different arrangement) of THC include delta-9, THCA, and THCV and Delta-8 (Which is a diluted form of the highly potent Delta-9, with less side effects).

THC isomers vary significantly in terms of efficacy. For example, delta-8 and delta-9 THC are known to increase appetite extensively when combined with the right mix of terpenes (a state colloquially referred to as “the munchies”). Meanwhile, THCV actually reduces appetite by comparison.


Ok, so what’s the difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9?


One of the main differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is in psychoactivity. Delta 8 provides half as much psychoactive power to its user, with some anecdotal evidence stating that it may not have a negative effect on anxiety or disorientation. Beyond that, they are very similar compounds.

Unlike most commercial strains of cannabis that typically yield up to 30% Delta-9 THC directly from the cannabis flower, These strains may have less than 1% delta-8 THC. Consequently, cannabinoid testing labs do not test for this substance in most states that allow for marijuana use. Larger quantities of delta-8 are typically derived by chemical conversion of CBD from industrial hemp.

In the past few years, several entities have looked into delta-8 specifically to get a better handle on how it could be used as an additional source of cannabis compounds and whether or not any standards should be set at all. An example is the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts, which decided not to include delta-8 THC in the definition of marijuana for regulatory purposes.

Delta-8 and delta-9 THC share many qualities, including analgesic properties, euphoric effects, antiemetic properties and appetite stimulation. Both have side effects like dry eye and paranoia which may be stronger at higher doses.

Delta-8 is a milder version of THC that some cannabis users have consumed so they avoid intense psychoactivity like that of Delta-9. Some people, however, recommend using lower dose delta-9 combined with delta-8 because it may prevent side effects like anxiety and panic attacks. In contrast to using a higher dose Delta-9 with added CBD.

The legality of delta-8 THC is rapidly evolving and controversial. The legal status has changed in the past year, with 11 U.S. states now prohibiting it while others allow its use for medicinal purposes or as part of adult-use cannabis products depending on what state you’re located in.  At the federal level, this molecule remains illegal no matter your location across America. One major difficulty when assessing Delta 8 THC is that its legal status can change quickly, making understanding how to regulate it difficult based upon where a person lives.


Delta-8 is new in the “commercial” marijuana industry, but it has been studied for over four decades


A quick search of Pubmed on the National Library of Medicine for “delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol” studies, yields over 200 results dating back to 1973:



A study that was published in the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics Journal, in 1973:

Delta-8- and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in Man by Oral and Intravenous Administration


A study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research has shown that topical cannabinoids that include delta-8 THC reduce corneal hyperalgesia and inflammation and could be a novel clinical therapy for corneal pain and inflammation resulting from ocular surface injury.

The Cannabinoids Δ8THC, CBD, and HU-308 Act via Distinct Receptors to Reduce Corneal Pain and Inflammation


This 2009 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology

Separation of cannabinoid receptor affinity and efficacy in delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol side-chain analogues


Additional reading and credit to Curt Robbins at Higher Learning LV.

Beyond Bias: A Research-based Consideration of Delta-8 THC


A Guide to Cannabinoids and What They Do

Cannabis plants contain more than 500 compounds, including cannabinoids. These compounds are the chemicals that make cannabis plants psychoactive. Cannabinoids inhibit pain receptors in the brain and counteract the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants and is thought to be responsible for manufacturing most of the reactions people have when using marijuana.

The most common cannabinoids that lab tested marijuana products exhibit are:

  • THC  (tetrahydrocannabinol)
  • THC-A  (tetrahydrocannabinol acid)
  • THC-V (tetrahydrocannabivarin)
  • CBD  (cannabidiol)
  • CBD- A (cannabidiolic acid)
  • CBN  (cannabinol)
  • CBG  (cannabigerol)
  • CBG-A  (cannabigerol acid)
  • CBC  (Cannabichromene)


Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component in marijuana, has been shown to decrease neuropathic pain and cancer pain in patients who have failed standard treatments. Moreover, there appears to be no clear risk of lethal toxicity associated with THC intoxication or overdose. Thus, marinol may be an effective analgesic drug for use as an adjuvant medication at doses low enough to avoid significant psychotropic side effects…Because of its high safety margin in overdose situations and excellent long-term clinical efficacy and safety data, THC should be considered as a therapeutic option for patients with painful, neuropathic and cancer-related pain refractory to other treatment modalities.


Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) is the acidic precursor of Δ9-THC, which readily decarboxylates to produce THC when heated. The antiinflammatory properties of cannabis are mediated by cannabinoids and CBD in particular… THCA has a higher affinity for CB1 than does THC, and this may be responsible for its greater activity in animal models of inflammatory conditions. THCA has been shown to be antiinflammatory in formalin-induced paw edema and carrageenan-induced hindpaw swelling assays.

THCA is the non psychoactive component of marijuana that when heated or converted into vapor will produce THC, which leads to feelings of being high. THCA has shown medical potential for treating pain, inflammation, obesity, cancer and more.


The main non-psychoactive compound in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD), which has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain without causing psychoactive side effects. Studies have shown that CBD may be an effective treatment for chronic pain and/or inflammation caused by many different conditions.

CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Studies are still in preclinical stages so little clinical data is available, but studies show that CBD is an effective way to treat neuropathic pain and inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia, chronic pain caused by cancerous tumors, injuries or other chronic inflammatory conditions.

CBD is currently available in oral and topical forms and is showing promise for treating several different types of cancer including; breast, lung, prostate, colorectal, skin and pancreatic cancer as well as Hodgkins lymphoma.. At this time there are no known serious side-effects associated with CBD use.

CBD has been shown to interact with the 2-AG pathway, a cannabinoid signaling system that had previously only been associated with THC. CBD inhibits FAAH (Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase) which is an enzyme responsible for breaking down endogenous cannabinoids in the body. Since CBD inhibits this it may be possible that it helps sustain the beneficial effects of endogenous cannabinoids in the body.


Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) has been shown to relieve inflammation, improve bone health and prevent cancer cell growth at much lower doses than CBD. CBDA has anti-proliferative properties in breast cancer cells but doesn’t seem to have any effect on non-cancerous cells.

CBDA has little effect on the central nervous system, unlike other cannabinoids and instead acts mainly through non-cannabinoid receptors to lower inflammation, increase bone health and prevent or treat cancer.

Comments: CBD is known to the body in more ways than one because it not only affects CB1 receptors in the brain but also affects CB2 receptors throughout the body as well. When it comes to relieving pain, CBD and THC seem to work best when they are combined with each other.


CBN (Cannabinol) comes from the degradation of THC- acid over time as heat breaks it down. The breakdown of THC in to CBN occurs when cannabis gets really old or if there is too much exposure to light. CBN is known for promoting sleep and relaxation.

CBN has neuroprotective effects, in addition to anti-inflammatory properties;  CBN can induce vitamin D synthesis (Karin 2010) which aids immune function and bone health when activated by sunlight (which is why it’s good to get some sun).    CBN may also aid in preventing cancer.  CBN has a sedative effect by promoting GABA and causing the release of serotonin (which is another reason why it helps with sleep).

Comments: CBN can be used to get some relief from insomnia, anxiety or pain when combined with THCV since CBN actually inhibits metabolism of THC via CYP2C9 (Li 2011).  However, you don’t want to wake up high or feel anxious on a higher dose.


(CBG-Acetic acid) is the precursor to THC and CBD, meaning that it’s the beginning stage of them. CBGA converts to THCA and CBDA when it’s exposed to heat or light, the two compounds that transform into THC and CBD.

Scientists have long understood how the major cannabinoids in cannabis come from a single precursor called cannabigerolic acid. As the plant matures over its life cycle, unique enzymes convert CBGA into some combination of three different cannabinoid precursors: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabichromenic acids(CBCA).

Unlike other plants which only produce one kind of enzyme to create their own compounds, these special enzymes for creating THCAs are very diverse among various strains; not just limited to those found existing within that particular strain’s gene pool. This diversity is what makes breeding so exciting as well as scientifically intriguing!

CBGA has some anti-inflammatory properties and may also help with bone growth.

Unlike other cannabinoids, CBG-A has shown that it can reduce brain damage in rats (both physical & cognitive) without producing any psychoactive effects.  CBG-A can also reduce inflammation and help with bone growth.


(Tetrahydrocannabivarin) is known to increase metabolism and suppress appetite; THCV also suppresses the immune system, CBD-A does not though. THCV can be used to aid in weight loss but one of it’s best traits is that it increases perception while reducing anxiety.   THCV also seems to be a neuroprotective.  This means it may help protect the brain against damage and that it may help reduce brain swelling from strokes, concussions or injuries; THCV has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.

THCV is thought to counteract the effects of THC in the body on CB1 receptors.  A study done in 2010 found that THCV increased dopamine and may help protect against psychosis.

THCV has been shown to lower blood pressure when used with other cannabinoids, which could be useful for treating cardiovascular disorders. THCV also seems to be an antioxidant which means it may help fight cancer and slow down the aging process of cells.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin is quite stable in comparison to THC as far as oxidation goes, meaning that it has a longer shelf life.  THCV is also more effective at low doses and can be taken throughout the day because of its long-lasting effects.

Although THCV has shown to increase dopamine, it also seems to help attenuate psychotic symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and may have benefits for those suffering from bipolar disorder. THCV also increases norepinephrine which is involved in the stress response. THCV can help with depression and anxiety by promoting anandamide and serotonin release.

THCV also seems to be neuroprotective when it comes to those suffering from Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s; THCV has shown that it may possibly protect against cancer cells, making it another great cancer-fighting cannabinoid. THCV is also another one of those cannabinoids that can help fight the aging process of cells in the body and slow down the effects of aging.


(Cannabichromene) is thought to help relieve pain.  CBC can be used in topical lotions, creams or massage oils to treat joint and muscle pain in addition to other inflammatory conditions such as eczema. CBC has anti-inflammatory properties (addressing the underlying cause of the inflammation instead of just dealing with the symptoms), which can be used to help heal wounds and ulcers. CBC may also benefit those suffering from depression, ADD/ADHD, PTSD and insomnia.

Cannabichromene is a non-toxic natural cannabinoid, meaning that the body doesn’t absorb it or metabolize it so it eliminates toxins from the body.  CBC has been shown to lower blood pressure which could be useful for treating cardiovascular disorders.

In a study done in 2012, CBC was used to help treat anxiety and depressive disorders in humans; the study showed that it increased serotonin levels while decreasing stress hormone levels. CBC seems to be a powerful antidepressant, along with being anti-inflammatory. CBC may also help reduce damage done from binge drinking by lowering acetaldehyde in the body.

Phytocannabinoids have been shown to be more effective at treating cancer than chemotherapy in lab tests, and CBC has some of the most potent anti-tumoral effects among them.  CBC seems to inhibit cancer-cell growth by helping stop angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) and by stimulating apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.  CBC also seems to be a natural painkiller and can help with inflammation and neuropathic pain.

CBC is one of the cannabinoids that work synergistically with the body’s own endocannabinoids, which means that it boosts the effects of endocannabinoids (which are our bodies’ native cannabinoids). It also has neuroprotective properties and has been shown to have antidepressant-like effects.  It is an antioxidant, making it useful in preventing free radical damage in the body.   The effects of CBC last longer than those of THC so you can take smaller doses to treat your symptoms; however, CBC should not be vaped or smoked because it is easily oxidized and will have a shorter shelf life.    CBC can potentially benefit those suffering from pain, glaucoma, nausea, migraines, depression, anxiety, seizures and inflammation among many other things.

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