When you think about cannabis, there are two main compounds you consider, CBD and THC, because they are the most abundant and produce the strongest psychotropic effects. But there are actually four different structures of THC that all interact with the body: THC-V, THC-A, Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is commonly referred to as THC and would be the compound that strains are categorized by. While Delta-9 THC does produce the majority of the psychotropic effects, delta-8 THC also produces independent but overlapping changes, like a relaxed mood and anti-anxiety.

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Delta-9 THC vs Delta-8 THC

At first glance, the structure of these two molecules looks the same, except for the one line in the top-most ring. This line represents a new molecular bond and while it does not appear to visibly change the molecule, it can significantly alter its binding properties and stability. In fact, delta-8 THC can become delta-9 THC because the latter is much more stable. The ‘delta-8 bond’ does not prefer this position and will actually switch to the more stable delta-9 position and the molecule changes. This transition is part of the reason there is a higher concentration of delta-9 THC than delta-8 because over time all of delta-8 will become delta-9. 

comparison of delta-9 and delta-8 thc's chemical structure Source: practicalpainmanagement.com

What are the effects of Delta-8 THC?

For most compounds to produce an effect they have to bind to a receptor in the body. Recall, this mechanism is a key-and-lock; only THC can bind to its receptor. Since delta-8 and delta-9 THC have remarkably similar structures, they can bind to the same receptors found throughout the central nervous system: Cannabinoid Type 1 and 2, or CB1 and CB2, respectively. There are some reports that show different activities when the two THC molecules bind different receptors. Some state that CB2 is activated when delta-8 THC (the non-classical THC) binds, but inactive when delta-9 THC (classic THC) binds. Others state the receptor is active regardless of which molecule it is, but delta-9 THC has a weaker attraction to CB2. The corresponding effects to a loose binding are not well understood. However, when a compound binds to its receptor, the receptor will then relay the message throughout the cell. This is all based upon structure and slight differences matter. Due to the single bond transition between delta-8 and delta-9 THC, users report different high sensations. Some users report that delta-8 THC is a much calmer high and does not make them as paranoid. Other reports have stated that delta-8 THC helps them with nausea while not making them as disoriented that can often occur with delta-9 THC.

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Is Delta-8 THC significant in cannabis?

There are several hundred types of botanical compounds found in cannabis with effects that are not yet well understood. While there are many compounds in cannabis, most of these molecules appear in trace amounts. Delta-8 THC, for instance, is estimated to be between 0.3-0.5 percent by weight, whereas delta-9 THC can be over 20%. Since delta-8 THC is present in such a minimal amount, it is difficult to determine whether this could have a significant impact. However, there is ample research that indicates trace molecules-- which includes delta-8 THC-- will accumulate to produce a synergistic effect; known as the entourage effect. Furthermore, there is anecdotal and scientific evidence for different high sensations when user intakes pure delta-9 or delta-8 THC.

Is there scientific evidence to support these differences?

Although there are no current studies looking at the different cellular pathways that could impact these psychological differences, there are therapeutic studies that utilize delta-8 THC as an anti-nauseant. Many reports, and even the US patent, state that while delta-8 THC binds to the same receptors, it is 50% less potent, and 200% more effective as an anti-nauseant when compared to delta-9 THC. Delta-8 THC does produce the same psychotropic effects-- decreased muscle activity, relaxation, and memory lapse-- but requires a much higher concentration. These differences have made delta-8 THC a favorable therapeutic and recreational compound. Recreationally, delta-8 THC can be used to ensure the user does not get overly high. As a therapeutic, it can be used to have beneficial effects like anti-nausea, without producing a large psychotropic effect.

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Are there strains high in delta-8 THC?

Recall, delta-8 THC will naturally break down in cannabis and may become another form of THC, such as delta-9 THC. Therefore, it is unlikely that anyone strain will continuously carry larger amounts of delta-8 THC. However, it can be purchased in an extracted form.

Delta-8 THC Products

Delta-8 THC is a desirable compound because it produces a more relaxed high while removing the anxiety that is often associated with delta-9 THC. Many companies have begun extracting it from cannabis and hemp to have products with higher delta-8 concentration. Lifted Made provides delta-8 THC nano drops, cartridge, gummies, and more! All of these products have a high delta-8 THC concentration and many, like their gummies, are 100% delta-8 THC. Other products, like delta-8 THC Caviar Cone, is predominantly delta-8 THC but has trace amounts of cannabinoids from the extraction process. If you want to try products with a balanced amount of delta-8, delta-9 THC and CBD, then WUNDER has an assortment of drinks that provide just that. Their new line of natural sparkling beverages contains a cannabinoid profile of 2mg THC, 2mg delta-8 THC and 4mg CBD.  Oleum supplies delta-8 THC extracted products for users that want to experience its unique and beneficial properties. One of their products, Oleum Delta 8 Distillate, contains a unique total extract that favors delta-8 THC: “This is a delta 8 THC extract, which tests at 73% delta 8 THC, and 0.037% CBD with 82% total cannabinoids” as stated in their product description. By just looking at pictures of delta-8 and delta-9 THC they look so similar that it's hard to believe their qualities can be so unique. But, users that want a less intense high with suppressed anxiety qualities are urged to try delta-8 products!