What is Delta-8, and Where Does it Come From?

delta 8 thc

Delta-8-THC is Heating Up

Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been “heating up” as a growing new trend in cannabis wellness throughout the world. Its close cousin delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana plants, is known for making the user feel a euphoric "high" but remains illegal in many areas. Hemp, by definition, has less than 0.3% of this cannabinoid. Delta-8 THC has a lower psychotropic potency than its more famous counterpart, is hemp-derived, and has many similar beneficial effects on the body.  As one of over a hundred cannabinoids occurring in the cannabis plant, delta-8-THC is usually less than 1% concentration. Consequently, it is more difficult to yield high amounts. Growers and processors use extraction, selective breeding, and molecular isolation to access more significant quantities for sale and consumption.



How Does Delta-8 Work?

Delta-8 works like any other cannabinoid by interacting with the Endocannabinoid System. The ECS is a crucial endogenous system in animals that creates balance in other bodily systems via receptors throughout the body. In addition to these receptors endocannabinoids and enzymes that help break the cannabinoids down work in unison. The ECS system promotes homeostasis throughout the body, maintaining stability for functions such as; sleep, mood, digestion, inflammation, pain, and immune function, to name a few. Plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) mimic our internal endocannabinoids and act like keys tuning the CB1 and CB2 receptors' locks comparably. Homeostasis is essential to overall health and survival.

CB1 receptors are found in the central nervous system’s brain and spinal cord, whereas CB2 receptors are in the peripheral nervous system's nerves. This study showed that CB1 receptors mediate most of the psychotropic effects of delta-9-THC, explaining why delta-8-THC may similarly affect our bodies. As mentioned earlier, delta-8-THC is extracted from hemp and only slightly chemically different from delta 9-THC extracted from marijuana. In addition to connecting to the same CB1 receptors, delta-8-THC also binds to CB2 receptors.  This differential binding may result in a further reduction of anxiety and an increased ability to concentrate as compared to the effects often associated with delta-9-THC, as reported by many consumers.



Delta-8 vs. Delta-9-THC

Delta-9-THC is by far the most popular analog and is often non-descriptively referred to as THC. There are several variations of THC, called chemical analogs, in the cannabis plant. An analog is a compound with a structure similar to that of another compound but different with respect to a particular component. These compounds feature some similarities and relatively minor differences that impact how the body and mind react as well as their legality. In addition to delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC, there are THCP, THCV, delta-10-THC and the precursor cannabinoid THCA to name a few.

Delta-8-THC is more stable than delta-9-THC  and is less likely to oxidize and become cannabinol (CBN) or degrade.  This study showed the stability and shelf-life of delta-8-THC might make it more desirable as a medicinal compound. It has a fraction of the psychotropic strength as delta-9, and many people refer to it as a lighter version with reduced paranoia effects.

The molecular difference between hemp-derived delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC extracted from marijuana is the critical double bond placement. As they have the same molecular formula but differ in their connectivity, they are named isomers. Delta-8-THC contains that bond on the 8th carbon chain, while delta-9-THC contains the bond on the 9th carbon chain. The shift in the double bond causes them to react differently within the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This one distinction makes a substantial difference in how they each affect our bodies.



How is Delta-8-THC Federally Legal?

If delta-8-THC has similar psychotropic effects to marijuana’s delta-9-THC, how can it be legal? Many cannabis lawyers concur that although there is a gray area, it is legal when derived from hemp under the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. This bill classifies hemp as cannabis with not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis of delta-9-THC and precludes it and its derivatives that do not exceed that amount from being a federally scheduled substance.

Groups like the US Hemp Roundtable have taken a stance against using the hemp name for marketing any product with intoxicating value or euphoric effect, saying that it is irresponsible. They are working toward establishing a regulatory pathway for the sale of hemp-derived extracts. Federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, are probably considering their options for future enforcement and regulation. As more consumers begin to uncover the fantastic benefits of delta 8-THC, regulatory attention may be focused on controlling it. State regulations may also affect the legal use of cannabinoids, making it wise to verify this with your state of residence.

At the point this happens, companies who are synthetically altering CBD into delta-8-THC, which is currently federally illegal, risk being held accountable. This is one reason why it is essential to know how the product you buy is sourced. A consumer should purchase from a reputable organization that does not synthetically alter the hemp and provides certified lab reports, which confirm the delta-9-THC does not go over the 0.3% level.



Potential Benefits of Delta-8

According to The National Cancer Institute, delta 8 THC has many practical health benefits, including “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.” Delta 8-THC appears to have many benefits to the body concerning regulating body systems through the ECS.  Initial studies are uncovering some of the unique properties and their therapeutic potential. Specifically, it can help stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, and offer anti-anxiety qualities without some of the adverse side effects associated with marijuana.

Fighting Nausea

This 1995 study reported the antiemetic effect of delta-8-THC in preventing nausea and vomiting. The study followed eight pediatric cancer patients over two years and found no vomiting occurred when patients had ingested it before and for 24 hours after cancer treatment. At the same time, they experienced very few side effects. Researchers proposed that it may serve as a new, inexpensive antiemetic agent in pediatric cancer chemotherapy.

Anti-Anxiety (Anxiolytics)

Anxiolytics are usually prescribed for short-term use because they can be habit-forming and lead to addiction.  According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, delta-8-THC displays anxiety-reducing qualities similar to delta-9-THC. This 1995 study on pediatric cancer patients also found that children can be administered higher doses of delta-8 THC than adults without experiencing any psychotropic effects or other side-effects experienced with other pharmaceuticals and delta-9-THC.

While there is currently little clinical literature investigating its anti-anxiety potential, anecdotal reports claim that the consumption of delta-8-THC results in a very calm, focused high, without the anxiety that can sometimes accompany the use of delta-9-THC. Many claim that it calms the mind while at the same time energizing the body, which encourages functionality in daily life.

Appetite Stimulant

Delta-8-THC may also help to stimulate the appetite. Research conducted on mice and published in 2004 found that a low dose of delta-8-THC administered to mice over 50 days increased food consumption. The study also reported that delta-8-THC had minimal side-effects, increased food intake significantly more than delta-9-THC, which is a reputed appetite stimulant, and had a tendency to improve cognitive function.

Pain and Anti-Inflammatory Effects

This preclinical research in 2018 found that delta-8-THC, applied topically in mice, assisted in corneal pain reduction, and reduced inflammation through its effects on the CB1 receptors. The cornea, a thin outer layer of the eye that helps the eye see clearly by focusing on the light, was chemically injured for this experiment. They used mice cornea because the neuropathic cornea pain and inflammation in that location are difficult to manage with current interventions with minimal side effects.

Another preliminary study on rats also reported that delta-8-THC prevents pain sensation. In binding to these strategically located receptors in the nervous system, the pain mediation is controlled, activating analgesic effects. However, that tolerance to the cannabinoid developed rapidly, requiring higher doses. These studies show delta-8-THC's potential in humans, but we need further research on the pain-relieving effects of delta-8-THC in studies and clinical trials to prove its efficacy.

Neuroprotective Properties

Delta-8-THC may have neuroprotective properties because it increases the brain's acetylcholine levels, one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the body. This neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger in most animals' nervous system that plays a critical role in motivation, attention, promoting REM sleep, memory, and cognition, amongst others.

This mouse study showed that delta-8-THC might play a role in acetylcholine levels in the brain. Many researchers are hopeful that delta-8 THC may prevent or treat conditions that cause memory loss. Yet again, more research is needed, but it shows promise for future study.



The Bottom Line About Delta-8

It is imperative to purchase delta-8-THC from a trusted supplier due to the significant extraction and refinement necessary to provide end products in proper concentrations. Delta-8-THC concentrates are produced as isolates, while others combine delta-8-THC with other cannabinoids or terpenes for a more full-spectrum result. These are then transformed into distillates, cartridges, oils, tinctures, and edibles. The entourage effect in products with additional cannabinoids, including CBN, may result in superior results by working in synergy within the ECS.

It is postulated that one would need to consume about double to triple the concentration of Delta-8-THC to feel the same level of intoxicating effects as Delta-9-THC. Delta-8 THC is also said to induce euphoric feelings at a slower rate. It leads to a more gradual onset when compared to vaping Delta 9 THC. Many reports that the psychotropic effects of edible consumption last longer and has a more delayed onset when compared to vaping. It is always better to start with a low dose and work your way up to a personal "sweet spot," which gives the desired effect with the least amount of product.

There is still a tremendous amount that is still unknown about Delta-8-THC, so it is best to have a cautious approach toward its use. Most of the current research is based on animal studies. Human bodies may react differently, so further research is warranted. Please also keep in mind that you may not pass a drug test after using this trending “hot” cannabinoid since it may contain trace amounts of Delta-9-THC. Delta-8-THC may present you with a euphoric, pleasurable experience of overall well-being. However, please make sure you are familiar with the current laws in your state and be selective in the non-synthetic product you choose to ensure it is of the highest quality.

Written by Judy Ghanem, Hemp Farmacy Content Writer  



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