With all the surging interest cannabis, most of the attention goes to highly psychoactive THC. THC’s full name, however, is Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol. This “delta-9” is typically dropped, but it is actually an important differentiator between it and its lesser-known cannabinoid cousin delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol.
And this small shift from 8 to 9 comes with some surprising shifts in user experience as well as health benefits.
What is Delta-8 THC?
What’s in a Name?
The “delta” part of the name is a part of organic chemistry notation that means there is a double bond in the structure. It’s the same sort of notation when you hear about Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 fatty acids. The only difference is where there is a double bond.
Cannabinoids have a two-ring structure at their core, and delta-8 THC has a double bond on the number 8 carbon atom, and delta-9 THC has a double bond on the number 9 carbon atom.
This means that there are extra electrons in a slightly different position, so they interact with receptors in a different way.
Pretty small difference, but it can have far reaching effects.
Differences Between Delta-8 and Delta-9
Both of these versions of tetrahydrocannabinol bind primarily to CB1 receptors in the brain, competing for the exact same binding sites.
Interestingly, while delta-8 is somewhat less psychoactive than its more famous delta-9 cousin, at (approximately) 67% as strong, it still gives a high, just a little toned down. In addition, it has a number of positive health benefits – all because of a small shift in electrons. According to the National Cancer Institute, it is:
- Antiemetic (helps with nausea and vomiting)
- Anxiolytic (helps reduce anxiety)
- Appetite-Stimulating (gives you the munchies)
- Analgesic (pain relief)
- Neuroprotective (helps protect your brain cells)
Another study found that delta-8 can increase acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory and can reduce tumor size.
Delta-8 Therapeutic Potential
In the modern cannabis industry, many producers have moved towards 800 lb gorilla strains with extremely high delta-9 THC levels, constantly breeding for higher and higher levels of THC. These strains are off the charts potent and can only really be called suitable for the most seasoned smokers.
Delta-8 provides a more relaxed, reasonable alternative to delta-9, coming with many of the same effects (just toned down a bit). It can actually reduce anxiety (like CBD) instead of amplifying it -- which delta-9 THC can do in some individuals. And, it may be better for chronic pain, nausea, or appetite issues.
In particular, delta-8 shows promise for those who want a blend of psychoactive effect and medicinal benefit.
Where Can I Buy Delta-8 THC?
Very few producers do full cannabinoid screening, so you’re unlikely to find out if a particular strain is high in delta-8 THC. It has been found that soil content is a major influence on the cannabinoid profile of cannabis, with richer soil leading to a richer cannabinoid profile, delta-8 in particular.
Richer soil comes from sustainable, organic farming practices.
So until full cannabinoid screening on all strains becomes a reality, your best bet for a delta-8 rich strain of cannabis is an organic hybrid.