Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC): What it is, and how it differs from delta-9.
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
Just as quickly as CBD entered the market, so too now are other cannabinoid supplements. CBG (cannabigerol) and delta-8-THC have been the new cannabis buzzwords of 2020. Delta-8-tetra-hydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC) is becoming increasingly common to find, but what exactly is it? How does it relate to delta-9-THC? What are its effects? Is it safe? Our researchers set out to give you the best possible answers to date.
Notable Cannabinoid Discoveries...
The first scientific cannabinoid discovery occurred in 1895, when Wood, Sivey, & Easterfield isolated and identified cannabinol (CBN). It then took scientists 40 years to reveal the chemical structure of this newly discovered plant molecule, which exhibited anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant properties. By this point, research into the cannabis plant was becoming more popular. In the 1940s, R. Adams and his colleagues identified a second cannabinoid - cannbidiol (CBD).
Enter Raphael Mechoulam, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "The father of cannabis research" is most recognized for his rebellious 1964 discovery of the psychoactive cannabinoid - delta-9-THC. Scientists as far back as the 1800s realized the beneficial effects of cannabis, but legal problems stifled serious study. Mechoulam explained: "The laws in many countries were such that people in academics didn’t want to work in this field. Chemists couldn’t get cannabis and biologists had nothing to work with." In '64 the chief of police, unaware of official protocol; provided Mechoulam with five kilograms of seized Lebanese hashish. Working in a small country certainly has its positive aspects,’ Raphael Mechoulam says. "It couldn’t have happened in the United States."
One year prior to their discovery of THC in '64, he and his team identified the chemical structure of CBD. He would later go on to identify what we now call the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1990s. Mechoulam was awarded the Somach Sachs Prize for “best research by a scientist below 35” in 1964, and the Henrietta Szold Prize for achievements in medical research, Tel-Aviv Municipality, June 2005, just to name a few.
Delta-8 Discovery and effects...
Researchers identified delta-8-THC in the early 1970's. By 1974 the National Cancer Institute set out to prove that THC was dangerous to the immune system (this type of confirmation bias is often found in American medical literature). What the study found was the exact opposite. According to the National Cancer Institute, delta-8-THC can be defined as:
“An analogue of THC with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuro-protective properties.
This means that it reduces or relieves symptoms of nausea/vomiting, prevents anxiety, increases appetite, reduces pain, and protects the nerves. A comparative study was published in the September edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1975. This study confirmed what the NCI discovered the previous year, and more! They found that various forms of THC showcased anti-tumor potential for certain afflictions, particularly in the case of Lewis lung carcinoma and leukemia.
Mechoulam conducted his own study in 1995, in conjunction with two Israeli hospitals; utilizing Δ8 on childhood cancer patients. Because delta-8 did not display the same level of psychoactive effects as delta-9, Mechoulam and his colleagues were able to use high doses to prevent nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs. Because raw cannabis flower does not yield high percentages of delta-8, Mechoulam searched for a way to convert or synthesize other cannabinoids into the desired one.
Despite the federal government's claims that cannabis has zero medicinal properties, they have issued at least 3 patents pertaining specifically to the healing properties of Δ8-THC, as well as one involving a conversion method of CBD to either delta-8 or delta-9 THC.
Science & Research regarding Δ8-THC...
Research into the cannabinoids, their structure - and thus effects (pharmacology), biochemistry (biosynthesis), extraction methods, etc. is still going strong. We now know that cannabis contains over 400 different plant molecules (cannabinoids, terpenes, chloryphyll, etc). To date, there are roughly 111 known cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is often the most abundant cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant, just in front of CBD. In many wild cultivars, CBD is the primary cannabinoid, with delta-9-THC coming in a close second. These two combined make up a large percentage of cannabinoids found within cured flowers.
Delta-8-THC can be thought of as the little brother, or the cousin to delta-9-THC. They have almost the exact same chemical structure - the only difference being the movement of two atomic bonds (a single double bond) on one of its aromatic alkane groups. Despite Δ9-THC's prevalence, it is not however; the most stable form of the tetrahydrocannabinol molecule. The double bond in Δ8-THC is located in a more thermodynamically stable location. Can you spot the difference in the image below?
Despite the similar structure, and it's ability to bind to both cb1 and cb2 receptors, delta-8 showcases very little to no psycho-active properties. In raw and/or cured herb, it is present in trace amounts (only around 1%), yet is still considered a major cannabinoid by some researchers. Delta-8 can be derived from CBD via cyclization, or from delta-9-THC with isomerization. Both of these terms require a base understanding of organic chemistry - something we are not going to try to address in this entry. Please see the references section at the bottom of the page to learn more about these procedures. Products made with CBD derived Δ8-THC are 100% legal in all 50 states.
The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".