Marijuana laws are changing rapidly in the United States, although they still vary based upon state and location. The widespread embrace of hemp and cannabis has led to CBD and THC usage upticks across the country. One increasingly popular product is Delta-8-THC, a minor cannabinoid that the National Cancer Institute described as an analog to THC.
Consumers take Delta-8-THC for various reasons, including pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation. It has minimal side effects, making it an attractive alternative to traditional over-the-counter medications. Here’s what you need to know to determine if Delta-8-THC is right for you.
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What Is Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC is one form of THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol has the chemical structure C21H30O2, which describes several types of isomers, which are different physical arrangements of the same atoms. Most of the time, that chemical formula refers to Delta-9-THC, a more potent version of Delta-8-THC.
Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC share many similarities. They offer medicinal benefits, giving cannabis consumers a means to treat pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. They also have nearly identical chemical structures.
Companies across the cannabis industry have touted Delta-8-THC as a milder version of Delta-9-THC. The cannabis product has less intense effects than pure tetrahydrocannabinol, making it more approachable, especially for first-time users. Of course, your experience with Delta-8-THC will depend on how you ingest it.
How Does Delta-8-THC Work?
Most people ingest Delta-8-THC by eating or smoking it. You can also take an optimized dose through a tincture or topical. Delta-8-THC tends to have less potent effects when people inhale it. However, it can have the same intoxicating results as THC if people eat the hemp product.
Regardless of how you consume Delta-8-THC, it works the same way in the body. First, the cannabinoid goes into your lungs or stomach, where the body absorbs it into the bloodstream. From there, the compound interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a biological network that regulates the nervous system.
While researchers don’t understand the entire relationship between Delta-8-THC and the endocannabinoid system, they know that cannabinoids interact with the receptors. Endocannabinoid receptors exist throughout the body in two forms. CB1 receptors live in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors populate the peripheral nervous system.
Both systems ensure that everything in the body runs smoothly. Delta-8-THC modifies how those systems operate, enabling a range of benefits in the body and mind. Some of the processes that Delta-8-THC can influence include:
- Appetite and digestion
- Pain and inflammation
- Learning and memory
- Motor skills
- Muscle formation
Here’s an example of Delta-8-THC in action. Cancer patients may use THC products to treat pain because the active ingredients hinder the endocannabinoid system from sending messages to the brain. This interference makes it more challenging for the brain to “feel” aches, soreness, or inflammation.
Delta-8-THC and other THC products work because it’s the brain that registers pain, not the location of the injury. If the brain can’t receive signals about pain, then a person won’t have the conscious experience of feeling the pain. The more Delta-8-THC people ingest, the harder it is for their body to sense pain.
What Is the Difference Between Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC?
Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC might look identical to the untrained eye. However, the two hemp plant derivatives have a tiny but crucial difference in their bonds. Delta-8-THC has a double bond on the eighth carbon chain, while Delta-9-THC has a double bond on the ninth carbon chain.
The arrangement of carbon atoms has a minuscule impact on the cannabinoids’ effects. It makes more of a difference in the compounds’ shape. The shape determines how well Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC bind with endocannabinoid receptors.
Delta-8-THC has more molecular stability than Delta-9-THC. It doesn’t oxidize as readily, while Delta-9-THC can easily accept electrons, transforming it into cannabinol (CBN) or Delta-8-THC. The long-term stability makes Delta-8-THC ideal for medicinal use.
Affinity for Cannabinoid Receptors
Both Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC prefer to bind with the CB1 receptor. However, the compounds have differing structures, which impacts the binding location and method. Delta-9-THC has an easier time forming bonds, leading to more potent psychotropic effects in users.
People that use Delta-8-THC products may report a clearer head high and less anxiety. Delta-9-THC has more psychoactive properties, so users feel “higher.” The structural differences may also impact how Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC interact with other receptors in the body.
Researchers learn more about the impact of THC content every day. In this burgeoning field, more studies have focused on Delta-9-THC than Delta-8-THC. Multiple studies have established a link between Delta-9-THC and intoxicating effects.
Delta-8-THC remains more of a mystery. Users experience many of the same effects as Delta-9-THC after consuming hemp products. Delta-8-THC has a wider range of outcomes, with inhaling the cannabinoid contributing to a milder experience and ingestion magnifies the effects.
What Are the Medical Benefits of Delta-8-THC?
Proponents of Delta-8-THC tout numerous medical benefits. Like any new supplement fad on the market, it’s important to approach these claims with caution. The internet is full of glowing reviews for the substance. We’ll examine the top health claims one by one.
Pain and Inflammation
The hemp or cannabis plant is the first thing that some people reach for to fight chronic pain. According to surveys, 64.2% of medical cannabis patients use it to quell severe aches and inflammation. Other common reasons were muscle spasms at 13%, followed by nausea at 6.3% and cancer at 5.8%.
Delta-8-THC mirrors CBD and other cannabis products, limiting the number of pain signals that go to your brain. As a result, your brain doesn’t register that pain in the same way you would if you weren’t high. According to a study from 2018, Delta-8-THC works as an effective pain reliever for mice suffering from corneal injuries.
Researchers believe individuals may develop a tolerance to a Delta-8-THC. They found that the cannabinoid treated pain relief in mice in a preclinical trial but had diminishing returns. The mice received fewer pain relief benefits with subsequent doses.
Anxiety and pain signals work similarly in the body. When you’re in a stressful situation, your body inundates your brain with warning messages. As a result, you feel overstimulated and overwhelmed.
Delta-8-THC puts a damper on those signals, curbing the anxiety that creeps up in high-stress scenarios. The fewer panicked signals your brain receives, the easier it is to relax. A tranquil state of mind allows you to enjoy occasions, whether that’s a charity dinner or social gathering.
A study from the US National Library of Medicine found that Delta-8-THC has a similar impact on stress as cannabis. Anecdotes suggest that individuals feel a greater sense of calm and focus. However, scientists need more research on CBD, cannabis, and Delta-8-THC to draw concrete conclusions.
A 1995 study from Life Sciences found that Delta-8-THC can combat nausea. Researchers administered 18 milligrams of the cannabinoid to children ages 3 to 13 for up to eight months. The application occurred two hours before antineoplastic treatment and lasted for six to 24 hours.
Researchers discovered that Delta-8-THC prevented nausea and vomiting. They also failed to find any meaningful side effects. The promising results make Delta-8-THC a go-to option for anyone dealing with motion sickness or food poisoning.
Individuals with advanced cancer often notice a change in their appetite. They may have a lack of interest in food, resulting in fatigue and sluggishness. A dose of Delta-8-THC can reinvigorate their appetite and stave off the malnutrition caused by not eating.
Researchers found evidence supporting Delta-8-THC’s stimulating effects. A 2004 study in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior gave mice a daily dose of Delta-8-THC. The researchers determined that the mice increased their food intake by 22% over seven weeks.
Delta-8-THC may offer more appetite stimulation than CBD or cannabis. The compound turbocharges the desire for satiety, making it ideal for anyone looking to avoid weight loss. Conversely, some cannabis strains can function as appetite suppressants.
Does Delta-8-THC Have Side Effects?
Anything you put in your body has the potential to cause side effects. For example, copious amounts of water can lead to hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication. You can also experience an adverse reaction from CBD, cannabis, and Delta-8-THC.
Delta-8-THC is a minor cannabinoid. The average cannabis flower holds less than 1% Delta-8-THC. You would need to use a massive dose of the cannabinoid to have an adverse reaction.
Researchers have found that Delta-8-THC can lead to an increase in blood pressure in animals. The cannabinoid tightens the blood vessels temporarily, making circulation more challenging. The study also found that users had a drop in blood pressure and heart rate following the initial increase.
The effects of Cannabis or hemp products on animals don’t always mirror the results in humans. For example, another study of Delta-8-THC found that the cannabinoid slowed heart rate in animals. However, the compound leads to higher heart rates in humans.
How to Consume Delta-8-THC
Edibles come in all shapes and sizes, from the iconic pot brownie to fun and colorful gummies. Edibles offer potent and slow-acting results, with the effects depending on the dosage. If you eat a couple of gummies, expect the Delta-8-THC to hit within 20 to 60 minutes.
Gummies and other edibles work well if you want to control your doses. You can ramp up consumption one by one until you hit your sweet spot. Edibles serve as the most straightforward way to enjoy a THC high.
Vaping has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. The method requires users to place Delta-8-THC concentrate into a cartridge before heating it to the point of combustion. Once the cannabinoids reach 356 to 374 degrees Fahrenheit, they turn into vapor.
Vaping cartridges don’t release as many carcinogens when you heat the cannabinoids as smoking does, making it an appealing alternative. You can also try Delta-8-THC products with added flavors for a citrusy or fruity finish. Some of the most prominent vaping brands include Juul, Innokin, and SMOK.
Tinctures resemble eyedroppers full of hemp extract. All you have to do is squeeze a few drops of Delta-8-THC under your tongue. If you want to experience the full range of effects, hold the liquid there for a minute before swallowing.
The body will absorb some of the cannabinoids sublingually. The rest go into your stomach, where the digestive system breaks down each compound and absorbs it into the bloodstream. Tinctures can work instantaneously, though results usually take 15 to 30 minutes to appear.
Smoking stands out as one of the most popular ways to consume Delta-8-THC. Users can ignite the flow and inhale residual smoke. The process works the same for smoking cannabis.
Pipes, bongs, joints, and blunts rank as four of the most common smoking methods. Pipes offer a straightforward option where users place the Delta-8-THC in the bowl and light it. The smoke goes through the pipe and into the mouthpiece, where the consumer inhales it.
Water pipes use a similar approach but filter the smoke through a water chamber. The filter allows individuals to enjoy a smoother and cleaner hit. Meanwhile, joints and blunts offer more portability, allowing users to light up at their convenience, whether they want delta-8-THC or cannabis.
People that use topicals technically aren’t consuming Delta-8-THC. Still, the delivery method allows users to absorb cannabinoids through their skin. Even small localized amounts can treat inflammation and muscle soreness.
Topicals work best if you want to avoid a high sensation. Most topicals don’t come with the psychoactive effects of other cannabis products because they don’t have enough THC. Users should see results 15 to 45 minutes after they use the cream.
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
Delta-8-THC falls into a legal grey area. Most state laws only address THC, CBD, cannabis, and Delta-9-THC. Because most states don’t explicitly ban Delta-8-THC, it provides any seller wiggle room when mailing cannabis products for recreational or medicinal use.
Many producers will ship delta-8-THC to any state except for:
- Rhode Island
The federal law provides more clarity than state law. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has targeted Delta-8-THC in a proposed rule that would make it illegal on a federal level. The rule, which hasn’t gone into law yet, would make Delta-8-THC a Schedule I controlled substance.
Most Delta-8-THC comes from hemp, not cannabis. The sourcing allows manufacturers to sell Delta-8 products in places where they can’t sell cannabis strains. According to federal and state laws, almost all Delta-8-THC comes from CBD extracted from hemp, a legal plant.
The classification can be confusing since hemp is a cannabis plant. So, why does hemp have different regulations than the cannabis plant? Because it contains less than 0.3% THC.
The discrepancy comes from the 2018 farm bill, a federal act that legalized hemp in all 50 states. The act defines hemp as any derivative, flower, extract, cannabinoid, or byproduct with less than 0.3% THC. This definition makes Delta-8-THC legal at the federal level but not Delta-9-THC.
Some states have had stricter interpretations of this definition than others. In some states, you can’t purchase Delta-8-THC at all. Other states only allow cannabis and hemp brands to sell to states with similar regulations.
All of these Delta-8 and Delta-9 laws might change in the fall of 2021. The DEA released an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that updated the difference between hemp and cannabis products. The proposal suggests that states regulate synthetically-derived tetrahydrocannabinol as Schedule I substances, making Delta-8-THC illegal. The DEA will leave the IFR open for review until October before states must enact it into law.
Will Delta-8-THC Make Me High?
Yes, though it won’t deliver a high as potent as traditional cannabis. You will encounter many of the same benefits and effects as Delta-9-THC with a slightly smoother and milder feeling. If you want to avoid the high sensation entirely, try using CBD products.
The Bottom Line
Congratulations, you made it to the end. Now, you can answer the question, “What is Delta-8-THC?” The powerful hemp derivative offers an effective and reliable way to treat various ailments ranging from chronic pain to nausea and low appetite.
At CBD Nationwide, we offer a wide range of premium hemp oils and products sourced from the finest raw materials. We have a cannabinoid-infused product for you, whether you’re in search of gummies or topicals. Check out our selection of brand-new products to find the right Delta-8-THC option for you.
Katie DeVoe is an in-demand educator, speaker, and thought leader in the hemp space. Over the last 12 years, she has started multiple, successful CBD businesses and been a guest speaker at numerous hemp and CBD conferences.