In our feature, “CBD Oil Benefits and Uses,” we learned about the unique chemical compounds produced in cannabis plants, aptly called “cannabinoids.” And we learned how those cannabinoids interact with the body through a vast quantity of cell receptors in what is now called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
Everyone has an ECS regardless of whether or not you use cannabis. That’s because your body already produces its own endocannabinoids (endo- is a prefix meaning “within,” as opposed to exo-, or outside). This is to say: chemical compounds similar to those found in marijuana and hemp are already created and metabolized by our own bodies.
Anandamide is one endocannabinoid found in the peripheral nervous system, in muscles and nerve endings. 2-AG is another, concentrated in the brain. These chemicals, produced by our own bodies, bind with cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) on the cell’s membrane like a key in a lock, triggering a change in the cell’s behavior. For instance, anandamide binds with nerve cells to inhibit inflammatory responses, reducing pain and swelling. And during fits of anxiety, 2-AG is deployed to calm rapidly firing neurons in the brain.
This is how cannabinoids from hemp and marijuana, like CBD and THC, deliver their therapeutic effects–although CBD and THC achieve this by very different methods.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 is a cannabinoid derived from hemp that shares a similar–but not identical–structure to “regular” THC. The result is a non-intoxicating version of THC.
What we commonly refer to as THC is, specifically, delta-9 THC, sometimes portrayed with a more clinical Greek symbol as “Δ⁹”. The “9” refers to a carbon bond on the 9th position in the molecular chain. When that bond is in the 8th position, it creates delta-8 THC. The difference is microscopic, but the result is certainly not.
Delta-8 THC offers the same spectrum of therapeutic properties often associated with traditional THC–including relief from pain and inflammation, better rest, reduced anxiety, and elevated mood–but without the high.
History of Delta-8 THC
Delta-8 THC was formally studied as early as 1942, and was eventually isolated in 1966–though at the time they thought they’d synthesized delta-6! Then in 1970, Richard Nixon ordered that cannabis be classified a Schedule I drug, and therapeutic interest was pushed to the fringes of medical science as supplies and funding dried up.
One of the last studies from that period was published by the National Cancer Institute in 1975, after researchers found that three cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC, consistently slowed the growth of cancer cells. Delta-8 was then largely prohibited from medical laboratories for the next two decades.
By the 1990s, support for medicinal cannabis had again gained momentum, and in 1995, Life Sciences published the results of a study using delta-8 to treat nausea in children undergoing chemotherapy. The report concluded that “vomiting was completely prevented,” and that, “the side effects observed were negligible.”
Delta-8 THC Benefits and Uses
The benefits of delta-8 are similar to those of medicinal cannabis, but with a greater safety profile. Users can expect reduced anxiety, and even a euphoric lift to their mood. It also offers relief from nerve pain, and increased appetite. The largest difference between delta-8 and restricted delta-9 THC is that single molecular bond, which results in reduced intoxication.
This high threshold for intoxication expands delta-8’s therapeutic window: the available dosing range for positive effects. This makes delta-8 the ideal option for people curious about the effects of cannabis, or for people who turned to medicinal cannabis but found it too strong or intoxicating.
Most medicinal marijuana is produced with seasoned users and high tolerances in mind, so many new or first-time users may find relief, but at the cost of disorienting intoxication. This perceived lack of control also keeps otherwise curious users on the sideline. The emergence of delta-8 THC provides a new option for treating anxiety, insomnia, and more, without sacrificing mental clarity or control.
Similarly, while traditional THC may treat anxiety, the racing effects of a THC high can actually induce anxiety in people prone to it. That’s why delta-8 provides an intriguing new option for anxiety relief, delivering the mood stabilizing benefits of cannabinoid therapy without negative side effects.
How Does Delta-8 THC Work?
Delta-8 THC works much like delta-9, binding with CB receptors to modify cells’ behavior. In common, psychoactive delta-9 THC, a double bond exists on the 9th carbon in the molecular chain. In delta-8, then, that bond is on the 8th carbon in the chain. Some researchers suspect this slight alteration means it cannot bind as well with CB receptors, which may account for the reduced high.
There are currently two known CB receptors in our bodies, simply labelled 1 and 2. CB1 receptors are concentrated primarily in the brain, while CB2 receptors are spread more throughout the body, including nerve endings. THC, including delta-8, binds primarily with CB1 receptors, and the effects will be felt most prominently in the mind, easing anxiety, softening the user’s mood, and eventually inducing rest.
Delta-8 THC differs from CBD in this way because CBD does not bind with CB receptors. Rather, CBD inhibits the FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) enzyme, which would otherwise dissolve cannabinoid compounds. CBD blocks these enzymes to raise the levels of endocannabinoids produced by the body, which then bind with CB receptors for similar physiological results.
Dosing and Side-Effects
To be clear: delta-8 THC is still THC, and is technically capable of delivering psychotropic effects. However, it would be similar to drinking vast quantities of decaffeinated coffee to benefit from the marginal amounts of caffeine. It is also possible to fail a drug test from delta-8 as a THC test will not account for specific variations of the compound.
As with most drugs, overconsumption or excessive dosing may result in undesirable side effects including intoxication, elevated heart-rate, and a sometimes rapid drop in blood pressure. For these reasons, speak with your doctor before beginning any cannabinoid therapy if you are also on blood thinners or blood pressure medication.
Use delta-8 responsibly, beginning with small doses and increasing until desired effects are achieved. In reasonable doses, delta-8 works similarly to other forms of THC to relieve pain and anxiety, and aid rest.
Everyone has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is how cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with our bodies.
Delta-8 THC binds with CB receptors throughout the body to deliver the benefits of cannabis like reduced anxiety and improved mood.
Unlike delta-9 THC, which is highly psychoactive, delta-8 contains less than .3% psychoactive THC and, in normal doses, will not get you high. However, it is still a THC molecule, and can be detected by a drug test.
Delta-8 THC is legal to cultivate and sell under the 2018 Farm Bill, which recognized the medicinal potential of hemp and lifted restrictions on farming, research, and sales of hemp-derived products. By law, our products are made from American hemp, and do not contain more than .3% delta-9 THC.
Please see our shop for ways delta-8 and CBD can help you, your family, and your pets.