Delta-8-THC has been gaining popularity because of its similarity to the federally illegal cannabinoid delta-9-THC. Both are compounds in the cannabis plant that cause psychoactive effects, but the psychoactive effects of delta-8-THC are more subtle. The legality of delta-8-THC has been unclear because delta-8-THC can be extracted from legal hemp.
What is Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC has recently become one of the top cannabinoids. In states where cannabis is illegal, delta-8-THC has become popular among people who are looking for illegal cannabis products containing delta-9-THC. This is because delta-8 — short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol — causes similar effects, yet is less potent, to the compound delta-9-THC.
Delta-8-THC has been known as a degraded form of delta-9-THC. When delta-9-THC degrades, it becomes delta-8-THC when it’s been stored for a long period of time. Delta-8-THC tends to appear in small quantities in hemp plants. But hemp cultivators can use molecular isolation and selective breeding.
Delta-8 In The Body
Delta-8-THC causes its effects in the body by binding to both the C1 and C2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. There is not as much research about delta-8-THC binding to C2 receptors. But we know that when both receptors are activated, it helps the body more easily reach a state of homeostasis.
Delta-8 can help:
- Support brain health
- Activate the immune system
- Help improve appetite
- Help reduce anxiety
Different Forms of Delta-8-THC
Delta-8-THC can be consumed the same ways delta-9-THC:
Smoking or vaporizing is the quickest way to feel the effects of delta-8. When inhaled either by smoking or vaporizing, the cannabinoids enter the body through the lungs and quickly pass to the bloodstream. Many consumers prefer this method because of the quick relief. The onset takes a few minutes, peaks around 30 minutes, and typically lasts for about 2 or 3 hours.
Delta-8 can be consumed orally either by edibles, capsules, oils, or tinctures. The effects kick in about 30 minutes to an hour after consumption and usually last around 5 to 6 hours. Since the cannabinoids have to go through the body’s digestive system, the onset takes longer.
Sublingual means being applied under the tongue. The types of products that can be consumed sublingually are sprays, dissolvable strips, tinctures, or medicated lozenges. Since there are a lot of blood vessels in the mouth, the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream in the mouth. And since they’re entering the bloodstream in the mouth, studies show that the onset can be slightly quicker than oral consumption. The key is holding the product under the tongue for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Topicals are applied to the skin and the delta-8 penetrates the skins. This type of consumption is best for pain — like arthritis — and inflammation. The topical application of cannabis is not psychoactive because cannabinoids rarely get the chance to reach the brain.
Topicals can come in lotions, oils, salves, patches and bath salts. The onset can happen within a few minutes and last for one to two hours. Patches take about two hours to take effect and can last up to two days depending on the product.
Delta-8-THC Medical Benefits
The medical benefits of delta-8-THC are still being researched. Some of the known benefits include:
Pain and Anti-inflammatory Effects
Research has shown delta-8-THC may help reduce inflammation and pain when applied topically. The effect occurs through the CB1 receptors. Another study showed that while delta-8-THC relieves pain, cannabinoid tolerance developed rapidly.
There is little research on how delta-8-THC helps anxiety. However, reports from users claim that delta-8-THC creates a calm, focused high with no anxiety. In fact, delta-8-THC has shown to have anxiety-reducing properties.
Delta-8-THC has been shown to be extremely effective for nausea caused by cancer treatments. For two years, researchers followed eight pediatric cancer patients to study the effects of delta-8-THC. The patients orally consumed delta-8 before cancer treatment and for 24 hours after. The patients experienced no vomiting and the study reported very few side effects.
In addition to helping prevent nausea, delta-8 can also stimulate appetite. Research shows that delta-8-THC increases food intake more significantly than delta-9-THC.
Improve Brain Health
Research shows that delta-8-THC could help produce acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter responsible for cognition, neuroplasticity and memory. Research also suggests that delta-8-THC can help regulate calcium and potassium channels in the central nervous system which leads to enhanced brain health. Delta-8-THC may improve neuron generation and growth. This could all be a breakthrough for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Animal testing shows that both delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC temporarily constricted the blood vessels and caused increased blood pressure. This rise was followed by a slower heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure. Conversely, a review showed that delta-9 increases the heart rate in humans. More research needs to be done on the side effects of delta-8-THC.
Delta-8-THC vs. Delta-9-THC
Delta-8 is gaining traction and becoming popular because, despite all the benefits of delta-9, it doesn’t have the same downsides. Delta-9 can trigger anxiety, paranoia, headaches and dizziness. Both delta-9 and delta-8 will get you high. However, delta-8 will typically not cause the same side effects. Consumers consider it to have a “smoother” high than delta-9.
Chemically, delta-8 and delta-9 are similar in structure, but one critical difference in the location of a critical chemical bond is what makes them different. In delta-8-THC there is a double bond located at the 8th carbon chain. And in delta-9-THC, there is a double bond located at the 9th carbon chain.
Both compounds cause you to feel high by binding to the body’s endocannabinoid system. Delta-9-THC binds only to C1 receptors, while delta-8-THC binds to both the C1 and C2 receptors. Research on the benefits of delta-8 binding to the C2 receptor is still underway.
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
There’s no law that explicitly bans delta-8-THC. The legality of delta-8-THC cannabis depends on the source of the product and the state you live in. The 2018 Hemp Farm Bill states cannabis products are permitted if they come from the hemp plant and contain less than 0.03% THC — there’s no mention of delta-8-THC. So the legality of delta-8-THC depends on the source of the product. If the delta-8 is extracted from a hemp plant, defined as cannabis plants with less than 0.03% delta-9-THC, then it may be legal in your state. If the delta-8 is derived from a “marijuana” plant, defined as cannabis levels of delta-9-THC above 0.03%, then the delta-8-THC is federally legal, but might be illegal in your state.
At Reality Sandwich, we love hearing about our readers experiences. So, if you’ve dabbled with delta-8 or delta-9, let us know what you think in the comments!
Disclaimer: Cannabis is potentially categorized as an illegal drug. Reality Sandwich is not encouraging the use of these drugs where prohibited. However, we believe that providing information is imperative for the safety of those who choose to explore these substances. This guide is intended to give educational content and should in no way be viewed as medical recommendations.