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Cannabinoid Clinic: Delta-8 THC

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course.

 

Welcome to homework assignment 1.5 of the Core Cannabis Lite Track from Higher Learning LV. When you complete this assignment, simply click the link at the bottom of the article to return to the master page for this training track.

 

Welcome to Cannabinoid Clinic, an education project powered by Higher Learning LV. This series provides cannabis and hemp industry professionals with easily digested cannabinoid profiles that ask little of your time—but provide plenty of science-based information.


There are two categories of cannabinoids: Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are those produced by cannabis/marijuana/hemp, while endocannabinoids are made by the human body. This series covers both.

Delta-8 THC molecular structure


What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is what scientists call an isomer to delta-9 THC. The two molecules are very similar in chemical structure and the efficacy that results from their consumption. Both deliver psychoactivity to consumers, with delta-8 yielding roughly 50-75 percent of the potency of its chemical cousin delta-9 THC.


"Most commercial delta-8 available on the market in the United States has been converted from hemp-derived CBD."

Most commercial delta-8 available on the market in the United States has been converted from hemp-derived CBD. While naturally occurring, most modern cannabis cultivars ("strains") focus on production of delta-9 THC, not delta-8. This results in plants producing only about one percent delta-8 THC, if they do so whatsoever. This is why commercially viable volumes of delta-8 are most efficiently and economically gathered from CBD.


Dr. John MacKay, a chemistry professor at California State University and Bakersfield College, stated during C3 Podcast No. 5 that "I'm going to hazard to guess that all of the delta-8 THC on the market has been converted from hemp-sourced CBD."

Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals


Some medical professionals who recommend cannabinoids prefer delta-8 THC for some of their patients because they claim it is less likely to increase anxiety or produce a panic attack than delta-9 THC. For patients who are sensitive to anxiety and easily experience panic attacks, a less potent version of delta-9 THC is a welcome addition to their medicinal toolkit, say many wellness professionals.


Understanding Isomers

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are not only isomers of one another, but also share this status with cannabidiol (CBD). Technically, isomer molecules have identical molecular components, but their atoms are arranged differently. Think of isomer molecules as using the same set of lego blocks, but with the individual blocks stacked in a slightly different manner. This different arrangements of atoms changes what scientists call the binding affinity of the molecules, which is how they dock with specialized cellular receptors within the human endocannabinoid system.


"Delta-8 derives its name from the fact that the molecular structure of this chemical features a double bond within the 8th carbon chain. Delta-9 THC, as one might guess, features this double bond on the 9th carbon chain."

Different binding affinity equals different efficacy within the consumer. In fact, the efficacy of various THC isomers is sometimes not just different, but polar opposite. For example, another isomer of THC, THCV (the varin version), features the unique quality of decreasing appetite (giving it potential applications in treating eating disorders, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes). Compare this to delta-9 THC, which famously does the opposite, resulting in the colloquial munchies.


Delta-8 derives its name from the fact that the molecular structure of this chemical features a double bond within the 8th carbon chain. Delta-9 THC, as one might guess, features this double bond on the 9th carbon chain.


To see the Fast Facts and Research Studies sections that have been removed from this no-cost training asset, enroll in Core Cannabis.

 

Return to the Core Cannabis Lite Track master page.


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