Delta 8 Deep Dive: Learn Everything About the Next Big Thing in CBD

What is Delta-8?

Delta-8 THC (or Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a naturally occurring chemical compound called a cannabinoid that’s found in small traces in hemp and cannabis (marijuana) plants. Its popularity is on the rise, and you can find it everywhere from boutique weed dispensaries to convenience store shelves. Delta-8 THC is a lesser-known phytocannabinoid that makes about 0.01% of the hemp plant. Because this cannabinoid appears in small amounts in hemp, processors extract and concentrate delta-8 into readily-available tinctures, oils, sprays, and edibles. Scientists discovered this phytocannabinoid in the early 1970s. And, so far have conducted multiple clinical tests on its psycho-activity and potency. Today, we know that delta-8 THC is an analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), associated with a range of medical uses. Regarding its psychotropic abilities, delta-8 will get you high, but with much lower intensity than delta-9 THC. 

What does Delta 8 do?

To explain how cannabinoids such as Delta 8 work, first we need to talk about the endocannabinoid system.  

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of cell-signaling receptors that help with the regulation of processes throughout the body. This includes processes carried out by the immune and nervous systems.  

All animals—both vertebrate and invertebrate alike—have been found to have endocannabinoid systems (ECS). So, it’s not something unique to humans. It can be found across the entire natural world.  

The ECS has two primary types of cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are typically found in brain cells and throughout the nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found in the body and immune system.  

Cannabinoids bind to these receptors and are subsequently broken down by them to produce their effects.  

These are some of the effects of Delta 8:  

  • Uplifted feelings

  • Better rest and relaxation

  • Increased focus and clarity

It should be noted that the scientific research regarding Delta 8 is still ongoing and inconclusive. However, the results so far have been promising, as the cannabinoid has been found to have a wide range of benefits for its users. 

Will Delta 8 get me high?

The short answer is yes, you may feel some effects from Delta 8 THC. It’s a psychoactive compound after all. However, it’s not what you would experience with Delta 9 THC, which is the cannabinoid that most people are more familiar with. For starters, it’s a far more mellow and mild buzz. Most tend to report feeling relaxed and clear-headed after taking Delta 8.

Delta-8 vs Delta-9

Delta-8 is a cannabis compound that has become popular because of its similarity to delta-9 THC, the main compound in cannabis that gets you high, causing euphoria, happiness, sedation, symptom relief, and much more. Large amounts of THC are found in a majority of cannabis strains.

The similarities between the two cannabinoids lie in their chemical structures and their names. THC’s scientific name is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9 THC, or just delta-9. Delta-8 is short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC can cause effects similar to regular delta-9 THC—but they will be much less potent. 

Delta-8 and delta-9 are both forms of THC. In common usage, when people refer to THC they are talking about delta-9 THC. (In this article, when we use the term “THC” without a modifier, we are referring to delta-9 THC.)

How are Delta-8 and Delta-9 produced in the hemp plant? | Delta 8 vs Delta 9

Naturally produced in trace amounts (less than 0.1%), the hemp plant creates delta-8-THC through biosynthesis of cannabinoids. It all starts with an enzyme-fueled conversion of cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) into tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA). As you might know, the acid forms of hemp cannabinoids, for instance, THCA, do not produce any medicinal or mind-altering effects. It’s when converted to their neutral forms, from THCA into THC that they unleash their power.  

During heat exposure or decarboxylation, cannabinoids convert from their acid form to their neutral form. In this case, when exposed to heat, THCA converts into delta-9 THC – but the process doesn’t end there. Through the aging process (exposure to light and air), neutral THC transforms into delta-8 THC. The biosynthesis of hemp cannabinoids is an interconnected process where each cannabinoid has a special role in the creation of other cannabinoids. 

Psychotropic Potency – What does each “feel” like? | Delta 8 vs Delta 9

While delta-9 produces the “high” effect in the body, delta-8 will kind of get you “high” because it’s less psychotropic than delta-9 THC. Studies show that delta-8 is about two-thirds of the potency of delta-9. Delta-9 takes the lead on psychotropic influence because it stimulates a much stronger response in the body.   

Because of its lower psychotropic potency, delta-8 does not produce the same mind-altering effects delta-9 THC does. Delta-8 is a mildly psychotropic cannabinoid that gives users a nice body high, while keeping them clear-headed and awake [1].

A significant difference between a delta-8 “high” and a delta-9 “high” is in the adverse effects. Delta-9 THC easily exacerbates anxious and depressive thoughts and feelings while leaving the user couch-ridden and sleepy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that delta-8’s “high” is tamer. Medical cannabis patients are rapidly switching to delta-8 THC because it offers the same therapeutic benefits without feeling heavy, anxious, or paranoid. 

Chemical Structure Analysis | Delta 8 vs Delta 9

To explain the differences in potency between delta-8 and delta-9 THC, we need to address the similarities in chemical structure. Delta-8 is a double bond analog of delta-9 THC. An analog is a chemical compound with a similar molecular structure to another chemical compound’s molecular structure — with some minor differences. Both molecules are double bond chemicals, which is why they have the term delta in their names.

The difference in chemical structure between delta-8 and delta-9 is in the location of their double bond. Delta-8’s double bond lies on the 8th carbon chain, while delta-9’s is located on the 9th carbon chain. Seemingly a small distinction, the double bond’s location drives the differences in cognitive and physical effects between these two compounds. 

Both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC bind to the CB1 receptor located in the central nervous system. The CB1 receptor is a major part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling system maintaining the body’s homeostasis or balance. The CB1 receptor mediates important functions like pain, appetite, inflammation, mood, and psychoactivity. When binding to the CB1 receptor, both delta-8 and delta-9 THC produce their medicinal and psychotropic effects. Delta-8 also influences the CB2 receptor, another receptor of the endocannabinoid system that plays a role in regulating the immune system [1]. 

Is Delta-8 Legal?

Currently, the legality of delta-8 is hazy. Delta-8’s growing popularity is that, unlike heavily regulated THC, Delta-8 is legal to use in most states. That’s because it’s extracted mostly from hemp-derived CBD, which is legal to farm across the U.S.

But Delta-8 sits in a legal gray area. Hemp’s legality stems from the so-called federal farm bill (the Agriculture and Nutrition Improvement Act of 2018), which removed hemp and its byproducts from the list of controlled substances. The reason: Hemp’s low THC levels (less than 0.3%). The bill doesn’t mention Delta-8 anywhere. Hemp advocates and others who sell it have used this loophole to legally market Delta-8 products, usually with no age restrictions. As a result, it’s now the fastest growing product from the hemp industry.

Because there’s little oversight or lab testing on what goes into Delta-8 products, chemists and other scientists have safety concerns. Products labeled as Delta-8 may contain impurities, including high levels of THC. As a result, around a dozen states, including New York and Colorado, are beginning to restrict or ban the use of Delta-8.

Delta-8 vs CBD

CBD and D-8 THC are two entirely different cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most well-known hemp compounds that doesn’t cause intoxication or a “high.” The non-intoxicating nature of this compound means that, unlike THC compounds, CBD will not alter perception, cognition, and behavior. 

Another difference between delta-8 and cannabidiol (CBD) is the sensations they activate. As a type of THC, D-8 features more noticeable sensations than CBD. If you’ve tried both, you know that the effects of delta-8 THC products are far more potent than those of CBD products. D-8 THC also feels different, mainly due to its mildly intoxicating properties. 

These two cannabinoids also affect the endocannabinoid system differently. Most cannabinoids have an affinity for the two main cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. Cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t have an affinity towards the CB1 receptor, but it presumably influences the CB2 receptors. Like most types of THC, D-8 also binds to CB1 receptors located in the brain. 

Regarding dosing and consumption, it’s important to remember that the standard dosing for CBD is uniquely designed for the compound and doesn’t translate to other cannabinoids. Because delta-8 is psychotropic, aka causes changes in the perception of sensory information, you need a completely different dosing plan. To get a better sense of it, here’s a simple Delta-8 THC dosage chart for tinctures and other forms of administration:

  1. Low tolerance: 5-15 mg per serving

  2. Medium tolerance: 15 – 45 mg per serving

  3. High tolerance: 45 – 150 mg per serving

Where can you get Delta-8 products?

It’s important to note that there’s no quality control for these products and its ingredient list in the market, that’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re aligning with reputable brands like Lucky Elk that place the utmost importance in how we grow our hemp and testing our products to make sure they’re compliant and free from impurities.