As the rest of the world catches up to CBD – one of the many compounds in cannabis that doesn’t get us high – extraction specialists are delving deeper into the plant’s chemistry by siphoning troves of lesser-known cannabinoids and infusing them into novel products. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is by far the most well-known of these cannabinoids, but certainly isn’t the only powerful chemical compound native to the cannabis flower. Delta-8-THC, one of the four most common cannabinoids, is similar to its psychoactive relative THC, but with several key differences.
When we think about THC, we’re usually thinking about a specific form, or isomer, of the molecule. The one we smoke or vape is delta-9-THC. Delta-8-THC, however, promises a similar, yet nuanced, experience compared to its delta-9 isomer. Delta-8-THC is chemically different from delta-9-THC by only a few atomic bonds and still offers a potent high of its own. While delta-8-THC only exists naturally in fractions of a percent, companies are finding value in concentrating esoteric cannabinoids for their unique effects and applications.
In terms of potency, research suggests that the psychoactive strength of delta-8 can be compared to THC in a 2:3 ratio. This means that it is more potent than tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), which is thought to be responsible for the zippy, energetic high present in some strains. THCV only has a potency of about 25 percent of THC.
Delta-8-THC connects with the same primary landing sites as the traditional THC. This landing site is known as cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and facilitates a wide variety of bodily functions, including mood, memory, pain, movement, sleep, and more.
The cannabinoid has also been found to connect with the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), which lends a hand in immune system communication.
In 1974, government researchers performed a study on mice to find out if delta-8 harmed the immune system. Instead, what they discovered were the cannabinoid’s cancer-killing abilities. One would think the discovery would be breaking news and more research would get conducted. However, other than a few studies, delta-8 has been kept mostly out of the public eye. It took decades for the government to even admit that delta-8 could kill cancer cells.
Rodent studies show that delta-8 also boosts a particular chemical in the brain that plays a role in learning and memory. That chemical is the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Deficiencies in acetylcholine are thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other memory and cognitive problems.
Unfortunately, there is not much information available on the potential benefits of delta-8-THC itself. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, early research on delta-8-THC has shown that the chemical may have several beneficial effects. These include:
- Pain relief
Researchers have also looked into the benefits of non-psychoactive derivatives of this molecule. This shows that the compound may be useful for the potential creation of new pharmaceutical drugs.
Some delta-8-THC derivatives, researchers speculate, may be helpful in conditions asthma, systemic anaphylaxis, and septic shock. Others are being studied for interstitial cystitis, as well as for inflammation and pain-relieving effects. Unlike delta-8-THC, many derivatives are thought to be non-psychoactive.
Unfortunately for patients, there aren’t any high delta-8 strains out there to try. The commercial extraction of delta-8 is still relatively new. Unless you’re on the West Coast, you’ll have a hard time finding it at a nearby dispensary. One of the best ways to find delta-8-THC is by simply encouraging plants to produce more of the cannabinoid. To do this, they need a happy and nutrient-rich life. Adding trace minerals to soil or potentially supplementing with magnesium in early to mid flowering may give plants the nutrients boost they need to produce more cannabinoids. Using organic compost teas and ensuring that the soil remains in an optimal p.H. for nutrient absorption (5.5 to 6.5) may also help.