What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta 8 is one molecule away from Delta 9 THC, which is currently federally illegal. It’s around one-third less euphoric as Delta 9 THC while providing many of the same benefits as its famous sibling. For many, Delta 8's less euphoric nature is its biggest advantage: this phytocannabinoid is a great option if you are sensitive to anxiety/paranoia euphoric qualities or if you want to benefit from THC without feeling effects as intense.
What can Delta-8 do?
Because Delta 9 and Delta 8 are so alike – an isomer means that the two phytocannabinoids have the same formula, but the atoms are arranged differently -- they have a similar impact on your endocannabinoid system (ECS). Like Delta 9, Delta 8 binds with the CB1 receptors found in the ECS, which are prevalent throughout your central nervous system and brain. It’s also believed to interact with CB2 receptors, although research is still being explored.
Despite its less potent euphoria, Delta-8 THC still packs a punch: It can help relieve tough to address symptoms and side effects of many conditions while ensuring you can stay alert and focused. Some of Delta 8’s biggest benefits include:
- Antiemetic: Delta-8 THC can be used to keep nausea and vomiting at bay. This is especially effective for consumers focused on managing gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or experiencing side effects from cancer treatment.
- Anxiolytic: Because delta-8 THC binds with CB1 receptors, it is thought to influence fear and anxiety responses (among other things) and could provide some relief from worry and stress. Incidentally, delta-9 THC can actually exacerbate anxiety in higher amounts – delta-8 THC is less likely to do so.
- Analgesic: As a CB1 agonist, delta-8 THC can also provide some pain relief, calming pain-causing inflammation throughout your body. Engaging with ECS and circulating through the bloodstream, delta-8 THC can provide body-wide relief.
- Anti-tumor: Studies suggest that delta-8 THC might impact tumor cells and growth of cancerous cells. One study in lab mice showed a significant reduction in tumor size and increase in survival time after the mice were given delta-8 THC for 20 days.
- Appetite-stimulating: Like delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC will give you the munchies. This appetite-stimulating quality is ideal for consumers who have trouble eating due to their health conditions, such as AIDS or chemotherapy treatment.
- Neuroprotective: Delta-8 THC is thought to help produce Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is important in memory consolidation, cognition, and neuroplasticity.
With so many potential benefits and more accessibility, it's no surprise that delta-8 THC is quickly becoming the next household name in the cannabis industry.
What does the science say about delta-8 THC?
Scientific research into delta-8 THC isn't new - there have been several studies over the past decades into this unique minor cannabinoid. Here are some of the ways in which researchers have examined delta-8 THC so far:
- Immune system functioning: In 1974, the U.S. government undertook an animal study intended to determine whether delta-8 THC could be harmful to the immune system of laboratory mice. An unexpected observation in this study was that delta-8 THC offered anti-tumor effects in mice.
- Behavioral impact and tolerance: In 1977, the U.S. government conducted an additional study on mice to determine how delta-8 THC impacted behavior and reflexes, as well as how tolerance builds. Researchers measured heart rate, tail-flick speeds, and rectal temperature changes in conscious, unrestrained, male mine. Researchers determined that heart rate significantly decreased after delta-8 THC was administered. They also noticed that tolerance built up rapidly and the intensity of the effects soon waned after repeated dosages.
- Childhood cancer treatment: A 1995 study into the use of delta-8 THC in cancer patients, particularly children, found that the compound was effective in improving treatment outcomes in 480 successful cases. The researchers, which included world-renown cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam, noted that it also significantly reduced nausea and vomiting in the subjects. Further, researchers found that children are not prone to the same anxiety responses observed in adults consuming THC, and so they were able to tolerate heightened doses of delta-8 THC for treatment. This was also the basis for identifying delta-8 THC's anxiolytic qualities.
- Appetite stimulation: In 2004, researchers examined the effects on mices' appetites when given a dosage of delta-8 THC. These mice were given low doses of delta-8 THC, while a control group was not. The mice that were given delta-8 THC exhibited a heightened appetite over the control.
- Pain reduction: In 2018, researchers examined the effects of delta-8 THC on mice with corneal injuries, hoping to observe its analgesic potential. The researchers determined that delta-8 THC served as an effective analgesic that reduced eye pain, reinforcing its potential as a pain relieving compound.
These studies stretch back decades, but many questions remain around delta-8 THC. Like many less famous cannabinoids, our understanding of delta-8 THC has been limited due to the ongoing federal prohibition on cannabis. Now, though, as the legal cannabis industry is growing, research into minor cannabinoids like delta-8 THC is also expanding.
Delta-8 THC is a minor cannabinoid to watch
As more people become familiar with delta-8 THC and the long list of potential therapeutic benefits the minor cannabinoid offers, it is likely that the compound will only become more prominent. And as more research emerges about how delta-8 THC works and why it might be beneficial, that list of potential benefits may grow even further.
If you’re interested in trying delta-8 THC, remember to start low and go slow. Try a little bit of delta-8 THC and see how you feel before consuming more. Just like with delta-9 THC, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after you take it.