Delta-8-THC: What It Is, What It Does, and the Scientific Evidence Behind It

Cannabis is a flower that grows in the wild, and is what hemp and marijuana come from. It has been in the spotlight in the last few years for potentially having a myriad of health benefits through the activity of its over 100 cannabinoids, or plant chemicals, contained in the cannabis plant. CBD (cannabidiol) and delta-9-THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocanabinol) are the two most common and well known cannabinoids.

CBD is the main cannabinoid in hemp and is known for having health benefits without producing the intoxication, or “high” that people think of with marijuana. Delta-9-THC is the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana, which also has health benefits, and is the cannabinoid people are most familiar with that causes the “high” with marijuana.

Recently, another cannabinoid, delta-8-THC, has been surging in popularity. So, what exactly is delta-8-THC and what does it do? We hope to answer your questions here today.

What is delta-8-THC?

Delta-8-THC is one of the over 100 naturally occurring chemicals found within the cannabis plant, along with CBD, delta-9-THC, CBG, CBC and CBN to name a few others.

Delta-8-THC has not been talked about a lot until recently because it only exists naturally in small amounts in the cannabis plant. So, processors have to extract and concentrate it to produce products with higher levels of delta-8-THC.

The National Cancer Institute [7] defines delta-8-THC as:

“An analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties. [Delta-8-THC] binds to the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor CB1, located in the central nervous system… This agent exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than [delta-9-THC], the primary form of THC found in cannabis.”

Therefore, like delta-9-THC, by interacting with cannabinoid receptors, especially the CB1 receptor, delta-8-THC could have potentially beneficial health effects mentioned above, as well as share some psychoactive properties, or intoxicating effects, as delta-9-THC.

How does delta-8-THC differ from delta-9-THC?

Time for a very brief chemistry lesson: The “delta” part of the THC name refers to a double bond, and the number 8 or 9, refers to the location of the double bond in the THC molecule. The THC molecule is made up of a string of carbons connected to eachother, and the double bond in delta-8-THC is located at the 8th carbon in the chain, whereas it is located at the 9th carbon in the chain in delta-9-THC. It may seem like a very subtle difference, but when talking about chemistry, it can be very significant. For one, delta-8-THC seems to have a lower binding affinity for the CB1 receptor, meaning it may activate the CB1 receptor less strongly than delta-9-THC does.

What are the effects of delta-8-THC/Does delta-8-THC get you high?

Because the chemical structure is similar to delta-9-THC and it binds to the same CB1 receptor, delta-8-THC can produce a “high” or intoxicating feeling. But, because it has a lower binding affinity for the CB1 receptor than delta-9-THC does, the “high” effect is roughly about 50-67% of the effect that delta-9-THC has.

According to Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Harvard Medical School who specializes in medical marijuana, “People report [Delta-8] as being less anxiety-provoking, less sedating and a little more clear-headed than THC.”

Some people claim that delta-8-THC gives them a more clear-headed high, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of CBD but with less of the unwanted side effects.

Therefore, delta-8-THC may play a big role for people who are looking for similar health benefits to delta-9-THC, but with less confusion or “high.” But, at this time, it is important to keep in mind that the research and evidence behind the alleged benefits of delta-8-THC are limited, and people need to be cautious. Researchers still do not fully understand everything about delta-9-THC, and they know even less about delta-8-THC.

What Is the Scientific Evidence for delta-8-THC?

It is important to keep in mind that due to the legal landscape of cannabis in the United States, the research on delta-8-THC has been limited up to this point, occurring mostly in animal studies.

In a 1977 study, [1] researchers found that delta-8-THC was associated with pain relief in rats, although they found that the rats developed a tolerance to the cannabinoid.

In a 1987 study [2] on mice published in Alcohol and Drug Research, researchers demonstrated that delta-8-THC may possess neuroprotective properties based on brain activity that was monitored in the study. Various cannabinoids were tested, but delta-8-THC was one that stood out for its significant effect from such a small dose.

In a study in 1995 [3] published in Life Sciences demonstrated that giving delta-8-THC to children 3-13 years old with various hematologic cancers who were treated with different cancer drugs for up to 8 months, reduced nausea related to cancer treatment with no significant side effects observed. They went on to say that delta-8-THC is “an efficient new cannabinoid” with “lower psychotropic potency than the main cannabis constituent, delta-9-THC.”

In a 2004 study, [4] researchers studied delta-8-THC effects on appetite by giving delta-8-THC to mice that had completed a weight loss regimen. Researchers found that delta-8-THC increased food consumption and improved cognitive function without effects typically linked to cannabis. They concluded that low doses of delta-8-THC “might be a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of weight disorders” with minimal side effects associated with cannabis use.

In a 2013 study [5] cited by the National Cancer Institute, delta-8-THC is considered to be one of the cannabinoids that has been shown to inhibit the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. In addition, other tumors have been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid-induced growth inhibition.”

In a 2018 study [6] published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, researchers studied delta-8-THC on pain and inflammation. They applied delta-8-THC (and CBD) topically to mice and observed reduced pain and inflammation in the area. They concluded that their “results provide novel evidence that the phytocannabinoids delta-8-THC and CBD… are anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory…” The researchers attributed these benefits to delta-8-THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors.

From the studies above, there is limited preliminary evidence that delta-8-THC may have potential beneficial properties, such as:

-Antitumor effects

-Antiemetic (anti-nausea) effects

-Appetite-stimulant effects

-Analgesic (pain relief) effects

-Neuroprotective effects

What are the potential side effects of delta-8-THC?

Because the research on delta-8-THC is limited, it is hard to verify the safety and efficacy of it. The side effects that were observed by the researchers currently available studies were pretty mild, especially when compared to more common pharmaceutical alternatives. However, delta-8-THC is still a form of THC, and could have similar side effects of marijuana, and it should always be used with caution. Some potential side effects may include irritability, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure followed by a slower heart rate was seen in rats [1], altered awareness, changes in mood, impaired movement, drowsiness.

You should not drive or operate machinery until the effects of delta-8-THC have completely worn off.  

As always, you should consult with your primary healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you to take delta-8-THC products.

Will I fail a drug test if I take delta-8-THC?

Due to the chemical structure being very similar to delta-9-THC, the metabolites of delta-8-THC may trigger a positive result in drug tests looking for delta-9-THC metabolites. As a precaution, you should not take this product if you need to pass a drug test.

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Here at CBD Oil of Dayton, we are healthcare professionals with a passion for education! Contact us at or call us at 937-709-9012 to have your questions answered and learn more about what we have to offer!










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