What is Delta-8 THC?

Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi - Content Writer

Dec 03 2021 - 5 min read

Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC) is a minor cannabinoid made from hemp. Believed to produce a milder high than traditional THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), this cannabinoid has exploded in popularity among medical users.

However, there is no federal oversight of Delta-8-THC, and Delta-8-THC products are not labeled for FDA approval. So, is the cannabinoid safe for use? Learn all about the benefits and risks of Delta-8-THC and how it stacks up against its chemical counterpart, Delta-9-THC. 

What Is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8-THC is a hemp-derived cannabinoid similar to Delta-9-THC but with a mellow twist. Whereas Delta-9-THC can give you a powerful energy lift, Delta-8-THC will help you chill out. Many Delta-8-THC users report that the cannabinoid gives them a floating, weightless feeling similar to other cannabis products, but without the brain fog. 

What is marijuana / cannabis / weed?

Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC: What’s the Difference?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Delta-8-THC are nearly identical in structure and have similar psychoactive benefits. Delta-9 and Delta-8 are alike in that both cannabinoids bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the human nervous system. 

The relatively obscure delta-8-THC and the very popular Delta-9-THC molecules have little more than two atoms’ worth of variance. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol appears to be similar in therapeutic effectiveness to Delta-9-THC.

However, one key difference is that Delta-8-THC is one of the dozen-plus minor cannabinoids, whereas Delta-9-THC is a primary cannabinoid. Delta-8-THC appears in very slight concentrations in the cannabis plant, but the relatively sparse cannabinoid is on course to become one of the weed’s most popular elements.

How Delta-8 THC Affects the Body

One of the reasons for the rise in popularity of Delta-8-THC is that it is not nearly as psychoactive as Delta-9-THC, the cannabinoid that notoriously “gets you high.” The National Cancer Institute concurs that Delta-8-THC will leave medical cannabis patients with a softer psychoactive footprint, concluding: “This agent exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC), the primary form of THC found in cannabis.”

These properties make Delta-8 THC potentially very useful for children, those particularly sensitive to Delta-9 THC, and those seeking something more tolerable for chronic pain relief during the daytime.

Health Benefits and Uses

Delta-8-THC offers many of the same potential health benefits as Delta-9-THC, minus the intense high. Here are some therapeutic purposes of Delta-8-THC:

Pain Relief

THC performs double duty by reducing pain and related inflammation. Different forms of the cannabinoid may even help difficult-to-treat and severe pain associated with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) and cancer treatments like chemotherapy.  

Digestive Benefits

Delta-8-THC may stimulate appetite while simultaneously reducing nausea and vomiting in some people. However, more evidence exists on the ability of Delta-9-THC to help with digestive disorders

Relaxation 

Soothing minor anxiety is one of the main reasons people turn to Delta-8-THC. The cannabinoid provides a natural alternative to prescription anxiety medications, but you should first consult your medical professional. 

Side Effects and Risks

Compared to Delta-9-THC, Delta-8-THC may come with fewer psychoactive side effects, but the jury is still out. Delta-9-THC side effects can include paranoia and anxiety, and Delta-9-THC has even been blamed for triggering dizziness and headaches, conditions that can negate the benefits medical cannabis patients seek. 

Delta-8-THC is not reputed to trigger these side effects at the same level as Delta-9-THC.

You may, however, experience these side effects when using Delta-8-THC:

    • Dry mouth
    • Fatigue
    • Red eyes

People who consume Delta-8-THC edibles are more likely to experience severe side effects than those who use other ingestion methods. These side effects are usually mild unless you consume large doses of Delta-8-THC, particularly in edible form. In some cases, edible side effects have led to emergency room visits.  

Risks associated with Delta-8-THC include drug interactions. As with all forms of cannabis, avoid using Delta-8-THC if you are taking blood thinners, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or any other drugs your doctor deems incompatible.

Due to limited studies on Delta-8-THC, other potential side effects and risks are still unclear. 

How to Use Delta-8 THC

Use Delta-8-THC the same way you would use other cannabis products: with caution and responsibility. Ingestion methods include:

    • Vaping (which usually delivers the fastest results)
    • Smoking
    • Edibles
    • Topicals
    • Sublingual tinctures

As with all cannabis consumption, the ingestion method you choose can directly impact your health. So, even though vaping may get you to cloud nine faster, it is not the best ingestion method from a health perspective. Applying topicals may be the safest way to use Delta-8-THC, especially if you’re a new user. 

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Dosing Guidelines

Dosing all forms of cannabis is dependent on several key factors, notably your experience level. Always consult with your doctor for specific dosage instructions, but consider these guidelines depending on your level of Delta-8-THC experience:

    • Beginners: Start low at 5 milligrams (mg) or less and do not exceed 15 mg
    • Intermediate: Up to 20 mg
    • Advanced: Up to 40 mg

Again, your ingestion method is an important factor in dosing. In general, start with a lower dose for all edible products and experiment with slightly higher doses for topicals. 

Alternatives to Delta-8 THC

The most obvious alternative to Delta-8-THC is another hemp product, specifically those containing CBD. Some popular CBD products include:

    • CBD oil
    • CBD tinctures
    • CBD gel capsules
    • CBD gummies
    • CBD edibles
    • CBD gels, creams, and lotions

However, the federal government has also failed to regulate CBD, and it remains a substance with little oversight, much like Delta-8-THC. One difference is that CBD is legal in all 50 states, while Delta-8-THC is only legal in a growing patchwork of states. 

If cannabis is legal in your state, Delta-9-THC may be another alternative to Delta-8-THC. Be aware, though, that Delta-9-THC will cancel out any of the mildly psychoactive properties of Delta-8-THC and replace them with a much stronger high. 

The Bottom Line: Should You Use Delta-8 THC?

Like all forms of cannabis, you should use Delta-8-THC if your doctor recommends it. Based on your health history and other factors, your physician is best qualified to determine if Delta-8-THC is an appropriate treatment for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Delta-8 THC legal?

Delta-8-THC is unregulated at the federal level but legal in some states, including New Jersey and California. However, the compound remains illegal in otherwise cannabis-friendly states like Washington and Colorado. On another token, Delta-8-THC is legal in some states like Florida, where recreational cannabis remains illegal. 

There is no apparent rhyme or reason to the constantly evolving legal status of Delta-8-THC. Legal changes are occurring quickly, as there is a push to ban Delta-8-THC in many states. 

Do Delta-8 products contain THC?

As Delta-8-THC products are unregulated, they could contain Delta-9-THC or other unexpected ingredients. It is likely that Delta-8-THC products, like other hemp products, including CBD oil, have trace amounts of THC. 

The best way to ensure that you’re purchasing a good quality product with the ingredients listed is to visit a licensed cannabis dispensary. A doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana (including specific dosage) is another way to stay safe when using Delta-8-THC products. 

What does Delta-8 THC help with?

Delta-8-THC may help you relax and wind down after a stressful day. The cannabinoid may also stimulate your appetite, decrease chronic pain and help you sleep better. 

Experience Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC together when you apply for a medical marijuana card. Leafwell’s on-call physicians are ready to meet with you online and guide you step-by-step through the application process. 

Written by
Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi

Tina Magrabi is a writer and editor specializing in holistic health. She has written hundreds of articles for Weedmaps where she spearheaded the Ailments series on cannabis medicine. In addition, she has written extensively for the women's health blog, SafeBirthProject, as well as print publications including Destinations Magazine and Vero's Voice. Tina is a Yale University alumna and certified yoga instructor with a passion for the outdoors.

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