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What You Need to Know About Delta-8 THC

  • Delta-8 THC, the less psychoactive cousin of delta-9 THC, is referred to as “diet weed.” It’s favored by users who want to effectively relieve pain and relax without losing focus or feeling anxious, two common side effects of delta-9 THC.
  • While delta-8 is a promising therapeutic, minimal research has studied its specific health benefits. In addition to delta-8, there are other compounds derived from cannabis that can offer similar relief, like full- and broad-spectrum CBD.

You probably already know what THC is: it’s the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. But do you know that THC has its own variants?

What most people think of as THC is known more accurately as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9 THC. And not as many people know about its chemically-similar cousin, delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC has been titled “diet weed” by many marijuana users. But this isn’t some strange new fad to help you lose weight; it gained this nickname because of its more modest psychoactive effects compared to delta-9.

While there are still many unknowns, patients have already reported that delta-8 THC is the answer to effective pain relief with less of a high. But is it right for you?

In this guide, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about delta-8 so that you can make the most informed decision.

Understanding Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

The cannabis plant is made up of hundreds of different chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more.

Two cannabinoids have been the stars of cannabis research and media coverage for a while now:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – The primary psychoactive component of cannabis, THC is known for its anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and pain relief properties.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD has similar health benefits as THC, but it’s not psychoactive.

Both options offer medical marijuana users something incredibly valuable: safe and effective symptom relief. But how?

CBD and THC interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is your body’s built-in network of receptors that regulates:

  • Pain
  • Sleep
  • Body temperature
  • Mood and emotions
  • Appetite
  • Inflammatory and immune responses
  • Learning, memory, and more.

Your body produces its own cannabinoids—these are called endocannabinoids—that can activate ECS receptors when needed. But because the cannabinoids in cannabis are so similar, they can activate these receptors in the same way.

The ECS consists of two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoids can activate both receptors, though their respective activations produce unique responses:

  • CB1 receptor activation is what causes you to feel high
  • CB2 receptor activation lowers inflammation and boosts your immune response

THC can turn on both CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD interacts with the ECS more indirectly.

While THC and CBD still have the spotlight, researchers have recently shed light on other minor cannabinoids. Delta-8 THC is a particularly exciting discovery because of the unique way it interacts with the ECS. It activates the CB2 receptors similarly to THC but activates the CB1 receptors with less strength—in other words, you can experience the pain relief and relaxation benefits of THC with less of a high.

But what is delta-8 THC, and why are we only beginning to understand it now?

What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC comes from the cannabis plant—just like delta-9 THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

Cannabis experts carefully cultivate sub-types of the plant, and these sub-types are called strains. Strains are categorized in a few different ways, but the federal government uses two labels to determine whether or not a cannabis plant or product is federally legal:

  • Marijuana – Legally speaking, “marijuana” plants contain greater than 0.3% delta-9 THC, typically in the 10-30% range. Federally, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
  • Hemp – Hemp is a sub-type of the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. It’s mainly known for its CBD content (typically in the 5-15% range), but it’s also used commercially to make fabrics, food, biodegradables, and more.

Currently, in the U.S., marijuana is illegal because of its Schedule 1 drug classification, but thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp (and any cannabinoid derived from hemp) is legal to grow and sell, with a few stipulations.

Manufacturers can extract delta-8 THC from both marijuana and hemp plants; but delta-8 concentrations in hemp are very low, so manufacturers often resort to chemical synthesis. However, in states where marijuana hasn’t been legalized, delta-8 products must be derived from hemp specifically to be legally sold in accordance with the Farm Bill.

Since it can be extracted and synthesized from hemp, delta-8 has become a popular option for people looking for relief in states without access to medical cannabis. This led to the quickly growing popularity of delta-8 THC today.

Chemically, delta-8 THC is extremely similar to delta-9, with just one difference: the placement of a single double bond. This tiny variation is enough to distinctly alter each compound’s effects.

Delta-8 THC Products

While delta-8 THC occurs naturally in cannabis, it’s typically found in very small amounts. Most often, manufacturers synthetically produce delta-8 THC from hemp-derived CBD or delta-9 THC.

According to users, delta-8 THC is most often consumed via:

  • Edibles
  • Vaping
  • Tinctures
  • Smoking

It’s important to note that because delta-8 research is ongoing, delta-8 products are less regulated than other cannabis products. So, users have reason to be wary of products with impurities: unidentified cannabinoids, reagents left over from synthesis, and other compounds. While delta-8 can offer an option for people without access to legal cannabis, the safest choice is purchasing cannabis via legal means.

The Effects and Benefits of Delta-8 THC

Users describe the psychoactive effects of delta-8 THC as more modest than delta-9. But what does that mean, exactly?

While using delta-8 THC, users commonly experience:

  • Euphoria
  • Significant pain relief
  • Relaxation without feeling “lazy” or losing mental clarity
  • Lower feelings of paranoia and anxiety
  • Shorter duration of effects than delta-9

People use delta-9 THC for anxiety and depression, chronic pain, PTSD, insomnia, and more. Since delta-8 is so similar to delta-9 THC, it could be used to treat these conditions.

Additionally, the benefits of delta-8 THC are similar to the advantages of other cannabis products in a medical context:

  • Treatments can be highly individualized to produce precise results.
  • There’s low dependence potential.
  • Products are plant-based.

However, it’s important to remember that, unless you’re purchasing delta-8 from a legal dispensary, there are no guarantees that your product is free of impurities. In other words, the risk profile of delta-8 is up for debate, and unregulated products might not be the best option for medical applications.

Delta-8 THC vs. Other Cannabinoids

To determine which products may be the best fit for you, it’s helpful to look at other available cannabinoids and how they compare to delta-8 THC:

  • Delta-10 THC – Delta-8 THC wasn’t the only compound to be isolated from hemp once it was legalized; manufacturers were also able to isolate delta-10 THC. Like delta-8, delta-10 is chemically similar to delta-9 THC and is able to activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but has more modest psychoactive properties. However, current researchers don’t yet know many specifics about this compound.
  • CBD – Unlike delta-8 THC, CBD doesn’t cause any kind of high. It doesn’t activate the ECS in the same way delta-8 does, but it’s an effective pain reliever and mental relaxant. It’s still unclear exactly how CBD interacts with the body to produce its healing effects, but its benefits are widely reported by patients.

Within the realm of CBD, there are a variety of products to choose from:

  • CBD isolate – CBD isolates contain pure CBD oil, typically up to 90% CBD.
  • Full-spectrum CBD – Full-spectrum CBD products contain CBD along with other cannabis compounds including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, that also have health benefits. Full-spectrum products can contain THC, but not enough to get you high.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD – These are similar to full-spectrum products, but they have minimal to nonexistent amounts of THC.

Both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products are said to produce an entourage effect. This means that all the compounds present interact with each other to create a more potent healing effect. The entourage effect is still a theory, but its potential health benefits are promising.

Access Effective Pain Relief with TeleLeaf

While hemp and any by-products derived from it, like CBD and delta-8 THC, are technically legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, contradictory state and federal regulations can make them difficult to obtain.

A medical marijuana recommendation can safeguard your access to regulated, lab-tested cannabis. And for that, there’s TeleLeaf.

TeleLeaf connects you with experienced doctors who can assess your condition and give you a medical marijuana recommendation, all from the comfort of your own home. If you need guidance on the best cannabis strains and products for your unique symptoms, we can help you create and tweak a tailor-made treatment plan that works for you.

Schedule an appointment, and start your medical marijuana journey today.


Harvard Health Publishing. The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious.

The Conversation. Cannabis-derived products like delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC have flooded the US market – two immunologists explain the medicinal benefits and potential risks.

Brookings. The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer.

Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency. Delta-8 Information.

Healthline. What Is Delta-8?

Molecules. Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol Product Impurities.

Journal of Cannabis Research. Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling?

cbdMD. The Difference Between Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum CBD.

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