CSG MedLab

11 March 2019

What is Delta-8-THC? – A scientific update

A scientific summary of what we know about Delta-8-THC so far

By Fran Cà

A simplified summary of Delta-8-THC (Delta 8-tetrahydrocannabinol)

For the full and scientific summary, scroll down.

Even though Δ8-THC is only found in small amounts in dried cannabis flowers, it is still seen as one of the major cannabinoids. THC can be converted into Δ8-THC by shifting the position of some of its electrons or even from CBD, through a process called “cyclization”.

The difference between THC and Δ8-THC

Despite THC and Δ8-THC being almost the same, Δ8-THC is less psychoactive than THC. On the other hand, Δ8-THC decays a lot less quickly and is much more stable than THC. That is why Δ8-THC is better suited to study the effects and inner working of THC on humans.

Medicinal benefits of Δ8-THC

Δ8-THC is also a better alternative to THC as a medicine, because it has the same beneficial effects, but is less psychoactive. The medicinal properties of Δ8-THC are:

  • Its effectiveness against vomiting and nausea.
  • Its ability to relieve anxiety.
  • Its ability to relieve pain.
  • Its ability to stimulate appetite.
  • Its neuroprotective properties.
  • Its ability to reduce inflammation.

A scientific summary of Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol

Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC) is one of the four major cannabinoids found in cannabis. Despite its natural occurrence in most dried flowers is low (less than 1% of cannabinoid content), a higher amount of this cannabinoid can be obtained through techniques such as extraction, isolation, conversion and refinement.

Delta-8-THC is almost the same as Delta-9-THC

As its name suggests, Delta-8-THC is an analogue of Delta-9-THC (the primary form of THC found in cannabis). It can be biosynthesized from Δ9-THC by a reaction called “isomerization”, which involves a position shift of two sets of electrons (from carbon-9 to carbon-8 of its core-ring – Figure 1), or from CBD by cyclization.

Figure 1: Δ8-THC / Δ9-THC chemical comparison

Delta-8-THC is more stable than Delta-9-THC

Despite the similar chemistry and metabolism profiles, Δ8-THC is less psychoactive than Δ9-THC. It is, however, easier and less expensive to prepare and has a much longer shelf-life than Δ9-THC. This compound is chemically more stable than its Δ9-cousin and this would justify the practice of isomerizing Δ9-THC into the more stable Δ8-form. Because of its stability and its ease to synthesis, Δ8-THC has shown to be a better candidate for phytocannabinoid-inspired probes to explore the dynamics and the environment around cannabinoid receptors.

Medicinal benefits of Delta-8-THC

From a medical point-of-view, Δ8-THC shows to have antiemetic (1), anxiolytic (2), appetite-stimulating, analgesic (3), and neuroprotective properties. It has also been shown to be pharmacologically active as an anti-glaucoma agent, despite its topical use is limited, just like Δ9-THC, by its low affinity and solubility in water-based solvents and resinous nature.

Δ8-THC is also effective against corneal pain and inflammation as a result from ocular surface damage. Such anti-nociceptive (4) and anti-inflammatory actions are mediated primarily by the activation of the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor (CB1-R), located in the central nervous system. Furthermore, compared to its Δ9 analogue, Δ8-THC has shown to have almost no psychoactive side-effects when administered prior to chemotherapy in cancer patients.

Definitions:

(1) Antiemetic: A drug that is effective against vomiting and nausea.

(2) Anxiolytic: A drug used to relieve anxiety.

(3) Analgesic: A drug acting to relieve pain.

(4) Anti-nociceptive: Ability of blocking the detection of a painful/injurious stimulus by sensory neurons.

Bibliography:

● Berman P, Futoran K, Lewitus GM, et al. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):14280.
● Hanuš LO, Meyer SM, Muñoz E, et al. Nat Prod Rep. 2016;33(12):1357-1392.
● Hippalgaonkar K, Gul W, ElSohly MA, et al. AAPS PharmSciTech. 2011;12(2):723-31.
● Motwani MP, Bennett F, Norris PC, et al. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2018;104(4):675-686.
● National Cancer Institute- NCI. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol?redirect=true
● Pubchem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/2977#section=Top
● Thapa D, Cairns EA, Szczesniak AM, et al. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):11-20.

Post author
Fran Ca
Fran Cà is Coffeeshop Guru's in-house medicinal cannabis expert and all-around science nerd. She scours the latest research papers with pin-point precision to keep you up-to-date on the most recent developments and thrilling discoveries surrounding the awesome power of cannabis.
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