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CBD vs Delta-8 THC: Understanding the Key Differences

Written By Andy Papilion May 3rd 2024
Table Of Contents
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In convenience stores, specialty shops, and kiosks in multiple states nationwide, merchants display CBD and Delta-8 THC side by side. Since both are easily accessible and made from the same plant, consumers are understandably curious. Some want to know how CBD and Delta-8 compare; others are more interested in comparing Delta-8 to Delta-9 THC – with good reason.

Delta-8 activates the same chemical receptors responsible for Delta-9's feelings of relaxation and euphoria. While that distinction explains the cannabinoid's popularity, many Delta-8 enthusiasts assume they're getting the same health and wellness potential as CBD in a different form. Could they be right? Not exactly. Although CBD and Delta-8 are both hemp-derived cannabinoids, technically, there are several key differences people determined to make informed purchasing decisions need to understand. 

What Is CBD?  

CBD (cannabidiol) is the most abundant of more than 113 potentially beneficial cannabinoids in full spectrum hemp extract. But it's not, however, the first cannabinoid produced in the plant. That distinction belongs to the "stem cell" or "mother" of all cannabinoids, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). As crops mature, naturally occurring plant enzymes convert CBGA to CBCA (cannabichromenic acid), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid, and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).1 Over time, heat and sunlight convert the acidic precursors to CBD, CBG, CBC, and THC through a process called decarboxylation.2 

What is Delta-8?  

Delta-8 THC (Δ-8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is an isomer of Delta-9 THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). It has the same chemical composition but slight structural differences.3 Although numerous sources highlight the fact that Delta-8 is a naturally occurring hemp-derived cannabinoid, the oil extracted from the plant's flowers contains only minuscule amounts. Of 18,000 samples tested, only 1.5% had detectable levels. Since extracting Delta-8 from hemp is inefficient and cost-prohibitive, manufacturers use a process called isomerization to convert CBD to Delta-8 to keep pace with market demands.4   

CBD vs Delta-8: Comparing Their Effects on the Body and Brain  

For years, hemp-derived products appealed to people interested in the health and wellness potential of cannabis who preferred avoiding the intoxicating effects of THC-dominant plants. Over time, consumer perceptions of cannabis use evolved, and CBD users began embracing hemp-derived products made with elevated concentrations of some of the plant's most intriguing minor cannabinoids, including several THC isomers. 

Since CBD and Delta-8 are both cannabinoids, they work by influencing the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors. As the largest regulatory system in the human body, that interaction has the potential to influence nearly every crucial function, from emotional regulation and digestive processes to muscle movement and the perception of pleasure and pain.5 But they assert their influence in different ways. 

Delta-8 Binds with ECS Receptors  

Like naturally occurring Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 binds with the CB1 receptors in the brain, nerve cells, and connective tissues. Cannabinoids that activate CB1 have an effect on presynaptic neurons that can temporarily alter the transmission of information while also increasing dopamine levels.6 Since the molecular shape of Delta-8 prevents the cannabinoid from binding as strongly as Delta-9, its overall impact on the body and brain can be 50-70% less intense.7 

CBD Has an Indirect Effect  

CBD it asserts its influence on the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the metabolic enzymes that break down the ECS messenger anandamide, a substance made as needed in the body. CBD also inhibits THC's ability to bind with CB1.8 Based on decades of study, cannabis researchers believe CBD helps support ECS function in a way that promotes homeostasis, the internal balance all living organisms must maintain to survive.9 

How CBD Is Extracted from Hemp Flower    

The best hemp-derived CBD products are sourced from non-GMO, naturally farmed hemp flower. Once the crops have matured, they're harvested, dried, and their cannabinoid-rich oil extracted. For full spectrum and broad spectrum hemp extract, CO2 extraction is considered gold standard. It's non-flammable, non-toxic, cost-effective, and renewable.10 

The gas liquefies under pressure and is released from the hemp extract when the pressure and temperature normalize.11 Once extracted, the cannabinoid-rich oil is distilled and used as an ingredient in a wide range of products with considerable health and wellness potential. Today, a significant amount of CBD is also used to make Delta-8 THC.   

How Manufacturers Convert CBD to Delta-8 THC  

Converting CBD to Delta-8 is relatively straightforward, but aggressive. First, the cannabinoid is catalyzed with an industrial acid to initiate the process. Condensers are used to control the reaction. Once the transformation from CBD to THC is complete, the acid is neutralized or removed. Since the chemicals used are highly caustic and potentially toxic, safe handling is essential.12 

It's also essential to understand that converting CBD to Delta-8 creates unidentified synthetic reaction byproducts, substances not found anywhere in nature.13 To date, researchers don't have a clear understanding of how synthetic cannabinoids are metabolized or stored in the body, and third-party test results confirming the purity of Delta-8 are unreliable because the unidentified contaminants evade detection.14 

CBD Safety and Possible Side Effects  

Hemp-derived CBD is considered safe for most people and is generally well tolerated. Since the cannabinoid does not bind with the ECS receptors, there's no risk of chemical dependency or unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. According to the World Health Organization's 2020 report, hemp-derived CBD products pose no "risk to public health."15 Side effects, however, are possible. Some CBD users report fatigue, dry mouth, changes in appetite, and digestive upset.16 

Although CBD carries an impressively low risk of minor side effects, cannabinoids are not advisable for people with certain medical concerns. They're also known to interact with or impair the uptake of several over-the-counter treatments, herbal supplements, and prescription medications.17 Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns. 

Delta-8 Safety and Possible Side Effects  

When used in moderation, Delta-9 THC is generally well-tolerated and considered safe for most adults. Although Delta-8 is less studied, it's considered less likely to cause panic attacks, memory lapses, hallucinations, or paranoia with overconsumption than Delta-9 because its impact is less intense.18 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has received more than 100 reports of confusion, tremors, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. More than half of those cases (55%) required emergency services or hospitalization.13 

The National Poison Control Center has received more than 600 similar reports, with 18% resulting in hospitalization. The FDA is working with agencies at the state and federal levels to investigate safety concerns. Currently, several states restrict Delta-8 sales to licensed dispensaries and 17 have banned synthetic cannabinoids entirely.19 

Our Recommendation: Add Naturally Occurring Delta-9 THC to Your CBD Rotation   

Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid but produced in exceptionally small amounts. To keep pace with consumer interest in novel cannabinoids, product manufacturers use harsh chemicals and solvents to alter the composition and structure of hemp-derived CBD, substances that create unidentified synthetic reaction byproducts. It's a detail many people find concerning. 

The expert botanists at CBDistillery® crafted two full spectrum CBD products infused with just the right amount of naturally occurring Delta-9 THC. Our vegan, berry-flavored CBDistillery® ommm+ distilled THC + CBD Gummies deliver a precise 25mg of CBD and 5mg of Delta-9, the perfect CBD to THC ratio for relaxation and a mild, uplifting buzz. For better sleep, you might prefer CBDistillery® shhh+ distilled THC + CBN Gummies. As the 5mg of naturally occurring Delta-9 THC helps you drift off to dreamland, the 5mg of CBN and 25mg of CBD work together to ensure you get the rest you need to wake feeling refreshed. 

When using either product for the first time, consider starting with a partial serving and waiting at least two hours for the effects to peak. Since the enhanced concentration of THC could cause a level of drowsiness or intoxication you might not expect, we also recommend enjoying your gummies at the end of the day when you won't be driving or operating machinery. If you're not quite sure if our Delta-9-infused gummies are the right fit for your needs, preferences, or lifestyle, consider taking our CBD Product Quiz or scheduling a personal consultation

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