UNDERSTANDING HOW CANNABINOIDS ARE SYNTHESISED

Cannabinoids are produced by natural chemical reactions such as decarboxylation, isomerisation, and oxidation. A few key enzymes are responsible for the biosynthesis of cannabinoids; namely, CBDA synthase, CBCA synthase, and THCA synthase.

These substances convert CBGA, the root or “mother” cannabinoid, into the acidic forms of the cannabinoids we know and love: CBD and Δ⁹-THC, as well as lesser-known compounds like CBC and Δ⁸-THC.

WHAT IS DELTA-8-THC?

Starting from CBGA, the resulting Δ⁹-THC is oxidised into an isomer with a very similar chemical structure: Δ⁸-THC. Since this molecule is formed by oxidation, it’s not further altered when exposed to air.

That’s a useful feature for pharmaceutical purposes, which compensates for the rarity of this cannabinoid. Δ⁸-THC is actually produced in such small quantities by the cannabis plant that the only way to experience its effects is to consume very specific concentrates.

HOW IS DELTA-8-THC DIFFERENT FROM DELTA-9-THC?

Δ⁸-THC binds to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system as Δ⁹-THC does, as well as to the CB2 receptor.

Based on early research and anecdotal evidence, Δ⁸-THC is kind of like a “light” version of traditional Δ⁹-THC, producing a mild sedative effect without the typical mental stimulation induced by Δ⁹-THC.

As an analogue of Δ⁹-THC, the Δ⁸ version has demonstrated antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties in research settings, despite exerting milder psychotropic effects than Δ⁹-THC.

Furthermore, when taken in high doses, Δ⁸-THC seems to cause less anxiety than Δ⁹-THC.

DOES DELTA-8-THC HAVE THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES?

While psychoactive Δ⁹-THC can be problematic for patients prone to panic and anxiety, Δ⁸-THC has potential to provide therapeutic effects at low doses, with little to no intoxicating effects.

Some users actually report the same medical efficacy from Δ⁸-THC as Δ⁹-THC, but with a greater ability to stay focused while working or performing daily tasks.

In a lab environment, very low doses of Δ⁸-THC were shown to increase food consumption[] in mice as expected.

More importantly, the cannabinoid has already been successfully tested as an antiemetic in paediatric oncology[2].

Δ⁸-THC was administered to eight children ranging from 3–13 years of age with various haematologic cancers. The children were treated with chemotherapy prior to a new concurring treatment with Δ⁸-THC.

During the experimental treatment with the cannabinoid, vomiting was completely prevented and other side effects from chemotherapy were dramatically reduced.

Delta 8 THC

CAN YOU ISOLATE DELTA-8-THC AT HOME?

Regardless of the strain, this cannabinoid is produced by cannabis plants only in very small amounts.

Selective breeding might one day provide new strains with higher concentrations of Δ⁸-THC than the current stock, yet specialised industrial methods of extraction, fractional distillation, and molecular isolation will likely be needed to obtain substantial quantities of this and other rare cannabinoids.

In other words, there is no way you can successfully extract your own Δ⁸-THC at home, even if it’s theoretically possible to set your vape temperature to release a certain range of terpenes and cannabinoids, including Δ⁸-THC.

Realistically, commercial Δ⁸-THC products are likely to be available as vapable extracts and sublingual drops. There are no edible versions of this cannabinoid yet, as Δ⁸-THC is transformed into Δ¹¹-THC by the digestion process, spoiling the medical properties of the original one.

Next-gen cannabinoid distillates show the highest levels of Δ⁸-THC, comprising about 58% of the cannabinoid alongside 8% Δ⁹-THC and 0.30% CBD. These new products open the door to unexplored territory for both medical and recreational users, and only time will tell what the consensus is!

External Resources:
  1. Very low doses of delta 8-THC increase food consumption and alter neurotransmitter levels following weight loss. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology http://www.druglibrary.net
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