October 26, 2022 4 min read

You may have heard some claims that THC-O is synthetic, while other people tout a simple fact to back up their THC-O consumption–THC-O can be naturally found in cannabis. So, which is it? Is THC-O a natural THC, or is it a synthetic cannabinoid similar to spice?

The truth is that THC-O naturally exists in the cannabis plant, but the way that THC-O is made is very different from the process used to make traditional THC products. In other words, yes, THC-O is absolutely a natural cannabinoid, and yes, Delta-8 products are made in a lab. Confused? Let us explain:

Table of Contents
Where Does THC-O Come From?
Why is THC-O Not Extracted Directly From Hemp?
How is THC-O Made?
Is THC-O Synthetic?
How is THC-O Different Than Delta-9?
Where to Find Hemp Derived THC-O Products

Key Takeaways

  • THC-O is a cannabinoid that is naturally found in cannabis material.
  • It's found in low concentrations in legal hemp material, which makes it difficult to extract.
  • Most THC-O products are made by converting one cannabinoid to another.
  • The process used to make THC-O is not the same as the process used to make synthetic cannabinoids.
A bottle of THC-O oil and an example of the hemp material that it is made from

Where Does THC-O Come From?

If you could look deep into the composition of the hemp plant, you’d find trace amounts of THC-O mingling among all of the other cannabinoids and terpenes. That's because THC-O is a natural cannabinoid that is naturally produced by the cannabis plant.

In fact, it was briefly researched for its psychoactive potential way back in the 1940’s, but it wsn’t until recently (when hemp was legalized) that THC-O became more common, all thanks to the way its made.

Why is THC-O Not Extracted Directly From Hemp?

Basically, because THC-O is only present in very small amounts, typical extraction processed that would strip THC-O directly from the plant material are futile.

Instead, THC-O is made by converting other hemp-derived cannabinoids, but the end result is a THC-O molecule that is identical to those naturally present in the plant.

How is THC-O Made?

The process used to convert other hemp-derived cannabinoids into THC-O is called “isomerization.” The method simply transforms one molecule into its isomer, another molecule that has all of the same components, just arranged in a different order.

Raphael Mechoulam, a researcher who is often referred to as "the father of cannabis," discovered that Delta-8-THC is a CBD isomer. Later, he patented the process for converting CBD into Delta-8-THC, and today that same process is used to convert CBD into THC-O.

So, THC-O is not extracted from hemp. CBD is. Then, THC-O is made from CBD through a process that does not add or remove any molecular components.

Doesn't That Mean That THC-O is Synthetic?

Nope! Isomerization is distinctly different from the synthetization process used to make synthetic cannabinoids. If you take a closer look at synthetic cannabinoids, like K2, you'll see that they don't actually contain any plant material. Instead, they're made by stringing other chemicals together in a process designed to replicate a natural cannabinoid, but they are not natural cannabinoids.

THC-O is made from CBD by exposing it to an acid. The acid simply forces CBD to rearrange its molecular structure. First, CBD is converted to Delta-8, and then it is converted to THC-O. Finally, the extract material is distilled and any leftover acid is removed. What’s left is a pure THC-O distillate.

In other words, when you take high-quality, clean THC-O, you're only ingesting the same molecular components you would have ingested if you took the CBD before the isomerization process took place. Since the molecular structure is different, however, the molecule interacts with the body in a totally different way.

How is THC-O Different From Delta-9-THC?

Since Delta-9-THC is the most iconic “natural THC,” we want to break down the differences between the classic THC and THC-O products.

Structurally, there are only a few small differences between the THC-O and the Delta-9-THC molecules. Thanks to their similarities, THC-O can interact with the endocannabinoid system in a very similar manner to traditional THC products.

The defining difference here is that THC-O is derived from hemp, not marijuana, which makes it much more accessible. Also, THC-O is thought to be about three times more potent than traditional THC, so you can expect a much more hard-hitting high. All in all, though, the two are much alike, and neither are synthetic cannabinoids.

So, THC-O is Legal Because It's Natural THC?

No. THC-O is legal because it's derived from hemp and because it contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC, as dictated by federal hemp laws.

Again, THC-O could be extracted directly from some cannabis materials where it's found in larger concentrations, but that would mean that it's not extracted from hemp and is therefore not legal by federal standards.

These marijuana-derived THC-O products do exist, but you only find them at state-licensed dispensaries in areas where high-THC cannabis is legal. As far as the effects and benefits go, THC-O is THC-O. In other words, both types of THC-O products have the same effects because they are both made from the same molecule.

Where to Find THC-O Products?

THC-O derived from hemp is federally legal, which means you can buy it in stores and online from a variety of retailers.

Of course, not all THC-O is made equal. If you're looking for premium-quality hemp-derived THC products in a variety of potencies and flavors, our Elev8 Collection has what you need. All Vida Optima products are 100% Farm Bill compliant and third-party tested for quality assurance.

Vida Optima Delta-8-THC Candies


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