March 09, 2021 6 min read

Delta-9-THC still reigns supreme as the most well-known therapeutic cannabinoid, but Delta-8-THC is quickly pushing its way into research labs across the world. Curious about the medical applications of Delta-8-THC? Have any medical benefits been proven? And if so, how can Delta-8 be used in future medicines?

Since its discovery, researchers have known that Delta-8 boasts many of the same therapeutic benefits as Delta-9-THC, and some research suggests that it may even be more effective than traditional THC therapies in some areas.

Since it’s less psychoactive, some research even centers around Delta-8 as a Delta-9 alternative where THC treatments are used on children. The research is promising, and experts believe that Delta-8 has a wide range of potential pharmaceutical uses.

Still, Delta-8-THC has yet to be proven as a treatment or cure for any illness or condition. Researchers are still working to understand Delta-8’s full potential, but here’s what we know for now:

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8-THC is a legal analogue of Delta-9-THC, and it may pose similar benefits with fewer drawbacks.
  • Research regarding the medical applications of Delta-8-THC is still lacking, but preliminary studies point towards a range of potential benefits, like soothing pain and anxiety.
  • Delta-8 is also more shelf stable than Delta-9, which offers a significant advantage for pharmaceutical applications in the future.
  • There are no Delta-8-THC medications that have gained FDA approval, but Delta-8 research efforts are expected to continue to grow. For now, you can buy Delta-8 online to try it for yourself.

What is Delta-8-THC?

Before we can cover the potential medical applications of Delta-8-THC, here’s a primer on what Delta-8 really is and how it compares to Delta-9-THC:

Delta-8 is most accurately described as an analogue to THC, and the two compounds are nearly identical in structure. The only difference is the position of their double bond: Delta-8’s is at carbon chain position 8, and Delta-9’s is at position 9. The chain position of Delta-9 changes when oxidized, thus creating Delta-8.

Since the two compounds are nearly identical, Delta-8-THC is thought to interact with the body in the same manner as Delta-9. In other words, Delta-8-THC can bind with both CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system and CB2 receptors in the immune system.

That means that the medical applications of Delta-8-THC are likely to be similar to that of Delta-9. Of course, as a “degraded version” of Delta-9, Delta-8 is only about half as potent, which may pose additional benefits.

Delta-8-THC can be made from hemp derived compounds. Thanks to updates made in the 2018 Farm Bill, that means that Delta-8 is currently legal to make and sell in the U.S., which makes it much more accessible than other THC therapeutics.

Delta-8-THC oil, a type of Delta-8 that is easily dosed for therapeutic use.

Are There Proven Medical Applications of Delta-8-THC?

As we mentioned previously, Delta-8 is an analogue of Delta-9-THC. In fact, the National Cancer Institute defines delta-8-THC as “An analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.”

But what does all that mean? And are there any medical applications of Delta-8-THC that have actually been proven?

Let’s break it down:

“Antiemetic” means that a substance is capable of preventing vomiting.

A study titled “An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology” found that delta-8 may be able to significantly reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy in pediatric cancer patients. In fact, delta-8 was found to be 100% successful at reducing nausea in the 480 treatments given.

As an antiemetic substance, Delta-8 could potentially be beneficial in the management of some chronic illnesses or alongside certain cancer therapies known to induce vomiting

“Anxiolytic” means capable of reducing anxiety.

The same study revealed that delta-9 may have fewer harmful consequences. Children given delta-8 were reported to be less prone to anxiety, and most didn’t report noticeable psychoactive effects from therapeutic doses. This enabled researchers to give them larger doses of delta-8, likely resulting in higher efficacy rates.

Although more information is needed to understand if Delta-8 can significantly reduce regular anxiety, it is thought to be far less likely to induce anxiety or paranoia than Delta-9. That means it may be more appropriate for a wider range of medicinal uses or for those who are sensitive to the adverse effects of common THC products.

“Appetite-stimulating” means it may help people who have trouble eating.

We aren’t talking about a wild case of “the munchies,” but one 2004 study shows that Delta-8 may have similar appetite enhancing properties to Delta-9’s. The study found that delta-8 might actually stimulate appetite in rats, though it’s thought to do so to a lesser degree than delta-9.

Appetite stimulants can be useful for a range of medical applications, like managing the symptoms of eating disorders or helping a person undergoing chemotherapy to maintain healthy eating habits.

“Analgesic” means pain relieving.

We know that Delta-9 is recommended for pain in areas where THC is legal, but Delta-8 may pose some of the same benefits with lower levels of intoxication. A 2018 study by Thapa et al. found that delta8-THC, when applied topically, may decrease corneal pain and inflammation in an experimental mouse model.

One 1987 study found that Delta-8 may increase acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that activates pain responses and regulates endocrine and REM functions. Increased acetylcholine is associated with pain relief.

“Neuroprotective properties” means a substance can preserve brain functions.

The same study helps explain how delta-8 may help protect neurological function. It also found that delta-8 could help reduce acetylcholine turnover in the hippocampus. By regulating acetylcholine levels in the brain, it may have potential for managing certain conditions associated with declining levels of acetylcholine, like Alzheimer’s.

The same 2004 study referenced above concerning Delta-8’s appetite stimulating properties found delta-8 to have “a tendency to improve cognitive function.”

Another study examined the effect of delta-8-THC on experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks brain cells. Two strains of rats were inoculated with an experimental version of the condition, and delta 8-THC was administered for up to three weeks. The study concluded that “delta 8-THC significantly reduced the incidence and severity of neurological deficit in both rat strains.”

Delta-8 Benefits for Pharmaceutical Applications

Delta-8 softgels, one example of a shelf-stable dosing style that could be used for medical applications in the future.

With so much medicinal potential, it seems crucial to mention Delta-8’s benefits for pharmaceutical applications.

First, since Delta-8-THC is thought to be less potent than Delta-9 (but with similar medicinal value) it may be more appropriate for certain pharmaceuticals marketed towards children or those who otherwise don’t respond well to Delta-9’s strong psychoactivity.

Most significantly, Delta-8 may have a longer shelf life than the more common THC products. That’s because Delta-8 is an oxidized version of Delta-9, meaning it won’t degrade further when exposed to air.

Delta-9’s short shelf life has previously proven to be a limitation for pharmaceutical applications, which is why many THC medications are actually made from a synthetic form of THC (like Marinol). Delta-8 may help solve this issue by offering a natural THC solution that can live on a shelf for years without losing it’s medicinal value.

Currently, there are no Delta-8-THC pharmaceuticals that have gained FDA approval, but several patents have been issued concerning Delta-8 therapeutics. More research is needed, but Delta-8-THC is expected to be a center point for cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical research in the future.

Where Can You Find Delta-8-THC Now?

Delta-8 is not an FDA-approved product and cannot be prescribed by a doctor, and we still need more research before any medical applications of Delta-8-THC can be proven. Still, many people have found success using Delta-8-THC to reap it’s therapeutic, mildly psychoactive benefits.

Delta-8-THC is legal in most states, and you can buy Delta-8 online directly from the Vida Optima store. All of our products are 100% Farm Bill compliant and legal by U.S. federal law.

Resources

  1. “An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology” http://www.druglibrary.net/olsen/HEMP/IHA/iha02210.html
  2. “National Cancer Institute - delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol” https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-drug/def/delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol
  3. “Very low doses of delta 8-THC increase food consumption and alter neurotransmitter levels following weight loss” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15099912/
  4. “The Cannabinoids Δ8THC, CBD, and HU-308 Act via Distinct Receptors to Reduce Corneal Pain and Inflammation” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812319/
  5. “Effects of cannabinoids on levels of acetylcholine and choline and on turnover rate of acetylcholine in various regions of the mouse brain.” https://europepmc.org/article/med/3620017
  6. “What Is Acetylcholine & What Does it Do?” https://selfhacked.com/blog/acetylcholine/
  7. “Suppression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by cannabinoids” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7852052/

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