With constant media coverage about Delta-8 laws, Delta-8 products flying off the shelves like hotcakes, and everyone talking about Delta-8-THC’s pleasant buzz, it's safe to say that Delta-8 is the latest cannabinoid celebrity.
But not a lot is known about Delta-8 beyond the details that make headlines, which leaves some consumers hesitant to try the natural THC for themselves. We're here to answer one of the most important questions that new consumers are asking: What does Delta-8 do to the body?
Luckily, researchers do have a pretty good idea of how Delta-8-THC interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, and we even have some details on the benefits it may provide. Here's what we know:Table of Contents
Just like other cannabinoids, Delta-8-THC interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, a neuromodulatory system found in the brain and central and peripheral nervous systems.
The Endocannabinoid System is primarily responsible for maintaining a state of homeostasis in the body, which includes regulating things like mood, energy, appetite, inflammation and pain signaling, sleep, and more. That's why you may see some cannabinoids that have some pretty conflicting benefits, like CBD’s potential for improving sleep and increasing focus and energy. Cannabinoids just interact with endocannabinoid receptors in a way that alters the balance of this incredibly complex regulatory system.
More specifically, Delta-8-THC interacts with the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. Let's break down what that means:
The CB1 receptor is the endocannabinoid receptor that is primarily found in the brain and central nervous system. It is the endocannabinoid system receptor that is responsible for inciting psychoactivity. That means that it is the endocannabinoid receptor that bonds with Delta 9 THC which is well known for its potent psychoactive effects.
The CB2 receptor is primarily found in the peripheral nervous system and immune system and functions as a part of the immune system. CB2 activation does not incite any psychoactivity, but does alter the balance of specific endocannabinoid system functions.
We'll talk more about the benefits of activating each endocannabinoid receptor below, but first we want to discuss why Delta-8's ability to interact with both portions of the Endocannabinoid System is significant.
Because Delta-8 interacts with both the CB1 and the CB2 receptors, it produces effects that are unique from the effects of Delta-9-THC, which only interacts with the CB1 receptor.
As we mentioned, the CB1 receptor is responsible for inciting psychoactivity. Since this is the only place that Delta-9 can bind, the majority of a Delta-9 dose (minus what is naturally filtered out by the body) incites psychoactivity.
On the other hand, a Delta-8 dose is split. A portion of a Delta 8 dose binds to CB1 receptors and incites psychoactivity, while another portion binds to CB2 receptors and does not incite psychoactivity. This is why a dose of Delta 8 is thought to be less potent (at least in terms of its psychoactive effects) than the same dose of Delta-9.
Delta-8’s CB1 activation means that it can produce some of the same therapeutic effects that you can expect from traditional THC products. It's CB2 activation, however, means that it has some therapeutic benefits that are uniquely different from traditional THC therapies. Let's discuss the benefits of activating each of the different end of cannabinoid receptors:
You now know that CB1 activation is responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC products, but that's not all it does. The CB1 receptor plays a key role in regulating the release of key neurotransmitters. CB1 activation impacts on functions like pain signaling, appetite, cognition and memory, sleep, and heart rate, to name only a few.
CB2 activation may not be as relevant to Delta-8-THC’s recreational benefits, but it opens the door to an array of potential therapeutic benefits. After all, the CB2 receptor is an active part of the body’s immune system. According to research, the CB2 receptor plays a heavy role in the regulation of pain and inflammation, which makes it a useful avenue for the treatment of many chronic inflammatory conditions. Evidence also suggested that the activation of the CB2 receptor may help prevent oxidative stress in certain neurological conditions.
We already mentioned that Delta-8 is thought to produce less potent psychoactivity than traditional THC products, but that's not a complete and accurate description of its effects.
A Delta-8 induced high is different from a Delta-9 high, and not just because it's not as strong.
Actually, many people describe Delta-8 effects as more relaxing with greater body effects as opposed to the potent cerebral effects of most Delta-9 products.
There's more research to be done to fully understand the difference between the two THC products, but it's possible that Delta-8’s heavier effects on the body could be linked to its CB2 activation. After all, CB2 receptors are more spread out through the body and can be found in the tissues of major organs, while CB1 receptors are most heavily concentrated in the brain.
Some sources suggest that Delta-8-THC is also far less likely to induce some of the drawbacks associated with Delta-9, like paranoia and anxiety.
While we are discussing how Delta-8 works, we think it's also important to discuss how long Delta-8 may take to produce its effects. To put it briefly, the timespan for the onset of Delta-8’s effects is very broad. It can take anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes for Delta-8-THC to take effect, and this onset time is most heavily impacted by the Delta-8-THC dosing method you choose.
For instance, inhaled methods, like Delta-8-THC flower or Delta-8 Vape Carts, may take effect almost instantly. You may feel the effects of an inhaled dose after only a few minutes, and the effects can peak in 10 minutes or less.
Digested doses, like Delta-8 gummies, can take well over an hour to take effect. This is because they need to pass through the digestive tract to be metabolized by the liver before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. You can expect traditional edibles to take up to 90 minutes to work.
Sublingual style edibles are a unique hybrid option. These types of edibles come in a form that is meant to be dissolved in the mouth, like a hard candy. This allows Delta-8-THC to be absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth where it immediately enters the bloodstream. This means that sublingual products can take effect in around 30 minutes.
Of course, the amount of time it takes for Delta-8-THC to kick in also depends on your metabolism, tolerance, weight, and other biological factors, although to a much lesser extent.
People often want to know whether the way you take Delta-8-THC impacts its effects at all. The answer is yes, different dosing methods can produce different effects, but the overall difference is minuscule.
The most significant difference in different dosing styles is how long they take to kick in and how long the effects last. As we discussed above, inhaled methods take effect quickly, but the effects fade away faster, too. Inhaled doses usually produce effects that last a couple of hours.
Edible doses that need to be digested may take over an hour to kick in, but the slow rolling effects can last 6 hour or more. Sublingual doses fall somewhere in the middle, with effects that last around 4 hours.
There is one other significant difference to note between different Delta-8-THC dosing styles, although anecdotal reports are widely inconsistent. Some people claim that the effects of digested Delta-8-THC edibles are stronger than the effects of other products. There's no research to back this up for Delta-8 specifically, but it's also thought to be the case with Delta-9. THC products are converted to 11-hydroxy-THC in the gut, which is known to be more potent than the THC itself. It also produces effects that are just slightly different from THC on its own.
For this reason, the edible experience is unique and unmatched by other dosing methods. The best way to understand the way that different Delta-8 products will affect you is to try it yourself, but you may want to consider starting with low doses. For more information, read “How Much Delta-8-THC Should I Take?”
We've mentioned some of the actions associated with the activation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, but what does this actually say about Delta-8’s benefits?
The truth is that research has not yet taken a deep dive into many areas where Delta-8 shows potential. Still, we do have some Delta-8 research to explore, most of which confirms that Delta-8 interacts similarly to Delta-9. In some cases, Delta-8 was found to be even more beneficial.
Let’s take a look:
There are studies dating back over 50 years that make various claims about cannabis’ potential to shrink tumors and cure cancer. While different cannabinoids (as well as whole-plant cannabis) have been found effective in different areas of cancer management, most evidence involves test tube specimens and is therefore not enough to provide sound proof.
Still, some research suggests that Delta-8 could be part of the cancer-fighting cannabinoid club, although more research is needed. One animal trial from 1974 found that mice infected with lung tumors experienced reduced tumor size after 20 days of Delta-8 therapy. The study also linked Delta-8 to an increased survival time for cancer-infected mice.
It’s no secret that traditional THC is frequently used to manage nausea and vomiting, especially when it’s caused by chemotherapy or various chronic illnesses. In fact, some synthetic THC medications exist almost exclusively for this purpose.
But did you know that Delta-8-THC may be even more effective than Delta-9 at reducing vomiting? One 1995 study involving pediatric cancer patients found Delta-8 to be 100% effective in eliminating nausea across 480 treatments. The authors of the study noted that Delta-8’s side effects were much milder than Delta-9’s, even for children, allowing it to be given in larger, more effective doses.
THC is known for inducing the munchies, and Delta-8-THC may be able to do it on a therapeutic scale that outperforms traditional THC therapy. A 2004 study concluded that low doses of Delta-8 stimulated the appetite of mice more effectively than Delta-9.
The National Cancer Institute recognizes Delta-8-THC as an "anxiolytic" substance, which means they recognize its potential to help reduce anxiety. Anecdotal reports also indicate that many people have had success using Delta-8 in this manner, similarly to how some people effectively microdose Delta-9-THC to manage anxiety.
Delta-8 may also have some neuroprotective properties that make it useful in managing certain neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease. The same 2004 study regarding appetite that we referenced above found that Delta-8 has a “tendency to improve cognitive function.”
A 1987 animal study also found that Delta-8 increased acetylcholine levels in the brain, a direct opposition to the declining Acetylcholine levels observed in Alzheimer's disease.
It's probably not surprising that Delta-8 has shown some potential in reducing pain and inflammation. A 2018 study found that Delta-8, when applied topically, could decrease corneal pain and inflammation in experimental mouse models.
Much more research is needed, but Delta-8-THC is thought to have the same potential as Delta-9 at reducing pain and inflammation across various applications. Anecdotal reports suggest that Delta-8 is very effective, but more research is needed to understand how Delta-8 therapy can be applied to many pain-inducing conditions.
However, Delta-8 may provide more benefit in this area than Delta-9 simply because it's psychoactive effects are milder, meaning patients could potentially experience less pain without potent intoxication.
Delta-8-THC is available both online and in stores, but not all Delta-8-THC is made equal. Because hemp industry regulations vary across the industry, it's important to research before choosing a Delta-8-THC product. Look for an experienced brand who uses clean hemp and third-party testing to ensure quality.
At Vida Optima, all of our products are made from U.S. grown, premium hemp that's processed in a cGMP compliant facility. Our Elev8 Collection is 100% Farm Bill compliant and third-party tested, including our unique sublingual-style Delta-8 Chews and premium Delta-8-THC flower.
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