Whether you’re a seasoned user of Delta-8 THC or just starting to research some of the possible effects of this molecule, you’re bound to learn something new reading this article. Our goal here is to explain the most fundamental topics of Cannabis and its cannabinoids, then build upon this foundation until we can answer the question of, is Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC better? The answer to the questions may just surprise you!
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The Cannabis Story
Cannabis is believed to be an evolutionary split from the Hops plant. Yes, the same hops plant that is used to make your beloved beer. This split is believed to have occurred thousands of years ago, but it’s an interesting fact given we humans like to occasionally (or more than occasionally) indulge in both beer and cannabis. The cannabis plant is believed to be originated from Asia, where it was also first cultivated by humans for personal use. The plant has been used by societies across the ages including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, and so on.
Yes, Cannabis has been used for recreational purposes and to get “high,” but it’s also been used to produce commercial durable products such as rope, clothing, and other goods. The oldest evidence of THC containing Cannabis seems to be linked to religious ritual use. As you can see before scientists knew the individual cannabinoids or chemicals in the Cannabis plant, humans were using this plant for goods and to alter how they were feeling.
Today, Cannabis continues to be used for commercial goods and for medicinal and recreational purposes. What has changed is the legal status of the various cannabis products and the nomenclature for how we talk about Cannabis.
A solid Cannabis foundation rests on using the correct terms to discuss the plant. We’ll start by explaining broad concepts then work to more specific terms. Cannabis is actually the genus of the plant and it’s in the family of the Cannabaceae. There are three species under the genus of the Cannabis plant that you’ll come across which are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The species of the plant become important as each of the species tend to have specific ratios of cannabinoids or chemicals in the cannabis plant that give each of the plant’s specific effects. We’ll talk more about the different cannabinoids in later sections!
For molecules to exert an effect on the human body they must have receptors to interact with. Receptors can be turned off and on, both fully and partially. If molecules turn on receptors fully they are called full agonists of the receptor, if they turn the receptor on partially they are called partial agonists. Molecules that turn receptors off both partially and fully are called antagonists. Keep in mind just because a molecule turns off a receptor doesn’t mean that it has a depressing effect on the brain and body, sometimes turning off a receptor results in a stimulating effect and vice versa.
The collection of cannabinoid molecules and receptors that are naturally found throughout the human body are classified as the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids found and ingested into the human body, like the ones in the Cannabis plant are called phytocannabinoids.
The Endocannabinoid System
As we just explained, the endocannabinoid system is composed of the cannabinoid molecules and receptors naturally found through the human body. Since we got a clearer definition of the endocannabinoid system, let’s jump into the different kinds of cannabinoid receptors found in the human body. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors in humans, CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are concentrated in different parts of the human body and are responsible for different effects when ingesting cannabis products.
Before we talk about where each receptor is found it’s helpful to understand that the human nervous system can be classified into two general areas, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is defined as the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system is defined as all the nerves found outside the brain and spinal cord. This classification makes sense as there are specific barriers in place that limit which molecules can go into and affect the brain and spinal cord. This makes sense, given we don’t want viruses or bacteria to get into the brain or spinal cord as the infections can be detrimental to functioning. Even with the added protection, viruses and bacteria rarely find their way into the brain and spinal cord causing illnesses such as encephalitis and meningitis.
Now that we have discussed the distinction between the central and peripheral nervous system we can make sense of the CB1 and CB2 receptors and their effects. The CB2 receptor is found primarily in the peripheral nervous system and is the receptor most affected by cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD). Since these receptors are found mostly outside the CNS, molecules that interact primarily with these receptors don’t have psychoactive effects on the mind. The activation of CB2 receptors helps relieve nerve pain and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Conversely, the CB1 receptors are found predominantly in the brain and spinal cord and minimally in the peripheral nervous system. Cannabinoids such as Delta-9 and Delta-8 THC interact with the CB1 receptors and are responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids.
There are over a hundred different cannabinoids that have been identified in the Cannabis plant. Some cannabinoids have been the focus of more scientific study than others. Cannabidiol (CBD) has gained much attention and research funding in recent years thanks in large part to the legalization of manufacture of the industrial hemp plant. Other cannabinoids that have become dinner table talking points are CBG, CBC, and Delta-8 THC, among others.
While the research on individual cannabinoids is growing there are many who believe that it’s the combination of different cannabinoids, not any specific cannabinoid in isolation that produces the significant beneficial effects reported by cannabinoids users. This effect is called the entourage effect which states that the effect of cannabinoids is enhanced by other cannabinoids and that there are even effects that emerge when cannabinoids are used together that are not found with anyone cannabinoid in isolation. This is why specifically different CBD products come in different spectrums. Let’s briefly explain the different CBD spectrums you’ll like to come across.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD has all the cannabinoids that are found in the industrial hemp plant including THC but at less than 0.3%. If you want to take advantage of all the different cannabinoids then you’ll want to choose a full-spectrum product. Because full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, those with jobs that require drug screens may want to check with their companies’ policies and avoid full-spectrum products as there is a chance you could come back positive.
Broad-spectrum CBD products contain all cannabinoids except Delta-9 THC. For these products, the THC has gone through an extra step to remove the THC. These products allow users to take advantage of all the different cannabinoids except THC and not worry about failing a drug test.
Some people are just looking for pure cannabidiol with no other cannabinoids in their CBD products, for these individuals a CBD isolate product is going to be best. Those using CBD isolate would not be taking advantage of the entourage cannabinoid effect.
Discussing cannabinoids such as CBD is one thing but discussing other cannabinoids like THC is another. The controversy with Cannabis has always surrounded the psychoactive chemicals of cannabis, namely THC. Non-psychoactive chemicals haven’t been a huge point of contention for law and policymakers.
The primary psychoactive or mind-altering chemical found in cannabis is THC, which comes in a few variations. THC was first discovered in the 1960s. The most commonly talked about type of THC is Delta-9 THC. Since the 1960s pharmaceuticals have been formulated with THC as its primary ingredient.
Today the legal status of Cannabis is confusing as the US Federal government still classifies Cannabis and Delta-9 THC as a schedule 1 drug, which means that it has no recognized medical use. Although the Federal government classifies cannabis as having no recognized medical use, individual states have taken their own stance on the subject with some states allowing their residence to utilize medical marijuana or marijuana for recreational use.
For states that have legalized medical marijuana, there are specific conditions that physicians can prescribe medical marijuana to treat. Each state may have specific requirements, but there are several common conditions that medical marijuana is used to treat.
While Delta-9 THC is the most well-known form of THC, another form of THC that recently has gained attention is Delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC takes advantage of a loophole in the Federal legality of THC. Federally specific chemicals are put into scheduled drug classes, when it comes to cannabis the scheduled substance is Delta-9 THC. Delta-8 THC is technically a different molecule which means it’s federally legal.
Since Delta-8 is a different molecule it acts differently than Delta-9 THC in the body. The main difference between the two molecules is that Delta-8 THC is about 50% less potent than Delta-9 THC. This means that you’d have to take about twice the dose of Delta-8 THC to get the same effect of a specific dose of Delta-9 THC. Other than that the molecules produce a similar effect in the mind.
Is Delta 8 or Delta 9 Better?
If you’re wondering to yourself whether Delta-8 THC or Delta-9 THC is better the answer largely depends on who and why you’re using the cannabinoid. Seasoned Delta-9 THC users who are used to ingesting large doses of this molecule may find the use of Delta-8 THC underwhelming or plain disappointing since Delta-9 THC is so much stronger. On the other hand those new to THC may find that using Delta-8 THC is a better option since it’s milder.
Additionally, individuals who are particularly sensitive to Delta-9 THC may find that they can better tolerate Delta-8 THC products. Individuals who have used Delta-9 THC in the past and who have experienced anxiety when taking this cannabinoid will likely be better off choosing a Delta-8 containing product.
Whether Delta-8 THC or Delta-9 THC is better also depends on where you live in the continental United States. Some states have explicitly banned the use of Delta-8 THC, but the majority of the states consider this molecule legal to buy and sell without a prescription. In states where Delta-9 THC is prohibited for medical or recreational use and where Delta-8 THC is legal, residents may want to steer more toward the Delta-8 products.
When selecting the cannabinoid to best suit your needs, it’s also important to think about how best to get the cannabinoids into your system. How you get the cannabinoids into the system is important but is not the only factor that determines the effects felt. Other factors that determine what individuals feel include specific enzyme concentrations particular to a specific individual.
No matter which cannabinoid you eventually end up choosing or the route of administration you end up selecting it’s always better to start off at lower doses and work your way to higher doses to avoid adverse side effects. We’d generally recommend for new cannabinoid users to start out with an oral form of cannabinoid rather than a vaporized form because of the delay of onset of this route.
The route of administration will determine how quickly the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream. The quickest way in which cannabinoids enter the blood is through vaporization. Vaping delivers cannabinoids directly to the alveoli of the lungs, which allows for fast and efficient absorption into the bloodstream.
The most common way that individuals take cannabinoids such as CBD is by ingesting it through the mouth. Many individuals like the oral administration route with cannabinoid products as many of the products are sweetened and delicious. Eating cannabinoids is a slower way in which cannabinoids can get into the blood as the cannabinoids have to pass through the stomach to get into the small intestines for absorption. Although this absorption route is slower, the cannabinoids stay in the blood longer than other methods like vaping.
Another method that takes advantage of quick cannabinoid blood access with prolonged blood cannabinoid levels with oral administration is sublingual administration. Sublingual administration is usually performed with an oil that is left under the tongue for 30 seconds to one minute then swallowed. There are many blood vessels under the tongue that provide direct access to the bloodstream.
The other way in which individuals commonly use cannabinoid products is through the skin. This can take the form of patches, creams, lotions, or others. This form of administration is best for those looking to target specific localized skin and joint concerns. This form of administration has minimal systemic absorption, which means if you’re using cannabinoid products to get “high” then this would not be the administration route you would want to utilize.
High-Quality Cannabinoid Products
With increasing numbers of companies making cannabinoid products, it can make it difficult for consumers to select a product that best suits their needs. We are going to take a little time to explain how best to select a high quality company and how to select the best product to get you the results you’re looking for.
There are few indicators of companies that go the extra mile to ensure they are providing the highest quality products to their customers. Time in business may not be the best indicator since the commercialization of cannabinoids is relatively recent, although companies that have been in business longer and have maintained a solid reputation is something we weigh in our consideration.
One of the most important components that we take into consideration and you should weigh in your decision making process is the experience of customers who have used the cannabinoid products. Some companies are newer than others, but companies with numerous less than satisfied customer reviews don’t inspire confidence in our purchasing decision.
The number one factor that we look at when evaluating different cannabinoid products including Delta-8 THC products is whether or not the company has gone the extra mile to ensure that their products contain what they say that they contain. This is done through independent third-party laboratory testing. Since most cannabinoids don’t fall under the pharmaceutical guidelines, companies have to make the decision to ensure the quality of their products themselves. Companies that decide to not independently test their products for purity and potency leave us shaking our heads in disappointment.
Who wants to wait weeks to get their cannabinoid product? After making the decision on the type of cannabinoid product you want, you should be able to start using the product within a few days. Companies that ensure fast shipping to their customers are ones that take their business seriously.
Return and Refund Policies
Companies that believe in their products are willing to stand behind them with generous return and refund policies. We look for companies that allow the customer to return products they are unsatisfied with within a reasonable timeframe, generally one month. Companies that don’t allow any returns or refunds aren’t thinking of the customer and being in business long term.
We’d be remiss not to mention that there are various ways to extract cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and certain extraction methods are superior to others.
There are three common ways that cannabinoids are extracted including alcohol extraction; solvent extraction; and supercritical Co2 extraction. Alcohol extraction involves using alcohol to extract the cannabinoids. This is the second best option for extracting cannabinoids. Our least favorite method for extracting cannabinoids is solvent extraction which utilizes petroleum based chemicals to pull the cannabinoids out of the plants. This method has the potential to leave petroleum byproducts in the final cannabinoid product, and who wants to ingest that?
The gold-standard for extracting cannabinoids is by using carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has the ability to become both a liquid and gas depending on the temperature and the pressure it’s placed under. Companies utilize this property to use liquid C02 to extract the cannabinoids then increase the temperature and decrease the pressure to turn the Co2 into a gas that ends up leaving only the pure cannabinoids behind.
After making your decision on the company you want to purchase cannabinoids from, the next decision is the form of cannabinoid product you want to purchase. There are many different forms of products available. But we’ll discuss some of the most common one’s you’re likely to come across.
Types of Cannabinoid Products
Oils are a popular option because of the sublingual and oral absorption. That’s one of the big pluses for purchasing an oil, but some individuals do not like the taste of various cannabinoid oils as they find they have an “earthy” flavor. Some companies flavor their cannabinoid oils to mask the earthiness.
There is something reminiscent of childhood taking a cannabinoid gummy. Gummies tend to be delicious and another very popular way in which people get their cannabinoids. The downside to gummies is they tend to have a slower route of absorption and some of the gummies have added sugar that may not be the best option for those trying to manage their blood sugar or weight.
Lollipops and Hard Candies
Like oils lollipops and hard candies are absorbed both sublingually and through the digestive system. Like gummies this form of cannabinoids tend to have added sugar or other sweeteners they may be best avoided in select individuals.