The Difference Between Delta THC


Most people have heard of delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary active cannabinoid found in cannabis plants and marijuana-infused products. Delta 9 THC is far from the only delta THC type out there, however. From the emergence of delta 8 THC and the discovery of delta 10 THC to research into tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), there is a lot more to learn about this intriguing compound. This guide introduces some of the major THC types that researchers are learning more about and consumers are expecting to see listed among the phytocannabinoid content listings on their products.

How THC interacts with the body:

The main differences between THC types

The testing procedures conducted to identify and quantify THC content




Where does THC come from?


THC originates in cannabis plants as THCA, which develops from Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) as the plant matures. When THCA is introduced to heat, it converts to THC, the active compound that causes the intoxicating feelings associated with cannabis consumption. 

While it is among the most prevalent cannabinoids in all cannabis plants, the volume of THC in each plant type changes. For example, high-THC cannabis (also called marijuana) is available in states that have legalized medical or adult use cannabis. Industrial hemp is required by federal law to contain less than 0.3% total THC to avoid being classified as federally illegal marijuana. So, while it is typical that all cannabis contains some levels of THC, it can vary significantly – and along with the compound profile, so too varies the consumption experience. 


How does THC of all types interact with the body?


Delta 9 THC is known as a CB1 receptor agonist, which means it activates the CB1 cannabinoid receptor found in the human body's endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS). Activating the CB1 receptor offers a wide range of effects that touch a variety of processes tied to the central nervous system, such as the perception of pain, mood, appetite, energy levels, and more. 

It's important to note that not only are the effects of cannabis highly individualized and difficult to predict, but that the other cannabinoids and compounds present in a cannabis product can augment and alter the effects of THC, in what’s called the entourage effect. For example, when equal levels of CBD and THC are present in a cannabis product, it is common for people to perceive a less intoxicating effect than when high levels of THC are present without much CBD. Terpenes, the aromatic and flavorful volatile compounds found in cannabis, can also influence how THC affects a consumer. 


What are the different types of THC?


Of course, delta 9 THC is not the only type of THC found in cannabis products. Some of the other types of THC found in cannabis include:



THCA is the non-intoxicating acidic precursor to delta 9 THC. Learn more about THCA in the True Labs blog about why THCA is a desirable compound for many consumers.


Delta 8 THC

Preliminary studies have shown that delta 8 THC may be less intoxicating than delta 9 THC for some consumers. The "delta 8" refers to the positioning of a carbon atom on the larger molecule. Otherwise, delta THC types are largely indistinguishable in terms of chemical structure. As a result, they appear to offer similar therapeutic benefits with slight differences.

Delta 8 THC is typically synthesized from CBD extracted from industrial hemp plants to skirt the federal prohibition on THC, as delta 8 THC appears in too low levels in hemp to be significant. However, little research beyond anecdotal evidence has been conducted into delta 8 THC. What research exists suggests that delta 8 THC is well tolerated by patients and produces therapeutic effects similar to delta 9 THC. As far as its potential therapeutic effects go, delta 8 THC appears to offer anti-nausea and vomiting, appetite stimulation, and pain management benefits.


Delta 10 THC

Delta 10 THC is a newly discovered plant derived cannabinoid that was mistakenly identified in recent years after cannabis plants were accidentally exposed to fire retardant chemicals during a California forest fire. The chemicals served as a catalyst that prompted the creation of delta 10 THC, a crystalline cannabinoid that appeared at first to be Cannabichromene (CBC), a minor cannabinoid. Upon closer inspection, however, analysts realized that this was a new cannabinoid that was technically synthetic.

Little is known about delta 10 THC's potential therapeutic benefits. The cannabinoid is so newly discovered that researchers haven't drawn any clear conclusions about it. However, anecdotal evidence sheds some light on the less-intoxicating experience delta 10 THC offers over delta 9 THC. 



THCV isn't just less intoxicating than delta 9 THC: It could reduce delta 9 THC's intoxicating effects at low doses. Researchers believe the reason THCV can mitigate the intoxication caused by delta 9 THC is because it inhibits CB1 receptor activity, which delta 9 THC stimulates. While THCV heavy strains can be difficult for cultivators to develop (mainly due to costs and demand), it is often found in cannabis products alongside THC rather than isolated in an extract of its own. 

Studies into THCV suggest that the cannabinoid might be related to food intake and weight gain, as well as glucose intolerance related to obesity. One study found that THCV could help patients living with type 2 diabetes as well, regulating fasting plasma glucose and improving pancreatic beta-cell function, adiponectin, and apolipoprotein A.


This “new kid on the block,” THC-O, also called THC-O acetate, is a synthetic hemp derivative that is estimated to be three times as strong as delta 9 THC. While it has long been identified and researched, it has only made its way into the public lexicon this year as other possibly legal hemp derivatives, such as delta 8 THC, have made their name known and attracted the attention of regulators. Some THC-O products derived from hemp are available, but the regulatory space is not yet defined.


Testing for different delta THC types

THC potency testing involves the use of processes known as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). This method uses ultraviolet (UV) light detection that can identify and quantify all the cannabinoids within a cannabis plant. This process is called phytocannabinoid profiling. Through phytocannabinoid profiling, not only can cannabis testing labs identify and quantify levels of delta 9 THC, but also the other types of THC present in the plant or product. 


Industrial hemp producers must mind other types of THC due to the federal threshold of 0.3% total THC, not just delta 9 THC. If industrial hemp exceeds this threshold, it is considered illegal marijuana and producers must destroy it. 

Additionally, as consumers become more knowledgeable about types of THC (and more information is becoming available all the time), many will want to know which THC types are included in their products. For many brands, establishing consumer trust starts with transparency in testing results, and providing information like the amounts of all THC types that appear in a product can improve customer experience and help establish brand loyalty. 


Finally, understanding comprehensive phytocannabinoid profiling results helps brands replicate their products consistently, ensuring that consumers have the same experience every time, across different batches. By knowing the precise proportions of cannabinoids, including different types of THC, cultivators and manufacturers can effectively develop their own unique brand of cannabis products that delivers a reliable experience with each purchase.


Credit: True Labs




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