Is Delta-8 Synthetic?

Table of Content

Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in small trace amounts in the cannabis plant. Because of its low availability, some manufacturers are performing an extraction process of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is abundantly present in the plant, and following it with an acid conversion process that uses varying chemicals to synthesize the selected compound into delta-8 THC.

So, is the delta-8 THC product you keep hearing about natural or synthetic after all?

Key Takeaways:

  • Delta-8 THC is a naturally present cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant

  • Delta-8 THC may be chock full of health benefits, such as anti-nausea support

  • Semi-synthetic delta-8 THC is produced through an acid conversion process

  • Semi-synthetic delta-8 THC is relatively safe, but associated harmful residues are possible

  • Trustworthy sourcing and third-party testing of delta-8 THC are highly recommended

What Is Delta 8?

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or Delta-8 THC, is a psychoactive cannabinoid that works with the body's endocannabinoid system to produce biological regulating effects.

According to recent scientific research on the compound, its therapeutic benefits may include that expected from delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, such as reduced anxiety, chronic pain, and inflammation [1].

Delta-8 THC is an isomer of delta-9 THC, meaning their molecular structures are similar—They contain the same number of atoms. Still, the double bonds are arranged differently, resulting in their slightly varied effects.

Specifically, the double bond in delta-8 THC is located on carbon atoms 8 and 9 rather than 9 and 10.

Both cannabinoids bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but the major difference is that delta-8 is about half as potent as delta-9 leading to "mellower" effects.

Delta-8 THC's milder psychotropic sensations and less adverse effects have earned it its nickname, "Delta-9's younger and nicer sibling."

Related Article: Does Delta 8 THC Make You High?

What Is Natural Delta-8?

An extraction solely of the delta-8 THC compound from the cannabis plant would be considered natural delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC is present in all cannabis plants, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties—It's one of the estimated 113 cannabinoids present in cannabis and a variation type of tetrahydrocannabinol.

The other naturally present tetrahydrocannabinols in cannabis are delta-9 THC, delta-10 THC, THCA, and THCV. In its wholly form, delta-8 THC is a natural cannabinoid.

What Is a Synthetic Cannabinoid?

Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made designer molecules that bind to the same brain cell receptors that natural cannabinoids attach.

Though imitating a natural product, synthetic cannabinoids are entirely artificial and manufactured.

They are considered to hold unpredictable effects and may be extremely dangerous. The federal government has targeted synthetic cannabinoids and banned many specific categories.

The challenge is that the manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids are continuing to push the envelope by creating products with new ingredients that are unregulated to avoid penalties.

Related Article: The Dangers Of Synthetic Cannabinoids

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cannabinoids are a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances (NPS). Examples of synthetic cannabinoids are "synthetic marijuana," also known as "spice," and "K2," which are now illegal [2].

What Is Semi-Synthetic Delta-8?

Semi-synthetic delta-8 THC comes from a naturally hemp-derived CBD or delta-9 THC extraction mixed with an acidic solvent to undergo a chemical conversion process.

Most delta-8 THC products on the market are made from this process because it can be difficult and non-viable to rely solely on the extraction of naturally present delta-8 THC, which is available in substantially small quantities (>0.1%) in the cannabis plant.

The growing fear of "delta-8 THC synthetic products" may be misdirected.

Because it is originally derived from a naturally occurring substance (CBD) and then converted into another naturally occurring substance (delta-8), delta-8 THC does not fall under the legal classification of synthetic cannabinoids.

Is Delta-8 Safe?

Cannabis flowers sitting in various scientific measuring tools

Additional scientific research is necessary to more fully understand the safety surrounding delta-8 THC.

Concerns for delta-8 THC should be more rooted in the dangers of residual toxins left behind from poorly managed conversion processes rather than the cannabinoid itself.

Public health officials warn about the possibilities of dangerous byproducts or contaminants that individuals may not realize they could be ingesting.

The Food and Drug Administration has publicly issued the following warning:

"Some manufacturers may use potentially unsafe household chemicals to make delta-8 THC through this chemical synthesis process. Additional chemicals may be used to change the color of the final product. The final delta-8 THC product may have potentially harmful by-products (contaminants) due to the chemicals used in the process, and there is uncertainty with respect to other potential contaminants that may be present or produced depending on the composition of the starting raw material. If consumed or inhaled, these chemicals, including some used to make (synthesize) delta-8 THC and the by-products created during synthesis, can be harmful"[3].

Additional public concern states:

“These are pretty aggressive synthetic conditions that use strong acids. They might be using strong bases to neutralize. They can use metal catalysts. I hear different people doing it in different ways[...] In a pharmaceutical environment, Ph.D. chemists ensure that products don’t include harmful unconsumed reactants. But nobody is measuring the pH of delta-8 products or testing for strong acids and residual metals that are left behind".

- Christopher Hudalla, President and Chief Scientific Officer of ProVerde Laboratories [4].

Because the production of delta-8 THC currently lacks formal regulations, user caution is strongly advised. It is important to source your products from a trustworthy provider that offers a third-party laboratory test.

Neurogan Delta-8 THC Gummies are always made from safe, cannabinoid-rich, and Farm Bill 2018 compliant hemp plants.

You may view and download a free copy of its third-party laboratory test that is available on its website.

Related Article: CBD Lab Results: Why You Need to Read & Understand Them

Is Delta-8 Legal?

Tall Stock Of A Mature Herbal Cannabis Plant Ready For Harvest At A Cbd Oil Hemp Farm

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, delta-8 THC is federally legal when derived from hemp or its natural derivatives and contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC in dry weight.

The Takeaway: Delta-8 THC Is Not The Same As A Synthetic Cannabinoid

Natural delta-8 THC and semi-synthetic delta-8 THC does not have the same legal classification or level of danger as synthetic cannabinoids.

Since its introduction into the market, the soaring public demand for the legal psychoactive THC compound has developed into a new sense of urgency taking center stage that warns of the potential dangers associated with delta-8.

Though, whether in its whole form, where it exists in low traces of the cannabis plant, or the semi-synthetic version drawn from an acidic conversion process, delta-8 itself is considered a relatively safe and effective cannabinoid.

The challenge instead exists in the varying manufacturing methods used in the unregulated arena, which can leave delta-8 THC products with residual chemicals that are dangerous to consume.

The underlying message is to recognize the importance of finding a trustworthy source that will provide free access to a third-party laboratory test, or certificate of analysis (COA), to ensure peace of mind that the delta-8 THC product you consume is always safe, pure, and potent.

Laboratory technician examines cannabis flower bud in hands while wearing goggles, masks, and latex gloves.

Resources:

  1. Kruger, J.S., Kruger, D.J. Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling?. J Cannabis Res 4, 4 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00115-8

  2. NIDA. "Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice) DrugFacts." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5 Feb. 2018, https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC. Consumer Updates (2021). https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc#:~:text=The%20final%20delta%2D8%20THC,of%20the%20starting%20raw%20material

  4. Erikson, E. Britt, Delta 8 THC Craze Concerns Chemists. Chemical and Engineering News, August 30 (2021). https://cen.acs.org/biological-chemistry/natural-products/Delta-8-THC-craze-concerns/99/i31

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