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Delta-8 THC vs CBD: What’s the Difference?

Chances are you’ve heard of cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. But do you know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the up-and-comers in the cannabis world?

These two cannabinoids share a lot of similarities, but have far more differences. 

(Note: Want to try Delta-8 THC for yourself? Shop flower, edibles, cartridges and more here -- we ship nationwide!)

CBD and Delta-8 share a common origin, both coming from the amazingly versatile cannabis plant. And both of these substances have boomed since the Farm Bill legalized the hemp plant and its derivatives in 2018 by taking it off of the DEA’s list of Schedule I controlled substances. This bill also supports the greater use of other cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC.

Hemp, a variety of cannabis known as Cannabis sativa L. is the main source of these cannabinoids, though they can also be found in marijuana. The legality of marijuana-sourced cannabinoids, however, is a much shakier issue. Right now, the regulation of cannabis products is a bit up in the air. Only one CBD product has been approved by the FDA at this time. We hope the continually increasing bodies of evidence will work to change people’s hesitancy of these benefit-rich cannabinoids as time goes on. Education is key.

Let’s start educating ourselves by learning more about Delta-8 THC and CBD. In this article, we will discuss these substances, focusing on the differences in their interaction with our bodies, how they’re produced, their effects, and varying forms.

A person in white lab coat holding cannabis.

Difference in Body Interactions

Both CBD and Delta-8 interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) once smoked or ingested into our bodies. The ECS is a biological system that is still not completely understood to this day. However, we do know that the ECS influences appetite, sleep, mood, and memory through the mingling of its receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids.

Cannabinoids’ interactions with the receptors are what cause the bodily effects and high in some cases. Two of the most well-known receptors are CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors involve the central nervous system and things like psychoactivity, pain regulation, motor control, and memory processing. CB2 receptors involve the peripheral nervous system and have an important role in fighting inflammation.

Delta-8’s high and effects are produced when Delta-8 binds to the CB1 receptor. It binds to CB1 similarly to Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, but there is a different effect. The similarity of this binding is because Delta-8 and Delta-9 are double bond isomers. This means they have a similar makeup, just in a different order. The double bond for Delta-8 is located on the 8th carbon chain instead of the 9th carbon chain as it is for D9. While THC binds tightly to the CB1 receptor, D8 doesn’t bind as well, creating a more mellow effect. Delta-8 also has an affinity for CB2 receptors, but less is known about this interaction and its effects.

CBD on the other hand has little binding affinity for either of these receptors. It is, however, an inverse agonist of CB1 receptors. This is the opposite of the way THC’s agonistically behaves toward receptors. Because of this, when CBD is in the presence of THC, it reduces THC’s efficacy and potency. This is why having a little CBD in the middle of a bad THC trip will calm and relax you, negating the negative side effects.

CBD may also act as an inverse agonist to CB2 receptors which may explain CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. This could be due to the inhibition of immune cell migration which can then reduce inflammation.

Difference in Extraction and Forms

Delta-8 is a much rarer substance within cannabis than CBD. CBD can be found in high amounts in certain strains of hemp. CBD hemp bud has anywhere between 10 to 20% CBD content. In contrast, Delta-8 makes about 1% of the flower. Because of this, the way the two are extracted and the forms they take can be quite different.

CBD forms and extraction

CBD is typically sold in the form of an oil, tincture, or smokable CBD flower. This hemp flower comes from cannabis strains that are high in CBD and low in THC. These strains highlight the medicinal properties over psychoactive properties.

To make oils and tinctures, hemp goes through either of the following extraction processes:

  • Carbon dioxide extraction method: This method employs the use of CO2 gas. Using a closed-loop extractor which is a pressurized chamber, CO2 gas is compressed into a liquid, after which it is combined with cannabis. The CO2 liquid strips away the plant’s cannabinoids, including CBD. Then the solution is returned to normal temperature and pressure, at which the CO2 returns to gas form and evaporates. The cannabidiol is left behind, separate from the remaining plant material. This method can also be used to extract other cannabinoids and terpenes. This method is used for the large-scale production of CBD oil.
  • Solvent extraction method: This method occurs through a similar process, though it is cheaper and faster. This method can be performed with the use of butane, ethanol, or propane. One of these solvents is washed over the cannabis and the CBD, other cannabinoids, or terpenes are released. Next, the solvent is slowly and methodically heated or cooled to cause a separation from the extractions without damaging them. One downside of this method is that the solvents may extract impurities from the plant, which can leave an unpleasant taste in the resulting product.

Cannabidiol isolate can then be mixed with carrier oils to form CBD oil, or combined with alcohol to form tinctures. Common carrier oils are MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil), hemp oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.

Delta-8 forms and extraction

  • Delta-8 distillate: Since D8 is found in cannabis in such small amounts, the best way to produce the highest quality is to extract it from CBD isolate. From there, it goes through an isomerization process which produces Delta-8 distillate. This substance is highly potent because the high heat from distillation has fully activated the compound. Be sure to check the color, potency, brand, and clarity before buying to determine if it is a high-quality Delta-8. You can use it in a variety of ways including dabs, vape cartridges, dropping it on some hemp flower, or putting a drop on the tip of a preroll. Gummies are a popular form of edibles made from distillate that is without flavor or odor. The distillate is infused into the gummies through oil or butter. This is a great alternative for those who have respiratory problems or are non-smokers.
  • Delta-8 infused hemp flower: This variety is produced when hemp flowers have been infused with Delta-8. Although a small amount of D8 is already present within cannabis, it is not enough to perceive its presence. Therefore growers spray hemp flowers with Delta-8 distillate, sometimes adding terpenes to reduce their viscosity. Additionally, D8-rich strains are being bred to produce higher amounts of this wonderful substance. Having the compound more naturally present within the plant is more advantageous than infusing the plant.
  • Delta-8 tincture: A tincture is a liquid extract produced when growers soak the hemp in alcohol. This process causes the D8 to release. Typically a hemp strain high in CBD and low in THC is used. The tincture often comes as flavored drops, which you simply drop onto your tongue.

Delta-8 THC products and CBD products come with a wide selection of properties and potential benefits. Selecting the strains the product is made from can produce varying effects. CBD and D8 products often combine with other cannabinoids and terpenes to enhance their properties.

This is called the entourage effect and describes the phenomenon of the expansion of effects when combined with other substances native to the cannabis plant. These substances work synergistically while mimicking nature. We think this synergy makes the compounds more powerful when working together.

Difference in Effects and Uses

One of the biggest differences between CBD and Delta-8 is the psychoactive effects. Delta-8 contains THC, which is a psychoactive compound. This means it affects the mind while CBD does not. As a result, Delta-8 is used for both recreational and medicinal benefits, while CBD is used for its medicinal benefits only.

Delta-8 effects and uses

The psychoactive properties are precisely one of the reasons Delta-8 is gaining popularity. The high produced by D8 is not as intense as Delta-9 and with fewer side effects like anxiety or paranoia. People enjoy the uplifting, relaxing effects that are produced, as well as the added health benefits. The National Cancer Institute says Delta-8 has “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.” Here is a summary of the uses and effects of Delta-8:

  • Increased body awareness
  • Uplifting feeling in the body
  • Euphoria
  • Tranquility
  • Relaxation
  • Enables better sleep
  • Dreamy introspection
  • Mild and clear cerebral high
  • Helps with nausea
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Pain-relieving
  • May help with memory retention

CBD effects and uses

CBD has some of the same medicinal benefits as Delta-8 but without the “high”. Some people may prefer this option since they do not want a psychoactive experience and simply want relief from their ailments. Here are some of the great uses for CBD:

  • Pain relief and management
  • Treats anxiety, depression, and PTSD
  • Stimulates appetite
  • May reduce acne
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Enables better sleep
  • Neuroprotective properties
  • May benefit heart health
  • Treats epilepsy and seizures
  • May alleviate symptoms related to cancer
A hand holding a urine sample with the words drug test on a blackboard.

    Difference in Probability of Failing a Drug Test

    Though both Delta-8 and CBD are currently federally legal as long as they are under levels of 0.3% THC, one of these may make you come up dirty on a drug test. While CBD only may contain trace amounts of THC (if at all) it will not show up on a drug test. That is unless you are using a full-spectrum CBD oil, which contains less than 0.3% THC. Delta-8, however, is another story. It is, after all, an aged form of THC. It can cause you to fail a drug test.

    It is important to realize that drug tests are not as finely-tuned as we’d like them to be. THC products, whether Delta-9, Delta-8, or any others, all get broken down by your metabolism into indistinguishable THC metabolites. There are currently no tests that look specifically for Delta-8 or Delta-9. Even though what you are consuming may be federally legal, you can still get busted since it can show up the same as something illegal.

    Be aware that your chances of coming up dirty because of Delta-8 are highly probable. Keep this in mind when you are applying for a job or are often tested to play for sports teams. If you have an upcoming drug test and are worried, there are a few things you can do to beat the test.

    New to the Spotlight, With a Bright Future

    One last difference between these two is the amount of research that has been done on them. CBD is much more known and thus has been more studied than Delta-8. CBD’s benefits are more mapped out and reliable and its use has become widespread across the nation. This puts it on a faster track to becoming regulated and accepted by the whole of society.

    Delta-8, however, seems to have a lot of the same benefits but is just lesser-known. And did we mention it gets you high? If you are someone who wants more out of CBD but does not want to experience the negative side effects, Delta-8 is a great choice.

    Regardless of which you choose, you can’t lose. You can even combine the two by purchasing CBD and Delta-8 rich hemp flower. We hope you enjoy and benefit from these amazing cannabinoids that are new to the spotlight, and have a bright future.

    As a disclaimer, we want to state that the information on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general information purposes only. The content of this posting is “as is”. No representations are made that the content is error-free. 

    Delta-8 Sounds Great, How Can I Try Some?

    Great question, and thanks for asking.

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