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Types of THC: A Detailed Guide to Their Benefits & Uses

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

June 17, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 9 Minutes
Fact checked by Emily Mullins
Types of THC: A Detailed Guide to Their Benefits & Uses

When we hear about THC, most of us think it’s just one thing—the part of cannabis that gives the elusive “buzz” everyone loves. But, did you know that THC isn’t just a single solitary cannabinoid? It’s more like a family with many different members, each with unique personalities. In this article, we’re exploring the world of THC to uncover the variety hidden within this famous component of cannabis and how each type of THC has its own set of potential benefits for the body and mind.

What is THC?

THC taps into a part of the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast innate network that influences everything from our mood to how we feel pain. It’s like THC has a special key that fits into specific locks within this system, triggering various effects we can feel. 

But THC isn’t just a one-size-fits-all molecule. 

Instead, it comes in different forms known as isomers. You might wonder, what does this mean? Well, imagine you have several puzzles that all have the same pieces, yet each puzzle ends up showing a different picture. That’s how isomers work—they’re made of the same stuff but arranged in unique ways that can make them act differently in the body.

Different Types of THC

Roughly 20 different types of THC have been discovered at this point, but there is potential for scientists to find more as we continue performing more in-depth research into cannabis.

While we are aware of a growing number of compounds, there are a few that have been more heavily studied than others. These also tend to be the most popular variants you’ll find in dispensaries or on the market and include Delta-8, Delta-9, THCA, THCV, and THCP.

Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC is the star of the THC family. It’s the type of THC you’re most likely to find when someone talks about cannabis. This cannabinoid is famous not just because it’s abundant but because of its strong effects on the brain and body. 

Some people use Delta-9 for medical reasons, like to ease pain or help with sleep, while others enjoy it to feel relaxed or happy. However, it’s important to know that while Delta-9 has benefits, its legal status varies from place to place. In some areas, it’s perfectly legal to use for adults, but in others, it’s restricted. 

Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 THC is like the quieter cousin of Delta-9—it’s not as well-known and it’s a bit less potent. Despite that, Delta-8 has its own set of benefits, like helping people feel less anxious or easing discomfort, which has made it fairly popular. Plus, it’s a bit of a legal gray area in some places, making it more accessible than its famous cousin. Delta-8 is usually made in a lab from hemp, which is fully legal in many areas. 

Delta-8 is typically derived from CBD.  The process involves extracting CBD oil from the hemp plant, which is then refined and purified. After obtaining pure CBD, it is subjected to a chemical reaction known as isomerization. During this process, the molecular structure of CBD is altered to resemble that of Delta-8 THC. This transformation involves specific chemicals and catalysts under controlled laboratory conditions to ensure the accuracy and safety of the conversion. The result is Delta-8 THC, which has similar yet milder psychoactive properties compared to its more famous cousin, Delta-9 THC. 

This method allows producers to create Delta-8 in areas where marijuana is illegal, by using the legally grown hemp as a starting material. Additionally, this process of turning hemp into Delta-8 is fascinating and shows how science is expanding what’s possible with cannabis.

Delta-10 THC

Delta-10 THC is the new kid on the block in the THC family, and it’s actually made in a lab. Unlike the THC that naturally occurs in cannabis, Delta-10 is considered synthetic because scientists create it through special processes. As for how it feels to use it, people report it’s a bit milder than the more famous Delta-9, offering a more laid-back experience. 

The legal side of Delta-10 is pretty interesting, too—it’s in a weird spot where it’s not entirely clear if it’s legal everywhere, mainly because it’s so new and laws haven’t quite caught up. Researchers are also looking into Delta-10 to see if it has specific benefits or uses that could make it stand out from its THC relatives.

THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)

Before THC becomes a mind-altering compound, it starts as something called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA for short. THCA is like the raw, uncooked version of THC that you find in fresh cannabis plants. It doesn’t make you feel “high” because it hasn’t been transformed yet. That change happens through a process called decarboxylation, which is a fancy way of saying it needs heat. 

When cannabis is smoked, vaped, or baked into edibles, the heat changes THCA into THC, the compound with effects we’re more familiar with. Interestingly, THCA itself might have its own benefits, like reducing inflammation and helping with nausea, although scientists are still figuring this out. So, THCA is not just a step towards THC; it could be helpful on its own.

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

Structurally similar to THC, THCV interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system but has unique properties. In lower doses, THCV can block or mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC. In higher doses, it can produce psychoactive effects, although these are typically less intense and shorter-lasting than those of “traditional” THC.

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THCV has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. Some early research has found that it may have appetite-suppressing effects, which could make it helpful for weight management and obesity treatments. Additionally, THCV has shown promise in studies related to diabetes management since it may help regulate blood sugar levels. There is also emerging evidence of its potential neuroprotective properties.

Despite its potential, further research is needed to understand the effects and therapeutic applications of THCV fully.

THCP (Tetrahydrocannabiphorol)

THCP is a bit of a mystery, but it’s believed to be stronger than Delta-9, which has caught the attention of scientists and cannabis enthusiasts alike. It has a similar structure to Delta-9 but with a critical difference: it has a longer alkyl side chain. This allows THCP to bind more effectively to CB1 receptors, which can make it up to 33 times more potent than THC.

This discovery has potentially opened new avenues for both recreational and medicinal cannabis use. For recreational users, THCP could offer a more intense high, although it’s important to be aware that this may lead to more intense side effects. Medically, THCP’s potency might make it a good candidate for patients needing substantial pain relief or other therapeutic benefits that cannabinoids can provide. As studies continue, THCP has the power to become an important component in the future of cannabis science and medicine.

THC-O-Acetate

Also known as THC-O, this compound is a synthetic cannabinoid created from Delta-9 through a process known as acetylation of THC.

THC-O is known for being considerably more potent than Delta-9, with some research suggesting it can be up to three times stronger. People have reported that THC-O produces a more intense and long-lasting psychoactive experience compared to regular THC. Because of its potency, the effects of THC-O may be somewhat overwhelming for people with a low tolerance or little experience with cannabis.

Despite its potential for strong effects, THC-O acetate is less studied than other cannabinoids. Its legality varies, with some jurisdictions regulating it differently than naturally occurring cannabinoids since it’s synthesized in a lab. Some early research has indicated that it may be linked to lung disease, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings. If you choose to use THC-O, be sure to practice safe consumption practices, particularly given the limited scientific research on its long-term effects and safety profile.

Are Synthetic THC Products Safe to Use?

The boom in synthetic THC is beginning to spread, and the safety and efficacy of its various forms can vary widely. Forms of THC that are derived from natural cannabinoids, such as Delta-9 or CBD, are generally considered safe. Some synthetic cannabinoids, such as the lab drug Spice, are not truly created from cannabis and can have dangerous side effects.

Overall, it’s typically advised to stick with naturally-occurring cannabinoids to lower your risk of side effects and other issues. Since many of these are fairly new and understudied, there’s much we don’t know yet about their potential long-term effects.

These lesser-known variants are still under the microscope, with researchers working hard to uncover their secrets. However, the potential for future discoveries keeps the door open for new benefits and uses, showing just how much we still have to learn about the cannabis plant and its many compounds.

Key Takeaways

As we’ve seen, THC has many faces, from the well-known Delta-9 to emerging stars like Delta-8 and Delta-10, and even the raw form, THCA. Each type brings its own set of effects, benefits, and questions. 

With so much to learn and discover about the kinds of THC and how they work, remember that the laws around cannabis and THC vary widely. So, make it a point to know what’s legal in your area. The more we understand, the better we can navigate the complex and rapidly changing cannabis industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of THC is good for sleep?

Delta-8 will likely prove the most effective for sleep due to its CBD derivation, potent but not overwhelming effects, and anti-anxiety properties.

What type of THC is in edibles?

Delta-9 is the most common form of THC and will likely be the primary cannabinoid in edibles purchased at a dispensary.

Is Delta-8 or 9 stronger?

Delta-9 is considered the stronger of the two variants since Delta-8 is often derived from CBD.

How many types of THC are there?

Currently, scientists have discovered about 20 different types of THC. However, more may be discovered in the future as cannabis research and medicine improves.

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