The Dawn of a New Super Hero — Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Considering the fact that THC was identified only 54 years ago, the discoveries of what cannabinoids can do have only scratched the surface. The delta-9 THC molecule has gotten the most attention, followed closely by CBD and then CBN.  But what of the mysterious if not perplexing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol?

There have been few studies conducted about the effects of these Big Four cannabinoids since 1974. Federal law squashed any attempt at government-funded research in the states.

A few studies have shown Delta-8 to be a potent appetite stimulant and anti-nausea treatment with one study showing a propensity to shrink tumors in mice.

While delta-8 only exists naturally in fractions of a percent, products are beginning to appear with delta-8 as the only or predominant ingredient.

Science says delta-8 is an analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic and neuroprotective properties. Translation: the uses include the easing of nausea, stimulating eating for those who have that challenge, slowing the growth of tumors and protecting the brain from concussive injuries.

Delta-8 THC is chemically different from delta-9 THC by only a few atomic bonds, some say providing the body high people feel. Delta-8 binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, producing different sensations than delta-9. The cannabis community says delta-8 creates a mild stoned feeling, but nothing as powerful as delta-9 THC. Just how powerful has yet to be determined.

Wikipedia states that delta-8 binds to the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor CB1, located in the central nervous system. After that, the explanation of the physiology needs a chemistry/physiology interpreter.

The state of Nevada does not test for delta-8 by itself as quantities of delta-8 in recreational and medical marijuana are usually under 1 percent compared to up to 32 percent of delta-9.

The vagaries of its potency lie in the interaction within the human body and include delta-8’s overall effectiveness, which delta is the most powerful to attack cancerous tumors and how both deltas work with other cannabinoids.

Very Little Research

There are no NIH-supported clinical trials ongoing and little U.S. research since one obscure 1974 study. Studies are rare, in part due to illegality of studies in the states and the difficulty in isolating delta-8 from other cannabinoids during separation from a heating process that exceeds 300 degrees.

The first study in 1974 was funded by the Public Health Service, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Health Services & Mental Health Administration, a private donor and by an institutional grant from the American Cancer Society. The cancer Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of delta-9, delta-8 and cannabinol (CBN), but not cannabidiol (CBD). Animals treated for 10 consecutive days with delta-9 THC, beginning the day after tumor implantation, demonstrated retarded tumor growth. Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with delta-8 and CBN also had reduced tumor size. CBD showed no effect on tumor growth at 14, 21, or 28 days.

Oral administration of 25, 50, or 100 milligrams of delta-9 inhibited primary tumor growth by 48, 72, and 75 percent respectively, when measured 12 days post tumor inoculation. On day 19, mice given delta-9-THC had a 34 percent reduction in primary tumor size. On day 30, primary tumor size was 76 percent that of controls and there was a survival time increase of 36 percent. Delta-8 activity was similar to that of delta-9.

In 1995, Delta-8 was shown to be an efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology in an experiment conducted in Israel. Delta-8 was found to be an effective agent in relieving the symptoms of chemotherapy. Eight children between the ages of 3 and 13 were given the compound two hours before their treatment. Vomiting was eliminated and other side effects lessened. Raphael Mechoulam, called the father of modern-day cannabis research and a patent holder for delta-8 THC antiemetic treatments, was part of a team comparing delta-8 and metoclopramide (brand name Reglan, an anti-nausea drug commonly used in chemotherapy patients). The children enrolled in the trial were all blood cancer patients — primarily leukemia — and delta-8 stopped all nausea or vomiting induced by the chemotherapy treatments. Metoclopramide was only effective in 40 percent of patients and higher doses caused dangerous side effects. The delta-8 side effects observed were negligible.

Weight Gain

Delta-8 also has been tested on mice for food consumption, cognitive function, and neurotransmitters. In 2004, very low doses of delta-8 increased food consumption in mice and alter neurotransmitter levels following weight loss. THC-treated mice showed a 16 percent increase in food intake compared with controls. Delta-8 increased food intake significantly more than did delta-9. Cognitive function showed a tendency to improve from both.

Only a few other studies, also using mice, have been completed, all showing positive results from delta-8 and delta-9. Both tested positively for transdermal application in one past study.

Master grower Shane McKee of Shango Premium Cannabis has been cross-breeding strains that may be the key to future mega-healing strains. Some of the strains McKee is worked on crossing with landrace strains available in Oregon’s five Shango dispensaries include Sticky B, Grape Valley Kush, A-dub, Bruce Banner No. 5 and Mango OG, where THC content can exceed 30 percent at times.

“These will produce some amazing new genetics,” he said. “Stay tuned in 2018 for more of these amazing crosses.”

New Delta-8 THC Product Lines

Extraction companies are taking notice of the value of delta-8. One extractor based out of Washington state, Oleum Extracts, is producing a cartridge called “AquaTek Delta-8 THC.” It’s 58 percent Delta-8 THC, 7.9 percent Delta-9 and 0.35 percent CBD.

Leafly says: “The AquaTek cartridge delivered a semi-sedative physical sensation without much whimsical mental stimulation. The distillate’s pervasive effects cascaded over my body while imbuing me with a classic “stoned” contentment. The appetite stimulation was apparent, but never fully manifested as hunger. This might be partially due to delta-8-THC’s anti-nausea qualities, however AquaTek does contain a modest amount of delta-9-THC as well.”

Item 9 Labs added the Delta 8 Distillate Cartridge to its lineup of distillates. The master extractors at Item 9 Labs headquarters fill cartridges with distillate made from a cannabis delta-8 compound that provides an array of therapeutic cannabinoids. The Delta-8 Distillate Cartridge offers a near balance of CBD and THC the company uses is helpful for enhanced pain and migraine relief.

What is known: The cannabinoid is a powerful antiemetic capable of drastically reducing nausea and vomiting. This, along with its ability to stimulate appetite, make it extremely viable as a treatment for the harmful side effects of cancer treatments.

What to prove: Is delta-8 helpful in reducing or eliminating tumors? How much delta-8 is needed to be effective? Which types of cancer does delta-8 work on?

The future: More studies, of course, particularly in the areas of injecting tumors with each of the Big Four, are needed. But also, targeted treatments and the mixture of delta-8 with other cannabinoids and terpenes need multiple studies. Test results will need to be included on products and medical cannabis strains with high delta-8 will be created. Extraction companies already are taking notice of the value of delta-8 and a few extracts exist in California and Washington.

For now, all cannabis users are merely guinea pigs.