Delta-8 vs. delta-9 vs. delta-10: What's the difference?

Discover how the different forms of THC vary and what you should know about each.
Discover how the different forms of THC vary and what you should know about each.
minute read

The rapid rise of the cannabis industry is raising questions.

One big question surrounds the most famous cannabinoid of all: THC. There are several types of THC in the cannabis plant, and they all bring something unique to the table. In today’s article, we’re examining the trio of delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC compounds and finding the differences between each.

These variations appear more commonly on shelves and online, so it’s worth knowing the background of each one before taking your cannabis regimen to the next level. 

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most widely known and extensively studied cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. For decades, researchers have drilled down into the chemical structure of THC and discovered more about how it interacts with the body, specifically in line with the endocannabinoid system.

Despite there being more than 100 unique cannabinoids, THC gets the most attention for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s one of the most prominent compounds by weight in the cannabis plant and is even present in smaller concentrations in the hemp plant.

Most notably, THC produces psychoactive effects in those who consume it, making it synonymous with the “high” feeling from smoking or eating cannabis edibles. When you hear someone mention THC, you can be sure they’re talking about the classic cannabis buzz that affects so many parts of the body and mind.*

THC is also the subject of controversy due to its legal status. While compounds like CBD have not received as much scrutiny because of their non-psychoactive effects, THC has been illegal around the world for decades until recent regulatory changes in the United States.

The good news is that the tide is turning on THC as researchers and cannabis entrepreneurs seek the truth and share it with others through resources and products. Still, there’s a lot to learn about the compound, and analyzing specific types of THC is a good way to get there.

What is delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It has a familiar chemical structure to standard THC, though most strains of cannabis do not contain high concentrations of the compound.

Therefore, the recent breakout of delta-8 products is not due to direct extraction from plant materials but rather a chemical process whereby CBD is converted into delta-8 before infusion into various product types.

Delta-8 is largely known as a safe and stable way to consume THC, so long as you rely on trusted sources and transparent manufacturers. Delta-8 products tend to be found in gummy or capsule form, but oils and water-soluble drops are also on the rise. 

How does delta-8 THC affect the body?

Because delta-8 shares most of its structure with THC in its pure form, you can expect a familiar response from the body and mind when these products are consumed. 

Delta-8 interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the endocannabinoid system, which can be found in various nerves and synapses across the body. The brain, organs, skin, muscle tissue, and even bones are included in the ECS, and delta-8 can affect them all in subtle ways.*

Users report similar sensations to standard cannabis when taking delta-8, including feelings of relaxation, soothing tension, reduced discomfort, and general well-being.* However, delta-8’s effects are known to be somewhat less potent compared to the average cannabis high.*

What is delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is a highly abundant cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and the primary form of THC discussed in scientific and commercial spheres. More often than not, when you hear the term “THC,” delta-9 is the compound in question.

The compound is metabolized quickly, especially when smoked, as it enters the bloodstream and affects the brain within a matter of minutes. Consuming delta-9 via edibles can take longer to kick in, though the effects may last slightly longer, especially when taken with healthy fat sources.*

The appeal of delta-9 is its availability in many different formats, many of which have been made legal with state regulations in recent years. In a more controversial turn, delta-9 isolate products became more prominent under the 2018 Farm Bill, sparking legal discussions and bringing up the dangers of loopholes.

Natural sources of delta-9 are always preferred over synthetic versions, so be sure to look for products that are upfront about quality sourcing, manufacturing, and lab testing. 

How does delta-9 THC affect the body?

As the main active cannabinoid in cannabis, THC's key psychoactive properties and therapeutic benefits can often be attributed to delta-9.* 

This compound binds heavily with CB1 receptors in the ECS and slightly less with CB2. Delta-9 consumption will cause the “fuzzy” feeling that changes perception, alters sensory experience, and may help with feelings of discomfort or tension.* 

Serving size and timing greatly impact how delta-9 impacts the body and mind, and effects can be felt in amounts as little as 3 mg. When taking delta-9, always start with lower amounts to gain comfort and familiarity with the experience.

Delta-9 has its benefits when taken properly, of course, and is best consumed with the entourage effect in mind. We recommend taking delta-9 in a balanced formula with other cannabinoids like CBD and other terpenes found naturally in the plant.*

What is delta-10 THC?

Delta-10 THC is yet another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, with a slightly different chemical structure from its THC cousins. Like delta-8, most delta-10 products are made through conversion processes from delta-9 or CBD.

Many delta-10 products are found in vape form, while others are tinctures, oils, gummies, or baked good edibles. Because it’s not as well-known or widely available as delta-9 or CBD, you’ll often find delta-10 combined with delta-8 or a mix of other cannabinoids.

Delta-10 THC is still among the less regulated and researched types of THC, so the same recommendations apply. Stay informed on where your delta-10 products come from and how they’re made, and be sure to account for lab results and other ingredients in the formulations. 

How does delta-10 THC affect the body?

Delta-10 has similar effects to the other forms of THC, although it’s thought to be less potent than delta 9. This puts it closer to delta-8 regarding potency, but the effects are slightly different due to its interaction with different aspects of the ECS.

This is because delta-10 interacts primarily with the CB2 receptors, which tend to be associated with milder effects and more of a cerebral, uplifting feeling.* You might not experience the same degree of physical relaxation with delta-10, but you will also avoid some of the downsides like paranoia or racing thoughts.

What are the main differences between delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC?

We’ve outlined some of the characteristics of the three primary forms of THC, but let’s reiterate the main differences between them all.

Consider delta-9 THC as the main form of THC and the one with the most potent psychoactive effects. If you encounter a cannabis product boasting a high concentration of THC, you can generally expect delta-9 to be the primary active ingredient.

Delta-9 does most of the heavy lifting in modulating the ECS and interacts substantially with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It’s also the most widely known cannabinoid next to CBD, and you’ll find specific formulations like full spectrum CBD with trace amounts of delta-9 in the certificate of analysis.

Delta-8 differs from delta 9 in structure, effects, and availability in the cannabis plant. The compound doesn’t occur naturally and is often converted from CBD or synthesized through other means. 

Delta-8 interacts mainly with the CB1 receptors, though its potency is roughly half that of standard THC. The milder high means that users may get fewer benefits but also reduce their chances of negative side effects.*

Finally, delta-10 is considered a half step down from delta-8, with even less potency and more of a focus on cerebral sensations. Users may not get the physiological benefits of standard THC from delta-10, though these formulations may be better for high-energy, engaged activities.

Are delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC all legal?

The legality of these cannabinoids varies based on their concentrations and the region in question. The Farm Bill of 2018 states that CBD products can contain natural THC in concentrations of 0.3% or less, but some manufacturers have found loopholes allowing higher-serving products to hit the marketplace.

For instance, you may find a delta-9 brownie weighing an ounce with only 0.3% THC, but in total, it still packs 20 mg of active cannabinoids. While this is technically legal, this approach raises concerns about who might access these products and whether they can be consumed safely.

Even though each delta variation of THC is legal, you must always read your labels and COAs to know what you’re getting into!

Are there any risks associated with delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC?

Few risks have been associated with delta THC variations in their natural forms, but we advise paying attention to key factors that may introduce concerns. 

Some delta products are produced with untested solvents or chemical processes, while others may feature ingredients without a clear origin or profile.

Like all things in the cannabis world, transparency and lab reports are critical, so always make these a top priority when making your picks.

The bottom line

Delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC have plenty in common, but the differences are significant. 

This article should provide a good primer to get started with these variations and use them safely in your daily routine.

Sunmed offers delta-9 gummies with CBD for a full spectrum entourage effect, plus a gentle formulation of delta-8 with hemp extract and trace amounts of delta-9. These are the perfect ways to start your cannabis journey with only the best ingredients and zero guesswork.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

5 Things to Know About delta 8 Tetrahydrocannabinol | NIH

Cannabidiol as the Substrate in Acid-Catalyzed Intramolecular Cyclization | ACS 

delta 8 THC: delta 9 THC’s nicer younger sibling? | PMC

delta 8 THC and Other THC Analogues | Washington State House Commerce

Is delta 10 Legal in Florida? | Florida Cannabis Information

Chemistry, Metabolism, and Toxicology of Cannabis: Clinical Implications | PMC

Consumer Experiences with Delta-8-THC: Medical Use, Pharmaceutical Substitution, and Comparisons with Delta-9-THC | NCBI

Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (CHEBI:66964) | ChEBI

Farm Bill | USDA

Actions of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cannabis | PMC

Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health | PMC

Delta-8-THC craze concerns chemists | ACS