What is delta-8 THC?

Everything you need to know about this popular psychoactive cannabinoid. 

What is delta-8 THC?
minute read

The cornerstone of any wellness routine is knowing what you’re putting in your body. 

That means learning about the wellness products available to us—and when it comes to THC and CBD products, there’s a lot to learn. 

To ensure you’re completely confident in your favorite hemp products, let’s take a deep dive into what goes on at the chemical level of these compounds. Here, we’re focusing on delta-8 THC and what you should know about it before you buy.

But first, what are cannabinoids?

CBD and THC are cannabinoids, chemical compounds commonly found in the cannabis plant.

While the hemp plant has been around for centuries, the study of most cannabinoids is just getting started. The evolving legal status of cannabis and hemp means that scientists can study cannabinoid-based products, like CBD or delta-8 THC, in ways they couldn’t legally do before. The scientific community is currently undergoing a renaissance in the study of cannabinoids, and we’re learning more about the potential cannabinoids possess every day. 

For instance, we know humans have cannabinoidreceptors in the brain. And we’ve discovered 100 unique cannabinoids so far—quite a bit to work with—and each interacts with the brain differently and provides unique benefits. 

Most of these cannabinoids can be classified into a few main groups. Let’s review a few of the most common ones to better grasp what they are and their known effects.


Cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular wellness supplement since its federal legalization in the 2018 Farm Bill. This hemp compound is best known as a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that supports overall wellness.* 

Users may take CBD to address various mental and physical wellness aspects (without worrying about experiencing any psychoactive effects).* 

CBD is harvested from the hemp plant, which is a cannabis plant that is bred intentionally for a high CBD and low THC content. More specifically, hemp plants are defined in the 2018 Farm Bill as any Cannabis sativa plant with less than 0.3% THC content by dry weight

Like other cannabinoids, CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system—a network of receptors that influence various physiological factors in our bodies. Because of CBD’s ability to interact with these receptors, there is a range of benefits to expect from a consistent CBD routine.*

There are also minor cannabinoids that fall under the non-intoxicating CBD category, such as CBN and CBG. While these minor cannabinoids need more substantial studies to uncover their full effects, preliminary research suggests that CBN is particularly beneficial for sleep support. CBG, on the other hand, is an invigorating cannabinoid—best utilized first thing in the morning.*


THC is another popular cannabinoid, and as you’ve probably heard, or experienced—this hemp compound produces psychoactive effects. In other words, THC tends to be associated with the “high” folks may experience when using this cannabinoid.

When you ingest THC, it makes its way through your bloodstream, binding to cannabinoidreceptors in your brain and body. The result of this receptor and cannabinoid interaction usually includes heightened feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and unique psychological and emotional effects.* 

THC produces its psychoactive effects because of its strong affinity to the CB1 receptors in the brain, as well as its ability to activate the brain’s reward system.* Because of these psychoactive and obvious mind/body sensations, THC is often utilized as a recreational and/or wellness addition. 

That said—not all THC compounds are the same, and the strength of their effects can depend on the particular THC cannabinoid. So, if you’re concerned about the potential psychoactive effects of a THC-based product, be sure to take note of what forms of THC are in it; some are less potent than others.

What is delta-8 THC?

Now that we have a clear understanding of CBD and THC, let’s focus in on what we’re here for—delta-8.

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC, is another cannabinoid in cannabis plants. As the THC in its name suggests, delta-8 THC has known psychoactive properties. The name “delta-8” describes the chemical composition of the compound—and helps distinguish it from other THC compounds in cannabis, like delta-9 THC (the most popular form of THC, which we’ll touch on shortly).

Just like the hundreds of cannabinoids like it, delta-8 THC is found naturally in the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis sativa is a loose botanical classification of certain cannabis plants cultivated for cannabinoid extraction. While delta-8 is found in these plants, it’s at a much lower content compared to delta-9 THC.

What is delta-9 THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) is the most common THC cannabinoid on the market, with the name accounting for its 9 THC molecules. When it comes to the psychoactive effects of cannabis, few other cannabinoids are known as well as delta-9 THC—so much so that it’s regarded as the primary psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant.

So, what’s the difference? For starters, delta-8 THC is an isomer of delta-9 THC. This means these two compounds have virtually identical atomic makeup, with only minor structural difference—making their effects slightly different.*

Like delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC is found primarily in the resin of cannabis plants. But while delta-8 is harder to come by, delta-9 THC is abundant in most natural cannabis plants. 

Does delta-8 THC cause a high?

Not only is delta-9 found at higher levels in the cannabis plant, but it’s also shown to be more potent than delta-8 THC in producing a high. This is because delta-8 THC has been shown to have a lower affinity for the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, making its psychoactive potency less intense. 

But yes, delta-8 THC does produce that psychoactive “high”.

We like to describe the effects of delta-8 THC as more of a body sensation rather than a strong head high (which is commonly experienced with delta-9 THC). 

Is delta-8 THC natural or synthetic? 

It’s important to note that there are two different methods of producing delta-8 THC—which ultimately determines if the delta-8 you consume is natural or synthetic. 

Our method is simple: we use cannabis biomass that contains naturally occurring delta-8 THC, and extract it. While this extraction process isn’t exactly “natural,” the cannabinoid remains in its natural-occurring composition—from plant to product. 

The most common method of producing delta-8 THC is actually not much of an extraction method at all—it is more of a synthetic creation of the compound. Most companies take CBD and delta-9 THC and tinker with their chemical compositions until delta-8 is formed. 

Unfortunately, most producers have not mastered this process—and the end product usually ends up having not only synthetic delta-8 THC, but an illegal amount of delta-9 THC alongside it. This gets especially dangerous when companies choose not to account for this delta-9 on the product label. 

When it comes to delta-8 THC products, you want to ensure you buy it from a reputable source you can trust—developed with the consumer’s safety in mind. 

What about the legality of delta-8 THC?

Even though it’s readily available on the market, the legality of delta-8 THC is still a bit of a gray area in some places.

Because delta-8 is a newcomer when it comes to hemp products, there are no clear, specific legal guidelines—which means that for now, it’s up to individual states to regulate this compound for potential safety concerns. 

As defined by the 2018 Farm Bill, the federal guideline for legal amounts of THC content in hemp products is less than 0.3% by dry weight. That being the case, delta-8 THC’s legality at a federal and state-by-state level may depend on those margins of over or under 0.3% delta-8 THC content.

What is delta-8 THC used for?

Medical research on cannabinoids like delta-8 THC is exploding, and the research on delta-8’s therapeutic potential so far is promising. 

Here are just a few of the potential benefits of delta-8 THC:

  • Potential relief from discomfort*
  • Support for appetite*
  • Soothing benefits in the body*
  • Support for overall sleep*

How are delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC different?

Phew—you should be a delta-8 expert by now. In case you missed anything, here’s a summary of how delta-9 and delta-8 THC are different: 

  • Different chemical structures: While delta-8 and delta-9 THC have an identical atomic makeup, their chemical structures are different; delta-8 is an isomer of delta-9 (aka same components, slightly different molecular arrangement—and different effects).
  • Difference in potency: Delta-8 has a lower affinity for the CB1 receptors in our endocannabinoid system than delta-9—meaning delta-8’s psychoactive effects are much less intense. We describe delta-8 THC as a mild, full-body feeling. Delta-9 THC is more of a potent head high.
  • Differing body of research: As the leading cannabinoid associated with psychoactive symptoms, delta-9 THC has been researched far more thoroughly than its delta-8 counterpart. Delta-8 THC is a relative newcomer as far as cannabinoid research goes, and the regulations of this cannabinoid are currently sparse. 

How do you use delta-8 THC?

You can use plenty of delivery methods to access the potential benefits of delta-8 THC.

For instance, delta-8 THC products include tinctures,gummies, inhalables, water solubles, and more.

Our ABOVE Full Spectrum Tincture is a great delta-8 option for a not-so-potent THC supplement. We also have an ABOVE Full Spectrum Water Soluble Spray for a quick, on-the-go solution.

If you want a one-of-a-kind THC experience, try our Above + Beyond Pectin Full Spectrum Gummy a vegan blend of delta-8, delta-9, and live resin extract. 

The Bottom Line

With the growing body of research around cannabinoids and their benefits, you’re not alone if you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC is a newer option on the scene, but the research into its potential wellness applications is promising.* 

If you’re interested in giving delta-8 THC a try, there are many ways to include delta-8 THC in your routine. For delta-8 products tailored to your lifestyle needs, check out Sunmed’s growing product line to find the one that best suits you.


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