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News > What are the Types of THC & Their Differences?

What are the Types of THC & Their Differences?

Mon, Nov 22, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

THC has been pretty infamous for a while now. Critics say it causes couch-lock, laziness, or even temporary insanity. But such things couldn’t be much further from the truth! 

The reality is that different types of THC can have radically different effects — and every type of THC has an ideal dosing strategy. Keep reading to learn more about the various types of THC and their physical properties.  

  • The history of THC research
  • THCa
  • THCv
  • Delta-8 THC
  • Delta-9 THC
  • Delta-10 THC
  • THC-O

The history of THC research

The medical community is learning more and more about cannabis with every passing year. What we’ve seen so far is really just the tip of the iceberg; it’s likely that cannabinoids have even deeper effects than we once thought. 

What we do know for sure, however, is that the cannabis plant produces six different types of THC. Lead researchers call these different types THC isomers. The full list includes: [1

  • THCa
  • THCv 
  • Delta-8 THC
  • Delta-9 THC
  • Delta-10 THC
  • THC-O

Let’s take a look at these isomers one by one. 

THCa

THCa, short for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the ‘raw’ form of THC. This cannabinoid is only found in raw cannabis or hemp. Pick a few buds of a mature cannabis plant, for example, and you’ll be getting lots of THCa and very little normal THC. 

THCa is the only form of THC that has no psychotropic effects. In other words, you can eat an entire raw cannabis bud and you’ll feel very little. You certainly won’t get high! 

THCa’s chemical structure explains the source of this difference. The cannabinoid is slightly too bulky to pass through your blood-brain barrier and bind to CB1 receptors, which is exactly how ‘normal’ THC instills its psychoactive effects. THCa’s preference, on the other hand, is to receptors located throughout the peripheral body. Its only effects on your brain are indirect ones. [2

But don’t think that THCa is lacking in health benefits. Its potential benefits include:  

  • Seizure reduction
  • Body fat reduction
  • Appetite regulation
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Relief from muscle spasms 
  • Relief from arthritic symptoms
  • Relief from autoimmune illnesses
  • Relief from muscle or joint inflammation

The easiest way to experience THCa’s power? Simply eat some raw cannabis! Juiced cannabis leaves reportedly go great when thrown in a smoothie. 

THCv

THCv, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is another popular THC isomer. Unlike THCa, however, THCv isn’t just an earlier form of THC. It’s a different form altogether — a form that only specially-bred cannabis cultivars produce. 

Users say that THCv produces a gentler, more stimulating high than regular THC. Its effects may not last as long, either. THCv’s potential health benefits include:  

  • Seizure reduction
  • Appetite suppression
  • Relief from blood glucose spikes/diabetes
  • Relief from pain and inflammation-related swelling 
  • Relief from degenerative bone conditions

In case you didn’t catch it from the list above, there’s one glaring difference between THCv and ‘regular’ THC: the regular stuff stimulates your appetite, while THCv can actually be used for appetite suppression. Some pharmaceutical companies have gone so far as to speculate that THCv could make a great over-the-counter appetite drug. [3

For those of us who don’t have access to experimental drugs or research chemicals, it may be easier to source THCv from a cannabis/hemp strain that’s been bred to contain larger-than-normal amounts of it. If you’re ready to experience THCv for yourself, here are a few helpful hints: 

  • Consider microdosing (this dosing strategy pairs well with THC’s quick onset time)
  • Dial up your vape settings (THCv’s smoke point is much higher than regular THC’s)
  • Really cook those THCv edibles (for the same reason as above)

Delta-8 THC

If THCa is the precursor to most types of THC, then delta-8 THC might just be the post-curser. 

In other words, ‘regular’ delta-9 THC gets slowly converted to delta-8 when it’s exposed to light or heat. Delta-8 isn’t quite as strong as its better-known sibling — but it still has a delightful range of effects. Its potential health benefits include: [4

  • Enhanced appetite
  • Enhanced memory formation
  • Relief from pain/inflammation
  • Reduced nausea and vomiting
  • Neuroprotective properties

In the past the only way to access delta-8 THC was through specially-bred cannabis cultivars. Times have changed, however, and today hemp-derived D-8 is available through a number of premium products. 

Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC is arguably the most famous cannabinoid of all. It’s certainly the most famous type of THC!

Contrary to what you might be thinking, delta-9 THC isn’t produced in large volumes by either cannabis or hemp plants. Nope — it’s produced when the THCa we mentioned earlier gets transformed by heat into its new form. (This heat-driven process is called decarboxylation.) [5

Heating up the THCa molecule causes it to shift and shrink down into a form of THC that is readily absorbed into your brain. As you might expect, delta-9 THC has powerfully psychotropic mental effects. 

But it also has plenty of potential health benefits. The highlights include

  • Relief from pain
  • Enhanced sleep
  • Neuroprotection
  • Enhanced appetite
  • Relief from unrest
  • Relief from nausea and vomiting
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Antibacterial properties 
  • Bronchodilation

While delta-9 THC does have some impressive potential health benefits, delta-9 dosing is a fickle thing. Taking too much delta-9 can overwhelm your body’s endocannabinoid receptors and lead to the opposite of what you were hoping for. Be sure to start low, go slow, and use this type of THC in conjunction with non-psychotropic cannabinoids like CBD for best results. [6]  

Delta-10 THC

Delta-10 THC works similarly to Delta-9 — and it also has similar effects. 

The little research we have available on these topics shows that Delta-10 binds primarily to the brain’s type 1 endocannabinoid receptors (also known as CB1). Just like other cannabinoids that start with the letter “T,” Delta-10 THC probably doesn’t have much binding affinity for the body’s type 2 endocannabinoid receptors (also known as CB2).

Delta-10 THC will almost certainly get you high. That being said, users say its high is much more mellow than ‘regular’ THC’s. Delta-10 doesn’t seem to be strong enough to impair your coordination or working memory. If you want to get blitzed and still stay productive, this is probably the cannabinoid for you! [7]

All in all, Delta-10 THC offers users the chance to experience euphoria and bliss...without the anxious side effects of Delta-9. Expect it to get a whole lot more popular in the coming months and years, especially among first-time cannabis users. 

THC-O 

While most of THC’s known isomers are less powerful than OG delta-9, THC-O is different. 

How so? It’s likely the strongest natural cannabinoid ever discovered. Researchers have christened it ‘the psychedelic cannabinoid,’ and research confirms that THC-O is roughly three times stronger than regular. THC-O has quickly risen to prominence among cannabis enthusiasts who have the bad fortune to live in cannabis-prohibited states. That’s because this cannabinoid is fully federally legal — as long as it’s derived from industrial hemp.

So...how does THC-O work? What does it do? Despite having been studied for more than 60 years, THC-O remains somewhat mysterious. Most of its pros and cons are extrapolated from decades-old animal studies. 

That being said, here’s what we think we know so far:

  • THC-O is a ‘prodrug,’ meaning its metabolites are more powerful than it is
  • THC-O may exert more of a ‘body high,’ causing sedation and couch-lock 
  • THC-O may be 2-3+ times stronger than ‘regular’ delta-9 THC
  • THC-O may relieve inflammation and pain
  • THC-O may stimulate appetite
  • THC-O may relieve insomnia

According to cannabis chemist James Stephens, quality is everything when it comes to this powerful cannabinoid. “If you’re using low-quality extract material and low-quality reagents you bought online from Alibaba,” he explains, “you’re likely to get way less pure of a [THC-O] product than if you’re using clean reagents and do a lot of downstream purification steps.” In other words, buy THC-O from trusted professionals...don’t try to make it in your garage all by yourself!

Summing things up

THC is a whole lot more complex than we first gave it credit for. From the mentally dormant, gut-health-boosting THCa to the surprisingly-psychedelic THC-O, it turns out that cannabis is harboring all sorts of unexpected gifts! 

If you want to enjoy them responsibly, we’d encourage you to do so in the most proven way possible: through premium hemp-derived products. Discover the difference a little bit of upliftment can make in your life today. 


Citations

  1.  Cesarone, T. (2021, March 8). How many isomers of THC are in cannabis and beyond? Latest Cannabis News Today - Headlines, Videos & Stocks. https://cannabislifenetwork.com/amount-of-isomers-in-thc/ 
  2. Nadal, X. (2017b). Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28853159/ 
  3. Abioye, A. (2020, January 31). Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): a commentary on potential therapeutic benefit for the management of obesity and diabetes. Journal of Cannabis Research. https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-020-0016-7#:%7E:text=The%20main%20advantage%20of%20THCV,and%20type%202%20diabetic%20patients
  4. Robson, P. (2002). Therapeutic aspects of cannabis and cannabinoids | The British Journal of Psychiatry. Cambridge Core. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/therapeutic-aspects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids/A6F35FDD2868806FD91F0F215B24736C 
  5. Wang, M. (2016, December 1). Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28861498/ 
  6. Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. (2006). PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1760722/ 
  7. Observer Content Studio. (2021b, August 3). What Is Delta-10 THC? Where To Buy Delta-10 Products Online. Observer. https://observer.com/2021/08/delta-10-thc/ 

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