The Different Types of THC & Their Benefits
Scientists and other researchers are discovering more about the cannabis plant every year. As they learn more about the plant and its components, more discussions are being had about the potential for therapeutic or medicinal use.
While there are over 200 cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, THC is possibly the most popular one. However, learning more about other types of THC and their benefits can help you make an informed choice about the products you purchase.
Meet Some New Types of THC
You may have already seen products with delta-10 and other types at your local smoke shop. Dispensaries do not carry delta-THC products because they specialize in natural cannabis and do not usually endorse semi-synthetic cannabis products for patients.
One of the reasons is that, while research is limited regarding the long-term side effects of cannabis, it is almost non-existent for semi-synthetic THC. However, since delta products are readily available, it is important to understand the different types of THC and their effects.
The full name of this popular semi-synthetic type of THC is delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-8 is one of the more rarely occurring types of THC in hemp or cannabis plants. It is produced by chemically converting CBD or delta-9 THC through isomerization and distillation.
If you compare the level of psychoactive effects of delta-8 to marijuana, you will find that D-8 provides a milder experience for most people. It is less potent, with a significantly less intense ‘high,’ and the duration of effects is shorter compared to marijuana (delta-9).
Potential Benefits of Using Delta-8 THC
For patients, the best and safest choice is to use medical marijuana products cultivated and sold by licensed dispensaries. Products purchased from dispensaries have high levels of quality control, and a certificate of analysis (COA) is provided to ensure that products do not contain harmful chemicals.
If you are unable to legally access medical cannabis where you live, using delta-8 THC products may provide some of the following wellness benefits:
- Decreases nausea and vomiting.
- Helps protect brain cells (neuroprotectant).
- Reduces anxiety.
- Stimulates appetite.
- Helps relieve pain (analgesic).
- Can reduce the size of tumors.
- Helps cause the release of acetylcholine, which is involved in memory and learning.
Legal delta products must be hemp-derived THC in compliance with federal law. Some people share that delta-8 THC is more sedative, causing relaxation and potential pain relief but overall sleepiness. Because of the sedative effects, many people consider delta-8 THC appropriate for nighttime use.
This type of THC needs no introduction because if you use medical cannabis, you are already familiar with the effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta-9 requires no semi-synthetic additives because it is abundantly produced in cannabis plants.
Psychoactive effects of delta-9 THC vary depending on the strain consumed. Sativa strains are known for providing an energy boost, creativity, and a cheerful, happy mood. Sativa dominant strains typically provide the strongest level of ‘positive vibe’ and may temporarily reduce feelings of anxiety or depression.
Indica dominant strains, by comparison, are sedative in nature. Although some strains can provide an early feeling of energy, prompting mental and physical activity. However, as the THC from an Indica-dominant strain is metabolized, it can result in heavy sedative effects.
Dietary terpenes (fruits and some spices) and natural terpene content found in cannabis strains can amplify the effects of both Sativa and Indica cannabis.
In states where medical or recreational cannabis is not legalized or for individuals who do not qualify for a medical card, Delta-10 THC is available. Because D-10 is hemp-derived, it is legal to purchase, possess, and use in most states.
Delta-10 THC is one of the more recently discovered cannabinoids. While delta-10 shares many similarities with other types of THC, it can have very different effects. For example, many people who use delta-10 find it provides an energy boost and uplifted mood, combined with reduced anxiety and overall happiness, sociability, or euphoria.
Potential Wellness Benefits of Delta-10 THC
If you were to compare delta-10 to a traditional cannabis strain, it would be close to a sativa-dominant variety in terms of psychoactive effects. However, unlike some Sativa strains, there is a low potential for delta-10 to amplify feelings of anxiety or paranoia.
Delta-10 THC may provide some wellness benefits for patients:
- May help symptoms of depression.
- Can help relieve anxiety.
- Does not cause symptoms of paranoia.
- May improve focus and concentration.
- Can help individuals with chronic fatigue.
Like other semi-synthetic cannabinoids, delta-10 is produced from agricultural hemp and extracted, then processed by isomerization (oxidation) of other cannabinoids. Delta-10 is not derived from marijuana plants.
THCa exists in the stems, leaves, and flowers of the cannabis plant. It is the only one of the four types of THC that has no psychoactive or mind-altering properties. The psychoactive effects of THC are caused as the chemical molecule attaches to CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system; THCa’s structure doesn’t fit these receptors.
It is, however, the source of the other 3 types of THC. This process is stimulated by applying heat and light to THCa. Sunlight and natural aging can cause the conversion of small amounts of THCa to its counterparts. Heating the THCa molecule causes it to change its chemical composition and shape, making it able to fit into the body’s CB1 receptors.
The benefits of THCa are not solely in its function as the chemical parent of THCv, delta-8 THC, and delta-9 THC. It has therapeutic properties of its own.
Potential Benefits of Using THCa
Because THCa does not cause impairment, some people prefer this type of THC. It is important to note that of all the alternate types of THC, THCa is not considered a semisynthetic, as potentially harmful chemicals are not used to extract the cannabinoid.
Current research has found THCA to be beneficial, even in small amounts, to help treat the following conditions:
- Nausea and loss of appetite due to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
- Inflammation (swelling of muscles or other tissues).
- Chronic pain.
- Other conditions resulting in muscle spasms, such as MS and ALS.
These therapeutic benefits can best be obtained by eating or otherwise ingesting the cannabis plant in its raw form, either through juicing, adding the leaves to smoothies, or even putting them in a salad if you are feeling adventurous. Talk to one of our Florida Medical Cannabis Doctors to see if this route might be a good option for you.
Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate, or THCo, is formulated by chemically modifying delta-9 THC with a substance called acetic anhydride. This makes THCo different from other types of THC because it is an acetate ester, which does not occur naturally in the cannabis plant. That makes THCo a fully synthetic cannabinoid.
If you speak to a doctor about THCo, they are likely to warn against it for this reason. The toxicity and long-term side effects of using THCo are not known. Consequently, some people who have used THCo have experienced unpredictable effects because it is highly potent. Researchers don’t know why the body’s endocannabinoid system reacts to THCo in such a different way.
The psychoactive effects and physical impairment that can be caused by THCo are intense. Many people share that THCo caused uncomfortable mind-altering effects, similar to a hallucinatory experience. However, THCo is not categorized as a psychedelic drug.
Generally speaking, cannabis experts advise against using THCo. Recreationally, the substance is popular because of the high potency. But, for medicinal use, many physicians feel the chemical compounds may present significant health risks compared to using naturally occurring hemp-derived CBD and THC.
At higher doses and with regular use, acetic anhydride can be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Some states are moving forward with laws to regulate hemp-derived THC products and ban synthetic cannabis products or ‘fake weed’ like THCo.
Tetrahydrocannabiphoral (THCp) is a very rare and potent cannabinoid, and it is only found in trace amounts in specific cannabis strains. What makes THCp special is an ability to bind more quickly and strongly with CB1 and CB2 (cannabinoid) receptors in the human body.
Among the somewhat different properties of THCp, it has stronger psychoactive effects and substantially increased likelihood of intense impairment, compared to delta-9 THC. While THCp can be synthesized in a laboratory, it occurs naturally in the cannabis plant.
If you purchase a product with THCp, be aware that the psychoactive compound in this type of THC is much stronger than conventional cannabis. The risk of injury or uncomfortably intense psychoactive effects may negate any medical benefits of using THCp.
Meet tetrahydrocannabivarin, or THCv for short. It is another byproduct of the breakdown of THCa, and it is very similar to delta-9 THC in structure, with a few small differences. In low doses, THCv does not produce the mind-altering effects that cannabis does. And the psychoactive effects do not last as long compared to traditional marijuana.
Some of the benefits that THCv may provide include appetite suppression, neuroprotection, and help with mood disorders. Studies are evaluating whether THCv may have applications for the treatment of diabetes. It also has a higher boiling point (428°F vs 314°F), so people who choose to vape it need to turn their devices up to reap its benefits.
Potential Benefits of Using THCv
Medical researchers are very interested in understanding the potential therapeutic effects of THCv because it does not cause impairment. This means it may provide relief and bodily relaxation without the stimulating high associated with other types of THC.
Aside from acting as an appetite suppressant, THCv can help patients with the following issues:
- Diabetes, especially type II glucose (blood sugar) problems.
- Pain and swelling (inflammation).
- Tremors from Parkinson’s and ALS.
- Brain lesions from late-stage Parkinson’s.
- Because it stimulates bone growth, it can be used for people with osteoporosis and related conditions.
The shorter-lived ‘high’ is one of the reasons why THCv is popular. Some studies suggest that THCv may act as an antagonist to delta-9 THC, reducing the effects of intoxication for people who use conventional medical marijuana.
Are Synthetic THC Products Safe to Use?
If you see a synthetic THC product on the shelf, you may think that it has been tested and inspected and that it is safe to use. However, the federal government does not recognize CBD products, hemp-derived semi-synthetic cannabis, or fully synthetic cannabinoid formulations.
That means that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not inspect these products. Nor does the FDA regulate them. Several studies have shown that semi-synthetic and synthetic cannabinoid products imported to the United States may be formulated with toxic chemicals that pose a risk to human health.
Problems With Accurate Labeling and Potency
The FDA has also sent warning letters to manufacturers of synthetic and semi-synthetic cannabis products regarding health claims and problems with accurate labeling. Many products may have a higher potency than legally permitted (0.30%) THC, which makes them illegal to sell and purchase in the United States. Particularly if they are not hemp-derived.
The Legality of Delta-THC and Synthetic Types of THC
The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived THC products federally legal. However, that opened the door to synthetic and semi-synthetic products, which can pose a threat to your health. Because delta-THC and other alternative cannabinoids have not been clinically studied at length, we don’t know the long-term effects and risks of long-term use.
Cannabis products cultivated, processed, and manufactured by licensed medical marijuana dispensaries provide the best quality. Because dispensaries are highly regulated, each batch of cannabis products is thoroughly tested and tracked for quality assurance and safety.
Dr. Rothman is a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has received multiple special awards and recognitions, including Physician of the Year, from the Pinellas County Medical Association (2014 – 2015) and the President’s Service Award from the Pinellas County Medical Society.
He attended medical school at State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, where he also completed his Obstetrics and Gynecology residency. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Rothman’s professional career includes being an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida and Clinical Instructor at the University of Tampa’s College of Nursing.
Dr. Rothman received his Florida Medical Marijuana Physicians Certification in 2016 and was one of the first recommending physicians through DocMJ in the state and is loved by many of those early patients today.