The Different Types of THC, Their Properties, Benefits, and Uses

THC chemistry formula and a bottle. There are several cannabis-derived compounds getting attention lately. CBD (cannabidiol) has exploded in popularity lately, and CBG (cannabigerol) is not far behind it. These powerful, plant-derived compounds are featured in wellness products across the US, and they are touted for their wellness-evoking qualities. While some people are shifting their attention to these more trendy cannabinoids, there’s one famous cannabinoid that continues to steal the show: THC. Short for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is well-known, and for some consumers, well-loved. For others, THC is seen as unsafe, and it has some negative stigmas. Perhaps, it’s because THC is generally misunderstood.

THC: A Closer Look

For decades, THC has been talked about in the wellness industry. In 1964, Raphael Mechoulam identified and isolated the plant-derived molecule. THC is believed to have evolved to mimic anandamide, which is a cannabinoid produced by the human body naturally. The word “anandamide” is derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which means “bliss, joy, and delight.”

This is fascinating and important because hundreds of plant-derived cannabinoids are able to interact harmoniously with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a biological entity shared by humans as well as other animals, and it contains numerous receptors that are constantly engaging within the body to promote homeostasis – that is, a true state of optimal balance and well-being. The two types of receptors are CB1 – predominantly focused on neurological cells; and CB2 – located within immune tissues. When different molecular compounds enter the body (specifically, cannabinoids), depending on the exact structure of the molecule, it can positively impact and influence the endocannabinoid system.

Many people don’t realize that “THC“ is not one specific compound with one genetic fingerprint. There are several variations of THC, called chemical analogs, and these analogs distinguish various types of THC from one another. These unique THC compounds feature some similarities as well as relatively minor differences. These differences impact the way the body reacts to them and whether they comply with the law. Let’s get to know the family of compounds under the THC umbrella, so you can better distinguish what’s in your products when you are shopping and how the compounds can affect your mind and body.

Distinguishing THC Analogs

We will discuss the various THC analogs and explain the difference between these sibling compounds for your reference. The different types of THC include: 

  • THC-a
  • Delta 9 THC
  • Delta 8 THC
  • THCP
  • THCV

Let’s get started.

THC-a (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

The most prolific type of THC in the cannabis plant is THC-a. It is the acidic form of THC, and it is the precursor to the other THC variations. As the cannabis plant matures, or when the compound is heated, it evolves from an acidic state to a neutral state as it transitions into other analogs of THC. This process is called decarboxylation. Because the compound evolves when heated, it sometimes causes a stir when it comes to legality. This is because the US diligently regulates legal hemp products from illegal marijuana products, and it is typically distinguished by the molecular composition of each compound.

THC-a binds to the CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system, and it does not produce mind-altering side effects. Hemp-derived THC-a is federally legal across the United States. Marijuana-derived THC-a is not federally legal, but in some U.S. states, it is. Check your state’s laws to be sure. We will discuss the legal nuances in greater detail later.

Delta 9 THC (∆9 THC)

Without realizing it, when most people think about “THC,” they are commonly referring to the Delta 9 analog of the compound. Delta 9 THC is well-known, and some may say notorious, for the psychoactive consequences one can experience from consuming this cannabinoid. Basically, when people think of Delta 9 THC, they associate it with the “high” commonly paired with the use of marijuana.

Delta 9 THC primarily binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system, and produces mind-altering effects, like feelings of mental and physical disconnection from time, reduced short term memory, and increased bodily relaxation. Research also indicates that this analog of THC has therapeutic benefits. These include promoting one’s appetite, helping with bodily tension, and helping one manage physical discomfort.

Delta 9 is so influential to the body because of the way it binds to CB1 receptors. Delta 9 has a 5-term side alkyl chain, which means that it contains five carbon atoms in a long chain that looks like a tail on the body of the molecule. Long chains make a profound impact on the compound’s interaction with the body, which is why Delta 9 is so influential to the endocannabinoid receptors.

Because it offers many benefits as well as many mind-altering properties, some people absolutely love Delta 9 THC, while others find it scary and unappealing. No matter how you feel about Delta 9 THC, there’s no doubt that it has a profound impact on the mind and body.

In the United States, hemp-derived products can contain a maximum of .3% Delta 9 THC (a very small amount) to comply with federal law.

Delta 8 THC (∆8 THC)

A type of THC known as Delta-8 used as product.Delta 8 THC is not as well-known as Delta 9, despite being discovered nearly 50 years ago. One reason Delta 8 may not receive much attention is that it naturally makes up less than 1% of the cannabis plant, making it difficult to yield high amounts of it. Delta 8 is something called a double bond isomer of Delta 9. An isomer is a compound that contains the same number of elements and atoms, but is structurally different in how the elements are arranged. This may sound like a small difference, but it is actually quite substantial. While Delta 9 is known for its high psychoactive consequences, D-8 THC is estimated to be half as psychoactive, leaving room for the compound’s benefits to shine over its mind-altering sibling, Delta 9.

Delta 8 THC communicates and engages with CB1 and CB2 receptors, and it appears to have many benefits to the body. Specifically, it can help stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, and offer many relaxation-evoking qualities without the psychoactive side effects you can expect from Delta 9. It is also said to be nature’s answer to hangovers. Delta 8 is beginning to rise in popularity because, using an advanced process, the more prevalent Delta 9 compound can be converted to Delta 8 THC, making the less psychoactive Delta 8 more easily accessible.

In 1995, a famous D-8 THC study was conducted. The study concluded that, when used for its anti-nausea properties, it successfully inhibited nausea with “an essential lack of side effects” to 100% of the patients who used it during their treatment.

Consumers are beginning to enjoy Delta 8 distillates in vape cartridges because the compound delivers several wellness-evoking benefits. Hemp-derived Delta 8 (with up to .3% Delta 9 THC present) is also federally legal.

THCP (Tetrahydrocannabiphorol)

Discovered in 2019, this is the most recent cannabinoid to receive attention. THCP is a unique analog of THC, called a homolog. Homologs are present in units of repeating compounds, similar to Delta 9 THC. Like we discussed above, Delta 9 THC has a 5-term alkyl side chain, so it has five carbon atoms. THCP has a 7-term chain that, prior to the discovery of this analog, was unheard of, as a 5-term alkyl chain has always been the largest. Longer side chains have a greater impact on the body and the endocannabinoid system receptors. Because of this, THCP appears to have about 33% more potency and strength than Delta 9, but the medical benefits are still unknown because of how new this THC analog is.

THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)

Another homolog of Delta 9 THC, THCV is very similar to THCP, minus the repeating side chain. With only three terms, THCV has a shorter chain, making it far less effective in binding to receptors in the body. THCV is somewhat of an antagonist to CB1 receptors, while Delta 9 THC is partially an agonist.

Agonists evoke a reaction when it comes in contact with cells, whereas antagonists work to deflect the reaction. Interestingly, if THCV is consumed in large amounts, it can have an opposite effect, making it mind-altering in high doses but not in low doses.

Same Family, Different Analogs

As you can see, there are many analogs of THC, not just the psychoactive Delta 9 most commonly discussed. Some people embrace THC while others may shy away from it, but there is no denying the power THC has to influence the body. The more consumers learn about the different THC analogs, the less afraid they will be of them. Perhaps skeptics will begin to see the benefits this harmonious compound can offer the mind and body.

THC and the Law – Let’s Get Technical

THC is technically considered a controlled substance under Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means it has the potential to be abused and it is not currently used for medical treatment. Also featured under Schedule 1 is the specific definition that  “all parts” of the marijuana plant are illegal, which obviously includes THC.

Here’s where it becomes a bit more complicated.

THC is derived from plants in the cannabis family, which include marijuana and hemp. The plants are siblings, but they are not identical, so they have a slightly different genetic make-up within their leaves, stalks, and flowers. Hemp is naturally low in Delta 9 THC, and marijuana contains a much higher concentration of the psychoactive compound.

According to The Farm Bill of 2018, only derivatives of hemp with no more than .3% Delta 9 THC are legal in the United States for purchase and consumption. These derivatives include all extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers.

It gets a bit convoluted when you look at the federal law’s lengthy definition of a hemp plant, though. The bill explicitly explains that .3% is on a “dry weight basis,” which can be hard to apply to liquid products like hemp-extracted oils. Despite this, the law generally legalizes most analogs of THC, minus Delta 9, which can only be present in no more than .3% of any product.

In summary, here is the legal standing of the various THC analogs:

  • Delta 8 THC, THCP, and THCV are legal when derived from hemp. None of those analogs are considered a controlled substance according to the law.
  • Hemp-derived THC-a is not currently considered a controlled substance, but starting October 2020, it will be looked at more closely in pre-harvest because of the way it converts into Delta 9 when heated (decarboxylation). It is currently observed in post-harvest only, and this process is changing to help curb misunderstandings on how the compound evolves when processed to comply with the law.
  • Compounds derived from marijuana are not federally legal.

The Hemp Doctor: Ahead of the Curve

A woman on top of a mountain.At The Hemp Doctor, America’s Premier Hemp and CBD Dispensary, we specialize in everything hemp-related with the goal of delivering consumers a premium all-around experience. This includes up-to-date information on every noteworthy hemp-derived compound (and analog), educational resources, and the latest hemp and CBD innovations for you to enjoy.

With a passion for wellness and commitment to offering our family of customers the very best products on the market, we expand our wide inventory often to give you the choices and unique options you deserve to feel your best each day. Of course, this includes Delta 8 THC, the newest show-stopper in the hemp industry. Our latest product, the Delta 8 THC Vape Cartridge, contains 95%+ Delta 8 THC Distillate from hemp and delivers an experience unlike any other. You can even choose from Indica/Sativa/Hybrid and from various strains!

For your peace of mind, you can always view the detailed third-party lab report for your product, which will verify our claims and prove the purity of our products. Those lab results are available on our website for your convenience.

Visit Our Website to Learn More

If you’re ready to experience the all-natural, plant-derived power of our premium hemp, CBD, CBG, and THC products, then get started now! Learn more about how THC works and effects the body in our blog section. You can shop our organic, premium hemp-derived wellness products on our website or in person at our Mooresville, NC shop. We promise to only offer the industry’s most cutting-edge products, crafted using the most advanced technology to maximize the robust hemp-derived compounds.

The Hemp Doctor offers products which are:

  • Safe
  • Farm Bill Compliant
  • Organically-grown
  • Non-addictive

With us, you can always shop with confidence. If you have further questions about the different types of THC or any other product in our inventory, contact us today. We are here to help!