Different Variations of THC Explained: The THC Rainbow

Posted by London Kelley on Nov 6th 2023

Different Variations of THC Explained: The THC Rainbow

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 

We are all familiar with Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants, but what about all the other variations of THC, like Delta-8, Delta-10, THC a, THC-p, THC-v, THC-o, and so on? Where do they come from, and what do they mean? Do all forms of THC cause a high?

In this article, we will go over the different types of THC and their potential benefits.

What We Will Cover

  • Different THC types: Where they come from and what therapeutic benefits they may have.
  • Naturally occurring THC in cannabis and hemp plants.
  • Synthetic man-made cannabinoids: The other THC variants
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What is THC?

THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found abundantly in cannabis sativa plants. Delta-9 THC (Δ9 -THC) is naturally occurring in cannabis and hemp varieties. However, hemp is defined as a cannabis variety that has less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight.

Types of THC Explained

As you have noticed, there are various forms and types of THC. This is because THC is a specific compound with genetic attributes called chemical analogs that acts as an umbrella for other THC variants to be formed.

Each variation of THC has a unique chemical analog, which distinguishes them from each other and produces different medical benefits and therapeutic effects. We need further research to understand the mechanism of action for all of these THC varieties. However, we do know that all THC variants interact with the same cannabinoid receptors, but have somewhat different properties.

Delta 9 THC

Let's think of Delta-9 THC as the “OG” THC because it is the most abundant naturally occurring cannabinoid in cannabis varieties. Before other offshoots were created, most people had only ever heard about the THC in cannabis, known for its mind-altering effects. Delta-9 THC is at the top of the food chain here, and it's the molecular foundation for all other types of THC.

Delta-9 THChas an affinity for CB1 receptors densely located in the brain, which lends to the mind-altering effects. Delta-9 has been widely researched; here are some of its medicinal properties:

  • Provide relief for chronic pain and inflammation
  • It helps induce bodily relaxation
  • It can help reduce nausea
  • Mind-altering properties
  • Induce feelings of euphoria
  • Supports recovery process
  • It may help people living with complex medical conditions

Delta 8 THC

Delta-8 THC is a minor cannabinoid that only naturally exists in such a small amount. Delta-8 THC forms when Delta-9 is exposed to oxidation; however, the plant does not produce enough of it naturally to create an isolate, so it is often man-made. Delta-8 THC is made by chemically altering CBD and delta-9 THC through converting the cannabinoid structure. Delta-8 THC is a double bond isomer of Delta-9 and has the same number of elements and atoms, but has a different molecular structure.

Delta-8 is extracted and made from hemp, so it is protected under the farm bill and is considered federally legal. However, hemp-derived THC and Delta-8 are in a grey area, and some states are changing their laws around it. The effects of Delta-8 are very similar to the naturally abundant Delta-9 cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. However, some people say the high feels slightly milder than cannabis products. Here are some common effects people experience with Delta-8:

  • Relaxing for mind and body
  • A clear-headed high
  • It may have an energizing effect
  • Share many of the same effects as cannabis-derived THC

Delta 10 THC

Delta-10 THC is another isomer of THC that shares the same chemical properties, but the molecules are arranged differently, which gives it slightly different effects. Both delta-8 and delta-10 are minor cannabinoids, separated by only a few bonds of atoms. Delta-10 is synthetically produced through a conversion process similar to the one used for making Delta-8. Delta-10 can be derived from hemp-based CBD or THC. The effects of Delta-10 are closely related to the Delta-9 and Delta-8, but it possesses some of its own unique properties.

The legality of Delta-10 will usually fall under hemp laws as it is a byproduct of hemp cannabinoids and provides an alternative high, just like the one from cannabis. It interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system just like other THC isomers; however, it tends to have a weaker connection to the CB1 receptors, resulting in a less intense effect. Here are some general effects of Delta-10 THC:

  • A mellow high that is not as strong as Delta 9 THC
  • Less intense to mitigate feelings of paranoia
  • It may produce a head buzz effect
  • Could potentially help relieve pain and anxiety
  • It can produce intoxicating effects

THC a

THC-a, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the raw acidic form of THC that exists naturally in the plant before it has been heated. The process of applying heat to cannabis is called decarboxylation, which changes the raw form of THC-a compound, converting it to THC. You can enjoy the benefits of THC-a by ingesting raw cannabis and hemp in its natural form by eating it or juicing the leaves of the plant. In fact, medical marijuana patients can reap many wellness benefits from consuming THC-a through raw cannabis and hemp. THC-a will convert to THC as soon as it is heated. Scientific research shows THC-a can benefit many health concerns and some diseases:

  • Helps with Epilepsy
  • Can improve Arthritis and inflammatory conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Nausea and appetite loss

THC p

The scientific name for THC-p is tetrahydrocannabiphorol. This cannabinoid has attracted much attention because of its potent effects. THC-p is another novel cannabinoid that can only be produced through a conversion process using CBD extracted from hemp plants. Because hemp remains legal in most states, hemp-derived cannabinoids are protected under the farm bill, allowing THC-p products to be sold in most places.

The only research we have on this cannabinoid is a  2019 study by a group of Italian academics. They found it to have a binding affinity 33 times stronger than other THC variations. This is because THC-p can bind with both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system and throughout the body. This man-made cannabinoid is the only compound with a 7-carbon chain, while Delta-9 THC consists of 5-carbon chains. Here is what we know so far and some of the anecdotal effects of this cannabinoid:

  • Psychoactive effects stronger than Delta-9 THC
  • Pain relief when taken in higher doses
  • Strong mind-altering effects
  • More potent than other types of THC

THC v

THC-v is a rare cannabinoid found in certain cannabis plant strains, but it's much weaker than its cousin Delta-9 THC. Research has uncovered that THC-v works as an appetite suppressant, whereas Delta-9 is known for stimulating appetite. THC-v also affects certain nerve cells in the brain, and studies have found this to be helpful for reducing seizures, regulating blood sugar, and reducing cravings. THC-v does not produce the same high the other types of THC do. There are many products on the market that contain THC-v isolate made from hemp. There are no human studies on the effects of THC-v. However, a study  published in 2020 found THC-v influences glucose metabolism and blood sugar levels in rodents. Here are other effects THC-v is commonly known for:

  • Low Psychoactive Effects
  • Appetite-suppressant
  • Weight Loss
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes flow state and Improves productivity

THC o acetate

THC-o acetate is another trendy man-made cannabinoid derived from hemp, also called THC-o. Acetic anhydride is used in the making of THC-o, and it must be done in a lab to be thoroughly purged of solvents for safe consumption. It is claimed to be three times more potent than Delta-9 THC, and its effects are touted to be somewhat of a psychedelic high.

The chemical composition of THC-o is different from other THC types and it remains inactive in your system until metabolized, which means the effects are delayed. When the effects do kick in, which may take up to 30 minutes to an hour, they are said to be far more potent than the original Delta-9 originating in cannabis.

The effects of THC-o may be helpful for nausea, stress, and pain. This cannabinoid has not been researched, so there may be a lot more to this cannabinoid we don't know about yet. Here are the effects we do know of:

  • Psychedelic like high
  • It may help with pain
  • It could be used for stress relief
  • Delayed onset, activates after it is metabolized
  • Very potent and intense
  • Best for those experienced with cannabis and high doses

Natural THC Variants vs Synthetic THC Variations

As you can see, there are many types of THC, and not all of them originate in nature. Some of these cannabinoid variants are created by manipulating THC and CBD to form other cannabinoids.

Cannabis and hemp have 100 cannabinoids, and many chemists have experimented with different compounds to discover new benefits and ways to replicate the positive effects of THC in hemp-derived products. Hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that has less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC by dry weight.

Since hemp-derived THC products are protected under the farm bill, they are more widely available in states where cannabis is still illegal. These innovative and man-made cannabinoids could fill the gap where people seek wellness support through plant-based solutions, but their state laws don’t allow for cannabis.

Common Questions About Types of THC

What is The Most Natural Type of THC?

There are a few different types of THC that naturally occur in cannabis and hemp plant varieties. THC-a is the most natural raw form of THC, and it is the acidic “precursor” to THC. When the plant is heated, THC-a is converted to Delta-9 THC, resulting from decarboxylation.

Do All THC Variations Produce Psychoactive Effects?

THC is an isomer that interacts with CB1 receptors and produces psychoactive effects. Each variation of THC has a slightly different effect; some produce more potent mind-altering effects, while others are much more mild. For example, THC-v has very few psychoactive properties, which may not be noticeable at all for some.

Does Hemp Derived THC have the same properties as Cannabis THC?

Hemp and Cannabis both contain delta 9 THC. This cannabinoid produces the exact same effects regardless of the plant it originated from. The only difference is that hemp is defined as containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, whereas cannabis varieties can contain anywhere from 5-35% THC.

Is Delta 9 THC Good for Sleep?

Delta-9 THC on its own can help you relax and support sleep. However, when Delta-9 and other cannabinoids and terpenes work together in a whole plant formula, the results of the entourage effect may be more beneficial for sleep.

Can Different Types of THC Be Detected In a Drug Test?

All versions of THC can be detected in a drug test, so if you have any concerns about passing a drug test, do not consume Delta-9, Delta-8, or any other THC product.

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