Delta-8 THC vs. CBD: What Are the Differences?

Area 52
May 10, 2021 | Blog

Delta 8 THC is often referred to as the middle-ground between CBD and THC. So what exactly is the difference?

In this guide, we’ll compare the effects of CBD and delta 8 THC — we’ll cover what makes them similar, and what makes them distinct.

You might be surprised at just how similar these two compounds actually are in terms of their effects.

What is Delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC is one of 100+ active ingredients (called cannabinoids) produced by the cannabis plant. Extractors produce delta 8 THC extracts using a multifaceted process to isolate delta 8 THC from raw hemp material.

Hemp doesn’t synthesize delta 8 THC; it only occurs as a byproduct of delta 9 THC’s degradation over time. So there are only trace amounts of this cannabinoid in hemp. By promoting a natural catalytic reaction, federally compliant delta 8 THC can be extracted in large quantities from hemp.

When concentrated, delta 8 THC interacts with the cannabinoid receptors similarly to delta 9 THC — but to a lesser extent.

Delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC have very similar molecular structures, but there’s a slight difference in their atomic bonds. The double bond location is at the 8th carbon chain for delta 8 THC, while the location of the double bond in delta 9 THC is at the 9th carbon atom.

This difference makes delta 8 THC half as potent as delta 9 — but the effects are also smoother, more clear-headed, and less anxious — which is the main reason why so many people are turning to delta 8 from regular weed.

Delta 8 THC can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana. Here at Area 52, we make our tinctures, edibles, and cartridges from organically grown industrial hemp from local farms in Colorado and Kentucky.

What is CBD?

CBD is the acronym for “cannabidiol,” which is the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis in general and the most abundant one in hemp. Unlike THC, it doesn’t have intoxicating effects on the brain; but it is psychoactive, contrary to what many people think.

The US National Library of Medicine states that CBD does affect the mind and emotions, so it falls into the definition of “psychoactive.” In addition, CBD has a wide range of potential health benefits. Still, the greatest amount of research comes from the studies investigating its impact on the nervous system.

The most popular way of taking CBD is in the form of oil. You can take it under the tongue or add it to your food and beverages. Other popular methods of consumption include using CBD gummies, capsules, topicals, and vapes. However, keep in mind that not every type of CBD oil is designed for vaping. Make sure to vape only the ones that are labeled specifically for that purpose.

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: What Are the Differences?

Illustration of CBD and Delta 8 chemical structures

The table below illustrates the key differences between delta 8 THC vs. CBD:

Delta 8 THC CBD
Cognitive Effects?  Yes No
Interaction with the endocannabinoid system CB1 and CB2 receptor agonist Modulator of the endocannabinoid system & FAAH inhibitor
Can it make you fail a drug test? Yes Not likely
Most common health benefits Anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, appetite stimulant Anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea, sleep regulation
Side effects Dry mouth, confusion, fatigue, sedation, anxiety (very rare) Dry mouth, dizziness, irritation, changes in appetite
Price $$-$$$ $$-$$$

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: Mechanism of Action

The main difference between delta 8 THC and CBD is how they interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Delta 8 THC is the agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors which regulate everything from satiety to mood.

CBD, on the other hand, is only the agonist of the CB2 receptor. It has an indirect affinity with the CB1 receptor, but not in a way that could get you high. Instead, CBD is better known as the modulator of the ECS that helps it maintain homeostasis throughout the body through improving the endocannabinoid signaling and leveling the cannabinoid deficiencies.

On top of that, CBD has over 65 other potential molecular targets.

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: Cognitive Effects

As far as the impact on cognition and perception, delta 8 is significantly stronger than CBD. It’s going to produce effects that are similar but not the same as delta 9 THC.

Taken from the textbook definition, both CBD and delta 8 THC are technically “psychoactive.”

The word psychoactive refers to any substance that has an impact on mood, emotion, or perception.

Since both delta 8 THC and CBD are known to interact with our moods and emotions, some would consider both substances to be psychoactive.

With that said, the cognitive effects are much more noticeable with delta 8 THC compared to CBD.

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: Appetite Stimulation

Delta 8 THC is a potent appetite stimulant. Studies have even shown this cannabinoid is stronger in this category than delta 9 THC.

CBD has been shown to have the exact opposite, offering a mild to moderate inhibition or reduction in appetite.

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: Effect On Drug Testing

Last but not least, delta 8 THC can make you fail a drug test. Workplace drug tests aren’t designed to distinguish between different types of THC, so if you take delta 8, you can test false-positive for delta 9. Even in states where marijuana is legal, you should avoid using delta 8 THC for at least three weeks prior to your scheduled drug test.

CBD shouldn’t make you fail a drug test as long as it comes from a certified source that can prove the THC content below 0.3%. Experts argue that a person would need to take around 2,000 mg of full-spectrum CBD daily to trigger a false-positive result — that’s well over 40 times the standard dose of CBD for a given day.

Still, since the market is unregulated, you need solid proof that your product doesn’t contain significant amounts of THC. So whether you’re buying delta 8 THC or CBD, always be sure to check for an up-to-date Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party laboratory.

Delta 8 THC vs. CBD: Legality

Delta 8 THC and CBD are subject to the same laws — at least on a federal level. There are a few local states that have created separate laws that view delta 8 THC as the same way as marijuana.

On the federal level, any products derived from hemp that contain no more than 0.3% delta 9 THC is considered legal in the United States. This is the conditions that allow hemp-derived CBD, as well as hemp-derived delta 8 THC, to remain legal in the eyes of the federal government.

Some states have other laws that consider all forms of THC (including delta 8 THC) as a banned substance.

Learn more about the legal status of delta 8 THC in your state.

How Are Delta 8 THC & CBD Similar?

How are Delta 8 and CBD similar?

Despite certain differences, delta 8 THC and CBD share similar health benefits — especially surrounding their relaxing qualities.

Some studies even suggest the health benefits of both substances taken together are greater than either of them on their own. So rather than looking at this couple as “delta 8 THC vs. CBD”, we should consider them “delta 8 THC and CBD,” where the two cannabinoids work in tandem to complement each other’s benefits.

The unique relationship between different cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis plants even has its own term — the entourage effect. This phenomenon presumes that the sum of all cannabis compounds is more effective than each of them in isolation.

Where to Buy Delta 8 THC & CBD

There’s a high demand for both products. However, while CBD has the upper hand over delta 8 when it comes to the wellness sphere, delta 8 THC pairs better with users looking for natural ways to bio-hack themselves, increase productivity, regulate mood, and modulate stress response with plant-based extracts.

You can find delta 8 THC and CBD products in dispensaries, vape shops, head shops, wellness centers, and even at gas stations.

That being said, we recommend finding a reputable online retailer if you’re looking for high-quality hemp extracts. Unfortunately, the market is still largely unregulated, with lots of fly-by-night companies entering the space and churning out cheap, sometimes downright dangerous products.

Searching for CBD and delta 8 THC online provides you with more research options, better product choices, and unbeatable convenience.

At Area 52, we pride ourselves on making organic delta 8 extracts that are gently produced without harsh acids and other dangerous chemicals; although more time-consuming, this process yields pure and safe products that maintain consistent potency throughout the batches. In addition, our collection is regularly tested in an independent laboratory for its delta 8 content and purity levels; don’t take our word for it; look into our certificates of analysis.

Summarizing the Differences Between Delta 8 THC vs. CBD

Although both CBD and delta 8 THC share the same parent plant — Cannabis sativa L. — they produce different effects on the body and brain.

Delta 8 THC has much stronger cognitive effects than CBD.

Delta 8 THC boosts appetite — CBD appears to reduce it.

Delta 8 THC and CBD are both legal in the United States as long as they’re derived from hemp (there are some exceptions to this).

Despite these differences, both delta 8 THC and CBD offer many of the same health benefits. They’re both used primarily for their ability to regulate the endocannabinoid system and promote a sense of calmness. If you prefer to have some perceptual effects along with this effect, go for delta 8 THC. If you’d rather avoid any alteration to your perception, go for CBD instead.