Delta-10 vs. Delta-8 THC: What’s the Difference?

Cannabinoids have become big news in both the medical community and in popular culture, especially since Congress passed the landmark Farm Bill in 2018. First, the public discovered CBD’s amazing therapeutic potential through a flood of cannabidiol-containing oils, creams, edibles, and vape products. Next, CBG and delta-8 began to show up in stores, sparking the curiosity of many consumers.

These days, another alternative form of THC has hit the market, delta-10. If you’re new to the hemp and cannabis scene, you’re probably asking yourself things like:

  • What is delta-10?
  • How is delta-10 different from delta-8?
  • What does delta-10 feel like?
  • What therapeutic benefits does delta-10 offer?

This article will answer all of those important questions, but first, let’s cover a bit of background information.

Cannabinoids and The Endocannabinoid System

Traditional delta-9 THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are just two of over 120 active substances in hemp plants, which scientists call cannabinoids. These compounds have a specialized molecular structure that allows them to interact with receptors in our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS evolved over 600 million years ago as a way for our bodies to maintain homeostasis. Our endocannabinoid systems help us balance a host of vital functions, such as:

  • Temperature control
  • Appetite
  • Pain sensations
  • Inflammation
  • Immune responses
  • Fertility
  • Moods

Human bodies achieve this balance by producing internal cannabinoids, 2-AG and anandamide, which are called “endocannabinoids.” The cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis plants are called “phytocannabinoids,” and they also have the ability to interact with our ECS receptors.

Although modern science only discovered the ECS in 1992, ancient healers included cannabis plants in their arsenal of medicinal herbs for thousands of years. After the National Institute of Health began researching the ECS, two prominent scientists confirmed that “the endocannabinoid system is involved in essentially all human disease.” Medical cannabis pioneer Dr. Raphael Mechoulam agrees, “This is a very strong statement, but it seems to be correct.”

What are Delta-8 and Delta-10, and How Are They Different from Regular THC?

Delta-8 and delta-10 are what are known as isomers of traditional delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient of cannabis plants. The three types of THC have almost identical molecular structures, with the only difference related to the placement of one carbon-to-carbon double bond.

Delta-9 THC has a double bond on the ninth carbon of the chain. Traditional THC’s chemical structure makes the molecule fit easily into CB1 receptors in the brain, provoking pronounced psychoactive effects.

When the double bond moves to the eighth position to create delta-8, the compound makes a weaker link with receptors in the central nervous system. The result is significantly milder psychoactivity. Delta-10’s shifted double bond to the tenth carbon further weakens its ability to link with CB1 receptors and changes its overall effect to one that’s more alert and even less psychoactive.

Effects of Delta-10 vs. Delta-8

As we noted earlier, Delta-10 produces even mellower psychoactive sensations than delta-8 does. Dr. Mechoulam documented delta-10’s milder psychoactivity in his now-famous pigeon study published in the 1988 edition of the European Journal of Pharmacology.

Both alternate THCs produce mild euphoria, but delta-10 imparts more energetic effects than delta-8. Many consumers compare delta-10 to a sativa when compared with delta-8’s more sedative indica-like effects. Therefore, delta-10 makes an excellent choice for workday activities that require alertness, creativity, and mental focus.

In contrast, delta-8 provides a clear-headed, yet relaxed euphoria that some consumers find more suited for evening use. Research going as far back as 1973 found that delta-8 acted as a sleep aid in cats. Delta-8 may offer the ideal solution for consumers who would like a legal cannabis buzz for unwinding after work.

Why Is Delta-10 More Expensive than Delta-8?

Hemp plants contain even less delta-10 than delta-8, making delta-10 more expensive to extract. The origin of modern hemp-derived delta-10 THC was the product of a happy accident.

A California company called Fusion Farms unwittingly bought hemp that was exposed to overspray from an airborne flame-retardant during an attempt to quench a wildfire. When technicians extracted the distillate, they were astonished to discover crystalline formations that they had never seen before.

After conducting a high-performance liquid chromatography test (HPCL), they suspected that the compound was the cannabinoid cannabichromene (CBC). After a more thorough Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) analysis, they discovered that the crystalline cannabinoid was an isomer of THC, delta-10.

The higher price tag of delta-10 also has to do with supply and demand. Consumers are lining up to try the compound, but delta-10’s scarcity in hemp plants has made it challenging to keep up with consumer demand.

Do Delta-8 and Delta-10 Have Any Health Benefits?

Both delta-8 and delta-10 offer similar health benefits as medical marijuana, which contains traditional THC. Some of the therapeutic properties of all three types of THC include:

  • appetite stimulation
  • reduced inflammation
  • shortened REM sleep cycles
  • lessened intraocular pressure

Researchers have performed a body of studies on delta-8, and the National Cancer Institute confirms that the compound has “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective qualities.” In other words, delta-8 may help reduce vomiting, ease stress, stimulate the appetite, reduce pain, and protect brain cells.

Research into delta-10 is still limited, but anecdotal reports suggest that the compound may offer benefits such as increased alertness, enhanced mental focus, and uplifting euphoria.

Do Delta-10 or Delta-8 Produce Side Effects?

In higher doses, delta-8 and delta-10 can provoke milder versions of the same side effects that regular THC does, including:

  • Appetite changes
  • Dry eyes and cottonmouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety

All forms of THC can also cause temporarily raised blood pressure and reduced intraocular pressure, making the compounds contraindicated for people with certain medical conditions. It’s important to always check with your doctor before adding any new substance to your daily routine.

You can avoid experiencing uncomfortable side effects by starting low and going slow. Everybody reacts differently to cannabinoids. If you begin to feel any uncomfortable sensations, stop immediately and try a lower dose next time.

However, consumers can take solace in the fact that it’s impossible to overdose on any form of THC. The parts of the brain involved in opioid overdoses lack endocannabinoid receptors. In the thousands of years humans have consumed cannabis, there has never been one overdose.

Can You Take Delta-8 and Delta-10 Together?

It’s perfectly safe to take delta-8 and delta-10 together, and some companies even sell ready-made products that contain a mixture of delta-8 and delta-10. Consuming the two types of THC in tandem produces a well-rounded high that many people enjoy. That said, you’ll still want to consider the total amount of each compound you’re consuming, as taking delta-8 and delta-10 together will produce a stronger cumulative effect.

How Are Delta-10 and Delta-8 Produced?

Since delta-10 and delta-8 show up in such tiny quantities in hemp plants, manufacturers typically produce the compounds by transforming CBD isolate in the laboratory.

In Israel, Dr. Mechoulam’s team of researchers documented the synthesis of THC isomers as early as 1967. However, the method involved harsh chemicals. Thankfully, today’s technicians have found ways to use food-grade additives like vitamin C derivatives and carbon to produce delta-8 and delta-10.

According to the text of the 2018 Farm Bill, THC isomers like delta-8 and delta-10 are federally permitted as long as they have been derived from legally compliant hemp plants. Cannabis plants must contain less than .3% delta-9 THC to be considered legal industrial hemp in the United States.

However, the Farm Bill and the Interim Final Rule issued by the DEA both prohibit synthetically-derived cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice don’t exist in nature, and both compounds have been associated with negative health consequences.

Although both delta-8 and delta-10 exist naturally in hemp plants, some authorities mistakenly claim that the isomerization process makes alternative THCs synthetic. As a result, several states have passed legislation banning or restricting tetrahydrocannabinol isomers like delta-10 and delta-8, including:

  • Washington
  • Vermont
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Delaware
  • Mississippi
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Arkansas
  • Iowa

Pending legislation may soon add Oregon, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Alabama to the list of states that restrict delta-8 and delta-10 sales. If you live in one of those states and would like to try these alternative cannabinoids, you may need to order delta-8 or delta-10 products while you still can get them delivered to your area.

Will Delta-8 and Delta-10 Register on a Drug Test?

Unfortunately, both delta-8 and delta-10 consumption will likely register on a drug screening for cannabis. Since their molecular structures are so similar to traditional THC, delta-8 and delta-10 produce most of the same metabolites in the human body. If you expect an upcoming drug test, we suggest that you refrain from consuming delta-8 and delta-10 products. You can still enjoy CBD isolates as they are unlikely to trigger a positive on a drug screening.

What Kind of Delta-10 and Delta-8 Products Can I Buy?

Manufacturers offer delta-10 and delta-8 products in many of the same presentations as CBD, including:

Please keep in mind that consumers should follow the same guidelines as they would when they buy CBD products, such as:

  • Avoiding black market products: Illegal products can contain harmful contaminants and residual solvents, as we’ve learned from the vape crisis of 2019.
  • Always buying from a trusted company: Online stores allow you to purchase products directly from their manufacturers. You can also verify the company’s reputation by reading customer reviews.

Checking lab results: Most online retailers post their Certificates of Analysis (COAs) on their websites. If you’re purchasing from a local retailer, you may need to request a COA to ensure your product’s purity and potency.

Common Questions

Is Delta 10 Stronger than Delta 8?

No, it isn’t. Delta 8 has a stronger potency than Delta 10. Delta 8 will activate CB1 receptors in your brain to produce the effects you feel. However, Delta 10 THC doesn’t activate CB1 receptors, even though you can experience small psychoactive effects, such as mood changes. 

Can You Mix Delta 8 and Delta 10?

Yes, you can mix Delta 8 and Delta 10 to get both of their differing effects or balance out the side effects. Delta 8 can be beneficial for pain relief, while Delta 10 provides a relaxing experience. As it goes with every substance, the sensation from mixing the two will vary by person.