THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and Delta 8 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are chemical compounds found in hemp and cannabis plants that have been gaining significant attention lately. These compounds share some important similarities but also have critical distinctions in terms of effects and benefits
This article investigates THCA vs delta 8, including their chemical properties, biological mechanisms, legality, dosing, and more.
THC-A vs. Delta 8: Overview
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A) and Delta 8 are cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis plants. However, THCA appears in potent quantities in freshly harvested cannabis, while Delta-8 occurs in trace amounts in aged, degraded plants.
THCA is the acidic precursor to THC, meaning it is the chemical present in the plant before it is exposed to heat. In its raw form, THCA is therapeutic but not psychoactive. However, heating and smoking THC-A causes it to convert to Delta-9 THC in a process called decarboxylation. When THCA transforms into THC, it binds to the brain's cannabinoid receptors and gets people high.
Delta 8 is a minor cannabinoid that is chemically similar to regular THC, known as delta 9 THC. Delta-8 THC is psychoactive, but users say it's about half as strong as delta 9.
THCA vs Delta 8 Extraction and Use
Plant extraction is a crucial process in the production of hemp-based products. Extraction methods can be different for various cannabinoids, including THCA and Delta-8.
Manufacturers must carefully extract THCA without excessive heat to preserve the compound’s molecular structure and prevent it from converting into regular THC.
Most use cold extraction methods, such as ethanol, mechanical, and CO2 extraction.
After cold extraction, manufacturers can use THCA extract in various products, such as topicals, tinctures, and edibles.
Delta 8 Extraction
Manufacturers don't extract Delta-8 because the plant doesn’t produce enough of it to make products on a commercial scale. Instead, processors first extract CBD, then convert CBD to Delta-8 in a multi-step process.
To make delta-8 THC from CBD, the first step is to extract CBD from the hemp plant using a solvent, such as carbon dioxide or ethanol. Once the CBD has been extracted, it is filtered and distilled to remove impurities.
Next, the CBD undergoes a process called isomerization, where it is converted into delta-8 THC. This process involves using an acidic catalyst, such as hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. The mixture is then heated and stirred for several hours, which causes the CBD molecules to rearrange and form delta-8 THC molecules.
After the isomerization process, the mixture is neutralized with a base, such as sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, to remove any remaining acidic catalyst. The blend is then further purified through filtration and distillation to remove any remaining impurities and isolate the delta-8 THC.
THCA Vs. Delta 8 Chemical Structure
The main chemical distinction between THCA and delta-8 THC is their molecular structures that lead to varying biological effects and properties.
THCA has a carboxylic acid group) attached to its molecule, while delta-8 THC does not. This carboxylic acid group, containing one carbon atom, one hydrogen atom, and two oxygen atoms, makes THCA less bioavailable than Delta-8 and unable to bind with neural cannabinoid receptors that get people high. THCA’s extra carboxyl group gives it an odd shape and heavier weight than delta-8 THC, resulting in distinct chemical and physical properties.
Delta-8 THC has a double bond on the eighth carbon atom in its molecular chain, distinguishing it from delta-9 THC and giving it milder psychoactive properties. This double bond also makes delta-8 THC more stable than delta-9 THC, which is known to degrade more easily over time.
The Differences in Effects Profiles
THCA and Delta-8 THC have distinct effects in their original forms.
Research suggests THCA is an anti-inflammatory and antiemetic agent, relieving conditions like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea. THCA also exhibits potential neuroprotective properties and may have a role in treating neurological disorders and pain relief.
THCA is not psychoactive when consumed raw (unline THC P, regular Delta 9 THC and Delta 8). But when heated and smoked in a joint or vape, THCA loses its extra carboxyl group and becomes THC. Smoking THCA produces an effect profile that mimics regular high-THC marijuana.
Delta 8 Effects
Delta-8 is psychoactive but somewhat less than traditional THC due partly to its double carbon bond location. Consumers report experiencing a clearer and more focused high with less anxiety and paranoia due to its milder properties.
Delta-8 THC is a relatively new area of research, and limited scientific evidence is available to support its potential health benefits. However, recent studies suggest that Delta-8 may have anti-inflammatory effects that could help reduce pain.
Additionally, delta-8 THC can stimulate appetite, which may benefit individuals with appetite loss due to medical conditions or treatments such as chemotherapy.
The appropriate THCA dosage depends on the intended use, whether for therapeutic or psychoactive purposes.
For therapeutic purposes, a low dosage of THCA is usually enough to achieve the desired effects. An appropriate dose can be around 0.1-1 milligram of THCA per kilogram of body weight. However, some sources suggest a daily dose of 5-50 milligrams of THCA can safely achieve therapeutic benefits.
People should consume a higher THCA dosage for psychoactive purposes, similar to that of traditional cannabis products. For instance, smoking THCA flower with a concentration of 15% or higher can produce a potent high.
Alternatively, THCA vapes, such as QWIN’s Puffy 3G series, can contain up to 50% THCV, offering more intense mind-altering journeys. Users should begin with one puff and wait for at least 15 minutes before inhaling more to avoid overconsumption.
Delta 8 Dosage
Delta-8's psychoactive effects are less potent than Delta-9 THC. People who want a standard cannabis experience must often double their Delta-8 dose to achieve the same results. Those who want a milder experience should cut their THC dosage in half.
For best results, consumers should take one puff and wait 15 minutes if they’re smoking delta-8 flower or vapes. People who are consuming Delta-8 edibles may want to start between 2.5 and 5 grams, waiting a couple of hours before increasing the dosage.
The optimal delta-8 amount will vary based on several factors, including body size, tolerance levels, and consumption method.
Differences in Legality and Availability of Delta 8 THC vs THCA
THCA and THCV are typically federally legal, provided they come from hemp plants and conform to the 2018 Farm Bill's regulations on the highest allowable levels of Delta-9 THC. Nonetheless, laws can differ between states.
Hemp-derived compounds such as THCA and extracts with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight were legalized by the USDA's Farm Bill. To comply, hemp companies must have their products tested for potency by third-party laboratories. If THCA samples meet the requirements, they can be sold and consumed legally under federal law.
However, some states may have more stringent regulations than those outlined by the Farm Bill for THCA products. To learn more about the legality of THCA, refer to our THCA legality guide.
Delta-8 THC legality is a somewhat controversial issue. Federally, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and all its derivatives, including delta-8 THC, as long as the final product contains no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. However, the legality of delta-8 THC at the state level varies.
Some states have explicitly banned delta-8 THC product sales, while others have not yet taken a position. In some states, the legality of delta-8 THC remains unclear and subject to interpretation.
Clinical research on safe THCA and delta 8 safety levels do not exist. The information in this section comes from anecdotal reviews and pre-clinical theories.
THCA Safety Levels
Most people can consume 5-50 mg of raw, unheated THCA for therapeutic properties. Heating THCA and smoking it will transform the compound into THC and radically change the dosing requirements. Consumers should consult a cannabis-informed physician or professional to determine a safe dosage.
Delta 8 Safety Levels
Delta-8 is psychoactive, and consumption can cause dizziness, paranoia, or anxiety. Therefore, typically starting with lower doses and gradually increasing the dosage while monitoring the effects is the best course. As with THCA, consumers should consult a professional to determine a safe daily dose.
Mixing Delta 8 and THCA: What Will Happen?
People who smoke delta 8 and THCA together will experience intense psychoactive effects, similar to combining delta 8 and delta 9.
On the other hand, mixing delta 8 and unheated (non-psychoactive) THCA together will yield a milder experience, similar to consuming delta 8 alone.
Non-psychoactive in raw form
Psychoactive when heated and smoked
Milder psychoactivity in comparison to delta 9 THC
Various non-heated methods like cold ethanol or supercritical CO2
Typically produced through isomerization using hemp-derived CBD
The acidic form of THC containing an extra carboxyl group
Similar to THC with a double bond on the eighth carbon ring
Up to 50 mg per day in raw, non-psychoactive form.
Smokable THC doses vary depending on desired psychoactive effects
About half as potent as delta 9
Optimal dosage varies by tolerance
Federally legal when hemp-derived with compliant Delta-9 THC quantities
State laws vary
Federally legal when hemp-derived with compliant Delta-9 THC quantities