What Is Industrial Hemp-Derived Delta 8 Isomer?

Industrial hemp contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) & delta 8, like its cannabis cousin, albeit in much lower concentrations. It is this THC that is the source of the △ 8 isomer. Industrial hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa family. It is processed into a wide variety of commercial products, including animal feed, textiles, biofuel and paper.

Delta 8 THC Isomer & Hemp Distillate

Delta 8 THC Isomer (Right) & Hemp Distillate (Left)

The Delta-8 Isomer

Discovered in the early ’70s, the delta-8 isomer is one of the 60 or so chemical analogs of THC. For the uninitiated, an analog is a compound with a chemical structure similar to that of another compound, differing only in certain respects. Isomers, on the other hand, are compounds that have a similar number of atoms, but differ from each other in the way those atoms are arranged. Surprisingly, these slight dissimilarities can lead to wildly different physiological and psychological effects.

Take the △8 isomer and its more famous counterpart, the △9 isomer, for example. The only difference between the two isomers, which both bear the chemical formula C21H30O2, is the disparate location of one double bond. In the delta-8 isomer, it is located on the eighth carbon atom, whereas with the △9 isomer, it is on the ninth.

This minimal difference leads to radically divergent effects. △9 packs the potent psychoactive punch most people associate with THC. Users report increased anxiety, a reduced capacity to distinguish between distances and time periods, impairment of short term memory, and increased likelihood of psychosis.

In contrast, delta-8 has milder effects. According to a 1973 study by Leo Hollister and H. K. Gillespie, △8 is two-thirds as potent as the △9 isomer. And according to a patent application by Full Spectrum Laboratories, △8 has half the psychometric effect of its close cousin. Other reports suggest that △8 may be three to 10 times less potent. Combining this isomer with cannabidiol diminishes its psychoactive effects even further, according to a patent application by G. R. Webster and Leonard Sarna. Taken together, these findings show that △8 can offer many of the benefits of its more potent near-twin without the buzz, short-term memory loss and other side effects associated with △9.

These technical analyses of △8 match anecdotal accounts by users, who report mild psychoactive effects without the feelings of anxiety associated with its famous counterpart. Going by these stories, this isomer creates a light, energizing high that leaves users alert and relaxed.


Purported Benefits of the Delta-8 Isomer, According to Research
  • Preventing Vomiting

Cannabis preparations have been used to prevent vomiting for thousands of years, and the delta-8 isomer maintains that proud tradition. For instance, the isomer showed potent antiemetic efficacy in children who were being treated in Israeli hospitals for a range of hematologic cancers, according to a 1995 study by Aya Abrahamov, Avraham Abrahamov and R. Mechoulam. The study showed that the isomer was not just highly effective, but also had negligible side effects, in contrast to the expensive drug that served as the standard antiemetic treatment at the time.

  • Fighting Cancer

△8 may also have cancer-fighting properties, going by the results of a 1974 study by A.E. Munson, L.S. Harris, M.A. Friedman, W.L. Dewey, and R.A. Carchman. The researchers treated mice with cancer for 20 consecutive days with a combination of the isomer and cannabinol. The result? Tumors reduced in size. Only one study so the results are definitely out on this one but it has been said by some reasearchers.

  • Reducing Anxiety

△8 also has anxiolytic properties, according to the National Center for Biological Information (NCBI). This is probably related to its comparatively lower potency.

  • Potential Treatment for Weight Disorders

A 2004 study by Yosefa Avraham, Dikla Ben-Shushan, Aviva Breuer, Olga Zolotarev, Avital Okon, Nir Fink, Vered Katz and Elliot M. Berry showed that low doses of the isomer boost appetite in mice without causing significant side effects. The findings of this study suggest that this THC analog could be used to treat weight disorders.

  • Enhancing Cognitive Function

The study by Yosefa Avraham and his fellow researchers also suggests that the △8 isomer can boost cognitive function. This finding echoes conclusions of a 1987 study by H.L. Tripathi and other researchers, which showed that the isomer raised levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, in certain areas of mice brains.


The study also showed that the isomer reduced acetylcholine turnover in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which plays a critical role in learning and memory in mammals. The relevance of these findings to future dementia research is easy to apprehend when you consider that Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by declining levels of acetylcholine in the human brain.


Another study by Mechoulam and other researchers published in 1994 further buttresses the point that △8 improves cognitive function. In the course of the study, they gave oral doses of the isomer to rats with encephalomyelitis, a damaging inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord, and noticed that the neurological function improved.

  • Reducing Pain and Inflammation and Improving Gastrointestinal Function

Research also suggests that △8 can reduce and inflammation. For instance, in a 2018 study, Thapa and other researchers showed that topical △8 isomer applications lowered corneal pain and inflammation in rats. Animal experiments have also showed that this isomer can be beneficial for stress-related gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.


How the Delta-8 Isomer is Extracted from Industrial Hemp

Industrial hemp has very low concentrations of delta-8 – about 0.1 percent. The proportions are infinitesimal even in high-THC plants like cannabis, which is why there was little interest in the isomer for so long. These minute concentrations mean you cannot enjoy the benefits of △8 by smoking, vaping or eating any part of the plant. You need to extract and concentrate the isomer in order to use it.


There are several techniques for extracting delta-8 from industrial hemp. The starting point for all these techniques is the isolation and extraction of cannabinoids and organic compounds named terpenes from hemp THC. What happens next depends on the specific technique. One patented approach involves dunking a specific cannabinoid, cannabidiol, into a reaction mixture and then going through a multi-step process to finally obtain the isomer. Others popular techniques take a more indirect approach, first using heat, ultraviolet rays or other agents to change THCA, the naturally occurring non-psychoactive THC precursor found in industrial hemp and cannabis, into delta-9, and then converting that into delta-8 through an oxidative process. The resulting product is typically liquid at room temperature. However, some products become semi-solid or solid at cooler temperatures.


Is the Delta-8 Isomer Legal?

Apart from the capacity to provide many of the benefits of the delta-9 isomer without the stratospheric highs and other side effects, another reason for the rising popularity of delta-8 has to do with its legality. Thanks to quirks of the law in some countries, THC analogs obtained from industrial hemp are legal while those derived from the cannabis plant are not. Denizens of such countries can likely enjoy benefits of the isomer without falling afoul of the law. That said, the legality of this isomer varies from country to country and region to region. For instance, the isomer was, simultaneously, legal in some U.S. states like California and illegal at the federal level until changes in the 2018 Farm Bill decriminalized the growing of industrial hemp across the country.


Generally, if the cannabis plant cannot be legally used for any purpose where you live, the delta-8 isomer will likely be illegal as well. Similarly, if THC and its analogs, or industrial hemp and its flowers, are outlawed, it follows that the isomer will also be illegal. However, if cannabis is legal, delta-8 will likely be legal as well. If THC and its analogs are permitted for medicinal purposes, using delta-8 will likely be legal as long as you have an appropriate prescription and observe relevant restrictions. If THC and its analogs are illegal, but industrial hemp and its products permitted and regulated under a different legal regime, it may be legally possible to use delta-8.

Closing Thoughts

Despite being discovered in the early ’70s, industrial hemp-derived delta-8 isomer attracted little interest for decades. That has been changing over the last few years for several reasons.


The isomer offers many of the benefits of its more famous cousin without the lofty highs, increased risk of psychosis and other side effects that bedevil the delta-9 isomer. These benefits include improved appetite, anxiety reduction, pain relief and improved cognitive function. In addition, the isomer has antiemetic and cancer-fighting properties.


Another reason for the growing interest is because in some jurisdictions where cannabis is illegal but industrial hemp and its products permitted, it may be possible to legally use and sell delta 8. This means consumers can enjoy its benefits without constantly worrying about the legal ramifications. M6 labs sells a variety of delta 8 infused products.



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