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The Many Faces of Tetrahydrocannabinol – Different Types of THC and Their Benefits

Written by Alexandra Hicks

Although we started off our journey at CBD Testers with a strong emphasis on minor cannabinoids, lately, we’ve been taking a closer look at the most abundant one – THC – and all of its many applications and benefits. Another interesting, and sometimes confusing, point about this compound is how many variations of it exist.

Most people know that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the dominant compound found in marijuana, and also the one that holds the plant’s psychoactive properties. It’s the most popular cannabis compound, for obvious reasons, and it also has numerous medical benefits that we as a society are only beginning to fully understand.

There are 4 major types of THC that are naturally occurring in the plant: THCA, THCV, Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC. Additionally, there are two more types that ARE NOT found in the plant per se – Delta 10 THC that was accidentally manmade but still contains some interesting properties worth covering, and 11-hydroxy-THC, which is what our body converts all other THCs into upon digestion. All of these different types of tetrahydrocannabinol are chemically unique with varying therapeutic potential.

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THCA – Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll start at the very beginning by looking at THC in its most natural form: THCA. In short, THCA is the type of THC found in raw cannabis plants. So, when you walk into a dispensary and start looking at different bud samples and see how much THC is in each one, what you’re actually looking at is the levels of THCA. Once heat is applied, THCA loses its carboxyl acid group (in a process known as decarboxylation) and becomes THC.

THCA is found virtually everywhere in the plant, including the stems, leaves, and flowers. On its own, it has no psychoactive properties. The mind-altering effects come into play after decarboxylation, as THCA is just a precursor to all the other tetrahydrocannabinols.

This compound is believed to have an assortment of therapeutic uses and is commonly used as a nutritional supplement and dietary enhancement. THCA benefits can be utilized via eating, blending, or juicing the raw cannabis plant matter along with other superfoods, like berries, kale, and avocados.

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THCV – Tetrahydrocannabivarin

THCV is basically a cousin of THC and another byproduct of the THCA breakdown process. Up for debate is whether THCV actually gets you high like THC does. Most of the available research indicates that, in low doses, THCV is non-psychoactive, but in high doses, it activates the CB1 receptor and induces a high. THCV also has a much higher boiling point than THC (428°F vs 314°F), so if you choose to vape THCV flowers or other products you will need to crank that temperature up to really experience any of the effects.

As far as benefits go, one of the main points of interest regarding THCV is the fact that it suppresses the appetite, rather than engage it like THC does. It’s frequently advertised as a “diet weed” because, as the promotional material states: you can get stoned and lose weight at the same time. Some research say that, if weight loss is the goal, a strain with a fairly even ratio of THCV and CBD will do the trick. Of course, results may vary on that.

Additional studies found that THCV has the ability to regulate blood sugar levals and reduce insulin resistance, making a promising herbal supplement for patients with diabetes. It has also been shown to contain antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. Strains high in THCV include Pineapple Purps, Ace of Spades, Doug’s Varin, Durban Poison, Power Plant, Willie Nelson, Jack the Ripper, and other African Sativa strains.

Delta 8 THC

In chemistry, “delta” refers to the double bond on a molecule’s carbon chain. In the case of THC, we have a few different variations. With delta 8 THC, the double bond is on the 8th carbon chain, whereas with the more common Delta 9 THC, the double bond is on the 9th chain. In cannabis plants, delta 8 is only present in trace amounts. As delta 9 ages, a small portion oxidizes (loses electrons) and converts to delta 8. As a result of this chemical process, Delta 8 THC remains stable when exposed to air, meaning it could have more potential medical applications than delta 9, although Delta 8 is less potent.

The high you get from Delta 8 THC can vary based on tolerance, personal body chemistry, or strength and type of the product used. For example, if you smoke Delta 8 flowers, the high will be different than delta 9 flowers, but if you eat edibles, all of them will have a similar effect in the body because of the way our digestive system processes cannabinoids. Typically, a Delta 8 THC high is said to be clear-headed, energetic, and uplifted than D9.

Because of the milder head high, Delta 8 THC is great for helping people deal with anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders. And while studies remain limited on this particular cannabinoid, it has been determined to have a few health benefits of its own such has neuroprotective, antioxidant, and analgesic properties. To learn more about Delta 8 THC and try out some products (with exclusive discounts for our subscribers) makes sure to sign up for the Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter.

Delta 9 THC

When people think of “THC”, Delta 9 is what they’re thinking of. Delta 9 THC is the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, minus a few CBD-dominant strains. For decades, THC has been a controversial and illegal compound because lawmakers were to heavily focused on its psychoactive properties while completely ignoring all of its many possible uses in the health and wellness sector.

One of the most common, non-recreational uses for THC is to manage pain. Whether that pain stems from inflammation, headaches, injury, chemotherapy, menstrual cramps, injury, or neuropathic pain – cannabis seems to equipped offer relief in every scenario. Anecdotal evidence, as well as some studies that have recently emerged, will tell you that THC is actually one of the best remedies on earth for treating digestive issues such as nausea and wasting syndrome.

Another important use for THC is brain cell regeneration… which is particularly interesting since one of the main points on keeping cannabis illegal is how bad it is for the brain, but that is actually not always the case. This is especially true for elderly patients who use THC products. Studies show that it helps with more than just brain function and improving memory, but THC actually helps change the structure of the brain cells to who traits of cognitive youth.

Other therapeutic uses for THC include: sleep aid, antioxidant, antimicrobial, epilepsy relief, glaucoma, and muscle relaxer.

Delta 10 THC

Unlike the other THCs on this list, Delta 10 is not a naturally occurring plant compound, although it does start off that way. This molecular sibling does have many commonalities with Delta 9 and Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinols, but there are some key differences as well.

As with many of the nation’s cannabis trends, Delta 10 THC started in California too. However, this time, it was purely accidental. An Adelanto-based company, Fusion Farms, bought some outdoor flower to manufacture concentrates. As many already know, California is subject to very large, nearly annual wildfires; and unbeknownst to Fusion Farms, the biomass they purchased was contaminated with fire retardant. Since they were unaware of the contamination, they continued with the extraction as planned but after the distillation process, unusual crystals began to form.

These crystals had a completely different structure than previously observed cannabinoid crystals. After conducting some laboratory tests, it was determined that these crystals were most similar to CBC (cannabichromene), but still not an exact match. They continued testing this structure against all the known cannabinoids and no match was found. This went on for several months.


11-hydroxy-THC, sometimes written 11-OH-THC, is produced in the body when other THCs that we consume are broken down in the body. The body breaks down and metabolizes it THC (delta 9, delta 8, etc.) producing the metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC. This metabolite is generally considered much more potent than its precursor.  

According Dr. Adie Rae, neuroscientist and cannabis industry scientific adviser, “The liver is responsible for this transformation, and specifically, the drug-metabolizing enzyme known as cytochrome P2C9 or CYP2C9. Even when you smoke, your liver still sees some delta-9 and turns it into 11-hydroxy-THC, but you get way more 11-OH when you eat cannabis.” 

Final Thoughts

With all the different articles we have on THC, it seemed logical to combine them all in one place to make things easier for our readers. Tetrahydrocannabinol is such a fascinating compound and it’s incredibly important for people to realize that it’s much more than just a recreational substance. It’s a complex cannabinoid with a long list of possible medical uses, from mental health benefits to pain relief to treatment of neurological disorders, there’s not very much that all the different THCs can’t do.

Thank you for stopping by CBD TESTERS, your hub for all things cannabis related. Make sure to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter for more information about cannabis and exclusive deals on flowers and other products.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.