Understanding Delta-9 THC and Full-Spectrum CBD: Are they the same?
Read Time: 6 minutes
In recent years, hemp has exploded in popularity as more people turn to CBD products for natural, proven, plant medicine. With this growth has come confusion and misunderstanding around some of the key compounds in these products, notably THC. The emergence of chemical compounds like delta-8 and delta-10 THC and buzzwords like full spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD have created confusion about what you're getting with your hemp and CBD products. So what’s the short answer? Yes (kind of). A full spectrum CBD product will almost always contain Delta-9 THC. Read on to get a full understanding of why this buzzword is so popular and what it means.
What is Delta-9 THC?
Delta-9 THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound in cannabis responsible for the intoxicating effects or often associated with cannabis. Delta-9 THC is one of the most well-known and studied cannabinoids and may offer a range of potential wellness benefits, including pain relief, appetite stimulation, and anxiety reduction.¹
While there are other forms of THC out there, like THCa and THCv, they're just variations of delta-9 THC, which is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, including hemp.
Delta-8 THC widely varies from delta-9 THC, mainly because it doesn't occur naturally in cannabis plants. Delta-8 THC is synthesized in a series of chemical reactions by altering CBD molecules and transforming them into THC.²
CBD vs. THC
To understand the complexity of these forms of THC, we need to take a step back. While delta-9 THC and CBD are both compounds found in the cannabis plant, they have very different effects on the body. CBD, or cannabidiol, does not produce the intoxicating or high associated with Delta-9 THC, and evidence suggests that it may have a range of potential wellness benefits of its own, including anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.³
It works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, which keeps a few of your natural background processes running smoothly.⁴ Your ECS utilizes endocannabinoids — a series of receptors and chemical messengers — to play a role in mood, body temperature, sleeping and waking cycle, appetite, and inflammatory or immune responses. CBD interacts with the ECS to help support its overall function, leaving you to feel your best.
THC differs in how it interacts with your ECS. It binds to the CBD receptors more directly, and in doing so can alter your perception through a form of intoxication. Some studies suggest this high is the more therapeutic aspect of THC, as it might affect your ability to perceive pain or low moods.⁵
CBD benefits people by being non-intoxicating and offering a range of potential effects on your ECS. However, when these two compounds are taken together in a full spectrum CBD product, they may enhance each other's effects.⁶ This is known as the entourage effect.
Evidence suggests that CBD may have potential anti-anxiety properties, which might help counteract THC's intoxicating effects and reduce the likelihood of anxiety or paranoia.⁷ Similarly, THC may have potential pain-relieving properties, which might enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.
Full Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, and CBD Isolate
As dictated by the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, full spectrum hemp products can contain THC as long as it accounts for no more than 0.3% of the product.⁸ But that's where things get a little tricky. Some people believe CBD products need to specify that there's THC in the product, or else they're not getting it. Unfortunately, that's a misconception. All full spectrum CBD products contain some amount of THC, as it naturally occurs in the cannabis plant.
So what exactly does it mean to be a full spectrum CBD product? Full spectrum CBD is made by concentrating the entire essence of the hemp plant into an oil. That means that you're getting a lot more than just CBD; full spectrum contains every cannabinoid found in the hemp plant, including major ones like CBD and THC and minor ones like CBN, CBG, and CBC.
Full-spectrum oils also contain natural plant compounds and terpenes, which may amplify the effects of the cannabinoids via the entourage effect phenomenon.
Which brings us back to the original question. A full spectrum CBD product will contain delta-9 THC, even if it isn't specified on the label. While full spectrum oils can't contain more than 0.3% THC, there are still small amounts of THC in full spectrum products. Usually, that amount isn't (generally) enough to make you feel high, but it may work in the background via our recurring friend the entourage effect — as CBD and the other cannabinoids make your CBD work harder for you.
So what about broad spectrum or THC-free products? These undergo an extra refinement process to remove nearly all THC and still leave behind plant compounds, other cannabinoids, and terpenes. However, this refinement process isn't always perfect, and trace amounts of THC may still be present. This can be great if you’re still looking for a little bit of the entourage effect, or can be something to avoid if you undergo strict drug testing.
If you're looking for CBD products that don't contain delta-9 THC, you might opt for CBD isolate. CBD Isolate is purified to remove everything, including all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant compounds, to leave behind nothing but CBD. The major downside to CBD isolate is that it can't produce a more therapeutic experience known as the entourage effect.
Is Delta-9 THC Legal?
As mentioned, delta-9 THC is still illegal at the federal level in the United States, although many states have legalized its use for medical or recreational purposes. And if it’s derived from hemp, so long as it’s below that .3% threshold, it’s legal in the U.S. Federally speaking, THC above this threshold or derived from marijuana is still illegal in the United States and in most parts of the world.
As for delta-8 THC, it legally exists in a bit of a gray area. Delta-8 is synthesized from CBD molecules, legal under the Farm Bill. However, many states have moved to ban these products since they're unregulated and share many similarities to delta-9 THC, which is still a Schedule I substance.⁹
At Lazarus Naturals, we follow all applicable laws and regulations regarding the production and sale of our products. We ensure that all of our full spectrum products are rigorously tested for potency and purity, so our customers can be confident that they are getting a safe and effective product. You can check all of our lab test results and COAs on our website.
What to consider before choosing a CBD product
It’s key to remember that full spectrum CBD products contain delta-9 THC since it occurs naturally in hemp. While some people prefer full spectrum CBD products for their potential entourage effect, any presence of THC is an understandable concern for those concerned about the high or stringent drug tests.¹⁰ In these cases, CBD isolates or broad-spectrum CBD products may be a better choice, though it should be pointed out they can still have trace amounts of CBD.
You should always check a product's lab test results before taking them to ensure they either do or don't contain THC, per your preferences. Reputable CBD companies will have their products tested by third-party labs, and the results should be easily accessible on their website. These certificates of analysis are essential for ensuring that the product contains the advertised amount of CBD or THC and is free from contaminants like pesticides or heavy metals.
In summary, when choosing a CBD product, it's crucial to check lab test results, be aware of your state’s laws regarding THC legality, and choose the right spectrum product if you are subject to drug testing or sensitive to THC. By considering these key factors, you can make an informed decision and choose a high-quality CBD product that meets your needs.
At Lazarus Naturals, we offer both full spectrum CBD products and THC-free options compliant with the Farm Bill. All of our products are accompanied with detailed lab test results for all of our products on our website so that you can be confident in the quality and purity of your CBD. Whether you are new to CBD or a seasoned wellness warrior, Lazarus Naturals is committed to providing safe, effective, and affordable CBD made to work as hard as you do.