Whether you’ve just heard about CBD and delta 8 and want to know how they compare, or you’re already using delta 8 or CBD and are looking for a new, different experience, there’s a lot to consider when choosing between these two cannabinoids.
For one, delta 8 is psychoactive and will get you high, while CBD is not psychoactive and will not cause a high. CBD has been heavily researched, relative to most cannabinoids; there are only very preliminary studies on delta 8.
And there are differences beyond these. So to help, in this article, we’re giving you an in-depth comparison of CBD and delta 8.
From serving thousands of customers over our four years in business, we have extensive insight into how these cannabinoids work, and we’ll discuss what we’ve seen along with what researchers have discovered.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabinoid found in the hemp plant (hemp is cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight).
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t cause a head high. Despite this, research suggests that CBD has therapeutic potential for pain, inflammation, anxiety, sleep, epilepsy, and more.
What is Delta 8?
Delta 8 (delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8-THC) is a cannabinoid in the hemp plant. Like CBD, it’s naturally occurring. However, it’s only found in hemp in small amounts, so it’s made synthetically for use in products.
Unlike CBD, delta 8 will produce psychoactive effects. There is very little research on delta 8 as a therapeutic, however, early surveys show it may provide feelings of euphoria and relaxation and help with pain.
CBD vs. Delta 8: Differences & Similarities
In this section, we’ll give you a breakdown (and a visual representation) between all the main differences and similarities between CBD and delta 8.
As we mentioned, CBD occurs naturally in the hemp plant. It’s one of the most abundant cannabinoids, so it can be extracted directly for use in products.
There are several ways CBD can be extracted; the most common is CO2 extraction. This method uses pressurized supercritical CO2 to separate the CBD oil from the plant matter. The plant matter is discarded, and the CO2 evaporates from the oil, leaving the final extract.
Delta 8, too, is naturally found in hemp, but in very, very small amounts. As such, it’s not economical to extract directly to be made into products.
Instead, delta 8 is made from CBD that’s already been extracted via a process known as isometrization. CBD is combined with an acid that serves as a catalyst, creating a delta 8 extract. This substance is then refined and purified, leaving the final product.
The delta 8 extraction process can leave behind unsafe chemicals in the final product if performed improperly. This underscores the importance of buying delta 8 products from reputable companies.
How They Make You Feel
CBD and delta 8 render very different effects.
CBD is not psychoactive. It creates a mild calming sensation in your mind and body, but for the most part, you won’t notice it too much.
Rather, most CBD users report that it works to reduce their mental or physical discomfort by making negative sensations feel “more distant” and “less important.”
Delta 8, on the other hand, is psychoactive, and you will feel high after you use it. The high from delta 8 is roughly ½ as strong as the high from delta 9 THC, which is the cannabinoid in weed. Most people characterize delta 8 as euphoric and relaxing.
Delta 8’s high is spread fairly evenly across the mind and body. Contrast this with delta 9, which primarily affects the mind.
How They Work In Your Body
Both CBD and delta 8 work by interacting with your endocannabinoid system (ECS), a receptor system in your body (all humans and most animals have an ECS).
The ECS plays a part in regulating your vital functions, including your inflammatory and pain responses, mood and mental state, and sleep-wake cycle. The ultimate purpose of your ECS is to keep your body in a state of balance.
Normally, the ECS works fine on its own. But during times of mental or physical distress, you can support its function by consuming cannabinoids, which are, in a way, naturally “designed” to interact with your ECS and produce favorable sensations.
There are two main types of receptors in your ECS:
- CB1 receptors, which, when stimulated, render mental, or “head” effects
- CB2 receptors, which, when stimulated, render physical, or “body” effects
Delta 8 interacts with both types of receptors, which enables it to render relatively even amounts of mental and physical relaxation.
CBD, however, doesn’t bind strongly to either the CB1 or CB2 receptors. This may come as a surprise, given its many benefits. Instead, CBD supports your ECS in other ways – some research says that CBD may prevent endocannabinoid breakdown.
CBD may also impact your levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with mental and physical well-being and balance. Research suggests that CBD may slightly increase the levels of serotonin in your brain, which helps to promote a normal, healthy mind and body.
To put this benefit in perspective, serotonin is a common therapeutic target for many prescription medications, especially SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
SSRIs, such as escitalopram (brand name: Lexapro) and sertraline (brand name: Zoloft) are anti-anxiety medications that work with your serotonin receptors similarly to CBD, albeit in a more potent manner.
On Drug Tests
Will CBD show up on a drug test?
It depends. Full-spectrum CBD, which contains small amounts of THC, may cause you to fail a drug test. However, CBD isolate, which is CBD without THC or any other cannabinoids or terpenes, will not show up on a drug test.
Delta 8 is an analog of delta 9 THC (the target analyte on most tests), so it will show up on a drug test.
Potential Benefits of CBD
CBD has a myriad of potential benefits – as you read, it will be easy to see why it’s become such a popular cannabinoid in recent years.
Pain & Inflammation
Several studies and surveys suggest that CBD may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects.
One clinical study found that transdermal (topical) CBD may significantly reduce joint swelling.
A research review examining a number of studies found that CBD may have beneficial effects for both chronic and acute pain.
A survey conducted by scientists of 253 CBD users sought to understand how effective CBD was for pain. The results: 59.0% of participants reported that CBD helped their pain and 67.6% said it allowed them to reduce the amount of pain medications they were taking.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that CBD may provide a powerful natural alternative to melatonin and other sleep supplements.
Unlike most sleep medications, CBD can support sleep from multiple angles. In addition to creating calm, relaxing sensations, it has therapeutic potential for anxiety and pain.
Anxiety & Stress
As we mentioned earlier, research suggests CBD may work similarly to SSRIs, which are commonly prescribed for anxiety.
Whether it’s through this mechanism of action or another, many studies indicate CBD has calming benefits.
One study found that CBD reduced physiological and behavioral stress responses to anxiety and stress.
Another study found that CBD decreased negative feelings in people subjected to a public speaking test.
In addition to its directly relaxing effects, CBD may also help with anxiety by addressing sleep troubles and pain.
Depression is another common reason that SSRI medications are prescribed, and CBD may have benefits here as well.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggest CBD has therapeutic potential for depression. CBD is also a commonly used natural supplement for bouts of seasonal depression.
CBD is FDA-approved as an anti-seizure medication for specific types of Epilepsy, in the form of Epidiolex.
Clinical trials from Epidiolex, which is essentially CBD isolate, show that it may vastly reduce seizures for several forms of epilepsy, including Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.
There is research indicating that CBD has the potential to help people break their addiction to opioids, cocaine, and psychostimulant drugs.
These studies also show that CBD may help with cannabis and tobacco addiction in humans, though more investigation is needed.
Potential Benefits of Delta 8
Although there is very little research supporting delta 8’s therapeutic potential, there are a few studies, as well as extensive anecdotal evidence, that suggests it has major benefits.
A study done in 2022 by researchers from the University of Buffalo surveyed 521 delta 8 users. 71% of users reported experiencing relaxation, 68% reported euphoria, and 55% reported pain relief.
Maybe more critically, 74% of participants did not experience anxiety and 83% didn’t experience paranoia. Both of these side effects are common with delta 9; delta 8 offers a milder alternative and is less likely to cause these effects.
Per the survey results above, delta 8 may help with physical discomfort. Anecdotally, it renders stronger body effects as compared to delta 9 THC, so it can promote physical relaxation without as strong of a head effect.
Delta 8 is commonly used for anxiety due its euphoric, uplifting effects. And as the survey showed, it’s less likely than delta 9 to cause anxiety or paranoia.
In addition to supporting a relaxed mental state, delta 8 may help with pain and anxiety, which are at the root of many sleep issues.
Energy & Focus
Unlike CBD, which is more calming in nature, most people report that delta 8 gives uplifting and energizing feelings. Some people use it for creative projects because of this.
Be aware that as delta 8 will get you high, though, it may hinder your cognitive functioning. Therefore it may not be the best choice if you’re about to engage in work or some other mental task.
Still people with overwhelming anxiety or physical discomfort often find that delta 8 helps them get through the day successfully without being so high they can’t function.
Side Effects & Risks of CBD vs. Delta 8
Although CBD and delta 8 both have many therapeutic benefits, they also have side effects and downsides that are important to account for.
Potential side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
Potential side effects of delta 8 include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Tachychardia (raised heart rate)
A word of caution: remember that delta 8 has to be synthetically produced for products to be created from it.
The process by which delta 8 is made can go wrong if poorly executed, so you’ll need to employ careful shopping techniques to ensure you’re buying a high-quality product (more on this in the “how to shop” section).
The Legal Status of CBD vs. Delta 8
DISCLAIMER: We do our best to keep the information in our articles up-to-date. However, due to the ever-changing nature of state laws, we encourage you to independently verify that CBD and/or delta 8 is legal in your state before purchasing it online or otherwise.
As of the 2018 Farm Bill, all cannabinoids derived from the hemp plant are federally legal, including CBD and delta 8 THC. Hemp is cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
Some states, however, have made these cannabinoids illegal or placed restrictions on them.
States Where CBD Is Legal
- New Jersey
- New York
- Washington D.C.
States Where CBD Is Restricted (To Certain Products, Uses, or Potencies)
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States Where Delta 8 is Legal
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Washington D.C.
- West Virginia
States Where Delta 8 is Illegal or Restricted
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- South Carolina
CBD vs. Delta 8 for Pain
Delta 8 is more powerful than CBD, and therefore, it may be more effective for severe physical discomfort.
On the other hand, CBD is preferable if you don’t want to get high; it will be able to render physical relaxation without reducing your cognitive ability, making it ideal for use before work or other mental activities.
However, note that both CBD and delta 8 can be used for pain without rendering any mental effect if you use them in topical form (applied to the skin).
CBD vs. Delta 8 for Anxiety
CBD and delta 8 both render mentally calming effects, however, delta 8 is stronger.
CBD is ideal for use throughout the day; delta 8 may be more effective if you’re trying to combat anxiety at a specific time of day, such as before bed.
CBD vs. Delta 8 for Sleep
CBD may help with sleep by rendering calming effects while also potentially addressing stress, anxiety, pain, and inflammation.
Delta 8, on the other hand, will render a mild head and body high, making it ideal if your sleep issues are caused by pain or anxiety.
Things to Keep In Mind When Shopping for CBD & Delta 8 THC Products
Because the hemp and cannabinoid industry is largely unregulated, it’s important to employ careful shopping techniques to ensure that you’re buying a safe, effective product.
Check Lab Reports
Only buy CBD or delta 8 products that have a certificate of analysis (COA) from a 3rd-party lab. Reputable companies have their products tested to verify potency, safety, and authenticity; look for the following when examining a lab report:
- Cannabinoid profile: Depending on whether you’re buying CBD or delta 8, ensure that the cannabinoids stated in the lab report are the cannabinoids the product is supposed to contain, according to its label.
- Potency: Check the amount of each cannabinoid listed in the lab report to ensure it matches what’s listed on the product’s label.
- Contaminants: Make sure the product passes the tests for heavy metals, pesticides, and mold.
Make sure the ingredients list for the product you’re interested in specifically says cannabidiol or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol.
For CBD products: if it says hempseed oil or cannabis sativa oil, it doesn’t contain any CBD.
Make Sure it’s Responsibly Sourced
Buy products that are made by reputable companies from organic hemp grown in the US.
Because US hemp is subject to regulation, it won’t contain more than 0.3% THC by law, so you can assume with high confidence that you’re getting a safe, legal product.
You’re also much less likely to run into unsafe delta 8 products when you go with a reputable company.
Conclusion: Which Cannabinoid is Right For You?
No matter whether you’ve never used hemp before, or are an avid user looking for something new, CBD and delta 8 are two of the most exciting therapeutic cannabinoids around right now.
Both cannabinoids render many benefits without causing any extreme side effects; delta 8, especially, allows users to benefit from the mental and physical head high without feeling overwhelmed or experiencing anxiety or paranoia.
CBD vs. Delta 8: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions our customers commonly ask us about choosing between CBD and delta 8.
What is the difference between delta 8 and CBD?
CBD is not psychoactive, while delta 8 THC is. Both cannabinoids have similar therapeutic uses, including pain, anxiety, and sleep. Whereas CBD is calming and relaxing, delta 8 tends to be uplifting.
Does CBD get you higher than delta 8?
CBD is non-psychoactive and will not get you high; it is nowhere near as powerful as delta 8, which will get you high. Delta 8 renders a head and body high and is about ½ as strong as delta 9 THC.
What are the benefits of CBD with delta 8?
When you take CBD along with THC, including delta 8 THC, you will experience fewer psychoactive effects and are less likely to feel anxiety and paranoia. The delta 8 will complement the THC and allow you to experience uplifting, energizing effects.
Will delta 8 make you test positive on a drug test?
Yes, delta 8 THC will show up on a standard 12-panel drug test. Delta 8 is an isomer of delta 9 THC, the target analyte on most tests.