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Why are there two different types of delta 10 THC on lab reports?

By Corey Hartley March 25, 2021

Why are there two different types of delta 10 THC on lab reports?

In this blog, we will explore the chemistry behind two different versions of delta-10-THC you may encounter.

The first type of delta-10-THC is the psychoactive form that is associated with the "high" feeling. The second type is an inactive form that does not produce any psychoactive effect.

Both forms of delta-10-THC are derived from THC, but they are produced in different ways. The psychoactive form is produced when THC is exposed to heat and light. The inactive form is produced when THC is exposed to cold and dark.

The difference between these two forms is due to their chemical structure. For example, pain relief or helping to deal with chronic pain. The psychoactive form has a cyclic structure, while the inactive form has an acyclic structure.

This difference in structure is what causes the two different types of delta-10-THC to have different effects. The psychoactive form is more stable and therefore lasts longer in the body. The inactive form is less stable and breaks down more quickly.

Lab reports may list both forms of delta-10-THC, but they will usually list the psychoactive form in higher concentrations. This is because a product that contains a high percentage of the psychoactive form will also contain a high percentage of non-psychoactive forms, which will balance out to roughly 100%. The Federal farm bill does not imply the legal status or legal limit of these forms.

However, be aware that lab reports may sometimes list only one or the other type of delta-10-THC, which may or may not be a cause for concern.

If you want to learn more about the basics of delta-10-THC in general first, head on over to our Delta-10-Tetrahydrocannabinol blog! 

If you were hoping to figure out the difference between delta-8 vs delta-9 vs delta-10, check out our accompanying blog: What is with these THC numbers? Delta-8 vs delta-9 vs delta-10?? 

Many molecules including THC can be formed in two versions, much like a left and right hand. Why does this matter? The structure of a molecule determines the biological activity. Hemp extract exists only produce one form in significant quantities of most cannabinoids such as delta-9, delta-8, and CBD. However, for delta-10, two versions are possible which may produce different effects and can be individually drug tested for during potency analysis. 

 

These two versions are (6aR,9S)-delta-10-THC and (6aR,9R)-delta-10-THC. The difference whether there is a left or right handed shape along the molecule is indicated by the (9R) or (9S) in the name.

 

hands


 

These two versions of delta-10-THC, (6aR,9s) and (6aR,9R), are called stereoisomers. To help understand stereoisomers, consider how your hands fit into gloves - your left hand does not fit easily into a glove for your right hand, and vice versa. Now think of a receptor in the body, such as the CB1 receptor (to which THC binds to produce intoxication), being like a glove. Each receptor has a specific shape that fits one isomer best, just like a glove has a shape that fits one hand or the other best. Since there are two different versions of delta-10-THC, one can fit into the receptor better to activate the receptor more strongly than the other. 

The (6aR,9S)-delta-10-THC isomer is the one that fits better into the receptor and produces the psychoactive effects. The (6aR,9R)-delta-10-THC isomer does not fit as well into the receptor and does not produce any psychoactive effects.

This isomer is also called the "inactive" form of delta-10-THC.

Since the (6aR,9S)-delta-10-THC isomer is more active, it is the one that is usually listed in lab reports. However, it is important to note that both versions of delta-10-THC do exist, and the concentration of each should be determined.

Some growers will intentionally use a cold or dark curing process to convert some of delta-9-THC into this form in order to create an inactive product that resembles traditional hash. This practice is risky because it can cause the final product to be more difficult to activate by the consumer.

So the next time you hear someone talk about "active" and "inactive" THC, now you'll know what they're talking about! And remember, the inactive form is not psychoactive, so don’t worry if it's present in your hemp derived products. This will not leave trace amounts.

For delta-10, the stereochemistry of the isomers is almost like considering whether the molecule has two of the same hands or one left and one right hand. Although this is a simplification, it is the easiest way to consider how the molecules relate to each other. 

 

delta-10-THC epimers (6aR,9R) vs (6aR,9S)

The (6aR,9R) version of delta-10 has two of the same hands, so the thumbs are pointing in the same direction on both hands, which is known as “cis” orientation. The (6aR,9S) has one left hand and one right hand, which is known as a “trans” configuration. The thumbs of each hand point in opposite directions with the palms facing the same direction, like a normal pair of hands. 

These two versions can be written in two different ways:

(6aR,9S)-delta-10-THC = (6aR-trans)-delta-10-THC

(6aR,9R)-delta-10-THC = (6aR-cis)-delta-10-THC

 

Although most delta-10 products will be a mix of both versions, the delta-10 could also be purified to a single isomer. So which pure version has the correct shape to fit into the CB1 receptor, and would therefore be more effective, if we could choose between them? In a study with pigeons, the (6aR,9R) isomer produced a THC-like effect that was less potent than delta-9, but the (6aR,9S) isomer did not produce any behavior in the pigeons that would indicate a THC-like effect. Unfortunately, there are no reported studies in humans comparing the potency or strength of effects between the two versions. Therefore, at this time, more research seems to be needed to determine the most desirable isomer. 

Cannabis trichomes close up, by Corey Hartley

 

Cannabis plants produce only a single stereospecific isomer of delta-9 in significant quantities which we commonly refer to as delta-9-THC. We know the specific version the plant produces is the most biologically active in terms of classic cannabis effects. Therefore, one may try to infer from delta-9 which version of delta-10 will be more active, however, the molecules have a “hand” at a different position on the skeleton essentially, so it is difficult to make a prediction. At least now that the analytical labs can differentiate between the two forms of delta-10, an understanding of the structure to activity relationship will be developed quickly.

As if this was not complicated enough already, there are two more stereoisomers of delta-10 known as (6aS,9R) and (6aS,9S). Currently, since delta-10 is derived from hemp cannabinoid isomerization (semi-synthetic) rather than via purely synthetic routes, these positions are not currently encountered in significant quantities. The plant material derived forms of the mentioned THC isomers possess a (6aR) “hand” rather than (6aS). 

delta-6a,10a,-THC molecular structure

Another THC isomer should be mentioned for complete clarity: delta-6a-THC. This one can be confusing as well because it is often written delta-6a,10a-THC. However, delta-6a,10a is synthetically produced and cannot be derived via isomerization of naturally occurring hemp cannabinoids interact or other cannabinoids at this time. This is a different THC isomer and is not the same as delta-10-THC. The double bond is between carbons 6a and 10a. This isomer is also called delta-3-THC based on the previously used monoterpenoid numbering system (when delta-10 is called delta-2). If we were to write delta-10 in the same way as delta-6a,10a, it would be called delta-10,10a-THC. 


Old vs New Numbering Systems

Dibenzopyran = Monoterpenoid

delta-10 = delta-2

delta-6a,10a = delta-3

delta-10-THC, dibenzopyran vs monoterpenoid ring numbering of tetrahydrocannabinol

 

Resources:

“Structure-Activity Relationships of the Cannabinoids”

https://archives.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/monograph79.pdf


"Drug Discrimination: Applications to Drug Abuse Research"

https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.152.52&rep=rep1&type=pdf#page=97


“Enantiomers, Diastereomers, Identical or Constitutional Isomers”

https://www.chemistrysteps.com/enantiomers-diastereomers-constitutional-isomers/


“Is Delta-10 THC a Natural or Synthetic Cannabinoid?”

https://cannabislifenetwork.com/is-delta-10-thc-a-natural-or-synthetic-cannabinoid/

 

Strain Snobs Logo: Hemp-derived delta-8-THC and more!

Check out our wide selection of delta-8 and other hemp-derived cannabinoid products! Consider adding these to your hemp routine for a complete cannabis experience!  

FAQ

What is delta 10?

Delta-10 is a cannabinoid that is found in cannabis. It is the result of a process known as isomerization, which happens when delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is exposed to heat or light. This produces a molecule with a different shape that fits into the CB1 receptor differently, and is more effective.

Is delta 10 the same as delta 6a,10a?

No, delta-6a,10a is a synthetic cannabinoid and cannot be derived from cannabis plants. It is a different delta-cannabinoid isomer. delta-6a,10a has a totally different chemical structure to delta 10, delta 9 and delta 8. delta 6a,10a is similar in activity to another cannabinoid called HU-210.

What does delta 10 stand for?

Delta 10 is a delta tetrahydrocannabinol that has a double bond between carbons 1 and 6 and one between carbons 1 and 10. Delta 9 is a delta tetrahydrocannabinol that has a double bond between carbons 2 and 6. Delta 8 is a delta tetrahydrocannabinol that has a double bond between carbons 3 and 6.

What are the differences between delta 9 and delta 10?

Delta-9 and delta-10 are delta-tetrahydrocannabinols, which have similar structures but different effects. Delta-10 is synthesized by cannabis plants less frequently than delta-9. delta 10's psychotomimetic activity is greater than delta 9 due to the higher affinity of delta 10 for the CB1 receptor.


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