Most cannabis consumers know that the cannabinoids CBD and THC are pretty similar. The two main components found in weed however, vary significantly. CBD is non-psychoactive, as it has only a weak ability to activate the CB1-receptor in the endocannabinoid system. On the other hand, the substance is classified as a negative allosteric modulator of CB1-receptors from the ECS. Meaning it affects the receptors (found throughout the human body) so that cannabinoids like THC – or your body’s own THC, anandamide – are not well absorbed.
Logically, this discovery sparked an interest in scientists to explore if CBD could convert to THC in the stomach. Especially considering that this conversion could never happen using other cannabis consumption methods, such as inhalation or topicals. So, what have they found?
Acid Changes CBD
Another study though, used gastric juice with a slightly different pH compared to that of stomach acid. Here, the conversion rate was only 2,9%. Considering the different compositions produce various results, means we should be careful interpreting this data.
Now we’ve discovered that CBD could turn into THC because of the acidity in the stomach; it’s time to figure out why it doesn’t actually convert into the psychoactive substance after ingestion. As research has shown, the gastric fluid in our bodies contain a number of different enzymes, like:
CBD solutions are known to be pretty unstable. They have to be stored in a dark place, below 8 Degrees Celsius. Under different, more acidic conditions, CBD could possibly turn into THC and other cannabinoids. A process known as isomerization – with at least two possible consequences:
3. Different Solvent-Acid Combination, Different Results
Unlike other cannabinoid extractions, notably ethanol-based methods, conversion for Delta-8 requires a non-polar organic solvent. Common solvents include alkanes like heptane.
Because cannabinoids are remarkably similar in molecular structure, bringing this natural tendency to convert from one to another into the laboratory is relatively straightforward. Long before Delta-8 rose in prominence, lab technicians have been using similar conversion techniques to transform common cannabinoids into rare, exotic ones. Now they are applying this same technology to Delta-8.
Step-by-step: Converting CBD into Delta-8
Using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the washed, converted mixture is separated into its many cannabinoid parts. Testing is critical throughout the process to confirm purity. Conversion is never 100 percent. There will always be a variety of byproducts. Extrakt Labs suggests being upfront with the testing laboratory on the process and formula used to ensure they use the most appropriate tests for residuals.
5. Testing is Critical
Delta-8 exists in many cannabis cultivars but typically in extremely low quantities. To extract and purify Delta-8 from raw plant material with less than one percent of the targeted cannabinoid is unprofitable. This is why producers have begun converting other, more prevalent cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 or, more commonly, THC) Delta-8. But this isn't the only reason for the rise in production of Delta-8.
There are dozens of different combinations possible, which can all convert CBD into Delta-8. Each formula delivers different results. Depending on the blend, the chemical reaction may take anywhere from one to 18 hours.
So, this might sound exceedingly simple. All you have to do is add acid to your CBD to create THC, right? But it’s anything but easy. And it’s certainly not something you can easily (or legally) do at home.
CBD and THC are both ‘cannabinoids’. This is a term given to more than a hundred chemical compounds found in cannabis and some plants of the same family. Cannabinoids are poorly understood, with the only one that’s received significant attention being THC.
Stomach acid isn’t effective at turning CBD into THC. It’s thought that combining CBD with stomach acid gives a yield of around 3% THC. That’s practically nothing because bear in mind that CBD oil isn’t pure CBD.
Can You Turn CBD Into THC?
This is borne out in scientific testing. Volunteers who take CBD don’t report any THC-like symptoms. This shows that even if a little could hypothetically turn into THC, it doesn’t happen in practice.
THC and CBD are isomers. This means that they have the same chemical formula (C21 H30 O2). But isomers are different in one crucial way: their structures are different. But it’s this difference in structure that gives the two compounds completely different effects.
THC is the compound in cannabis responsible for it getting you ‘high’. CBD is a different compound also known as cannabidiol. CBD oil hardly contains any, which is why it’s legally allowed to be sold. It can’t get you high in the same way as THC products can.
Besides that, conducting your own chemistry class at home is far from safe. Not only do you need to safely store dangerous substances (like strong acids), but the mixture you make won’t be consistent unless you make it under strict laboratory conditions. In other words, sometimes your experiment would result in a yield of 30%; if you’re lucky, it could result in a 90% THC yield.