You might have seen a lot of articles or reviews discussing the similarities and differences between HHC vs delta 8, but you might not know the most well-known cannabinoids are THC (delta-9 THC) and CBD.
Researchers have identified over 100 naturally-occurring cannabinoids, and THC and CBD users frequently wonder how the others compare in terms of potency.
This article will discuss the different types of cannabinoid potency so you can determine which one provides the psychoactive experience you are looking for.
Let’s start by discussing what cannabinoids are.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system.
The term most commonly refers to cannabis plant constituents that act on this set of receptors and signalers. These include the following:
- Delta 9 THC (also known as “THC”)
- Delta 8 THC
These are all popular cannabinoids. Now, how do they work?
How do cannabinoids work?
Cannabinoids bind to or block CB1 and CB2 receptors in a person’s endocannabinoid systems.
These receptor sites in the body are closely linked to most bodily systems and aid in maintaining balance, including your thought processes, mood, attitude, outlook on life, sensory perception, pleasure, and more.
So which cannabinoid is the most potent?
Always remember that not all cannabinoids are created equal. Some are far more potent than others.
What makes cannabinoids potent?
Their “potency” refers to a cannabinoid’s ability to produce a psychoactive effect. Essentially, the stronger the cannabinoid, the more intense your psychoactive experience.
On a more technical level, a cannabinoid’s potency is a measure of how well it binds to or blocks endocannabinoid receptors.
The potency of THC and its psychoactive analogs is determined by the number of carbon atoms in the molecule’s alkyl side chain.
A cannabinoid with eight carbon atoms would fit perfectly in your CB1 and CB2 receptors, making it the most potent cannabinoid possible.
No natural cannabinoid, however, has this many carbon atoms in the alkyl side chain.
Molecules with fewer than three carbon atoms do not bind to endocannabinoid receptors and, thus, do not produce a psychoactive effect.
However, those with three carbon atoms provide a mild high, and each additional carbon atom increases potency.
Other structural changes to a cannabinoid can affect how well it binds to endocannabinoid receptors and, thus, its potency.
Here’s a list of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis plants to understand their effects better.
This ranking is based on a combination of personal experience and scientific research into the binding capacity of each cannabinoid.
By a long shot, THCP is at the top of the cannabinoid potency spectrum. Early research suggests it’s up to 33 times more potent than delta 9 THC, but after testing it, we’d put it closer to 10X.
There are more potent cannabinoids, but they don’t occur naturally and come with many risks. For example, THCP is naturally in small amounts in hemp and marijuana.
THC-O is a THC analog with the same amount of carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain as THC. The acetate group, which replaces the hydroxy group found in delta-9 THC, is the crucial difference with this cannabinoid.
This minor modification renders THC-O significantly more bioavailable than any other form of THC. Its increased potency is due to increased molecule uptake into the bloodstream and brain.
This cannabinoid is metabolized into delta-9 THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects.
THC-O is three times as potent as delta-9 THC.
Delta 9 THC
Delta 9 THC is the most well-known and widely used cannabinoid.
It is also the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana plants compared to other cannabinoids. Therefore, this is the starting point for evaluating the relative potency of the other cannabinoids on this list.
Delta 9 THC has five carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain and a hydroxy group, which enables it to bind strongly to CB1 receptors.
Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is the stable form of THC. It has a chemical structure very similar to THC.
But the difference is that it’s “hydrogenated” because it contains additional hydrogen atoms that break the double bond or delta found on other types of THC molecules.
Because the additional hydrogen atoms cause a less snug fit into CB1 receptors, HHC is roughly 80% as potent as delta-9 THC.
In terms of molecular structure, delta-8 THC is nearly identical to delta-9 THC. The difference is that the carbon chain’s double bond in THC is in the eighth position.
Delta-8 THC is approximately 50-65% as potent as Delta-9 THC. As a result, most users report a clear-headed psychoactive experience and relaxation, with a lower risk of undesirable side effects.
As the name implies, it has a nearly identical structure to delta-9 THC. The main difference between delta-10 and delta-9 THC is that the double bond in the carbon chain has been shifted to the tenth position.
In addition, delta-10 THC has roughly half the potency of delta-9 THC. As a result, most users report improved focus and attention, as well as an increase in energy and mood.
The alkyl side chain of tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) contains only three carbon atoms, but it is identical to delta 9 THC. As a result, THCV is approximately 25% as potent as delta 9 THC, with the smallest number of carbon atoms in the side chain required to produce a psychoactive effect.
Cannabinol (CBN), like delta 9 THC, has five carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain. However, it has two more double bonds in the carbon ring and two fewer hydrogen atoms.
As THC degrades, CBN is formed, retaining some of its psychoactive properties.
CBN’s molecular structure differences may be minor, but they make it far less likely to bind to CB1 receptors. As a result, CBN has about 10% potency of delta 9 THC.
CBD and other non-psychoactive.
When comparing CBN to CBG, the latter is in a class of its own because it is non-psychoactive and negates some of the psychoactive properties of other cannabinoids, such as THC.
As a result, this cannabinoid is occasionally combined with THC to reduce the psychoactive “load” of these products. Again, this benefits people who want to reap the health benefits.
The ability of a cannabinoid to bind to your endocannabinoid receptors determines its potency.
Thus, a higher potency indicates a more substantial psychoactive effect or high.
THCP is the most potent cannabinoid currently known, with a potency roughly 30 times that of delta-9 THC.
It has more carbon atoms in its alkyl side chain, which means it binds to receptors in our endocannabinoid system more readily and tightly.
THC-O, HHC, delta 8 THC, delta 10 THC, THCV, and CBN are many other psychoactive cannabinoids with varying potencies. They may be less potent, but they are still effective.