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Is Delta-10 Synthetic?

Extraction Magazine, Media Partners

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Human knowledge of the natural world is expanding in all new directions thanks to the rigorous standards of the scientific method. A perfect example came in 1928. Thanks to a vacation taken by Dr. Alexander Fleming, a mold developed on a batch of Staphylococcus bacteria. [1] It took 10 more years of testing, but ultimately this led to the synthetic production of penicillin, changing the course of human history. To say Dr. Fleming invented this revolutionary treatment would be inaccurate, as penicillin existed prior to its discovery.

A similar thing is happening today in the world of cannabis. New variations of cannabinoids are being discovered and synthesized constantly, the most recent of which is called Delta-10 THC. This product, while existing in nature, would not have been discovered if not for human intervention. Similarly to penicillin, if a naturally occurring organism can only be mass-produced through artificial means, can it be considered a synthetic?

The Story of Delta-10 THC’s Synthesis

Delta-10 THC was first synthesized and discovered in a laboratory by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam in the effort to isolate all the cannabis plant’s components. [2] Even if he was able to successfully identify the existence of Delta-10, the synthesis relied on toxic chemicals, leaving any remaining samples harmful for human consumption. Because of this, the idea of further synthesizing Delta-10 was abandoned until the re-discovery of it almost by accident. In 2020 this THC isomer was found during a cannabis extraction of inflorescences treated with a fire retardant chemical. During the processes to remove any unwanted impurities, many crystals began to form, almost out of nowhere. At the beginning the compound was analyzed through High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and highlighted as cannabichromene (CBC). Nevertheless after multiple analyses using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) it was possible to understand the exact molecular structure of the THC isomer Delta-10.

How to Synthesize Delta-10 Isomers

Delta-10 does exist naturally in cannabis, but only in very small amounts. [3] The idea of extracting the isomer directly from cannabis is nearly impossible. If a cannabis manufacturer would like to attempt to extract it directly from the plant, it would likely require large amounts of biomass and solvents and it would not be economically feasible. Delta-10 is not extracted directly from cannabis but is converted from Delta-9 THC. So while it is an organic compound, it is only available through synthetic means.

The problem with Delta-10 is that so little data exists for the newly rediscovered cannabinoid that questions still linger. To make matters worse, manufacturers are now in a development race to bring Delta-10 THC to the market before the competition. In order to do that quickly and effectively, some manufacturers are employing similar extraction techniques that use more harmful chemical agents. One such technique uses acidic reactions to cannabidiol to produce psychotropic cannabinoids, including Delta-10. [4]

A possible vulnerability in the Delta-10 market relates to the possibility of inaccurate labelling. Due to the relative scarcity of Delta-10, anecdotal evidence indicates that some cannabis companies are combining Delta-8 with their Delta-10 products and marketing it as such. Combining different cannabinoids synthetically produced may not be harmful, but it could be indicative of other unscrupulous business practices that may be a cause for concern.

Are Delta-10 Products Safe?

Delta-10 is a semi-synthetic compound and this is the more pressing concern regarding the safety of these products for consumers. In order to understand Delta-10 safety we could compare it with tobacco. Tobacco itself is an organic product, but by the time it reaches the market, it goes through so many stages of processing that there are more than 7,000 additional chemicals found, with more than 70 linked directly to cancer. This means that regardless of the organic status of tobacco, it is ultimately the manufacturing processes that exacerbate the risks to consumers.

Comparing tobacco with cannabis is not exactly perfect as links have not been established between cannabis and cancer, but it indicates the challenges posed during the manufacturing process. As data for Delta-10 is still limited, data on similar cannabinoids will have to suffice in answering this question. One study found that nearly 14% of hemp based cannabinoid products contained heavy metals, lead being the most prevalent. [5] As heavy metals do not exist in cannabis or hemp in its organic form, it is safe to assume that they are byproducts resulting from the extraction, manufacturing procedures or most likely absorbed from the ground. Lead is unsafe for human consumption in any form, however hemp based extracts can lead to greater health problems when they are inhaled.

A separate study found that vaping products containing hemp based cannabinoids, including Delta-10 THC, could lead to increased respiratory health issues in users when compared to the whole flower. [6] More data is needed to confirm which compounds within the vaping is causing these issues, but since Delta-10 would not be available in flower form, any inhalant products containing Delta-10 could be risky. Not all hemp based cannabinoid products are dangerous, though.

The easiest way to mitigate any risks associated with consumption is to confirm that the products have a certificate of analysis (COA) from a verified, third party laboratory. This will confirm that not only do the products contain the specific cannabinoids they are advertising, but also that they do not contain any other harmful byproducts that may be left-over from the extraction process.


  1. Gaynes R. The Discovery of Penicillin—New Insights After More Than 75 Years of Clinical Use. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 May;23(5):849–53. doi: 10.3201/eid2305.161556. PMCID: PMC5403050.
  2. Srebnik, Morris, et al. “Base-catalysed double-bond isomerizations of cannabinoids: structural and stereochemical aspects.” Journal of the Chemical Society, Perkin Transactions 1 (1984): 2881-2886.
  3. Jeong, Minsun, et al. “Chemical transformation of cannabidiol into psychotropic cannabinoids under acidic reaction conditions: identification of transformed products by GC–MS.” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis 31.1 (2023): 165.
  4. Dussy, Franz E., et al. “Isolation of Δ9-THCA-A from hemp and analytical aspects concerning the determination of Δ9-THC in cannabis products.” Forensic science international 149.1 (2005): 3-10.
  5. Wakshlag, Joseph J., et al. “Cannabinoid, terpene, and heavy metal analysis of 29 over-the-counter commercial veterinary hemp supplements.” Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports (2020): 45-55.
  6. Love, Charlotte A., et al. “Cannabinoid Vaping Products Present Novel Challenges for Assessment of Respiratory Health Effects.” Toxicological Sciences 188.1 (2022): 1-3.

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