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What is HHC? Understanding Hexahydrocannabinol

In recent years, the legal cannabinoid market has seen an explosion of interest in new and exciting compounds derived from cannabis plants. One of these is hexahydrocannabinol, commonly known as HHC. As research into the numerous cannabinoids found in cannabis continues, minor cannabinoids are emerging as potentially valuable alternatives to the major compounds THC and CBD. But what exactly is HHC, and how does it differ from other popular cannabinoids?

In short, HHC is a chemical compound found in small amounts in hemp. It is related to THC, the main active compound in marijuana, but it is not as strong.

potent cannabinoids explanation
Chris Dorcey
Inheal Editor
Post date
January 19, 2024
Time to read
9 mins 16 secs

Key Takeaways

  • HHC is a hydrogenated form of THC created by adding hydrogen atoms to the THC molecular structure.
  • Early research shows promise for hexahydrocannabinol as a medicinal cannabinoid, but more studies are needed.
  • It provides effects similar to but milder than THC, with a longer duration.
  • The compound occupies a complicated legal status but is federally legal if derived from hemp. Check local laws before purchasing.
  • Adverse effects appear comparable to THC but likely less intense. Start with low doses to assess tolerance.

What is HHC?

hhc chemical formula

What exactly is hexahydrocannabinol?

  • Full Name: Hexahydrocannabinol
  • Abbreviation: HHC
  • Description: Hydrogenated form of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Classification: Cannabinoid & semi-synthetic THC analog
  • Source Material: Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD)


HHC, short for hexahydrocannabinol, is a hydrogenated form of THC. It is produced in a lab by adding hydrogen atoms to the THC molecule, a process known as hydrogenation. This alters the chemical structure of THC slightly, making it more stable.

The compound occurs naturally in tiny traces in cannabis plants. However, most it used recreationally or medicinally comes from hemp-derived CBD that has undergone hydrogenation. This semi-synthetic production process allows the cannabinoid to be made affordably and in quantities suitable for commercial use.

Compared to THC, HHC has a similar molecular structure. But it lacks double bonds in its cyclohexene ring which alters its binding affinity. This gives the compoud somewhat different effects and properties than THC.

History of HHC

history

Hexahydrocannabinol was first synthesized in 1944 by American organic chemist. He created it by adding hydrogen atoms to the THC molecule, developing a process to hydrogenate THC. This discovery introduced HHC as a new cannabinoid, though Adams did not explore its pharmacological effects.

For decades, the compound remained an obscure cannabinoid rarely mentioned outside of chemistry papers. But renewed interest in minor cannabis compounds has led to new production methods for HHC, making this previously unknown cannabinoid available for wide use.

How is it made?

The most common method for manufacturing HHC involves hydrogenating CBD isolate under high heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst like platinum, palladium, or nickel. This forces hydrogen atoms to bond with the CBD molecules, converting it into HHC.

After hydrogenation is complete, the product is filtered thoroughly using techniques like chromatography to remove all traces of metals. When consumed, any residual catalyst particles could be toxic, so this purification is a crucial final step.

The resulting HHC distillate can then be infused into vape juices, tinctures, edibles or other products as desired. By hydrogenating inexpensive CBD isolate, producers can generate purity HHC oil affordably.

Benefits and Effects of HHC

effects of consuming

Early research into HHC is limited but shows promising results. In one rodent study, HHC demonstrated powerful pain-relieving properties. And some HHC analogs have exhibited potential to inhibit cancer cell growth. More research is still needed however to fully understand HHC’s therapeutic potential benefits.

Anecdotally, HHC users report similar effects to THC including:

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite
  • Improved sociability


However, most describe the high as milder than delta-9 THC, comparing it to delta-8. Since HHC binds to CB1 receptors like THC, it triggers the same general responses, just somewhat reduced in intensity.

Comparison With Other Cannabinoids

Let’s dive into the comparison to find out the differences and similarities with other famous compounds.

HHC vs Delta 8

  • Reported to be more potent than delta-8 THC in psychoactive effects.
  • May have a longer duration, with effects lasting up to 12 hours compared to 4-6 hours for delta-8.
  • Is said to induce stronger cognitive effects like euphoria and altered perception.

HHC vs THC

  • THC appears significantly more potent based on anecdotal reports.
  • Hexahydrocannabinol is less likely to cause negative effects like anxiety, paranoia, and increased heart rate.
  • HHC provides a clearer, more functional high according to users.

CBD vs HHC

  • Hexahydrocannabinol activates CB1 receptors causing a mental high; CBD does not induce psychoactive effects.
  • CBD is more widely researched and better understood in terms of benefits and side effects.
  • HHC may produce similar effects like anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties as CBD.
  • HHC generates more mind-altering results while CBD promotes general wellness.

Safety and Side Effects

Currently very little formal research exists into the safety profile and side effects of HHC. However, based on user reports, the adverse effects mirror those of THC and may include:

  • Anxiety or overly suspicious thoughts
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty sleeping


Caution is advised around taking high doses, as overconsumption of THC can lead to extremely unpleasant experiences. Those new to cannabinoids should start with low doses and increase slowly as tolerance builds.

The Legal Status

The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and all hemp derivatives, as long as they contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Since it can be derived from legal hemp, many consider it to be legal on a federal level.

However, some states have banned or restricted the sale of synthetically produced cannabinoids, putting it in a legal grey area in certain jurisdictions. It is wise to check your local laws before purchasing such products. The DEA considers synthetic cannabinoids illegal, though there is debate around whether semi-synthetic HHC truly falls into this category.

Overall the HHC legal landscape for the cannabinoid is complex, much like that of delta-8 THC. But in most places where hemp CBD is legal, HHC occupies a similar status. However consumers should exercise appropriate caution and research laws in their state.

Learn more >

Why is It Gaining Popularity?

Several factors are driving the growing popularity of HHC in recent years:

  • Increased interest in minor and rare cannabinoids – As research expands into the hundreds of compounds in cannabis, novel cannabinoids are entering the spotlight.
  • Demand for legal THC alternatives – Many consumers seek cannabis experiences without breaking the law. Semi-synthetic cannabinoids derived from hemp offer this.
  • Curiosity around new psychoactive substances – For cannabis enthusiasts, new compounds represent unexplored territories to discover.
  • Perceived advantages over existing options – it is reported to cause less anxiety and be more functional than traditional THC.
  • Lack of drug test detection – Most drug screens do not currently test for HHC, making it appealing for those subject to testing.

In an era of cannabis connoisseurship and boundless experimentation, fascinating cannabinoids have found an eager market ready to sample new highs. While HHC remains understudied, anecdotal hype is driving intrigue.

Also, you may like to read more about HHC vs THC >

by Chris Dorcey

A connoisseur of cannabis creativity and true contemplation with more than 20 years of experience, Chris extracts deep thoughts from getting lightly baked and shares his wandering mind. He blends cuisine and cannabis culture into nutritious, delicious recipes and insights for other hemp lovers.

Disclaimer

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. FDA has not evaluated statements contained within the blog. Information on this website or in any materials or communications from Inheal is for educational/informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions, correct dosage or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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