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May 30, 20240

H4CBD: What Is It and How Does It Compare to CBD?

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

The premise is simple, at least in theory: hydrogenate CBD and create a new cannabinoid with unique properties and benefits. Thanks to HHC, we’ve already seen the effects hydrogenation has on THC. It’s only natural that the same process can be performed on CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabidiol (hydrogenated CBD, or H4CBD) has a slightly messy role in the cannabis product sphere due to PHC, a mysterious cannabinoid that may or may not exist. You’ll find certain hemp sellers marketing H4CBD under the trendy PHC moniker. H4CBD has also been referred to as THD.

But not all PHC products are H4CBD in disguise (most likely aren’t,) and not all H4CBD products are misleadingly branded as such. It’s all a bit muddy. To make matters worse, the reality of H4CBD’s effects doesn’t align with the typical claims about PHC.

Actually, H4CBD has considerably more in common with your typical CBD product, despite a few quirks setting it apart. But a CBD gummy could still affect you much differently than its H4CBD equivalent.

Unlike PHC, H4CBD has a history spanning several decades—and, yes, it’s an actual cannabinoid, not the product of a marketing meeting.

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What is H4CBD?

Also known as H4-CBD by a handful of sources, H4CBD was first synthesized in 1940 by Alexander R. Todd, an acclaimed British biochemist. CBD was identified by a separate researcher that same year.

H4CBD is the fully hydrogenated form of CBD. Partially hydrogenating CBD leaves you instead with H2CBD, or 8,9-dihydrocannabidiol. H2CBD and H4CBD appear to share anti-inflammatory properties but differ in their interactions with nervous system receptors, particularly CB1. One even has the potential to get you high.

Hydrogenation isn’t a new process, nor is it specific to the hemp industry. If you’ve ever seen “hydrogenated vegetable oil” (i.e., margarine) on a food label, you’ve already spotted proof of this technique in the wild. Merging a substance with molecular hydrogen (H2) can greatly alter its characteristics.

In H4CBD’s case, specifically, chemists add four new hydrogen atoms. Hence, the “4” in its name.

Does H4CBD get you high?

Unlike its non-hydrogenated form, H4CBD has the potential to get you high. That’s because, unlike CBD, H4CBD has a notable affinity for CB1 endocannabinoid receptors. For reference, these are the same receptors targeted by THC, and the ones directly responsible for the psychotropic effects of THC and some other related cannabinoids.

We know that it has stronger affinity for CB1 than its partially hydrogenated sibling, H2CBD. Both cannabinoids are technically more intoxicating than CBD, but ingesting H4CBD products could possibly give you a buzz.

Before you run out to replace your favorite marijuana (or even delta 8 THC) products with a cannabinoid more akin to CBD, keep in mind that it probably won’t get you that high at a recommended dose. Still, as with all CB1 agonists (and cannabinoids in general,) start with a small dose to gauge your body’s response. Only consume more after the substance has taken effect.

It’s not unheard of for users to report significant psychotropic effects after consuming large doses of H4CBD, so keep that in mind. CBD simply won’t get you high, no matter how large a dose you take.

What are the benefits of H4CBD?

Research into H4CBD’s impact on human users is extremely limited. We have a good deal of anecdotes citing potential intoxicating and calming effects, but inquiry into its therapeutic benefits is in the early stages.

H4CBD probably has anti-inflammatory properties. This won’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with CBD or its variants, though it’s unclear which types of inflammation H4CBD best targets. H4CBD could also improve glucose responses and encourage weight loss in those with advanced metabolic syndrome.

If you want a soothing cannabinoid that has robust (and growing) scientific backing, you’ll prefer CBD oils, vapes, or edibles.

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H4CBD side effects

We don’t know the full scope of H4CBD’s effects when used recreationally, including potential adverse reactions.

If you’re trying H4CBD for the first time, begin with a small dose—the manufacturer’s recommendation or lower—and work your way up. That’s the only reliable way to determine your body’s response.

Be on the lookout for common cannabis side effects, such as:

  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Digestive issues
  • Low or high blood pressure

Because H4CBD can be intoxicating, you also run the risk of anxiety and other reactions usually linked to THC.

Is H4CBD safe?

We don’t have any reason to believe that H4CBD itself is unsafe, but as is often the case, trials are needed to uncover possible risks. At least it's probably not carcinogenic—though, to be fair, that’s not a typical concern with any cannabinoid.

Any hemp-derived cannabis product has the potential to be unsafe, regardless of a seller’s claims. Don’t forget that hemp is still an unregulated industry in the United States. Sellers aren’t required by law to have their wares third-party safety tested, and even those who engage in testing don’t always opt for full-panel screenings. Certificates of analysis (COAs) may not go beyond measuring potency.

Stick to third-party tested H4CBD products, with a preference for brands that take the full-panel path. Residual solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides should all be considered.

Manufacturers who fail to test their products are either cutting corners or hiding the actual contents. You might save a few dollars, but it’s not worth the risk to your health.

Lastly, hydrogenation is a safe chemical process, even when it’s performed on consumables. Adding hydrogen to a cannabinoid won’t produce anything inherently dangerous.


We’ve already addressed the obvious: no matter the size of your CBD dose, you won’t experience intoxicating effects similar to THC. But getting high from H4CBD is entirely possible. Its potency will vary from one user to the next, and perhaps by batch, but that’s true of any cannabinoid, CBD included.

Structurally, H4CBD is only a quick tweak away from CBD. All that sets them apart is the additional hydrogen atoms added to create H4CBD.

Building on that: CBD and H4CBD aren’t actually isomers. You’re either adding or subtracting atoms, thus altering the substance’s composition and molecular weight. Isomeric cannabinoids share all the same building blocks. It only requires shifting the molecule’s bonds to create an entirely new substance.

H4CBD and CBD are analogs, however. They’re similar yet chemically distinct, especially compared to closely related isomers like delta 8 and delta 9 THC.

There’s no built-in synthetic pathway from H4CBD to THC. It is simple to isomerize CBD and create THC in a lab, but that doesn’t seem to be an option with H4CBD.

Both CBD and its hydrogenated variant could have anti-inflammatory benefits. CBD simply has far greater scientific backing.


Both H4CBD and HHC are hydrogenated forms of naturally abundant, better-researched cannabinoids. They also possess two forms each: an R variant and S variant, which despite being stereoisomers, seem to have distinct potencies.

Generally, you’ll see sources report that 9R-HHC is the more potent form, while 9S-HHC has milder psychotropic effects. Research published in 2023 supports that conclusion. It’s less clear how H4CBD’s own stereoisomers differ for recreational users.

Hydrogenating THC and CBD alters the psychoactivity of either cannabinoid, just in opposite directions. HHC is slightly less intoxicating than the THC it’s derived from. H4CBD, on the other hand, has mild psychotropic properties which CBD totally lacks.

CBD is even a CB1 antagonist, potentially tempering the effects of THC when consumed together. Users may vape or smoke high-CBD bud in an attempt to smooth out or lessen their high.

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Will H4CBD show up on a drug test?

Intoxicating or not, it’s unlikely that H4CBD alone will show up on a drug test. Standard screenings are designed to detect THC-COOH, a metabolite produced by the body after filtering out THC. Psychotropic delta 9 THC isomers (delta 8, delta 10, etc.) are just as much of a risk.

CBD, on the other end of the spectrum, isn’t metabolized into THC-COOH at all. Ingesting pure CBD isolates won’t lead to a failed screening. The same likely applies to H4CBD.

No need to panic if you’ve already consumed H4CBD and have an upcoming screening. In the future, simply consider avoiding all cannabis products before testing. Trace THC can build up in your system, especially if you rely primarily on full-spectrum hemp, which contains small amounts of THC.

Is H4CBD legal?

As it stands, H4CBD is protected under the 2018 Farm Bill. Legal hemp products of any kind are required to contain below 0.3% delta 9 THC by dry weight. You can verify an H4CBD product's exact THC content via its COA.

Before shopping for hemp products of any kind, be sure to check up on your state laws. Despite being federally legal, some states take a dimmer view of hemp-derived intoxicants.

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Hayley Heidelbaugh

Vaping since: 3 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: White Wedding, Northern Lights, Platinum Valley, OG Kush

Expertise in: Oil carts, cannabis concentrates, cannabis flower

Hayley Heidelbaugh

I'm a Pennsylvania-based cannabis enthusiast and writer. As a part of the Vaping360 team, I'm eager to help cannabis consumers explore vaping and get the most out of their experience. You can also find me @faeberrystudios on Instagram.

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