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What is HHC and How Does it Compare to THC?

Jim McDonald
August 23, 2022

Following the wild success of delta 8 THC as a legal alternative to the more controlled availability of delta 9 THC, the cannabis industry has sought other less-known cannabinoids to compete in the diverse cannabis marketplace. One of the newest and most promising is hexahydrocannabinol, usually shortened to HHC.

What is HHC?

HHC is a THC relative long known to science, but until recently not often discussed by cannabis users. HHC is a minor cannabinoid; it occurs naturally in cannabis, but in amounts too small to make extraction cost-effective. Since commercial production of HHC is just getting off the ground, it’s still not widely known.

Most cannabinoids can be converted to other cannabinoids by altering the chemistry of the molecules. Like delta 8 THC and delta 10 THC, commercial HHC is made from hemp-derived CBD in a lab through chemical processes. HHC has one major legal advantage over delta 8 and delta 10: it isn’t called THC.

thc vs hhc molecule comparison infographic

How is HHC produced?

HHC was discovered in the 1940s by chemist Roger Adams. He created HHC by adding hydrogen to the THC molecule and altering its physical properties. The process, called hydrogenation, is first described in a 1947 patent document.

Hydrogenation modifies the structure of delta 9 THC by replacing a double bond with two hydrogen atoms, which changes its molecular weight and also makes it more stable. According to Mark Scialdone, a chemist and BR Brands Chief Science Officer, hydrogenation improves “stability and resistance to thermo-oxidative breakdown”—which means HHC has a longer shelf life and is less prone to damage caused by UV light and heat.

Does HHC get you high? Does it have side effects?

This is kind of tricky. Although HHC isn’t technically a THC, it does produce similar effects—if you use enough of it. When it’s produced in the lab, an HHC batch is a mix of active and inactive HHC molecules. The active HHC binds well with your body’s cannabinoid receptors; the others don’t.

Manufacturers haven’t yet figured out a cost-effective way to separate high-potency HHC from its low-potency twin, so commercial HHC—which is a mix of the two forms—may be something of a crapshoot for the buyer. But HHC does have noticeable effects. Reports from users generally describe the HHC high as being somewhere between delta 8 and delta 9 THC.

Pretty much everything we know about HHC’s effects and side effects is anecdotal. That said, users report the same set of side effects familiar to delta 9 THC users: anxiety and paranoia, dry mouth, dry and red eyes, hunger, and insomnia.

trehouse hhc gummies

TRĒ House HHC Gummies

The high-potency TRĒ house HHC gummies contain 25 mg of HHC per serving, for a total of 500 mg per pack of 20. They offer HHC’s signature euphoric and energetic high and come in a delicious and refreshing strawberry burst flavor. Go easy on them because, as TRĒ House say, “you *will* feel it”.

Artisan HHC cartridge

Artisan HHC Cartridges

The Artisan HHC cartridges are filled with one mL of oil that contains 900 mg of HHC. Choose from 11 popular strains with options in indica, sativa, and hybrid. Artisan carts are third-party lab tested and contain some of the purest HHC on the market. If you are looking for a smooth HHC buzz, look no further!

Will HHC show up in a drug test?

It appears that HHC may not break down in the body in the same way as THC. Unlike the delta 8, delta 9, and delta 10 forms of THC, there is some evidence that HHC doesn’t metabolize into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is the breakdown substance many drug panels test for.

But that hasn’t been studied and isn’t certain. So far, no one knows for sure that HHC won’t leave evidence of use in your blood, urine or hair. If your employer tests for drug use, we suggest you not risk your job by using HHC.

Does HHC have medical benefits?

HHC hasn’t been widely studied, unlike more abundant cannabinoids like delta 9 THC or CBD, but there has been some promising research. A 2011 study showed that some synthetic analogs of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) “strongly inhibited breast cancer cell-induced angiogenesis and tumor growth.” Japanese researchers published a paper in 2007 describing HHC’s impressive pain-blocking capability in mice. But it is probably too early to say whether HHC has great promise as a therapeutic drug.

Congress made the hemp plant and all its derivatives federally legal in the 2018 Farm Bill—as long as the plant or anything made from it contains less than 0.3 percent delta 9 THC.

Even though HHC is found naturally in the cannabis plant, commercial HHC is made by hydrogenating hemp-derived cannabinoids under pressure with a catalyst like palladium. Scientists at the National Cannabis Industry Association call the result a “semi-synthetic” cannabis compound.

In May 2022, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that delta 8 THC was legal under the Farm Bill hemp definition, and that all other compounds and derivatives of hemp are also legal, as long as they don’t contain more than the legal maximum 0.3 percent delta 9 THC. That apparently makes HHC a legal hemp product, and offers protection for manufacturers and sellers of HHC (and delta 8 and delta 10 THC, THC-O and THCP), although some attorneys note that other federal courts could reach different conclusions.

However, HHC could still be banned by individual states. This is likely if HHC becomes popular enough that it threatens sales in the legal cannabis market, as we’ve seen happen with delta 8 THC.

Where can HHC be found?

Reportedly, only one U.S. manufacturer produces HHC and offers it wholesale. We aren’t sure that’s true, but it’s a fact that not many companies are producing it. Consequently, only a handful of companies are offering HHC at retail, and they haven’t been doing it for long.

A quick Google search brought up about a dozen online retailers offering a variety of HHC products. Most sellers offer vape carts filled with HHC oil, and many have gummies. Less common but definitely available are disposable HHC vapes, tinctures for oral consumption, and concentrates for dabbing. At least one company sells “HHC flower”—which is hemp flower coated or infused with HHC.

If HHC remains legally viable, and especially if it becomes less expensive to manufacture high-potency HHC, this promising cannabinoid will become more available in the diverse cannabis marketplace.

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy
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Paul Swift
Paul Swift
10 months ago

I think you wrote a really great article. I just heard about this cannabinoid myself and I’m very curious to see how it’s commercial life develops. I know at least one company is starting to also manufacture his compound. However as a lab owner I am faced with now with the challenge of trying to pre-care of this as a certified reference material from a reliable third party laboratory. I would also like to add just briefly that hydrogenation is very non-selective and that it will hydrogenated anything that can be hydrogenated. Which is probably great if you have a… Read more »

Joe
Joe
9 months ago

I need to test negative. If I smoke this HHC will I test positive?

b. abb.
b. abb.
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe

HHC will probably have urine metabolites that cross react on immunoassay / dipstick tests, but mass spec confirmation should see the difference, it’s molecular weight differs (by two hydrogens) and may also have different fragmentation patterns

Aaron Kaufman
Aaron Kaufman
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

I would put it differently: presuming the standard test really is for 10-hydroxylated canabanoids, then using HHC should not come up positive as it can’t form readily (each of delta-8,9, and 10 have a double bond set up where a hydroxyl can come in, but HHC doesn’t. So I put it like this: the worse (least specific) the test, the worse you are, while midrange tests are more likely to miss HHC and blood tests done, say for forensic use are definitely going to catch everything, though they’ll show it as HHC.

Roro
Roro
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim McDonald

Oui tu sera positif au test urinaire ! J’ai testé.

Translation: Yes you will be positive in the urine test! I tested.

b. abb.
b. abb.
1 month ago

Minor point but your THC figure actually looks like THC-P with 7 carbon side chain instead of 5. great article!

Robin Bartels
Staff
Robin Bartels
1 month ago
Reply to  b. abb.

Thank you for catching that! It’s been edited.

Greg
Greg
8 months ago

Hhc is a fake disassociation high. Why would anyone in legal states even bother with this garbage. There is no substitute for real thc, period.

Chuck D.
Chuck D.
2 months ago
Reply to  Greg

I enjoy HHC more then THC D9. The high is smoother and my eyes don’t get cashed red. I mainly use HHC cigarettes and vape. Both the cigs and vape I use are infused with hemp derived terpenes. The flavor is spot on to cannabis. The bottom line is that THC D9 is not for everyone. I used to smoke it but now I can’t handle it. I thought that I was done getting high until HHC became available.

Mrs.A
Mrs.A
7 months ago
Reply to  Greg

My husband and I were heavy marijuana smokers for 30+ years and got sober. We have tried the Hhc gummies and they are killer. We loved to smoke marijuana, among all the drugs we were getting off of, we thought marijuana would be hard to stay off of, just because we had smoked most of our life, and we know the benefits of it. Non the less we have been able to stay clean from it, so when we tried these, we were blown away! We felt like we had smoked a joint, and took a Xanax!! ( we only… Read more »

Marissa P.
Marissa P.
6 months ago
Reply to  Mrs.A

Can I ask you what Hhc gummies you used?

Cameron Felton
Cameron Felton
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg

HHC is amazing.

Jen
Jen
4 days ago
Reply to  Cameron Felton

It is. Not big THC fan. I have RA and HHC is great for my pain in my hands and feet

Nathan Hedberg
Nathan Hedberg
8 months ago
Reply to  Cameron Felton

Agreed its dang good

Jeremy Mann
Staff
Jeremy Mann
8 months ago
Reply to  Cameron Felton

I think so too. I’ve now tried many of the new cannabinoids like THC-O, THC-P, delta 8 and more. But HHC to me is the one I prefer.