January 11, 2023

What is HHC?

We don’t know much, but here’s a breakdown of what we do know.

  • HHC is a hemp-derived cannabinoid naturally produced in cannabis plants
  • HHC is a hydrogenated form of THC with more resistance to heat and UV exposure and a much longer shelf-life
  • HHC induces similar effects to THC and is comparably potent
  • Limited research exists into HHC’s safety, but users find it to be on par with THC

HHC is one of the least understood of the hemp-derived cannabinoids popping up all over the nation—such as delta 8 THC, delta-10 THC, and delta-O THC. It can be confusing to get good information on its effects on the body, its legality, and how it comes from the cannabis plant.

But figuring out HHC is worth your time, even though few retailers and online sellers of cannabinoid products carry it, usually as vape carts. Keep reading to learn all about HHC, including how it’s made, its legality, its effects, and more.

What Is HHC?

American chemist Roger Adams first created hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) in 1944 by combining hydrogen molecules and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called delta-9 THC, in a high pressure environment and the presence of a catalyst like palladium. This process, called hydrogenation, converts THC to HHC, the hydrogenated form of THC. Hydrogenation works on compounds other than cannabinoids; a similar process, adding hydrogen atoms to the chemical structure of vegetable oil to stabilize it, creates margarine.

THC loses hydrogen atoms as it oxidizes, breaking down its double bond chemical structure. It then forms two new double bonds, and the new compound that is formed is cannabinol (CBN), with only about 10% of the psychoactive potency of THC.

This small change in THC’s molecular structure also increases THC’s binding affinity for the the TRP pain receptors and CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. HHC is also far more stable and resistant to heat, oxidation, and UV light.

How are the effects of HHC products HHC different from THC or delta-8?

Chemically speaking, HHC has an additional hydrogen molecule that THC lacks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that HHC is less potent with less powerful psychoactive effects than standard delta-9 THC, with similar effects to delta-8 for many users.

Part of the confusion surrounding the potency of HHC is that when this cannabinoid is made, it actually contains more than one kind of HHC molecule: 9R HHC and 9S HHC, the former of which more readily binds with the body’s natural receptors in its endocannabinoid system.

Is HHC indica or sativa?

Neither, really. It is sort of like isolating THC; it is its own unique cannabinoid. But many users suggest it is somewhat mild yet energizing, like a hybrid with a slight sativa edge.

Do HHC molecules show up on a drug test?

Some people claim HHC does not show up on drug tests. But this is unproven. Remember, technically any cannabinoids may be able to convert into 11-hydroxy-THC, a common drug test metabolite. The bottom line is, if drug testing is essential for your career, don’t bet on anecdotal evidence.

Is HHC safe to consume?

Yes. However, like any recently discovered hemp-derived cannabinoids, there is not really a standard dose and little known to science about hemp-derived cannabinoids (including HHC). Furthermore, makers of HHC products are not required to test their wares for potency and purity because they’re not subject to cannabis regulations in legal adult-use states. However, the best ones still do—look for about 99% HHC. Some labels also show the ratio of 9S and 9R HHC molecules.

Can you vape HHC?

Yes. Many retailers sell HHC gummies, vape cartridges, and other products.

Is hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) legal?

This is confusing, as it is for other cannabinoids like delta 8 THC.

HHC is derived from hemp plants, so most retailers argue that because it is not actually THC, HHC is legal at the federal level. HHC vapes, edibles, and gummies are all legal, just as the versions with delta-8, CBD, and other non-THC cannabinoids are.

However, some argue that HHC may be subject to the Federal Analogue Act, which lumps any derivative substances that are analogs to a Schedule I drug—in this case, conventional cannabis and its classic delta 9 THC, THC-O, or any cousins such as delta-8 THC or delta-10 THC—on that same Schedule I list.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made this more confusing by issuing an interim rule about cannabis and the 2018 Farm Bill. This rule says that all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols are still under Schedule I.

Of course this seems to be poised to change soon—for all cannabis products!

For now, it’s not 100% clear what the legality of HHC products is and what the difference between these and hemp products (which are legal nationwide) and cannabis products (which are not) are. Always check local laws before purchasing, even online!

What are HHC-O cannabinoids?

What is HHC-O, or HHC acetate? To create HHC-O, producers combine acetic anhydride and HHC molecules. This has the effect of making the HHC feel more potent as it binds more thoroughly to the cannabinoid receptors.

What are the side effects of HHC?

So far, users have found that HHC’s safety profile is similar to THC, and reported side effects of HHC are also similar to those of high dose THC:

  • Anxiety
  • Cottonmouth
  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Red eyes

What’s the dose of HHC?

Age, weight, stomach contents, genetics, and tolerance levels all impact the appropriate dose of any psychoactive substance, including HHC. As a general guide, HHC lies between delta 8 (D8) and delta 9 THC (D9) in terms of potency. Always start low and go slow.

Typical delta 8 dosing is a good place to start with HHC:

  • Low dose: 10 – 20 mg per serving
  • Moderate dose: 20 – 50 mg per serving
  • Heavy dose: 50 – 100 mg per serving

New users of cannabinoids should always start with a small amount, or even a microdose (1–2 mg), before increasing the dose.

Key takeaways: What is HHC?

Every new cannabinoid is something new to try, and HHC is the latest and greatest. Time will tell if HHC is one of the cannabinoids you end up loving, but it’s definitely worth trying.