April 5, 2022

HHC Cannabinoid Guide: What Is HHC? Does HHC Get You High?

What is HHC? Does this new, hemp-based cannabinoid get you high? Do we even need another hemp-based cannabinoid to get us high (the answer is yes — always yes!). So let’s dive into the details of this new and wonderful compound that is legal across the country — thanks to Congress, of all people! — and answer the question “what is HHC!”

What Is HHC?

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds that are found in the Cannabis sativa plant. There are many cannabinoid variations available, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Other variations include cannabidiol, cannabinol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, etc.

HHC is a cannabinoid compound that has only recently reached the market. Hence, it is sold by a few retailers and primarily as vape carts. Like delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other related cannabinoids, there are many questions about what HHC is, its legal status, where it comes from, and more. So, what is HHC?

HHC is short for Hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol (or simply hexahydrocannabinol). It is a hemp-derived cannabinoid found naturally in cannabis but only in trace concentrations. It is a semi-synthetic hydrogenated compound first created in 1944 by the American chemist Roger Adams when he added hydrogen molecules to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Hydrogenation modifies the structure of delta 9 THC by replacing a double bond with two hydrogen atoms.

In other words, HHC is the most stable form of THC. It is highly resistant to oxidation, heat, and UV light.

Roger Adams synthesized HHC from conventional cannabis-derived THC. According to Roger Brown, the president and founder of ACS Laboratory: HHC is typically derived from hemp cannabinoids such as delta-8.

What Is HHC

What Are The Potential Benefits of HHC?

An old study carried out in 1977 tested HHC on rats. The researchers discovered that the cannabinoid could share properties with narcotic painkillers, but significant differences existed. 

Does this mean that the HHC you can buy on the market today can be used as a painkiller? Probably not; HHC is not sold as a treatment or preventative whatsoever. But it's fun to look back at old studies!

A second study carried out in 2007 tested HU211 and HU243 on mice. HHC extended sleeping time by 80% and 700% (Wow!). The researchers also wrote that the compound indicated delta-9-THC-like effects in the mice, with less potent effects. 

Meanwhile, in 2011 a research study examined a set of HHC analogs, LYR-7 and LYR-8. The study found that HHC might have some exciting benefits, though more research will be needed. 

Another study issued in 2010 found that HHC manifested for more extended periods in rats. Generally, HHC has limited but useful benefits for users. Still, it is excellent for those looking for a simple, subtle way to relax.

Other benefits HHC is believed to have include; euphoria, relaxation, cerebral and bodily intoxication, reduced inflammation, relief of nausea and vomiting, and better sleep. However, it must be noted that HHC is not meant to treat, cure, or prevent any disease, sickness, or ailment of any kind.

How Is HHC Produced?

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is HHC,” let’s dive deeper. Since HHC is found only in trace amounts in cannabis, extraction from cannabis is not adequate. Hence all HHC available on the market is derived through synthetic procedures in the lab, majorly through THC conversion. 

To be clear, HHC is an all-natural compound derived from hemp. But to produce it in quantities large enough to sell on the consumer market, manufacturers use synthetic processes to "kick start" it into high gear.

A hydrogenation process carried out in the laboratory produces HHC. It is a similar process used to turn vegetable oil into margarine. It involves the addition of hydrogen atoms to a chemical structure to stabilize it. Typically, THC is saturated with hydrogen in the presence of high pressure and a catalyst like nickel, zinc, or palladium. The process breaks THC’s double bond chemical structure and replaces it with hydrogen, forming HHC, yet the cannabinoid’s effects and potency remain essentially unchanged.

Structurally, the difference between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is the position of the bond in the chain of carbon atoms. In delta 8 THC, the double bond is located on the eighth carbon in the carbon chain, while in delta 9 THC, the double bond is located on the ninth carbon in the carbon chain. The addition of hydrogen during the hydrogenation process replaces the double bond with two hydrogen atoms.

In turn, this increases the stability of the compound. So, hexahydrocannabinol is more stable and resistant to thermo-oxidative breakdown than tetrahydrocannabinol.

study from 2007 outlined the possibility of converting CBD into different forms of HHC using gastric juice. However, this experiment was inconclusive. 

Is the Production Process Safe?

The scientific director at KCA laboratories in Nicholasville, Kentucky, Richard Sams, confirmed that HHC could be produced safely in a well-equipped laboratory. Still, if production is scaled up, the risks rise too. “The potential risk here is with explosions,” he explained.

It can be a complex process for persons who aren’t qualified or don’t have the proper procedures or the right equipment. The catalysts used in production are ‘pyrophoric,’ which means they readily ignite in certain conditions. 

So, if you don't want to blow up your house, leave the HHC production to the professionals!

What Are the Effects of HHC? Does HHC Get You High?

Although HHC isn’t technically THC, the effects of HHC are similar to those of THC. For example, users may experience:

  • feelings of euphoria
  • happiness
  • increased energy
  • an elevated body temperature
  • elevated heart rate
  • altered visual and auditory perceptions

Some HHC users describe its effects as more relaxing than stimulating. Others say it is similar to delta 8. 

Every batch of HHC manufactured mixes both active and inactive HHC molecules. The significant problem is that manufacturers haven’t figured out a cost-effective way to separate high potency HHC from its low potency twin. The high active potency HHC is known as the 9R HHC, while the inactive low potency HHC is known as the 9S HHC.

9R HHC actively binds to the body’s natural endocannabinoid receptors, while 9S HHC does not bind as well as 9R HHC because of slight differences in their molecular structures. 9R HHC, the active high potency HHC twin, binds to endocannabinoid receptors to produce effects similar to THC but requires much higher doses of HHC. 

Richard Sams of KCA Laboratories says, “with a sufficient dose, THC-like effects can be observed.” 

Most things known about the effects of HHC are anecdotal. Since HHC and THC are very similar, HHC may offer many THC therapeutic benefits, but few studies have investigated this. One survey on beta-HHC in rats indicated it possesses some notable advantages, but more research is required to assess HHC’s full potential. 

In summary, yes, HHC does get you high. And just like THC, the euphoric effect will affect everyone differently. The high lasts about two to three hours, depending on some factors. These factors include how much is taken, how the body processes HHC, and how often HHC is used along with other products.

What Is HHC? Hexahydrocannabinol - Everything You Need To Know. Is It Legal? Is It Safe?

How Potent is HHC?

The psychoactive effects of any THC-like compound relate to the number of carbons. That means that the longer the carbon chain, the higher the psychoactive potency up to a certain point. 

According to Greg Gerdeman, Ph.D., a cannabis scientist, educator, and the co-founder of the NASHCX (Nashville Commodities Exchange), HHC is less potent than delta-9 and potentially more potent than delta-8. However, that varies because the chemistry that creates HHC is not consistent across all methods.

What Are the Side Effects of HHC?

As we noted earlier, most of the information on HHC is anecdotal and speculative. So far, preliminary research indicates that HHC has a safety profile comparable to THC — in a positive way. Users report the same set of side effects commonly found with delta 9 THC. Those include:

  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • dry mouth
  • dry and red eyes
  • hunger
  • insomnia
  • rapid heart rate

Dr. Ethan Russo, M.D., a board-certified neurologist, and the CEO and founder of CReDO Science, says, “The endocannabinoid system is very finely tuned. THC on its own is too strong, … so it's called a weak agonist at the CB1 receptor. That means that its affinity for the receptor is low to middling."

He continued: “When you have something like the synthetic agonist or like HHC, it’s stronger than that, and it means that you’re very likely to get side effects, maybe even before you get the benefits.” 

Does HHC Show Up On a Drug Test?

Another key selling point HHC users makes is that a standard 12-panel drug test won’t detect it. HHC may not break down in the body as THC does. Unlike the delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 forms of THC, there is some proof that HHC doesn’t metabolize into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is the metabolite that triggers a positive result on many drug panel tests. James Stephens, vice president of innovation at Creo, a biotech firm specializing in cannabinoids, hears similar arguments about HHC not metabolizing into 11-Hydroxy THC. 

“It could possibly be used to evade drug testing regimes if this proves to be true,” he said.

Today, no one knows if HHC won’t leave evidence of use in your blood, urine, or hair. If you are to take a drug test soon, we suggest not taking the risk by avoiding HHC. 

Is HHC Legal?

The legal status of HHC is controversial and ambiguous. Many manufacturers, retailers, and distributors argue (rightfully so) that the compound is federally legal because it occurs naturally in the hemp plant. 

The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized the hemp plant and all its derivatives. Unless the plant or any substance produced contains delta 9 THC at a concentration of more than 0.3 percent, that compound is legal by law.

Substantial amounts of CBD are produced from hemp. It also contains many other cannabinoids. Since the Farm Bill legalizes products containing other hemp cannabinoids as long as they don’t exceed the 0.3% THC threshold, producers of HHC products are adamant that everything is above board. However, the reality is different. HHC is conceivably illegal and is considered synthetic.

The FDA’s Interim Final Rule (IFR) states that synthetic cannabinoids in hemp are illegal, while naturally-occurring ones are permitted. Manufacturers could argue that HHC occurs naturally in hemp and cannabis, but its occurrence is only in trace amounts. HHC manufacturers make it in a lab using a chemical process (hydrogenation) which extracts more of HHC than typically found in hemp.

The small matter of the Federal Analog Act makes any analog of a Schedule I drug, such as delta-9-THC, a prohibited substance. However, very few people should fear being charged under this law when it comes to using HHC and other related cannabinoids.

Is HHC Legal?

What Is the Proper Dose of HHC? How Much Should I Take?

The suitable dose of any psychoactive substance depends on factors such as weight, age, and tolerance levels.

An individual using HHC for the first time will not know their tolerance level, but as a general guide, its potency lies somewhere between the mellower high of delta 8 (D8) and the more intense delta 9 THC (D9). All users should always start on the low end. Usually, the delta 8 dosing follows:

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

Experienced users of delta 8 can take an HHC dose equal to the delta 8 doses usually taken. However, it is recommended to start using a slightly lower dose. If you are entirely new to THC and its cannabinoids, it’s best to take a small amount, or perhaps even a microdose (1–2 mg), before gradually increasing the dose.

A school of thought believes that HHC is 80% as potent as delta-9-THC. Individuals with a low THC tolerance should use HHC with caution. They should take no more than 3-5mg at first to gauge its effects on the body and mind 

Can You Build Up Tolerance to HHC?

HHC is a cannabinoid, and just like THC and other cannabinoids, it is pretty normal to build up a tolerance. Your tolerance to HHC will grow after consistent use. Most times, discontinuing use for a bit resets a user’s tolerance.

When users build up a tolerance to HHC (or any compound), there is a natural tendency to take higher doses to obtain similar effects. If you need a more extensive and considerable amount to achieve a high, you probably need a break. 

Stop taking HHC for a week or so and your tolerance will drop.

Is it Safe to Take HHC?

There is very little research on the long-term use of HHC. Hemp-derived cannabinoids (HHC included) aren't regulated like cannabis in adult-use states. Because of this, HHC manufacturers are not required to test their products for purity and potency.

Generally, the safety of HHC is unknown, but there have been no reports of overdose or death from using HHC or its products. Always purchase your HHC products from a manufacturer that uses third-party testing. Be sure to ask for lab reports to ensure safety. 

What are the Effects of HHC?

How Does HHC Compare to Other Cannabinoids?

It has been reported that the effects of HHC are very similar to the effects of Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC. HHC is THC, meaning that the two compounds are relatively identical in their molecular structure. 

But, HHC lacks double bonds in its structure. During the manufacturing process, hydrogenation breaks down and replaces the double bonds already found in THC.

HHC vs. Delta 10 THC

HHC is more intoxicating than delta 10 THC, and its psychoactive properties seem to give a feeling of euphoria and inner bliss. Such products can make a user feel groggier than they would with delta 10 since it can be more turbulent to a person’s normal thought process.

HHC

Delta 10 THC

Hexahydrocannabinol

Tetrahydrocannabinol

Double bond absent in its carbon chain

Double bond present on tenth carbon

More intoxicating

Less intoxicating

HHC vs. Delta 9 THC

HHC behaves identically to delta 9 THC, though it is less potent. Researchers say that it offers the same effects as delta 9 related to mood, sleep, nausea, appetite, pain, and more. 

We know that the effects of delta 9 are extensive throughout the body through its interest in both CB1 receptors (cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system) and CB2 receptors (cannabinoid receptors in the digestive and immune systems). HHC varies from delta 9 due to the absence of the double bond in HHC. 

The lack of this double bond affects how HHC interacts with endocannabinoid receptors. Thus, this makes hexahydrocannabinol less powerful than delta 9. 

HHC vs Delta 9

HHC

DELTA-9 THC

Hexahydrocannabinol

Tetrahydrocannabinol

Double bond absent in its carbon chain

Double bond present on ninth carbon

Less intoxicating

More intoxicating

HHC vs. Delta 8 THC

Delta-8 THC can create a bold high that is relaxing and uplifting, just like HHC but less potent. Compared to Delta -8, HHC is more soothing and relaxing.

HHC

DELTA-8 THC

Hexahydrocannabinol

Tetrahydrocannabinol

Double bond absent in its carbon chain

Double bond present on eighth carbon

More intoxicating

Less intoxicating

HHC vs CBD

CBD stands for cannabidiol. The significant difference between cannabidiol and hexahydrocannabinol is that CBD cannot give a user the psychoactive effects that HHC and delta-9 produce. They have similar pharmacological benefits such as elevation of pain, offset of anxiety and depression, and improving sleep. 

HHC

CBD

Hexahydrocannabinol

Cannabidiol

Gives an intoxicating euphoric high

No psychoactive effects

Things to Take Away (Final Thoughts on HHC)

  • HHC is short for hexahydrocannabinol and is a more stable, hydrogenated form of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
  • HHC has a longer shelf life than THC.
  • Hexahydrocannabinol is a mix of 9R HHC and 9S HHC (less potent) when produced.
  • Delta-9-THC is more powerful than delta-8-THC, which is more potent than HHC.
  • HHC may not show up in drug tests, but it is unverified.
  • There have been no reports of death from the use of HHC.
  • HHC is federally legal, though you should check on the status of this compound in your state.