HHC vs. THC - What is HHC? Will you get into a frenzy after HHC? 🤤

What is HHC? Will this new hemp-based cannabinoid get you high? Do we ever need another hemp-based cannabinoid to get us going (the answer is yes - always yes!). So let's dive into the details of this new and amazing compound that is legal across the country - thanks in no small part to Congress! - and answer the question "what is HHC!".

What is HHC?

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. There are many variants of cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis. Other variants include cannabidiol, cannabinol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, etc.

HHC is a cannabinoid compound that has only recently hit the market. That's why only a few sellers sell it, mainly in the form of vape cards. As with delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other related cannabinoids, there are many questions about what HHC is, what its legal status is, where it comes from, and more. So what is HHC?

HHC stands for hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol (or simply hexahydrocannabinol). It is a hemp-derived cannabinoid that occurs naturally in cannabis, but only in trace concentrations. It is a semi-synthetic hydrogenated compound that was first created in 1944 by American chemist Roger Adams when he added hydrogen molecules to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Hydrogenation changes the structure of delta-9 THC by replacing the 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 radiation.

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

What are the potential benefits of HHC?

An old study done in 1977 tested HHC on rats. Researchers have found that the cannabinoid may share properties with narcotic pain relievers, but there are significant differences between the two. 

A second study conducted in 2007 tested HU211 and HU243 in mice. HHC has been found to increase sleep time by 80 to 700%. The researchers also wrote that the compound showed similar effects to delta-9-THC in mice, with less potent therapeutic effects. 

Meanwhile, research from 2011 examined a set of HHC analogs, LYR-7 and LYR-8. These compounds can probably prevent or stop the growth of tumor cells and angiogenesis, which is the main phase of tumor formation. A study published in 2010 found that HHCs took longer to manifest in rats. In general, apart from the benefits highlighted in the limited number of studies conducted, there is no evidence to support the other benefits that the manufacturers of HHC claim to have. 

Other benefits that HHC is thought to have in addition to its pain-relieving effects include: anxiety relief, euphoria, relaxation, brain and body intoxication, reduced inflammation, relief from nausea and vomiting, and improved sleep. 

How is HHC produced?

Now that we've answered the question "what is hhc", let's dive a little deeper. Since HHC is only found in trace amounts in hemp, extraction from hemp is not sufficient. Therefore, all HHC available on the market is obtained by synthetic procedures in the laboratory, mainly by conversion of THC. 

The hydrogenation process carried out in the laboratory produces HHC. This 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 such as nickel, zinc, or palladium. This breaks the chemical structure of THC's double bond and replaces it with hydrogen, creating HHC, but the effects and potency of the cannabinoid 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. This means that in THC delta 8 the double bond is at the eighth carbon in the chain of carbon atoms, while in THC delta 9 the double bond is at the ninth carbon in the chain of carbon atoms. By adding hydrogen during hydrogenation, the double bond is replaced by two hydrogen atoms.

This increases the stability of the compound. Therefore, compared to tetrahydrocannabinol, hexahydrocannabinol is more stable and resistant to thermo-oxidative degradation.

A 2007 study outlined the possibility of conversion of CBD into various forms of HHC by gastric juice. However, this experiment was not conclusive. 

What are the effects of HHC? Will HHC get you hyped?

Although HHC is not technically THC, the effects of HHC are similar to those of THC. For example, feelings of euphoria, feelings of happiness, increased energy, increased body temperature and heart rate, altered visual and auditory sensations. Some users of HHC describe its effects as more relaxing than stimulating, similar to delta 8. 

Each batch of HHC produced in the laboratory is a mixture of active and inactive HHC molecules. The main problem is that manufacturers have not yet figured out a cost-effective way to separate the high-efficiency HHC from its low-efficiency twin. Active HHC with high potency is known as 9R HHC, while inactive HHC with low potency is known as 9S HHC.

9R HHC actively binds to the body's natural endocannabinoid receptors, while 9S HHC does not bind as well as 9R HHC due to slight differences in their molecular structure. 9R HHC, the active twin of HHC with high potency, binds to endocannabinoid receptors and produces similar effects to THC, but requires much higher doses of HHC. Richard Sams of KCA Laboratories says that "thc-like effects can be observed at sufficient doses". 

Most of what is known about the effects of HHC is anecdotal. Since HHC and THC are very similar, HHC may offer many of the therapeutic benefits of THC, but many studies have not investigated this. One study of beta-HHC in rats suggested that it has remarkable pain-relieving effects, but more research is needed to assess the full potential of HHC. 

Bottom line, yes, HHC will get you down. And as with THC, the euphoric effect will affect everyone differently. The intoxication lasts approximately two to three hours, depending on some factors. These factors include the amount used, how the body processes HHC, and how often HHC is used with other products.

How strong is HHC?

The psychoactive effects of any type of THC are related to the number of carbons. This means that the longer the carbon chain, the higher the psychoactive potency up to a certain point. According to Dr. Greg Gerdeman, cannabis scientist, educator and co-founder of NASHCX (Nashville Commodities Exchange), HHC is less potent than delta-9 and potentially more potent than delta-8; however, this varies because the chemistry that creates HHC is not uniform for all methods.

What are the side effects of HHC?

As mentioned, most information about HHC is anecdotal and speculative. So far, preliminary research suggests that HHC has a safety profile comparable to THC. Yet users report the same set of side effects that are common among delta 9 THC users: anxiety and paranoia, dry mouth, dry and red eyes, hunger and insomnia, rapid heart rate.

Because HHC is synthetic, some people may experience other unwanted side effects. Dr. Ethan Russo, MD, a board-certified neurologist and CEO and founder of CReDO Science, says, "The endocannabinoid system is very finely tuned, THC by itself is actually too strong, ... so it's called a weak agonist at the CB1 receptor. That means , that its affinity for the receptor is low to moderate."

"When you have something like a synthetic agonist or like an HHC, it's more potent, and that means you're very likely to experience side effects, maybe even before the benefits," Russo adds.