What Is HHC? Uses & Benefits of This Cannabinoid

What is HHC illustration
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: August 30, 2022

It seems like the last two years have been a fast race between manufacturers aimed at discovering new cannabinoids and inventing novel formulas to diversify the market. HHC is one of the hottest cannabinoids right now.

It’s an analog of THC — similar to delta 8 THC — but according to anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t show up on drug tests. This is yet to be confirmed, so don’t take it as advice from me.

What makes HHC unique is its stability due to its high resistance to oxidation, heat, and UV light, so you don’t need to pay so much attention to storage as you do with cannabis buds.

Although we still know very little about HHC, its legality, and its potential applications, here’s what I gathered about this interesting cannabinoid.

What Is HHC?

HHC stands for hexahydrocannabinol, which is a hydrogenated form of THC.

It’s obtained in a similar process that margarine manufacturers use to harden vegetable oils using a process known as hydrogenation, or adding hydrogen atoms to the chemical structure to make it stable.

HHC is found naturally in hemp but only in trace amounts. To extract a usable concentration, a complex process is performed to add hydrogen atoms to THC by using a catalyst like nickel or palladium and high pressure.

This causes the breakdown of THC’s double bond chemical structure, replacing it with hydrogen while preserving the cannabinoid’s potency and effects. Scientists have discovered at least ten isomers of this hydrogenated form of THC to date.

This slight alteration enhances THC’s binding affinity for both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), as well as the TRP pain receptors.

More interestingly, the hydrogenation of THC strengthens its molecular structure, making it less susceptible to oxidation and degradation than its source cannabinoid.

Upon oxidation, THC gets deprived of hydrogen atoms, forming two new double bonds. This results in the formation of CBN (cannabinol), which only has around 10% of THC’s psychoactive strength.

Unlike THC, HHC doesn’t lose potency as quickly when exposed to environmental factors such as light, heat, and air.

So, if you’re a post-apocalyptic prepper, you may save some of that HHC to get yourself elevated during hard times.

How Does HHC Compare to THC?

When it comes to its effect profile, HHC is very similar to the psychoactive feeling of THC. It will induce feelings of euphoria, alter your visual and auditory perception, boost your appetite, and temporarily increase your heart rate.

Some HHC users put HHC somewhere between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC, describing them as more relaxing than stimulating.

Of course, HHC’s molecular structure means the cannabinoid offers many of THC’s therapeutic and health benefits, but there aren’t many studies that have investigated its potential in medicine.

In one study conducted on beta-HHC in rats, the cannabinoid demonstrated remarkable painkilling effects, but more research is needed to evaluate its full spectrum of health benefits.

Is HHC Legal?

Similar to other analogs of THC, such as delta 8, HHC’s legal status is murky. Some companies claim these products are legal since HHC naturally occurs in hemp. But some law experts argue that HHC doesn’t happen naturally in substantial amounts, so various chemicals are added on the way to obtain it.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a statement to present its view on the regulatory aspects of cannabis and its components under the 2018 Farm Bill. The agency declared that “all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain Schedule I controlled substances.”

So, the core of the debate about HHC’s legality is mostly focused on whether it’s a natural or synthetic compound.

If federal regulators categorize HHC as natural, then it’s legal as long as it comes from hemp and contains less than 0.3% of delta 9 THC. However, if they rule it synthetic, then it will become federally legal until the government decriminalizes or legalizes cannabis on the national level.

Long story short, until a court offers an opinion on HHC’s legal status, it’s impossible to say it’s 100% legal or illegal.

Therefore, use this product as your own responsibility.

What Are the Side Effects of HHC?

Similar to other recently discovered cannabinoids, research is lacking when it comes to the safety and side effects of HHC; much of the available information on its safety profile comes from speculations.

So far, entry studies suggest HHC has a profile comparable to THC’s risk and safety, with similar adverse reactions reported from users who took high doses of THC.

Taking too much HHC may cause you to experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Red eyes

How Much HHC Should I Take for the Best Results?

The optimal dose of any psychoactive substance depends on a range of factors, such as tolerance levels, age, weight, metabolism, and even gender.

If you’ve never used HHC, you might not know your tolerance threshold, but as a rule of thumb, you should consider this cannabinoid somewhere between the relaxing high of delta 8 THC and the more psychedelic delta 9 THC.

The best way to find out how much HHC is enough for you is to start on the low side and gradually increase the dose until your body responds in the desired way.

Example Delta 8 THC Dosing:

  • Low dose: 10 – 20 mg per serving
  • Medium dose: 20 – 50 mg per serving
  • Large dose: 50 – 100 mg per serving

If you’ve never smoked or vaped high-THC cannabis (marijuana), you can start vaping HHC carts by adding 5 mg to the low and the high end of the delta 8 dosages.

But if you’re an experienced user of one or the other, taking a similar or slightly higher dose of HHC would be a good starting point. Once again, knowing your tolerance plays an important role in determining your optimal dosage.

Last but not least, microdoses may start with taking a very small amount like 1–2 mg to stay on the verge of experiencing psychoactive effects and get a consistent cognitive boost instead.

How HHC Interacts With Drug Tests

One of the key selling points of HHC vendors — besides the long shelf-life — is that HHC users won’t fail a standard 12-panel drug test because it won’t be able to detect it.

This may sound attractive to many people since other analogs of THC like delta-8 show up on urine or blood test if you consume them in sufficient amounts.

The rumors about HHC not showing up on a drug test mostly come from anecdotal evidence. Early research suggests that HHC doesn’t convert into 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver, which is the main THC byproduct that can result in a false-positive test.

However, this hasn’t been verified on a large scale, so you should be aware that there’s still a risk of failing your drug screening if you take HHC.

Where Can You Buy HHC?

HHC has just been discovered recently, so hemp manufacturers are trying to figure out how to infuse it into similar formats to delta 8 products that consumers can buy. The biggest culprit of novel cannabinoids, especially ones like HHC, is the potential danger of the unknown.

The main problem is that HHC is so new, that there aren’t standard testing procedures for it yet — meaning that even producers that test their extracts are unlikely to provide accurate results.

Until the industry establishes the proper testing standards for HHC, you won’t see these products sold by reputable manufacturers. Let’s hope this happens sooner than later.

What HHC Products Are Out There?

Hemp brands are working to incorporate HHC into a variety of popular formats, including:

Final Thoughts: What Is HHC?

HHC is still shrouded in a mystery, but here’s a quick summary of what we do know:

  • HHC is a naturally occurring compound in hemp, but it doesn’t happen in significant concentrations.
  • Its extraction from hemp requires converting THC by using a combination of high pressure and a catalyzer.
  • HHC is a hydrogenated form of THC
  • HHC has a more stable chemical structure and is more resistant to heat, light, and air than THC
  • HHC has a much longer shelf-life than THC
  • The legal status of HHC is unclear due to the chemical processes that are required for its extraction.
  • HHC may not be detected by a standard THC drug test, but this is mostly anecdotal evidence.

Each new cannabinoid that enters the scene offers us some unique benefits, but it’s always advisable to stay on the safe side if you decide to try HHC or any other under-researched compound.

It’s too early to tell if HHC proves to be more than just a one-hit-wonder.

Sources:

  1. Bloom, A. S., Dewey, W. L., Harris, L. S., & Brosius, K. K. (1977). 9-Nor-9-hydroxy-hexahydro cannabinol a cannabinoid with potent antinociceptive activity: comparisons with morphine. J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 200, 263-270.

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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