HHC Effects : HHC vs THC

Posted by Paul Francis Jones on Aug 22nd 2022

HHC Effects : HHC vs THC

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HHC effects. TL;DR

HHC is a cannabinoid found naturally in trace amounts, thus HHC supplements that are widely available in retail today likely started out as CBD. When CBD is converted to HHC, two different HHC molecules are produced: one active, and one inactive. Since these molecules are difficult to separate, all HHC supplements contain a percentage of inactive HHC. Because HHC, structurally, is most similar to delta-9 THC, HHC effects are often communicated to be similar to those of delta-9 THC, HHC are considered 70-80% less potent, likely due to the inactive molecules. 

HHC Effects

HHC effects. HHC vs THC

HHC effects are described as a clear-minded, euphoric experience. HHC is considered more potent than delta-10 THC, and less potent than delta-9 THC. A person experienced with the numerous forms of hemp-derived THC might say that delta-8 THC already occupies the space. If you agree with that statement, which is fair, you might be wondering where HHC fits into this new world of federally legal THC.

Due to the nature of HHC, the answer to that question can be ambiguous.

The simplified answer is that when we take THC into our endocannabinoid systems, the changes we feel are due to THC interacting with our CB1 and CB2 receptors. When THC interacts with our CB1 receptors the change we experience is associated with our mind. When THC interacts with our CB2 receptors the change we experience is associated with our body. While THC interacts with both receptors, different forms of THC have an affinity for specific receptors. Delta-8 THC connects to both receptors, but has more of an affinity for CB2 receptors which is why delta 8 users typically report soothing, relaxing, and pain relieving effects. Delta-9 THC also attaches to both receptors, but has more of an affinity for our CB1 receptors which leads to the elevated mood associated with recreational and medicinal marijuana.

While HHC is not THC, as a molecule HHC is very similar in structure to delta-9 THC, and like delta-9 THC, HHC attaches to both receptors, with an affinity for CB1 receptors which is why HHC effects are often reported to be nearly as potent as delta-9 THC.

So why would HHC be less potent than delta-9 THC?

The answer is in the conversion. Since HHC is found naturally in trace amounts, the HHC found in edibles and vapor products was almost certainly converted from CBD. During that process of converting CBD to HHC, two forms of HHC molecules are produced:

  • 9RHHC
  • 9SHHC

9RHHC is an active form of HHC, and the molecules will bind with your body’s CB1 receptors. 9SHHC are an inactive form of HHC, and the molecules will not bind to your body’s CB1 receptors. Since separating the two forms of HHC is reported to be “tricky” (i.e. too expensive to be profitable), the active and inactive molecules are left together, meaning roughly half of the HHC molecules in your product will successfully bind to your CB1 receptors. In a nutshell, this means that while HHC effects might be more comparable to those of delta-9 THC, the amount of inactive 9SHHC can contribute to a more mild euphoric experience.

History of HHC

HHC (Hexahydrocannabinol) was first discovered in 1944 by American organic chemist Roger Adams (1889-1971). Adams is an extremely important figure in the world of cannabis research, not only for his work with HHC, but also CBD. Adams was the first chemist to isolate the cannabinoid molecule CBD and note its analgesic (pain relieving) effects. However, according to Yahoo Finance:

“Sadly, Adam’s research was quietly but aggressively terminated and subsequently buried by the combined forces of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and Harry Anslinger’s Federal Narcotics Bureau.” 

HHC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, meaning humans have likely been unknowingly consuming HHC since the stone age. Since HHC is only found in trace amounts, Adams was able to create a sufficient amount of HHC for study by hydrogenating delta-9 THC. Hydrogenation is the same process the food industry uses to convert vegetable oil into a solid or semi-solid fat that can be used in candies, spreads, and baked goods.

You add hydrogen to vegetable oil, you get margarine.

HHC Effects Margarine

You add hydrogen to delta-9 THC, you get HHC.

HHC Effects Conversion

HHC needs to be further derived from cannabis plants by skilled chemists, giving them the opportunity to ensure HHC compounds are pure and safe from potentially harmful chemicals.

HHC vs THC: how HHC is chemically different

While HHC is a derivative of THC (typically delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC), chemically HHC is different from THC. When a chemist converts CBD to HHC, the double bonds found in THC are broken and replaced with hydrogen atoms. This process makes HHC more stable, and more heat and UV resistant than THC. Since HHC effects are similar to those of delta-9 THC, a person who uses THC products with less regularity might find HHC's longer shelf life desirable.

HHC and Drug Testing

Because HHC is derived from federally legal hemp plants, meaning any cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis, we recommend abstaining from HHC if you (even potentially) have a drug test in your future. If you’re interested in the scientific details of it all, the Center for the Advancement of Health has a detailed and easy to read article on the subject titled Does HHC Show Up on a Drug Test? available on their website. 

HHC Effects from Reddit

If you’re interested in what the folks over at Reddit have to say about HHC effects, here are some unbiased user reviews, most of which came from the wonderfully detailed HHC User Experience Mega Thread over at r/altcannabinoids subreddit. All are linked, with attribution to the appropriate Reddit user:

Comparing it to D8 it wasn't as harsh and didn't make me super tired after the comedown. HHC felt very relaxing while it also elevated my mood.

- HHC cartridge review u/littlemattey

“I’m a chronic pain sufferer and have major depressive disorder. HHC not only is giving me the best pain relief it’s also amazing for depression.

- HHC User Experience Reports Mega Thread u/SnooLemons4909

“It's super euphoric, cerebral, uplifting, and yet stony all at the same time in a nice balance. It's VERY reminiscent of D9, but also feels more uplifting than D9 at the same time.

- HHC User Experience Reports Mega Thread u/derpydabbertv

“D9 effects with more euphoria and floaty headspace, less intense but smoother overall. No cottonmouth (thank god),” “ incredibly enjoyable experience and a good D9 alternative for those more prone to anxiety.

- HHC User Experience Reports Mega Thread u/levochemist

Definitely agreeing with others calling HHC as the in-between of D8 and D9; where D8 is more of a functional high, whereas D9 would get me zonked out.

- HHC User Experience Reports Mega Thread u/dreamingawake09

For me it's hard to compare to other cannabinoids. It's different. In larger [doses] via tincture it is very heady like others have described, yet I found it did not help me with sleep like d8 or d9.

- Vivimu HHC distillate review u/young_plitka

Honestly I’m absolutely loving HHC. To me it feels exactly like a D9 cart. I know the Indica and sativa on hemp products is all [BS] because it’s all just botanical terps but I definitely got a sativa like feel from it. Maybe that’s just how HHC makes you feel.

- HHC Cannabinoid- Has anyone heard of it? u/FloridaHempFarm

HHC is slightly stronger than delta 8 THC but not quite as powerful as delta 9 THC, making it a good option for people who want a little more than delta 8 can offer.

- THC or HHC? u/Enock_Baraka_

HHC Effects: Our Conclusion

Because the process of converting CBD to HHC produces both active and inactive HHC, HHC effects can fall anywhere from less potent than delta-8 THC to nearly as potent as delta-9 THC, so the effects of HHC are going to depend on the batch as well as the dose.