Other Cannabinoids | Science

HHC (Hexahydrocannabinol): A Novel Hydrogenated Cannabinoid

Dr Abraham Benavides

MEDICALLY REVIEWED BY

Dr Abraham Benavides

Medical Doctor

We’ve advanced swiftly from the broad availability of Delta 9 THC and CBD on the market today. 

Yup. I’m saying it out loud. We’ve entered a new age via the discovery of alternative cannabinoids. 
We’ve talked about Delta 8 & D10 THC as being leaders in this new age.

But with THC-O and THCP also making moves in the market – you can probably relate when I say the latest of these compounds, HHC (Hexahydrocannabinol), certainly won’t be the last.

So, what is HHC and how does it differ from other cannabinoids noted above?

HHC Cannabinoid illustrated

At A Glance: What Is HHC?

HHC stands for Hexahydrocannabinol, and it’s a semi-synthetic cannabinoid.

Another thing that sets HHC apart? It’s very similar to THC but comes with a twist. The secret keyword here is hydrogenation

HHC is a hydrogenated form of THC.

Okay, I know that the world of cannabis science can sound like a mouthful.

But hydrogenation is a fairly simple process. As you can guess by the name, it has to do with hydrogen.

The chemical reaction between an active compound and hydrogen changes both the molecular weight and molecular geometry.

In return, the hydrogenated compound becomes much more stable. Think of higher resistance to heat and extended shelf life. 

The currently available studies on HHC are still at a very early phase and are very limited. But, insatiable canna-know ninjas, we’ve got you covered.

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HHC Effects: The Armageddon-Ready Cannabinoid

The magic key to understanding the effects of HHC is in the structure of the molecule. First, HHC is less susceptible to oxidation and breakdown. That’s because the HHC molecule is saturated with hydrogen.

As a comparison, studies show that THC is one of the least stable cannabinoids.

THC loses hydrogen atoms as it oxidizes. Then it forms two new double bonds. When this occurs, THC becomes another cannabinoid called CBN. This is an all-natural process. Heat and light cause THC to convert into CBN.

It’s part of the reason why old weed often contains higher amounts of CBN as the THC degrades across time.

According to researchers, CBD can also be synthesized into several HHC isomers, among other related derivatives. In addition, CBD can also convert into THC in vitro, but not appreciably in vivo.

The conversion of CBD to HHC is a reaction that rarely happens in nature.

Obtaining large quantities of HHC involves boiling CBD in a strongly acidic environment, and then adding methanol or ethanol to create synthetic HHC, THC, and other isomers. It can also be influenced by growing and processing methods.

As a rule of thumb, high temperature, UV exposure, and ambient oxygen levels all lead to the gradual degradation of cannabinoids.

But when it comes to hydrogenated HHC, it’s far more stable. So yup, it’s pretty much Armageddon-ready.

So yes, should there be a world-destroying event and we all have to leave earth, hexahydrocannabinol is the most likely cannabinoid to survive the journey!

The Mesmerizing Science Of Cannabis: At Least 10 Types Of HHC Found So Far

Back in 2007, the Department of Hygienic Chemistry, Hokuriku University, shared an intriguing study of HHC. They discovered that CBD  can be converted into HHC and Delta 9 THC.

The researchers used cutting-edge gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify two forms of HHC, namely:

  • 9α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol (9α-OH-HHC) and
  • 8-hydroxyiso-hexahydrocannabinol (8-OH-iso-HHC)

Ultimately, there are at least 10 types of HHC that science has revealed up-to-date. Some of these are slightly naturally occurring, while the most common ones are lab-made.

Two examples of synthetic HHC analogs include:

  • HU211 which stands for 1,1-Dimethylheptyl-11-hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol, and
  • HU243, aka 11-Hydroxy-3-(1′,1′-dimethylheptyl)hexahydrocannabinol

In 2015, Volume 117 of the Phytochemistry Journal spotlighted 9 minor oxygenated cannabinoids discovered in high potency cannabis strains. Four of these were hexahydrocannabinols.

The researchers tested the newly found cannabinoids for antimicrobial, antileishmanial, and antimalarial properties. Finding that some of these compounds had mild activity against  certain bacteria and malaria.

More recently, In July 2021, Colorado Chromatography announced the release of their patent-pending version of HHC. Although, they cannot share more information at this time, which is understandable given the patent-pending nature of the compound.

This version of HHC has recently hit the market and has anecdotally proven popular with those looking to enjoy the buzz of Delta 8/9 THC in states where THC is not legal.

Quick Summary

Delta 9 THC is the most abundant form of THC found naturally in the cannabis plant.

When Delta 9 THC breaks down, it converts into CBN. Only a very small amount is converted into HHC, Delta 8, or Delta 10 THC. Because of how abundant delta 9 THC is in the plant, experts can extract it very easily.

Any forms of THC that are present in only low concentrations require specific methods and techniques to obtain a meaningful extraction. One way to do so is through isomerization or hydrogenation. Appreciable amounts of HHC for sale practically have to be mass produced.

For example, Delta 8 and delta 10 are made through the isomerization of CBD. HHC can be made through a hydrogenation process that involves CBD. THC and its stereoismorers can either be converted from CBD or extracted in its natural form.

What Science Knows About HHC

At this point, there are too many questions and very few answers about HHC. Therefore, we are mostly limited to research based on animal studies. Being a new, synthesized cannabinoid, the short and long-term effects of HHC cannot be known nor carry guaranteed safety and health claims.

Well, that’s the case with the science of cannabis in general. After all, we are the generations who are currently writing new pages in the global history of ganja.

Long-term, in-depth studies take time. Therefore, we have to be patient. Meanwhile, it’s important to stay well-educated before we choose to medicate or recreate with any cannabis product.

Now, let’s check out more of the science-backed information available about HHC.

1. HHC Demonstrates Antinociceptive Effects

The 2007 study we already mentioned above provides a curious glimpse into the possible pain-relieving effects of HHC.

Hokuriku University’s research team tested the two forms of HHC on mice. They found out that HHC prolonged sleeping time by 1.8 to 8.0 times. Also, they conclude that HHC can inhibit the sensation of pain.

In summary, the researchers point out that HHCs

  • “show ∆9 -THC-like effects in mice, although their pharmacological effects were less potent than those of ∆9 -THC”

So, in short: HHC exhibited the similar effects as D9 THC but without the same intensity. It should be pointed out that it is very difficult to measure subjective intoxication in animals.

2. HHC Relates To Potential Anti-Cancer Properties

In 2011, the European Journal of Pharmacology released a study on two hexahydrocannabinol analogs, namely LYR-7 and LYR-8. The results suggest that both compounds may inhibit tumor cell growth and angiogenesis, a key step in tumor formation.

More evidence on HHC anti-cancer properties comes from Dr. Mark Scialdone, who is the founder and lead chemist of BetterChem Consulting Inc. He references an interesting study in 2 of his published patents US9694040B2 & US10071127B2.

According to the case study, data suggests Hexahydrocannabinolic Acid (HTHCA) and HTCBDA possess significant tumor size reduction properties.

3. There Are No Existing Reports On Severe Side Effects

At the time of writing, there are no available reports of severe side effects related to HHC use. According to limited preliminary research, it is thought to share a comparable safety profile to THC.


However, the safety profile of HHC is still not confirmed. Therefore, it’s crucial to approach any new cannabinoid by exercising prudence. Likely, HHC and other THC isomers should be avoided by people who already avoid THC and special populations like children, pregnant or breastfeeding people, and the elderly.

Anecdotal Reports

It seems like the science of HHC has yet to completely catch up with users’ experiences, as the compound has only recently hit the market.

Nonetheless, most users share that the effects of HHC resemble more those of Delta 9 rather than Delta 8 THC. 
A soothing buzz of body relaxation is usually coupled with mental cloudiness. Users are also placing a spotlight on the suggestive pain-relieving properties of HHC.

HHC Feeling

To understand the feeling of HHC, we need to dive deeper into some more science.

The psychoactive effects of any form of THC are directly related to the number of carbons in the chain. More carbons generally equals higher psychoactive potency up to a point.

  • Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 THC have five carbons. The delta 9 isomer is the strongest one.
  • HHC also has five carbons. Its potency is thought to fall somewhere in between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC.
  • THC-O is 3 times stronger than delta 9 THC. That’s because it has a higher bioavailability than Delta 9 THC.
  • THCP has seven carbons. Hence, it has the strongest psychoactive effects. It can be between 5 and 33 times as potent as traditional THC.

A 2010 study examined the binding affinity of Hexahydrocannabinol Analogs for CB1 and CB2 Cannabinoid Receptors.

The Hexahydrocannabinol analog with the highest CB1 binding affinity was further tested in rats.

The study found that “the compound was found to exhibit exceptionally high in vivo potency with a relatively long duration of action.”

Which in plain English means that Hexahydrocannabinol was found to be a potent intoxicant for which its effects last for a long time.

This isn’t surprising since most users report the effects of HHC as similar to delta 9 THC. 

HHC has also been anecdotally suggested to relate effects that offer relaxation rather than high focus and energy stimulation of cerebral sativas. That’s to say, if you want to stay more functional, you’d better opt for Delta 8 THC or non-psychoactive CBD.

HHC vs. Delta 9 THC

Structurally, HHC and THC molecules seem nearly identical to the untrained eye. But THC and HHC have few key structural differences like a missing ester bond, a hydrogenated carbon, and an absent double bond.

These changes make HHC more stable than THC. Furthermore, it alters the ability of HHC to bind with various receptors in the body.

Ultimately, HHC has very similar effects to THC. Think of:

  • Feelings of euphoria and relaxation, possibly sedation
  • Changes in auditory, visual, and pain perception, cognition,
  • Altered heart rate and body temperature.

The duration of the high with HHC also seems identical with Delta 9 and Delta 8 THC. Remember that duration depends on the method of consumption, too.

HHC is more potent than Delta 8. Yet, it is (slightly) less potent than Delta 9 THC.

Overall, HHC is regarded to be much more potent than Delta 9 THC

Is HHC Legal?

Technically, HHC is still an isomer form of THC so it has the potential to be treated as being federally illegal in the US. But whether HHC is state-legal or not is a similar case as with Delta 8 THC and Delta 10 THC.

Shortly put, the legality of HHC is a gray area.

Remember, state laws vary so always do your own due diligence.

HHC Drug Testing

You might be wondering if you’ll fail a drug test using HHC. 

Using pure HHC won’t necessarily mean you fail a drug test for THC if the product contains pure Hexahydrocannabinol. However, synthetic HHC often also produces THC along with it and it may be difficult to fully purify.

Why?

So far we don’t know if HHC breaks down into metabolites that resemble processed THC . Hence, it might be detected by the existing drug tests for THC if the metabolites are similar enough. 

A GC/MSdrug test can also look specifically for HHC if the sample is flagged preliminarily positive and sent for confirmatory testing. Currently, HHC-specific testing is not routine, but could be found incidentally if the sample is contaminated.

Bottom line is, if the HHC is contaminated with THC, it’s likely you could fail a drug test too! So always be aware of these kinks before using HHC.

Wrapping Up Hexahydrocannabinol

For those of you who are excited to try out HHC, be especially careful where you buy it. There is a lack of clarity but also a lack of testing standards in the HHC space.

Thus, it’s easy for scam companies to target this niche and offer products that aren’t fitting for consumption and otherwise heavily contaminated.

If you’re unsure, we’d recommend checking out Binoid or Bearly Legal Hemp for the broadest selection backed by great customer reviews.