The cannabis plant is home to over 400 cannabinoids and terpenes that have potential health benefits. Cannabinoids are believed to work with neurotransmitters to produce a diverse set of effects towards supporting healthy immune function, sense of wellbeing, relaxation, and may help manage stress levels, and sleep.
While most of the cannabis research is centered around cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), there's one cannabinoid that hasn't been as extensively researched. It's called hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), but it's quickly gaining major popularity in the wellness space for its similar effects to chemical structure delta-9 THC.
For those interested in using cannabinoids to support their wellness goals and experience recreational intoxication from natural THC, HHC has very similar effects.
This article explores what exactly federally legal HHC is, how it's made, and what it means for the future of cannabinoids for therapeutic use HHC vapes.
What is HHC, And How Does It Work?
HHC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in very trace concentrations in cannabis. To sell it on the market, manufacturers are forcing a chemical reaction in abundant hemp derived cannabinoids like natural cannabinoids CBD and THC to transform it into HHC molecules .
In 1944, the American chemist Roger Adams created HHC when he added hydrogen molecules to Delta-9 THC. This process is known as "hydrogenation."
Hydrogenation isn't a unique technique used in the cannabis industry. It's the same hydrogenated cannabinoids used to convert butter into margarine to improve the food products' shelf-life.
Adams originally applied this technique to THC derived from marijuana plants, but since the 2018 Farm Bill came into effect, legalizing cannabis crops with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, more manufacturers are applying the hydrogenation of cannabinoids to CBD to produce HHC.
What Are The Effects Of HHC?
HHC has very similar effects to delta-9 THC—it's a psychotropic compound that produces feelings of euphoria, changes in perception, altered cognition, as well as potential pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
We've seen a sudden ride of THC isomers—variants of the notorious delta-9 THC molecule, as people look for a legal means to experience the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Popular THC cannabinoid analogues isomers include delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC derived from hemp crops.
Many users compare the effects of HHC to that of delta-8 THC in terms of providing a more relaxed high rather than a stimulated one. When it comes to comparing potency, hemp derived THC delta-8 is about half as potent as delta-9 THC, and HHC is more potent than delta-8 but less potent than delta-9.
Because hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is still very new, there aren't very many studies available that investigate its potential effects and safety.
What Are The Potential Benefits Of HHC According To Research?
Those on the pulse of cannabis news may have already experienced some of the benefits of HHC products firsthand, but there's still so much we have yet to uncover about this hydrogenated cannabinoid. Those who've tried it say it offers a pleasant and mild high with minor muscle pain relief.
While it is important to note that studies conducted on this topic show a somewhat limited scope regarding what was examined and how far-reaching their results were, they're still valuable pieces of information for those looking at the future of cannabis products for wellness.
1. HHC May Have A Longer-Shelf Life
Cannabinoids are heat and UV-sensitive, and their potency will degrade over time as exposed to oxygen.
One of the notable benefits of HHC is that it has a much longer shelf-life than naturally occurring cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
HHC has additional hydrogenated carbons and THC lacks one of its ester molecules. These molecular changes make for a more stable compound with stronger resistance against heat, thus giving it a longer shelf life than delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, and delta-10 THC.
2. HHC May Elevate Mood & Relaxation For Restorative Sleep
Many people consider using the cannabis plant as part of their self-care routine—to help them unwind from a stressful day and achieve a night of deep sleep.
HHC is considered psychotropic as it activates the same CB1 receptors in the brain that can alter one's sense of perception and induce a sense of euphoria. The difference here (compared to delta-9 THC) is that HHC leans more towards providing a sense of relaxation over stimulation—similar to delta-8 THC.
People describe HHC as being a more clear-headed version of the typical marijuana high but more relaxed and clear-headed.
3. Pain Relieving Benefits
One preclinical study conducted on rats suggests that HHC has analgesic effects (pain-killing) . Again, we can't say that there is enough research to support its use as an effective muscle relaxant and pain-killer, but early studies do show some potential for this cannabinoid in future trials.
Some people claim that HHC is much more effective than delta-8 and delta 9 THC for alleviating pain.
THC Vs. HHC: What Are The Key Differences
There are many misconceptions about the differences between THC and HHC, so here is a quick rundown of what you need to know.
The first key difference is their naturally occurring concentrations in cannabis plants—THC is abundant in marijuana strains, while HHC exists in trace quantities. The HHC products available online are lab-made and not naturally derived through the process of hydrogenation.
The next difference is the stability of the two molecules. HHC is considered a more stable compound than THC, making it more resistant to heat and UV rays, giving it a longer shelf-life.
In terms of effect profiles, both HHC and THC variations have the potential to produce psychotropic effects. HHC leans towards a calmer, relaxed high, while delta-9 THC is much more stimulating.
CBD Vs. HHC: What Are The Key Differences
CBD is one of the cannabis plant's main active compounds. It's most abundant in hemp strains, but there are marijuana strains that contain high levels of CBD.
Unlike THC and HHC, CBD is non-psychotropic. It does not produce intoxicating effects even in high doses in most individuals.
CBD doesn't have an affinity to bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. It's believed to increase receptor sensitivity to internally produced cannabinoids and may have unique effects at certain receptor sites like GABA (in the brain) and vanilloid receptors (perceiving pain in the peripheral nervous system).
There's also much more research available on CBD than there is HHC.
There is one FDA-approved drug made from pure CBD for treating difficult to manage seizures, and there is ongoing research investigating CBD's use as an analgesic, anxiolytic, and supporting healthy immune response.
Why Are New Cannabinoids Important to the Medical Community?
In the past decade, there have been a growing number of medical studies being conducted on cannabinoids. Humans have had a very long history of cannabis use dating back to at least the third millennium BCE. Many people use the plant to support their wellness goals, from relaxing muscles, supporting sleep, and even managing stress levels.
Cannabinoids seem to be quite safe and well-tolerated with a very low risk of addiction and lethal overdose, making it an ideal compound for therapeutic research. It's hard to ignore when one humble plant can provide so much varied support for individuals, and it seems as though CBD and THC will have more competition in this space fairly soon.
Is HHC Safe? Side Effects of Using HHC
There have never been any safety studies for HHC to date—so any information currently available regarding the safety of this compound is speculative. From anecdotal reports, the side effects of HHC look very similar to the consequences of taking too much THC. These adverse effects include:
- Fast heart rate
- Feeling of anxiousness
- Changes in appetite
- Dry mouth
- Red eyes
Is HHC Legal?
There is a lot of debate around the legality and safety of cannabinoids like HHC or delta 8 THC.
Companies like Bearly Legal claim it's "entirely natural" because they're just converting one cannabinoid into another with hydrogenation, but that process doesn't occur frequently naturally.
Some states may have different guidelines towards HHC, so you must conduct thorough research into your local laws if you're going to shop for HHC online. However, if the compound is deemed "synthetic," it is technically federally illegal due to the dangers associated with K2 spice and other synthetic cannabinoids.
Where Can You Buy HHC?
The new cannabinoid market is quite exclusive and booming, which means there are a lot of sellers, even though it's difficult to find a reliable HHC source as HHC is lacking in safety and standardization.
Be careful where you buy HHC.
There are a lot of scam companies that release new cannabinoid products early to take advantage of the lack of competition. These so-called "cannabis" extracts may even contain harmful chemicals not listed on their label—or worse yet—unknown compounds whose effects could be detrimental if consumed with no knowledge or understanding about what is being put into your body.
The Takeaway: HHC & The Future Of Cannabinoids
The cannabis plant is a treasure trove of compounds. The most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. However, there are over 100 known cannabinoids discovered to have some psychoactive and therapeutic effects.
Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a minor cannabinoid that has the potential for mild psychotropiceffects and has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Research on cannabinoids has exploded over the past several decades, and we are now at a point where our understanding of these chemicals far exceeds that of other drugs such as opiates or cocaine—but we still face many challenges when it comes to clinical usage.
We know that the cannabinoid market is still poorly regulated, and while new studies emerge about the future of cannabinoids, regulation in production and marketing remains murky. Be careful when shopping for hemp-derived products on the market, as not all brands have their customers' health and best interests at heart.
Always look into the company through third-party review websites and forums for customer experiences and reference the certificate of analysis for an overview of compounds in the extract.
What are the effects of HHC?
Since HHC operates on the same receptors, many believe that HHC offers the same potential benefits such as anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressive, and analgesic properties.
What is the difference? HHC vs Delta 8?
HHC is created by converting delta-8 THC from hemp, causing it to behave remarkably similarly to THC, and many individuals utilize it as a THC replacement due to its mellower high.
Is HHC legal?
If your HHC is hemp-derived, it is regarded federally legal under an interpretation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which states that hemp products and harvested cannabinoids are legal as long as the hemp plant contains less than 0.3% THC by dried weight. The question is whether HHC is a synthetic cannabis.
Is HHC safe?
Because HHC is a semi-synthetic substance, it is produced in laboratories by converting hemp-derived cannabinoids into HHC, and poor manufacturing procedures can make certain goods harmful.
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