HHC Vs. THC: What's The Difference?

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The hemp evolution continues with other cannabinoid concentrates hitting the market, like CBN, CBG, and delta-8 THC.

Delta-8, in particular, has become extremely popular as a legal way to get high. It's known to be half as potent as the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, delta-9 THC, and it occurs naturally in cannabis plants.

Most cannabinoids found in hemp aren't psychoactive—but those looking for a federally legal way to experience the elevating effects from effects of cannabis have another option on the market: HHC or hexahydrocannabinol, which is essentially a hydrogenated form of the THC molecule.

In this article, we'll discuss what HHC is, what the HHC high feels like compared to THC, and the safety concerns surrounding this cannabinoid.

Key Takeaways:

  • HHC and THC are psychoactive cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. HHC is essentially an analog of the main psychoactive molecule, delta-9 THC.

  • THC and HHC have nearly identical molecular structures, except the carbon double bonds are replaced with hydrogen.

  • While THC, particularly delta-9, is found in high concentrations in marijuana cannabis flower, HHC is found in trace quantities. Most HHC products on the market are made by transforming THC through chemical reactions in a lab.

  • HHC and THC can be federally legal as long as they're derived from hemp plants that contain less than 0.3% THC by dried weight. However, some states may ban all analogs of THC altogether.

  • Always reference a product's third-party lab tests before purchasing any product to ensure its potency and quality.

What Are Cannabis Plant Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a class of compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant (hemp and marijuana)

Cannabinoids interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for various physiological processes, including pain perception, appetite, mood, and memory.

Cannabinoids bind to endocannabinoid receptors to activate or inhibit these processes.

The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. However, there are many other cannabinoids present in cannabis, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG), that also interact with the endocannabinoid system but do not produce psychoactive effects.

The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids has been the subject of much research, and these compounds are being explored as treatments for various conditions, including pain, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy.

What Is HHC?

HHC is short for hexahydrocannabinol, a cannabinoid that organic chemist Dr. Roger Adams first synthesized in 1947 by adding hydrogen to the THC cannabinoid.

Adam's experiment of adding hydrogen atoms to compounds isn't new by any means—this is the same process done to vegetable oil to produce margarine, and it's called hydrogenation, which increases the shelf-life stability of a product.

There's some debate about whether HHC is found naturally in cannabis plants. Some cannabis researchers say HHC is present in trace amounts. In contrast, others may argue that it's semi-synthetic as it comes from transforming a naturally-derived cannabinoid through a chemical reaction.

While HHC has been a known chemical structure for some time, it's only recently become popular as a recreational cannabis product as a federally legal alternative to a marijuana high.

HHC is psychoactive—some people say it's about 50–80% as strong as regular delta-9 THC and produces a mellower and clear-headed high.

Its most popular form is in vape products that can be smoked for fast-acting effects or consumed as HHC gummies.

What Is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, responsible for the plant's well-known effects on the mind and body.

With selective breeding techniques, some strains of marijuana flowers can have up to 30% THC for a very potent experience.

You can also find delta-9 in hemp plants, but it's only found in up to 0.3%—not enough to produce noticeable effects. That's why hemp-derived CBD products with full spectrum extracts don't have any psychoactive effects.

THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain to produce its effects.

CB1 receptors are primarily found in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal ganglia, responsible for memory, thinking, and motor control. THC also binds to CB2 receptors, primarily found in the immune system. This interaction is believed to give cannabis its anti-inflammatory properties.

So, when you smoke a joint or eat a weed brownie, THC is what's responsible for making you feel relaxed, happy, and sometimes even a little bit paranoid.

What Is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in cannabis plants (hemp and marijuana) in trace quantities.

It's an isomer of delta-9, meaning it has the same molecular formula but a slightly different arrangement of atoms.

Delta-8 has the carbon double bond on the eighth chain, while delta-9 has it on the ninth chain. There are many other THC isomers, but delta-8 and delta-10 may be the most well-known on the market.

Because delta-8's unique shape has a slightly different effect on the endocannabinoid system—It's known to have psychoactive effects, but it's about half as potent as THC.

Many people enjoy delta-8 for its relaxing effects and clear-headed high that's much less likely to produce a negative experience often associated with regular THC, like paranoia and anxiousness.

Most of the cannabinoid research centers around delta-9 and cannabidiol (CBD). Some early studies suggest that delta-8 may help ease nausea and stress.

What Are The Effects & Benefits Of THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It's what gets you "high" and gives you the insatiable "munchies."

THC binds to cannabinoid receptors throughout your body, causing various effects. These include altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors), mood changes, changes in appetite, and pain relief.

Too much stimulation of CB1 receptors can also have some negative effects, such as paranoia, anxiety, dry mouth, dry eyes, and slower reaction times.

Like all cannabinoids, the overall effects of THC vary depending on the individual. Some people may feel relaxed and happy after using THC, while others may feel anxious.

Some of the health benefit potentials of THC (delta-9) include:

  • THC can potentially manage chronic pain from inflammation, especially when combined with CBD [1].

  • THC may help regulate nausea and vomiting through interactions at the CB1 receptor sites [2].

  • THC is being investigated for its anti-spasmodic effects, which may help to support multiple sclerosis [3].

THC harvested from marijuana plants remains on the list of federally Controlled Substances, making it illegal to consume.

However, some states like New York, California, and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana or have medical marijuana programs to give access to people who can benefit from the marijuana plant.

What Are The Effects & Benefits Of HHC?

Most of what we know about the effects and potential benefits of HHC are anecdotal since there's not much research specifically looking at this compound.

Many reports claim that the high HHC produced is much more potent than delta-8 but not nearly as strong as delta-9 THC.

All three have psychoactive effects, which cause the user to experience changes in perception, a sense of euphoria, or relaxation (depending on the dose).

The most commonly reported experience with HHC is a body high that's much more noticeable than delta-9, especially when smoked or vaped, and it's used to manage chronic pain, as a potential sleep aid, or experience the elevating effects that may help with mood and creative thinking.

Is HHC Safe?

One of the biggest issues in the hemp derivatives space is that you can't always trust the product you're getting.

Unlike legal marijuana products in some states, there's a lack of testing for HHC and other cannabinoids.

There's also a lack of clinical studies on the safety profile of consuming HHC in humans.

Despite only having anecdotal evidence to support the use of HHC, many people are enjoying HHC and delta 8 products as a legal alternative to smoking marijuana to alleviate anxiety, manage pain, help with sleep, and for general recreational use.

The biggest cause for concern with HHC products is in the manufacturing process. Like delta-8, there's a risk of consuming HHC that contains harmful byproducts due to converting THC into HHC.

This is why it's so important to only shop for hemp products with a comprehensive Certificate of Analysis conducted by a third-party lab to show you the active ingredient list and that it's free from toxic byproducts.

Regarding side effects, high doses of HHC have been reported to be very similar to that of THC use, and individuals may have different experiences. Some of the reported side effects of HHC may include:

  • Increased appetite

  • Dry mouth

  • Slowed reaction times

  • Red eyes

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

  • Insomnia

Is HHC Legal?

The 2018 revision of the United States Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of the hemp plant and its derivatives on a federal level, as long as the final products contain less than 0.3% THC by dried weight.

HHC products, including HHC gummies and HHC vape cartridges, meet this legal requirement.

That said, individual states can choose to ban HHC, so before purchasing any HHC or delta-8 product, check your local laws and stay up to date.

Do HHC Products Show Up On Drug Tests?

One of the reasons people choose to use HHC over delta-8 THC or marijuana is that it's supposedly not detected on urine drug tests—but this hasn't been proven.

If you choose to use HHC or any intoxicating cannabinoid and have an upcoming drug test, you should do so at your own risk.

We haven't tested this ourselves, but we believe HHC would trigger a positive drug test.

This is because HHC molecules are very similar to THC, so it's metabolized by the liver into similar metabolites that can be mistaken for THC-COOH, regardless of whether it is marijuana or hemp-derived cannabinoid.

THC-COOH is the metabolite in the primary target for detecting THC use in urine and blood samples.

If you have an upcoming drug test, we recommend abstaining from consuming HHC gummies or vape products before for at least 2 weeks to stay on the safe side.

The good thing about HHC is that it's eliminated from the body much faster than THC or CBD. However, some individuals can be more naturally slow at metabolizing these compounds.

Which Is Stronger: HHC Or THC?

The potency of HHC lies somewhere between delta-8 and delta-9 THC.

It's said to be about 80% as potent as the high from delta-9, and delta-8 is about half as potent—of course, the experience depends on the individual based on their body chemistry, lifestyle, and experience with other intoxicating cannabinoids.

HHC Vs. THC: What Should I Choose?

Choosing between HHC and THC can be tough as there are many great-sounding hemp-derived options on the market.

We'll lay out a few key differences between the two that might help you make up your mind.

HHC is said to produce a mind-stimulating and energizing high, making it ideal for social settings and creative work.

Delta-8 THC, on the other hand, is known for its relaxing and sedative effects, making it better suited for unwinding at the end of the day.

HHC and delta-8 THC are said to have milder psychoactive effects than delta-9 THC from marijuana. making it ideal for first-time users or those with a negative experience with anxiety and paranoia with weed.

Both these compounds have a binding affinity to CB1 receptors in the brain that will impair your judgment and motor control, so you shouldn't operate machinery under the influence of HHC or delta-8 THC.

Ultimately, the choice between HHC and THC comes down to personal preference. So try out both and see which one works better for you.

How To Shop For HHC Products

Shopping for HHC products can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're new to the game.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the world of HHC shopping:

First, don't be afraid to ask questions. The budtenders at your local dispensary will be more than happy to help you find the right product for your needs.

If you purchase your products online—there are many excellent options, too—but you have to be more vigilant with your research.

Always reference the third-party lab results on all cannabis products to verify the potency and safety profile of the product.

Hemp-derived cannabinoids don't have as strict of regulations as legal marijuana products, so testing isn't a mandatory process. Reputable brands are committed to customer transparency and will opt for lab testing and have them available on their website for easy access.

HHC products are relatively new to the market, so they might not be as easily accessible.

How To Shop For Legal THC Products

Depending on your location, you can find legal THC products in many places. For example, if you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you can purchase THC products from a licensed dispensary.

However, if you live in a state where only hemp-derived THC is legal, you may need to dig to find a reputable source. You can also find a wide selection of legal THC products online. However, it's essential to research before making any purchase, as not all online retailers are reputable.

Read the third-party lab tests to ensure that the delta-8 THC product is free from contaminants from the manufacturing process.

The Takeaway: Understanding The Differences Between HHC Vs. THC

HHC and THC are both cannabis cannabinoids that interact with the endocannabinoid system to produce psychoactive effects.

HHC is a THC form—some argue it can be found naturally in the cannabis plant. However, most of the HHC products on the market are made by hydrogenating the hemp-derived THC molecule.

This not only creates a more shelf-stable extract but it changes the effects of THC in the body. Many people find that HHC is a much more enjoyable high that's less likely to induce feelings of anxiety and paranoia—and is much more conducive to social settings and creative workflow.

Delta-8 THC is another cannabis cannabinoid that's become a popular alternative to marijuana use—and it's about half as weak as regular delta-9 THC. HHC falls somewhere in the middle of the two. Rather than producing sleepier and calmer effects, it tends to have a more invigorating experience.

That being said, individuals can have different experiences with cannabinoids.

References:

  1. Cox, M. L., Haller, V. L., & Welch, S. P. (2007). Synergy between Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and morphine in the arthritic rat. European journal of pharmacology, 567(1-2), 125-130.

  2. Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-1422.

  3. Wade, D. T., Makela, P. M., House, H., Bateman, C., & Robson, P. (2006). Long-term use of a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of spasticity and other symptoms in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 12(5), 639-645.

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