The cannabis plant is a source of various substances whose effects on the human body can be pleasant, enlightening, relaxing, and healing. Thanks to these discoveries, humankind is still discovering new compounds, exploring their effects, and finding new ways of improving them through research.
Hexahydrocannabinol (or HHC) is part of this new family of substances, which also receive the name of semi-synthetic cannabinoids. There is confusion between synthetic and semi-synthetic cannabinoids, which have different extraction methods and effects on the body. In this article, you will get to know everything about Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC).
What is a Synthetic Cannabinoid?
Synthetic or semi-synthetic cannabinoids are compounds that result from laboratory procedures aiming to replicate the effects of hemp plants’ natural cannabinoids. These compounds bind to the same endocannabinoid system receptors as natural cannabinoids, bringing similar consequences, such as mind and sensorial alteration, action over inflammation, anxiety, and pain.
The principal method to develop synthetic cannabinoids is controlled chemical reactions in a laboratory, sometimes using biological agents like fungi, bacteria, or algae. Synthetic cannabinoids are widely available under many commercial names, such as K2, Spice, or AK-47. The active component of these synthetic cannabinoids usually is 11-Nor-9β-hydroxy-hexahydro cannabinol, not to be confused with HHC, which is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid obtained by a different process.
However, these cannabinoids are not always legal because of their potentially harmful effects on our health. Users of synthetic cannabinoids sometimes report worrying neurological symptoms like confusion, agitation, hallucinations, seizures, and psychotic breaks. Other symptoms include gastric issues and damage to the internal organs, liver, lungs, and heart.
What is a Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoid?
While the ingredients for synthetic cannabinoids come exclusively from laboratories, the production of semi-synthetic cannabinoids starts with the extraction of natural cannabis oils. Semi-synthetic cannabinoid manufacturers process these oils to isolate the primary cannabinoids THC, CBD, and others and alter their chemical composition. The alterations to the original cannabinoids are slight, enhancing or dampening some of their properties.
HHC is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid, an isomer of THC. This type of structure means that the HHC molecule has a minor difference from the one of THC. This difference lies in one of the double carbon bonds of THC that breaks during the hydrogenation process to result in HHC. The change in the molecule structure is similar to the alterations in the other cannabinoids when they go through the hydrogenation process.
What is Hydrogenation?
One of the methods to obtain semi-synthetic cannabinoids is the hydrogenation of natural cannabinoids. The developers seal the cannabinoid in a pressurized container with hydrogen gas (H2) during this process. The hydrogen reacts with the target molecule by breaking the double bonds of carbon atoms and leaving them as single bonds.
To make the hydrogenation process more efficient, the manufacturers use catalysts. These substances help the chemical reaction go faster, but they do not react or bond with the other reagents involved. The catalytic agent needs to be in the most contact with the substances in the reaction, so manufacturers use supports of silica, calcium carbonate, alumina, or titanium dioxide to hold the catalyst to place inside the reaction container.
The catalytic agent itself is usually a metal like Iridium, Palladium, Nickel, or Platinum. After the hydrogenation process is complete, the manufacturer can take the catalyst out to use it again since it does not get used up in the reaction.
The process to obtain raw cannabis oil does not use heat, so it keeps the original THCA, CBDA, and CBD from the hemp flowers. The decarbing (short for decarboxylating) process is another chemical reaction that uses heat to act upon the THCA and CBDA. These compounds barely have any effect and are difficult for our bodies to process. When the cannabis oil is decarbed, they turn into THC and CBD, which can interact with our bodies.
The hydrogenating reaction can work on the different compounds, whether they come from raw or decarbed cannabis. When manufacturers apply this process to natural cannabis extract, they obtain hydrogenated cannabis oil (HCO), rich in the semi-synthetic compound HHCA. Once decarbed, the HHCA turns into the HHC they need. On the other hand, the raw decarbed extract, rich in THC and CBD, turns into decarbed HCO with its fair amount of HHC.
THC and CBD are not the only cannabis components that change with the hydrogenation process. Other molecules with double carbon bonds lose them and turn into analogs. The terpenes, terpenoids, and flavonoids are aromatic compounds that also change during hydrogenation.
The original molecules act in tandem with the THC and CBD, enhancing their effects in the Entourage Effect. However, researchers still do not know how this effect would work with the hydrogenated molecules, if it works at all.
Difference Between Natural and Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids
The slightest change to the chemical composition of any substance can alter its properties in a meaningful manner. The hydrogenated versions of cannabinoids also change their properties, making their response to external stimuli different from the reaction of the natural cannabinoids and their interaction with the human body.
The main difference between both types of substances is their molecular structure. In the same place where the natural compound has carbon atoms sharing a double bond, the hydrogenated ones have their carbon atoms joined by a single bond. The hydrogen atoms from the gas fill the remaining bonding slots.
The interactions of natural and hydrogenated cannabinoids with the endocannabinoid system are slightly different. Scientists are still researching, finding that the hydrogenated compounds bind to other neural receptors than natural compounds. In the same manner, their effect on the various pathologies changes. On inflammation, for example, hydrogenated cannabinoids sometimes show more effectiveness than natural ones.
Benefits of Hydrogenated Cannabinoids
One of the first discoveries of the researchers of hydrogenated cannabinoids is their extended shelf-life. The hydrogenation process improves the stability of the compounds, making them active for a longer time.
For instance, hydrogenated cannabis oil resists light without oxidizing in a better manner than natural cannabis oil, which is why you have to protect it from oxidation by keeping it in the dark. This resistance also keeps the hydrogenated cannabinoids from breaking easily inside the liver, which helps its health.
According to studies, hydrogenated cannabinoids are much more effective than natural ones for the treatment of tumors. Laboratory results show that tumors treated with hydrogenated cannabinoids reduce their size more than control groups or tumors treated with natural cannabinoids.
These results look promising. However, hydrogenated cannabinoids are still under study. As many benefits could be hiding under these new molecules, there also might be side effects we do not know yet. We will be eager for the results of further investigation into these intriguing molecules.
In the same manner that the hydrogenated cannabinoids change their behavior compared to the natural ones, the THC molecule changes its effects when it turns into HHC.
The psychotropic effect of the “high” is the most distinctive effect of THC. Besides it, there are many other effects of THC in the body, most of them beneficial. This substance shows remarkable efficacy as a pain reliever, appetite regulator, anxiety suppressant, and very promising glaucoma treatment.
While the hydrogenation process changes some of the properties of the THC, others even get enhanced. Some health benefits and side effects are still unknown, but researchers are looking into them to ensure a safe experience for its users.
HHC Cannabinoid Effects
The well-known “high” of THC stays pretty much the same when it becomes HHC. Some people that have tried it report a sensory enhancement very similar to the one they get from THC, with tingling in their limbs, visual and hearing alteration. The psychotropic effects of HHC take a longer time to set on than THC. On the other hand, these effects last longer when using HHC.
The effect of HHC on medical conditions like pain and inflammation is stronger than the not hydrogenated THC. The same happens with its anti-tumor properties, more effective than the ones from THC. While other effects are yet unknown, these results are promising for their application in medicine.
Where to Buy Hexahydrocannabinol?
The developers of HHC are very confident in its many properties and health benefits. However, this compound is still under study, and it is not commercially available for now. Both developers and users hope to have it sold commercially soon.