What is Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) cartridge

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).

 

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What is HHC Cannabinoid?

HHC stands for hexahydrocannabinol. It is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid obtained through the hydrogenation of THC. The hydrogenation process allows HHC to be significantly more resilient, giving it a much longer shelf life than THC.

Here is a helpful video that quickly explains and goes over the most important things to know about HHC!

While HHC does naturally exist in trace amounts, HHC products must be produced and refined in a lab to attain their potency. At the moment, it is mostly distributed in the form of vape cartridges.

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.

Management of Chronic Pain

Hydrogenated cannabinoids have been recommended as a strong agent for pain relief, particularly with chronic pain. They exhibit fewer negative side effects than many prescription medicines for this purpose, whilst still being potent enough to effectively manage pain, whether it be from causes such as arthritis or nerve pain.

Reduce Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of all cannabis products have been widely documented. Hydrogenated cannabinoids are no different in that they can help reduce inflammation within the whole body, a particularly positive benefit for those who suffer from chronic issues in this regard.

Promotes Better Sleep Health

Thanks to the sedating and relaxant properties of hydrogenated cannabinoids, they can help users improve their sleep and provide all the benefits of high-quality daily rest. 

Alleviate Nausea or Vomiting

Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human brain is linked to nausea and vomiting. Consumption of cannabinoids, particularly hydrogenated cannabinoids, seems to suppress and regulate this bodily instinct, making it more manageable. 

May Help With Anxiety

Though further research into this benefit of hydrogenated cannabinoids will be necessary, it appears that for many users, the relaxant and sedative properties of these chemicals help manage chronic anxiety at a far lower risk for negative side effects than conventional prescription medicines.

Hexahydrocannabinol Effects

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.

Effects of HHC

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.

How Potent is HHC?

The potency of HHC has not yet been unanimously established, though there is some evidence to suggest that the effects of HHC are weaker than those of delta-9 THC. Many users report a similar potency to delta-8 THC, which is stronger as a relaxant than as a stimulant.

Types of HHC

To date, scientists have documented over 10 different types of HHC. Apart from its main form, Hexahydrocannabinol, HHC also exists as HU211, HU243, 7-OH-HHC, 8-OH-iso-HHC, and many other variations. The effects of and differences between these discrete HHC variants have not yet been thoroughly isolated. For the most part, knowledge about their unique properties still relies on word of mouth and anecdotal evidence.

How is HHC Made?

HHC is not a synthetic cannabinoid and can actually be found in nature. Some researchers have documented it in trace amounts within the seeds of the cannabis plant. However, isolating HHC is a highly inefficient process, particularly due to its low concentration in nature.

Therefore, nearly all HHC sold today is produced in a lab environment. The most widespread process for synthesizing HHC is by agitating THC with hydrogen. Essentially, the double bonds that are found in THC are broken apart and replaced by hydrogen molecules, altering the chemical structure.

Is It Safe to Make HHC?

Using the common hydrogenation process to synthesize HHC from THC (or CBD) requires the use of heavy metals such as copper-nickel, or zinc, which manufacturers have to extract from the final product at the end of the procedure. More than that, the resulting chemical reaction – particularly at high volumes – carries with it a risk of explosions, which are usually contained within purpose-built lab setups. 

Thus, the process of synthesizing HHC is not entirely safe and definitely requires a laboratory environment with the proper safety measures in place. 

Is HHC Safe to Consume?

While the properties and health risks of HHC have not been thoroughly studied scientifically as of yet, it appears that HHC causes many of the same physical reactions and has the same common side effects as THC. Possible risks include nausea, dizziness, memory issues, bloodshot eyes, dryness in the mouth and throat, and low blood pressure, among others.

However, when you take appropriate doses, HHC shouldn’t pose any more of a health risk than other cannabinoids, which is to say it is safe to consume in moderate quantities.

HHC vs. THC

Compared to THC, HHC has slightly less pronounced psychoactive properties, meaning it might be harder for some to achieve a strong “high.” However, this difference isn’t very large, and compared to some types of THC, such as delta-8, HHC might actually be more potent.

Furthermore, because it is a hydrogenated cannabinoid, HHC has a much longer shelf life and is easier to store without experiencing degradation.

HHC is also not nearly as strictly regulated as THC in many jurisdictions from a legal perspective.

HHC vs. CBN

As for HHC, when put next to CBN, another popular cannabinoid,  the rift between the two chemicals widens quite considerably. 

Like HHC, CBN is a minor cannabinoid that exists in nature and is found within the hemp plant in very small concentrations. Also, like HHC, CBN is produced through a slight alteration of the chemical structure of THC – in nature, this happens as the THC inside the cannabis flower ages and oxidizes.

On the flipside, CBN does not carry any significant psychoactive properties, and it is nearly impossible to attain a “high” from consuming it. While it shares many of the relaxant effects and health benefits of THC, and thus by extension HHC, CBN is actually more potent than either of them when used specifically as a sedative. 

HHC vs. Delta-9 THC

Measured specifically against delta-9 THC, the most widespread, widely-known, and researched analog of THC, HHC appears to be weaker in its effects. In fact, many users have reported that HHC compared to delta-9 results in a less pronounced “high,” with instead stronger relaxant effects in common with other cannabinoids. 

The pain-killing, anti-inflammatory, and other health benefits of delta-9 THC appear to mostly remain intact with HHC.

HHC is more stable than delta-9 thanks to its chemical makeup and remains potent for longer. Storing it is also much more convenient as it doesn’t degrade nearly as easily and is more resistant to UV radiation and heat. 

Is HHC Legal?

Even though HHC was first synthesized as far back as 1944, there are no widespread laws as of yet specifically regulating its distribution. For the most part, HHC enjoys living in a legal grey zone nearly worldwide as it is considered a hemp product and thus free to be bought, sold, and consumed wherever hemp is legal. 

Even when HHC is synthesized through the hydrogenation of THC, the final HHC product won’t contain any significant amounts of THC, allowing it to be sold in many countries and jurisdictions where THC is illegal. 

In the United States, for example, HHC is federally legal and legal at the state level in 38 states, making it a much more readily available option than THC.

Does HHC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Many claim that HHC has the unique property – not shared with THC or most other cannabis derivatives – of evading drug tests, ostensibly due to its unique chemical makeup.

However, there has been no proper research into this matter as of yet, and all the evidence for HHC’s capabilities in this regard is anecdotal.

For now, the best answer to this question, unfortunately, remains, “We don’t know, maybe!”

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.

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