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HHC vs THC: Exploring Their Differences and Possible Benefits

Written By Andy Papilion Feb 29th 2024
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Not all that long ago, adults of all ages began investigating the possible risks and potential benefits of two lesser-known THC analogs, Delta-8 and Delta-10. Most wanted to know how their overall effects compared to Delta-9 THC. Today, the conversation has shifted slightly as people explore the option of purchasing a THC alternative first identified in the 1940s, HHC.6

Although the scientific community has known about HHC for decades, there's been surprisingly little research investigating its possible impact on the body and brain. However, knowing the differences between HHC and THC can provide a lot more clarity than you might expect. We'll explore their origins, chemical composition, and several other factors you need to know before choosing one over the other. 

The Importance of HHC vs THC Discussions  

For years, hemp-derived products appealed to people interested in gaining the health and wellness potential of cannabis with products containing too little THC to cause intoxication. As consumer perceptions of cannabis use evolved, CBD users were eagerly embracing products infused with enhanced concentrations of some of hemps most impactful minor cannabinoids, CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), CBN (cannabinol), and of course, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

As the popularity of THC-infused CBD products continued to rise, manufacturers were busy exploring other ways for people to experience the "recreational" effects of hemp-derived cannabinoids. Although their results continue to generate considerable enthusiasm, many people believe the Delta-9 THC alternatives they're ingesting (or inhaling) are naturally occurring. They're generally not. That's why it's so vitally important to continue that discussion as HHC takes center stage. Consumers need to know that cannabis researchers still have more questions than answers about the cannabinoid.   

HHC Product Basics: Their General Appeal and Overall Effects   

HHC is currently marketed as a cannabinoid capable of producing an effect similar to THC but not as strong. Based on what we know of its chemical composition, those claims appear to be accurate. In a side-by-side comparison of their structure, you would see that HHC is missing the double bond found on THC's ninth carbon atom. It also contains two more hydrogen atoms. Those distinctions have a direct impact on the cannabinoid's ability to bind with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptor CB1. 

Delta-9 THC binds with CB1 like a key fitting into a lock. Their interaction affects presynaptic neurons in a way that can alter the flow of information and increase dopamine levels.4 Although animal studies suggest HHC produces only a partial CB1-mediated effect,12 anecdotal evidence reported by HHC users suggests the impact is longer lasting.6 

Although there's been little research to substantiate claims that HHC leaves people feeling uplifted and relaxed longer than THC, the additional hydrogen atoms differentiating HHC from THC do appear to have a favorable impact on product shelf-life. HHC is less susceptible to oxygenation and resistant to the effects of heat and UV exposure, factors known to compromise THC potency.3 

Exploring the Origins of Hemp-Derived THC  

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of more than 113 plant elements that evolve from the "mother" of all cannabinoids, cannabigerolic acid (GBGA). As hemp crops mature, naturally occurring enzymes convert the plant's cannabigerolic acid to cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabichromenic acid (CBCA), and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).13 THCA is non-intoxicating until heat and/or sunlight converts the cannabinoid to its active, non-acidic form through a process called decarboxylation.7 

Full spectrum hemp extract contains a small amount of Delta-9 THC and even smaller amounts of Delta-8 THC, Delta-7 THC,1 and Delta-6a10a.2 Since hemp extract contains too little Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC to justify the cost of cannabinoid isolation, product manufacturers make synthetic Delta-8 and 10 by altering the molecular structure of CBD with harsh chemicals and organic solvents. Their manipulation creates unidentified synthetic reaction byproducts, elements not found anywhere in nature,5 that render third-party test results unreliable. 

Exploring the Origins of Hemp-Derived HHC  

The chemical composition of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and Delta-9 THC are similar. However, it's not a cannabinoid produced in the plant. Like CBN, naturally occurring HHC is essentially a byproduct of THC degradation. Researchers might find detectable levels in aging plants exposed to heat and sunlight, but even that's not guaranteed. The first person to identify HHC, Roger Adams, created the cannabinoid by adding hydrogen atoms to Delta-9 THC.8 

Today, product manufacturers use the same principles to keep their production costs in line by first converting CBD to Delta-8 THC. Once the CBD is converted to a synthetic form of THC, they use hydrogen and a metal catalyst to hydrogenate the cannabinoid. That means most HHC consumers are using a hemp-derived cannabinoid that's been chemically altered, not once, but twice.11 

Consumer Safety: A Comparison of Possible Risks and Potential Side Effects  

Cannabis researchers have been studying the effects of Delta-9 THC for decades. When used responsibly and in moderation, the cannabinoid is typically well-tolerated and considered safe for most adults. However, researchers do point out that even mildly intoxicating amounts can cause dry mouth, alter time perception, amplify sensory awareness, increase your appetite, or cause drowsiness. Overconsumption, however, can lead to an increased risk of several potentially problematic side effects, including memory lapses, impaired judgment, panic attacks, paranoia, or hallucinations.9 

It's generally believed that there's less risk of developing unpleasant side effects from HHC because it has a milder effect, However, HHC is not well tested, and researchers still don't have a clear understanding of how synthetic cannabinoids are metabolized or stored in the body. Some have also expressed concerns that third-party testing facilities may not be screening HHC samples for traces of the specific metals used during the hydrogenation process.10 

Why Choose CBDistillery® for Products Featuring Naturally Occurring Delta-9 THC?   

With so many companies offering Delta-9 THC alternatives, many consumers are surprised to learn how little researchers actually know about their short-term and long-term effects. While there's nothing on the radar at this point suggesting HHC could be harmful, there's also little research confirming its safety. CBDistillery® CBD + THC products are made with naturally occurring Delta-9 THC. 

Our expert botanists crafted two unique formulations: CBDistillery® shhh+ distilled for deep sleep and CBDistillery® ommm+ distilled for a balanced state of relaxation and overall well-being. If you're not quite sure which product would be the best fit for your lifestyle, consider scheduling a personal consultation. Our products are made with 100% clean ingredients, rigorously tested, and quality assured. 


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