What Are the Benefits & Side Effects of HHC?

Area 52
May 07, 2022 | Blog

HHC is a lesser-known cannabinoid that has recently attracted attention from the cannabis community for its controlled high and energizing effects.

The best part about HHC is that it is federally legal, making HHC products widely available for most people.

This article introduces the benefits of HHC, as well as the most common side effects to watch out for.

What is HHC?

HHC is a minor cannabinoid related to THC that produces feelings of happiness and provides a small energy boost, according to user reports.

Hexahydrogenated or HHC cannabis buds in white background

Scientists know relatively little about HHC compared to other cannabinoids like delta 8 THC and CBD. There are currently no published human studies on the pharmacological effects of HHC in humans, making user reports the most reliable sources of information about its effects.

The most important difference between HHC and THC is that HHC is easier to obtain, thanks to its widespread legality in the United States. HHC also has a lower potency than THC, and many users believe it’s less psychoactive.

HHC is also more stable than other types of cannabinoids, thanks to the hydrogenation process. While others are sensitive to light, heat, and time, HHC is less likely to be affected. Add it to your end-of-the-world prepping supplies, and you’re set.

Is HHC Natural or Synthetic?

Some reports claim that HHC occurs naturally in cannabis in trace amounts, but no peer-reviewed studies have been published corroborating those claims. However, HHC is not synthetic since it’s known to exist in cannabis plants already.

How Is HHC Made?

HHC forms through a process of hydrogenation of THC or similar natural cannabinoids. Hydrogenation is a complex chemical process that involves reducing THC in the presence of a solvent. A metal catalyst, like palladium, is often used to increase the reaction’s efficiency, boosting the yield and lowering production costs.

Hydrogenation sounds scary, but it’s actually quite common in the food industry. Margarine is made by hydrogenating vegetable oil, and the process is not dangerous — as long as you know what you’re doing.

Is HHC Legal?

HHC is legal in 38 states and possibly not legal in the following 12 states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized all hemp-derived cannabinoids on the Federal level, leading to an explosion in popularity of alternative cannabinoids like delta 8 THC and CBD. However, since HHC is derived from cannabinoids, HHC is only legal if it’s made from hemp (as opposed to marijuana).

Even though HHC derived from legal cannabinoids is federally legal, individual states are free to regulate it as they see fit. There are no HHC-specific restrictions in any state currently, although that is mostly due to how new HHC is.

However, a few states have language that could be interpreted toward the prohibition of HHC.

HHC vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

HHC is similar to THC but has a few important differences. Chemically, HHC has two extra hydrogen atoms, creating a fully-hydrogenated carbon ring. This makes HHC a more stable, long-lived molecule but also makes it less bioavailable and lowers its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

According to anecdotal evidence, THC is generally more potent than HHC, producing more intense psychoactive experiences. HHC is most likely still psychoactive, although its effects are more muted, and it may not afford users with the same medicinal benefits as THC.

Comparison: HHC vs. THC

Illustration of Delta 9 vs HHC chemical structures

Chemical Structure C21H32O2 C21H30O2
Effects Happiness, energy, mild euphoria Relaxation, intense euphoria
Side Effects Anxiety, loss of coordination, paranoia, anxiety Tiredness, loss of coordination, paranoia, anxiety, memory impairment 
Legality Widespread (38/50 states) Limited (16/50 states)
Availability Low High
Occurs Naturally? Yes Yes

HHC is quite different from CBD, both chemically and pharmacologically. CBD has the same chemical formula as THC, but the atoms are arranged in a different structure, giving the two cannabinoids different effects. The biggest difference is that CBD is not psychoactive, while HHC most likely is.

HHC vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?

CBD is popular as a sleep aid and for treating minor pain from chronic conditions like arthritis, while HHC is mostly used recreationally to induce low levels of euphoria and increase energy.

Comparison: HHC vs. CBD

Chemical Structure C21H32O2 C21H32O2
Effects Happiness, energy, mild euphoria Reduces anxiety, improves sleep quality, relieves minor pain
Side Effects Anxiety, loss of coordination, paranoia, anxiety Drowsiness, reduced appetite, dry mouth
Legality Widespread (38/50 states) Legal in all 50 states
Availability Low High
Occurs Naturally? Yes Yes

HHC’s effects on humans have not been studied, so everything known about its effects comes from user reports. Virtually all HHC users say that HHC edibles make them feel alert and energetic, leading some users to compare it to delta 10 THC and CBG. Many people say that HHC is well-suited for morning use, with some suggesting it may be a good alternative to coffee.

What Are the Effects of HHC?

Most users also report low to moderate levels of euphoria from taking HHC, although the effect is less intense than THC. It’s difficult to compare strength estimates due to variations in metabolism, body weight, and dose.

The consensus is that HHC is nearly twice as potent as delta 8 and about 80% as potent as delta 9 THC. 

HHC’s side effects are relatively mild, with most users claiming little to no unexpected effects. The most common side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Red eyes

Note that taking higher doses makes you more likely to experience side effects.

How Does HHC Work?

HHC works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, similar to THC and CBD. The endocannabinoid system contains two types of receptors, the imaginatively named cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

CB1 receptors are located mostly in the central nervous system and are responsible for creating psychoactive effects. HHC is a mild CB1 agonist, meaning it creates some psychoactive effects but not to the same degree as a more potent cannabinoid like THC.

CB2 receptors play a role in the body’s immune response, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract. HHC’s CB2 activity is currently unknown.

Will HHC Get You High?

Yes. HHC is a psychoactive compound and will produce a high. User reports suggest that HHC’s strength lies between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC, making it a good option for people who are underwhelmed by delta 8 THC but want something less potent than delta 9.

Man and woman high on smoking hhc hemp

Final Thoughts: What Are The Benefits of HHC?

HHC is a new semi-synthetic cannabinoid that is on the cutting edge of cannabinoid research. There is some evidence that HHC may be present in small amounts in cannabis, although all HHC produced today comes from hydrogenating other cannabinoids. HHC’s primary benefit over THC is legality, with 38 out of 50 states allowing recreational use of it.

HHC’s effects are not well-understood, but user reports suggest that HHC may be a good option for people searching for a middle ground between delta 8 and delta 9 THC. It produces a less dramatic high than delta 9 THC and offers users energy and contentment, giving it a unique use case among cannabinoids.

May we suggest?