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Cannabinoid Clinic: HHC

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course.

 

Welcome to homework assignment 1.7 of the Core Cannabis Lite Track from Higher Learning LV. When you complete this assignment, simply click the link at the bottom of the article to return to the master page for this training track.

 

Welcome to Cannabinoid Clinic, an education project powered by Higher Learning LV. This series provides cannabis and hemp industry professionals with easily digested cannabinoid profiles that ask little of your time—but provide plenty of science-based information.


There are two categories of cannabinoids: Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are those produced by cannabis/marijuana/hemp, while endocannabinoids are made by the human body. This series covers both.

HHC molecular structure


What is HHC?

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a cannabinoid that is one of the most recent entrants in the world of "alt" cannabinoids that extends beyond cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Also called "hydrogenated THC," one media outlet stated that "HHC is to THC, what margarine is to butter."


Although it is one of the new kids on the block, it was actually first synthesized from delta-9 THC by American Chemist Roger Adams in 1947 (Adams also discovered THC in 1940). HHC binds to the same receptor as delta-9 THC, CB1, but features a weaker binding affinity, resulting in a lower potency than delta-9 THC.


"HHC binds to the same receptor as delta-9 THC, CB1, but features a weaker binding affinity, resulting in a lower potency than delta-9 THC."

In simple terms, HHC is delta-9 THC that has been saturated with hydrogen atoms (a process called hydrogenation). Like delta-8 and delta-10 but unlike THC-O acetate, HHC is naturally occurring. However, it is typically found in select cultivars of cannabis and hemp in quantities of under one percent. Like with delta-8 (which is typically converted from hemp-derived CBD), commercially viable volumes of HHC are possible only via industrial-scale laboratory processing.


Longer Shelf Life

One clear superiority of HHC to delta-9 THC is its shelf life. Delta-9 THC is actually the most unstable and easily converted form of THC, meaning it has the shortest shelf life. While delta-8 features a longer shelf life than delta-9, HHC features the longest of all THC isomers.


This is due to the hydrogenation of the THC molecules, which makes them more stable by shielding them from environmental influences such as heat, UV light, and oxygen—all of which can cause the molecules to morph into a different form. HHC is basically THC without the molecular double bonds characteristic of the delta-9 analog, each of which has been replaced by two hydrogen atoms.


"Delta-9 THC is the most unstable form of THC, meaning it has the shortest shelf life. While delta-8 features a longer shelf life, HHC features the longest shelf life of all THC isomers."

How it Works

All molecules "break down" or morph into other forms after varying amounts of exposure to a variety of environmental factors, including heat, oxygen, wind and physical movement, UV light, and pressure, among others.


When delta-9 THC experiences this molecular transmogrification, most of the molecules convert to cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid that delivers relaxation and even sedation in sufficient doses. However, a small amount is sometimes converted to delta-8 THC or HHC.


The path traveled by these molecules is known as the biosynthetic pathway. For example, the biosynthetic pathway of HHC in the description above would be CBGA > THCA > THC > HHC. However, other cannabinoids can be used to synthesize HHC, including CBD.


To see the Fast Facts and Research Studies sections that have been removed from this no-cost training asset, enroll in Core Cannabis.

 

Return to the Core Cannabis Lite Track master page.


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