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Cannabinoid Clinic: HHC

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

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 unlike delta-10, 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 HHC is basically THC without the molecular double bonds characteristic of the delta-9 analog, each of which has been replaced by two hydrogen atoms.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.


HHC Fast Facts

  • Role: Alt cannabinoids

  • Biosynthetic pathway: CBGA > THCA > THC > HHC

  • Psychoactivity: Psychoactive

  • Acidic precursor: n/a

  • Boiling point: n/a

  • Primary medical benefits: Pain relief, anti-cancer

HHC Medicinal Benefits

HHC features a dearth of research and little is know about its potential medicinal characteristics. This is especially true in comparison to popular cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, delta-8 THC, and delta-9 THC


A 1977 study entitled "9beta-HHC, a Cannabinoid with Potent Antinociceptive Activity: Comparisons with Morphine" that was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics investigated various properties of the beta-HHC isomer of HHC and involved male rodent test subjects.


"Beta-HHC may exhibit pain killing properties, but that its underlying mechanisms are very different from conventional analgesics."

The study's authors found that beta-HHC may exhibit pain killing properties, but that its underlying mechanisms are very different from conventional analgesics such as morphine and other narcotics.


A June 2007 study entitled "Conversion of Cannabidiol to ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol and Related Cannabinoids in Artificial Gastric Juice and Their Pharmacological Effects In Mice" that was published in the journal Forensic Toxicology explored two isomers of HHC and their potential efficacy in rodent subjects.

"Cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, was found to be converted to 9α-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol (9α-OH-HHC) and 8-hydroxy-iso-hexahydrocannabinol (8-OH-iso-HHC) together with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), a psychoactive cannabinoid, and cannabinol in artificial gastric juice," reported the research.


The study's authors concluded that their scientific investigation "demonstrated that CBD can be converted to Δ9-THC and its related cannabinoids, 9α-OH-HHC and 8-OH-iso-HHC, in artificial gastric juice and that these HHCs show Δ9-THC-like effects in mice, although their pharmacological effects were less potent than those of Δ9-THC.


"Both natural and synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to suppress the growth of [cancerous] tumor cells."

A 2011 study entitled "Novel Hexahydrocannabinol Analogs as Potential Anti-cancer Agents Inhibit Cell Proliferation & Tumor Angiogenesis" that was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology explored the potential anti-cancer characteristics of HHC isomer molecules.


The study reported that "both natural and synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to suppress the growth of tumor cells in culture and in animal models by affecting key signaling pathways." The researchers noted that their study data "suggest that novel synthetic hexahydrocannabinol analogs (LYR-7 and LYR-8) inhibit tumor growth...and suppress...cancer cell growth."


How to Get HHC

HHC, like delta-8 THC, delta-10, and THC-O, is rapidly increasing in popularity due to the fact that it is considered legal in many jurisdictions (unlike delta-9 THC) due to passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States. While the legal status of alt cannabinoids such as HHC will remain in flux into the foreseeable future, its arguable legality has incentivized a frenzied introduction of products containing it.


HHC is most commonly available as 510 vape cartridges and gummies, although tinctures may be available in some areas.


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