hhc versus thc

HHC (hexahydrocannabinol) Versus Delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): What’s the Difference?

If you’re a cannabis lover, then you know that there’s a lot more to this plant than just THC. In fact, there are over 100 different cannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis so far. Out of all of these cannabinoids, the most well-known is delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But there is a new contender for the spotlight that many think could replace THC altogether – Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC). As much as we would like to think that all highs are created equal, that’s just not the case. And while THC is certainly a major player in the cannabis game, there’s another compound called HHC that some users believe can give THC a run for its money. Could HHC be a viable legal alternative to THC? Let’s take a closer look.

Delta-9 THC vs HHC: Molecular Structure and Origin

Delta-9 THC – This cannabinoid is the most abundant of them all. Delta-9 THC is a lipid molecule, and its unique structure is what makes it so effective at interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The structure found in delta-9 THC is based on three distinct cyclic structures called rings. Its chemical formula is  C21H30O2 and it contains a double carbon bond.


HHC follows the same basic formula as delta-9 THC but with one major difference: the replacement of a double carbon bond with two hydrogen atoms. HHC is essentially hydrogenated delta-9 THC. The added hydrogen atoms make HHC more stable and less susceptible to degradation than delta-9 THC. This means HHC has a longer shelf-life and is less sensitive to UV light and heat. Hydrogenation is not unique to the cannabis world. In fact, the same process is used to extend the shelf-life of various food products. This added benefit justifies HHC’s appeal to both users and manufacturers.

Where do HHC and THC come from?

Both HHC and THC occur naturally. THC is found in the flowers of cannabis plants while HHC has been found in both the seeds and pollen of the hemp plant. However, unlike THC, HHC occurs naturally only in trace amounts. Because extraction is expensive and difficult, the HHC you find in products on the market today is considered semi-synthetic – meaning the process of creating HHC has been encouraged in a lab setting. This conversion process begins with natural CBD as the base hemp ingredient. CBD is converted and hydrogenated into HHC. 

Delta-9 THC vs HHC: Effects

Based on user reports, there are a couple of key differences between the high experienced upon ingestion of HHC and THC including:

  • HHC has a longer duration of action than THC. This means users experience a high that outlasts that of THC.
  • Users report they don’t experience the same after-high grogginess commonly experienced after delta-9 THC use.
  • THC has been shown to cause anxiety and other undesired side effects such as dysphoria which is not experienced by users taking HHC; although there are users who have reported these effects while taking both products, they appear to occur less frequently when under the influence of HHC.

How HHC and THC Interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

A cannabinoid’s molecular structure is what gives each strain its unique high. Each cannabinoid affects the body differently depending on how it interacts with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system exists in order to regulate processes related to appetite, pain, mood, and memory. Through the production of its own cannabinoids that bind to various cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, the endocannabinoid system’s goal is to maintain homeostasis. Yep, you read that right – the body actually produces its own form of cannabinoids that are similar in structure to cannabinoids in cannabis. That’s why cannabinoids like THC are a match made in heaven for humans.

Cannabinoid Receptors: How do they work?

Both the cannabinoids in cannabis and the cannabinoids naturally produced by your body interact with receptors called cannabinoids receptors. These are receptors that are located on the surface of cells that attach to cannabinoid molecules. They were discovered in the late 1980s when scientists were studying how THC affected users. Turns out, cannabinoids from cannabis are able to mimic and behave as if they were just like cannabinoids produced by our bodies.

There are two main cannabinoid receptors in the body. The most common cannabinoid receptor is CB1 which has been found in all parts of the central nervous system: cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and brain stem among others. The second most common is CB2. CB2 receptors are mostly found on cells of the immune system and their main purpose is to regulate pain, inflammation, anxiety/stress response, and appetite among others.

The type of high a user will experience from THC or HHC will depend on which cannabinoid receptors they bind with. Because THC and HHC are so similar molecularly, they interact with the endocannabinoid system in similar ways, producing similar effects. 

Potency: Which Cannabinoid Receptors Do THC and HHC Bind With?

The effects of delta-9 THC can be felt because of its stimulation of both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) located in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. Most people have heard about THC being able to mimic a compound that our bodies produce naturally called “anandamide”. Studies suggest that a neurotransmitter called Anandamide helps regulate mood, appetite, memory, and fertility among other things. 

HHC is a little bit more complicated because it can take three different forms. Depending on where HHC bonds to, it will activate either or both of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, HHC binds to CB1 with less affinity than delta- 9, which is why HHC is considered slightly less potent than delta-9 THC. There are also several different versions of HHC which vary in potency and feel depending on what it is derived from. HHC that utilizes delta-9 THC has been shown to be stronger in potency. Further, delta-9 derived HHC comes in two different potencies: 80% and 90%. Hummingbird Extracts HHC products are produced to achieve 90% potency.

Please note: We believe it is important to distinguish this point – when delta-8 THC first hit the scene, it was labeled as a weaker version of delta-9 THC. However, we believe this comparison was unfair because the highs of delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC are quite different. It is more like comparing apples to oranges. However, HHC and delta-9 THC are so similar that when we say HHC is slightly less potent than THC, we are by no means saying it compares to the statement made about delta-8 THC potency. For example, our 25mg HHC gummy is the same strength as a 22.5mg delta-9 THC gummy, which is a 90% difference.

HHC vs THC: Is One Better Than the Other?

In an overall comparison, it appears HHC could possess just the qualities we’ve been missing with delta-9 THC. This means that for many people, HHC could be a viable replacement for THC. In fact, there are a growing number of users who have switched from THC to HHC due to its various benefits. But is it really possible for HHC to outdo delta-9 THC? Users and chemists point to benefits such as HHC’s stability and longer shelf-life which prove particularly useful for topical treatments. HHC has another major advantage over THC and that is: it isn’t THC. Because HHC is not THC, it is currently not subject to the same regulatory restrictions as delta-9 THC and other THCs.

Delta-9 THC has been around and used by humans for thousands of years and recently has become much more acceptable in the public’s mind. At this very basic level, at least from a commercial point of view, it makes sense that it would remain the dominant player in the world of cannabinoids. However, there are a growing number of cannabinoids being studied and adopted by the cannabis community including delta-8 THC, THC-O, THCv, etc., which have been welcomed with open arms. The truth is the jury is still out on whether HHC could replace THC altogether. Only time will tell. Interested in trying HHC out for yourself? You can buy HHC online today!

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