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HHC vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

medicine dropper with THC/HHC

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids found within cannabis products. HHC is one of the newer cannabinoids on the market, and further research into the compound is needed to determine the legitimacy of its benefits.

However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that the main difference between HHC and THC is HHC’s overall stability. In other words, it has a longer shelf life than THC.

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What Is HHC?

HHC occurs naturally in small quantities in the cannabis plant, but there’s not enough of it to make much of an impact, so we have to convert THC to HHC using a process called hydrogenation.

The hydrogenation process was first used to convert THC to HHC in 1944 when a chemist named Roger Adams added hydrogen atoms to the compound delta-9 THC.

These days, most commercial forms of HHC are derived from the hemp plant, joining other popular hemp-derived cannabinoids like some forms of CBD and delta-8 THC. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, this creates a loophole at the federal level for various hemp products, like HHC gummies, HHC vape carts, and more.

How It Works

Adding hydrogen molecules to delta-9 THC decreases the ability of HHC to bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system, as well as certain pain receptors in the body.

This hydrogenated form also increases the stability of the compound, which means its shelf life is increased, and potency will remain the same for a longer period. HHC is also more resistant than other cannabinoids to being stored improperly or exposed to UV light or heat.

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HHC is said to cause a “high” similar to that caused by delta-9 THC; however, it is also said to have the sedating and relaxing properties of other compounds, such as delta-8 THC (which is nearly identical to delta-9).

HHC produces euphoric feelings and an alteration in visual and auditory perception, and it can also cause a change in cognition, heart rate, and body temperature. With that said, it is new to the market, so not many studies have examined HHC’s effects and its potential for therapeutic use.

Potential Benefits

The main benefit of HHC lies in its stability as a compound due to its increased shelf life and stable potency. It is also thought to provide similar benefits to THC, including:

Risks and Drawbacks

The short-term and long-term effects of HHC are not widely researched. However, since anecdotal evidence suggests that the effects of HHC are similar to THC, side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Red Eyes
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Increase in appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia and/or sleep disturbances

Ultimately, more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of HHC.

What Is THC?

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid molecule in cannabis. It is cannabis’s main psychoactive compound and causes the “high” that people experience when smoking marijuana. As delta-9 THC is from the plant, it is often called a “phytocannabinoid.”

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How It Works

THC binds to the body’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) within the nervous system and brain. It stays in the body for a long time, but the psychoactive effects wear off after a few hours.


THC is generally used for recreational purposes, but there are several medicinal uses for it as well. For thousands of years, marijuana has been used to treat and alleviate symptoms of illness. It is often inhaled, ingested orally, applied as a topical ointment, or administered sublingually.

THC stimulates the release of dopamine from the brain, which causes feelings of euphoria. Its use can cause pleasant effects, and users may experience:

  • Relaxation
  • Increased sensory perception
  • An altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite

Potential Benefits

There are many potential therapeutic benefits of THC use, including aiding in the alleviation of ailments such as:

The FDA has even approved a synthetic THC medication called dronabinol to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, weight loss, and reduced appetite caused by HIV/AIDS.

Risks and Drawbacks

While THC use can give the user a pleasant experience, there are also potential adverse effects associated with its use. Some negative effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Coughing fits
  • Chest and/or lung discomfort
  • Fainting
  • Cold sweats
  • Hallucinations

THC use has also been associated with increased learning impairment and decreased memory formation, particularly among adolescents. Finally, marijuana is illegal under federal law. To use this cannabinoid, you need to live in a location that has legalized its recreational or medical use.

Similarities and Differences Between HHC and THC

THC and HHC are both intoxicating cannabinoids that produce a euphoric “high” for the user. The differences in THC and HHC come from the differences in their chemical structures: THC must be hydrogenated to produce HHC through a process that adds a hydrogen atom to the molecule, which increases its stability and resistance to heat and UV radiation.

How to Decide Which Is Best for You

When to Use HHC

Although people use HHC for medicinal and recreational purposes, there is no research to support specific use in any capacity. It’s essential to be careful about consuming synthetically-produced HHC products (or any synthetic cannabinoids) due to very little safety and regulation in this area. Ideally, it may be wise to avoid consuming them at all.

When to Use THC

THC can be used recreationally or medicinally. Many states have designated medical marijuana programs for their residents, allowing people to treat various medical conditions with THC. There are also therapeutic, synthetic THC products for medicinal use.

The Bottom Line

THC and HHC have very similar effects: Both produce feelings of euphoria and altered perception. HHC is still new to the market, so there has not been much research examining the short-term and long-term effects of the compound.

If you want a regulated product with some research to back it, “regular THC” (i.e., THC derived from marijuana) is the optimal choice. Apply for a medical marijuana card in your home state today to experience the many benefits of medical cannabis.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How strong is HHC compared to THC?

HHC is less potent than THC, resulting from the decreased binding affinity for the HHC molecule with CB1 receptors. When it comes to the high provided by HHC vs. delta-8 vs. delta-9 THC, users report that HHC “highs” feel somewhere between those from delta-8 and delta-9 THC.

How long does HHC high last?

Anecdotal reports suggest that HHC highs last around two to three hours.

Is HHC legal?

Like delta-8 THC, HHC is currently legal at the federal level thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill allowing the sale and consumption of hemp-derived products. However, some states have banned hemp products like HHC and delta-8, so be sure to check your local laws before consuming these substances.

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Qué es el THC
What is THC?

THC is the main psychoactive compound (cannabinoid) found in the cannabis plant that creates the “high” feeling associated with marijuana.