HHC vs THC: Which Cannabinoid is Best?

Several new cannabinoids have hit the hemp market recently, including delta-8, delta-10, and now – and perhaps the most exciting of all – HHC. But how does HHC compare to the more familiar THC? Welcome to this HHC vs THC review!

In this guide, I will explore the similarities and differences between the two cannabinoids in the context of the hemp industry. Therefore, instead of discussing classic THC products, we will look specifically at hemp-derived delta-9.

We have plenty to analyze, including potency, product variety, legality, and safety. But before we get into the comparisons, let’s start by getting more acquainted with HHC and THC. 

What is HHC?

HHC

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a naturally occurring phytocannabinoid and a hydrogenated derivative of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). HHC is occasionally found in Cannabis Sativa L. plants, albeit only ever in trace quantities.

Because the cannabinoid is rarely identified in the natural world, companies must synthetically produce HHC to obtain the substance in large amounts. This production process has given rise to the hemp-derived HHC industry we see flourishing today.

The HHC distillate found in hemp products contains two types of HHC – an alpha-form and a beta-form (9α-HHC and 9β-HHC). 

This pair of HHC cannabinoids are called enantiomers, and while they connect with cannabinoid receptors in the same way, they are ultimately different. Beta HHC displays a higher affinity at the CB1 receptor than alpha HHC, according to research.

HHC first popped up in scientific literature in 1947, after being synthesized by cannabis chemist Roger Adams. In the paper, Adams described how he added hydrogen to THC, which transformed it into HHC. 

Until recently, HHC was pretty much unknown by the public. But it has come to prominence thanks to a loophole in the Farm Bill. And there is potential for HHC to become the best-selling cannabinoid in the hemp industry after CBD. 

What is THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychoactive substance and the most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. The THC term can refer to any of the compound’s isomers, but it most commonly describes the delta-9 version.

THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid that can make up a significant percentage of a marijuana plant – the reported record THC concentration is 34%! However, federally legal hemp plants can only contain up to 0.3% delta-9-THC.

Subsequently, THC has historically taken a backseat in the hemp industry. But savvy and sneaky brands have learned to maximize the Farm Bill’s 0.3% THC limit, by creating products like hemp-derived delta-9 edibles. 

HHC vs THC – Which Cannabinoid is Better?

Firstly, the best cannabinoid depends on your circumstances and requirements. Neither HHC nor THC is objectively better than the other, or there would not be thriving markets for both! My job is to give you an idea of which you might prefer.

I have drawn up this table to show you what matters in the HHC vs THC debate. 

HHCTHC (Delta-9-THC)
Strength80%100%
Price$$$$$
Average serving15-30mg15-30mg
OriginNatural and syntheticNatural
Side effectsParanoia, impaired coordination, bad sleep qualityImpaired coordination and short-term memory, paranoia, dry mouth, red-eye, sleepiness
Drug testsUnclear (likely detectable)Detectable
LegalityLegal in 38 statesLegal in 16 states
ChemistryC21H32O2C21H30O2

Now you have a general overview of the similarities and differences between them, let’s examine each factor in-depth. 

Potency

THC is a more potent cannabinoid than HHC. Some experts think that HHC is about 80% as strong as THC, although that is an estimate rather than a precise statistic. However, we do know that HHC is weaker than THC but more powerful than delta-8.

Those inexperienced with THC-like cannabinoids may respond better to HHC’s milder properties. However, if you want intense effects and an authentic cannabis experience, only THC will do the trick.

Your sensitivity to cannabinoids should also influence your decision. If THC makes you nervy, paranoid, or jittery, the less punchy HHC might suit you better. But for those with a high tolerance to such substances, THC could be the way to go.

If in doubt, choose HHC. I always advocate cautious decision-making with cannabinoids, in terms of serving sizes and the cannabinoid itself.

You can easily reconcile an experience that is too weak by taking more the next time. However, side effects from an overly-intense trip could deter you from using cannabinoids altogether.

General effects

Typical THC effects include relaxation and a sense of euphoria. Many also enjoy periods of uncontrollable laughter, a heightened sense of auditory and visual perception, and an altered perception of time. And not forgetting increased appetite!

Many of these effects apply to HHC as well – after all, both cannabinoids bind with the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors. However, HHC is more physically relaxing than THC and compares closely to an indica strain of cannabis.

For unwinding and chilling in the evenings, calming and soothing HHC is more attractive than a sativa-style, headrush-inducing THC product. But if you want a cannabinoid to keep you alert and awake during the day, HHC might not be for you.

That said, most of what we understand about HHC’s effects comes from user anecdotes. There is little scientific research on HHC, especially relative to THC.

Side effects

You may experience the following side effects from HHC and THC:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Red-eye
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired coordination
  • Insomnia

Considering its more relaxing characteristics, HHC could make you sleepier and drowsier than THC. However, these calming properties may reduce the risk of anxiety and paranoia.

Since HHC is less potent, it might have less pertinent side effects. But prepare for classic side effects if you take more HHC to compensate for that reduced strength. 

Therapeutic value

THC has a long history of therapeutic use, with evidence of consumption among various cultures around the world dating back millennia. More recently, THC has been subject to rigorous scientific research in some fields of medicine.

And as of July 2022, medicinal marijuana is legal in 37 U.S. states – although, admittedly, some states severely limit THC levels. But it’s an indication of increasing knowledge and acceptance of a substance that has been restricted for so long.

We know much less about HHC, even though it came to scientific attention as early as 1947. As a rare cannabinoid and natural degradation byproduct, there has been little motivation to study it until now. However, we have some idea of its effects.

Since THC and HHC influence the endocannabinoid system in the same way, any health benefits associated with THC may apply to HHC, too. However, the latter may differ slightly due to its less potent and more relaxing characteristics.

Do not self-medicate with commercially available THC or HHC products. Neither are diagnosed to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Speak with your doctor or physician if you have a health problem instead of trying to diagnose and treat it yourself.

Legality

Legality

In the federally legal hemp market, HHC is much more accessible than THC. The 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act (Farm Bill) does not restrict HHC concentrations in products but caps THC levels at a super-low 0.3% on a dry weight basis.

The Farm Bill explicitly limited THC to stop the emergence of legal marijuana products protected by hemp legislation. But aside from delta-9-THC, all hemp-derived cannabinoids were de-scheduled by the Bill, opening a world of opportunities.

However, HHC’s legal status is not crystal clear and arguably falls into a grey area. Technically, the cannabinoid has natural origins as a degradation byproduct of THC. But it’s no secret that the HHC in hemp-derived products is chemically processed.

The debate centers over whether this processing makes HHC unnatural. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes synthetic cannabinoids as substances made with non-cannabis materials. In my view, this is not the case for HHC.

HHC distillate cannot be produced without hemp-derived CBD, a perfectly natural cannabis material! Although HHC is unlikely in hot water at the federal level, some states have indirectly banned HHC as part of a wider crackdown on delta-8 products.

Product variety

Consumers have a limited choice of hemp-derived THC products due to the 0.3% cap. Edibles are the only product type that can provide a true THC experience without breaching Farm Bill regulations.

Sure, you can purchase tincture oils and disposable vapes that maximize the THC allowance, but these products don’t deliver pure THC effects. Most products of this nature primarily consist of cannabidiol (CBD) and have almost insignificant THC levels.

The hemp-derived HHC market is much more extensive and boasts all the product types you would expect to find in the CBD and delta-8 scenes. I am talking disposable pens, vape cartridges, e-liquids, tinctures, flower, and capsules.

Does it even matter how you consume HHC or THC? Yes! The effects and overall experience can vary depending on the consumption method. For instance, edibles work slowly and gradually, whereas vape pens kick in hard and fast.

You also have more control over the serving size with edibles, capsules, and tinctures than with vape pens and flower. Vaping and smoking are less discreet than eating a gummy or popping a capsule, and present more health risks, too.

Shelf life and storage

HHC is a more durable cannabinoid than THC, thanks to its hydrogenated properties. The hydrogenation process tweaks THC’s molecular structure, replacing a double bond with two hydrogen atoms, a change that increases HHC’s stability.

Subsequently, HHC has a longer shelf life than THC, as it is less vulnerable to oxidation, heat degradation, and ultraviolet (UV) light degradation. Therefore, consumers don’t have to worry as much about tip-top storage with HHC products.

Hemp-derived delta-9 gummies are more prone to degradation and potency loss. They can also melt in high temperatures and become impossible to dose precisely with when distorted in shape. I recommend keeping any edibles in a refrigerator.

Despite HHC’s improved durability, I remain a firm advocate of adopting impeccable storage procedures with all hemp products. Keep your HHC products in a cool, dry, and dark place and they can stay in peak condition for more than a year.

HHC vs THC drug test situation

HHC vs THC drug test situation

HHC’s drug test detectability status is unclear – there is no scientific research to confirm either way. However, there are indications that HHC breaks down into a different metabolite than THC, which drug tests may be unable to detect.

In contrast, THC absolutely does show up on a drug test. All drug tests (i.e., urine, saliva, hair follicle, blood, and perspiration) can detect THC usage by screening for its THC-COOH metabolite.

But you are not necessarily doomed by simply consuming HHC or THC. It depends on when you took it, how much you took, your metabolism speed, and the sensitivity of the test. 

Inevitably, you will be in tune with some of these factors more than others But let’s focus on intake and assume for a second that drug tests can detect HHC. If so, you might be more likely to fail a test with HHC than THC.

Due to HHC’s lower potency, you would need to take more of it than if using THC to experience the same effects. This would mean a higher concentration of HHC metabolites in your system and an increased chance of a positive test.

Despite the optimistic murmurs about HHC avoiding drug test detection, there is no concrete scientific evidence to prove it. And until we get it, it’s just not worth putting your job on the line to get your kicks. This THC vs HHC mini-battle ends in a draw!

Safety

You must consider safety when purchasing hemp-derived HHC and THC products, but there is arguably more reason to be wary about HHC. Ultimately, THC is a 100% natural cannabinoid, whereas HHC undergoes potentially risky chemical processing.

Provided the THC is extracted via supercritical CO2 extraction or from any other solvent-free method, you should be good to go. But HHC products come with an increased risk of contaminants, such as solvents, heavy metals, and chemicals.

The best manufacturers take care to create pure and potent HHC distillate that does not contain any of these nasties. But corner-cutting brands don’t put the same level of care and attention into the synthesizing process, hence the potential for issues.

Whether you go for HHC or THC, always check that your chosen product has an up-to-date and impressive third-party certificate of analysis (COA) to accompany it. It’s the only way of verifying that your hemp product is legal, safe and genuine.

Interactions with prescription drugs

Mixing HHC or THC products with prescription drugs could cause serious problems. Once again, our knowledge of these complications comes from THC, but we can confidently assume they apply to HHC, too – and it’s certainly not worth taking risks.

Many prescription drugs are metabolized by enzymes in the cytochrome P450 system. Unfortunately, THC – and other cannabinoids – are inhibitors of these enzymes, which reduces the rate at which your body can clear the affected drugs.

That’s as worrying as it sounds, and the wrong combination could even put you in overdose territory. Here are a few drug classes metabolized by CYP450 enzymes:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Hypnotics
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Opioids

Never mix hemp-derived HHC or THC products with any of these drugs. And if you are unsure if it safe to consume cannabinoids with your current medication, consult with your doctor or physician. Don’t take medical advice from the internet!

HHC vs THC – Summing Up 

For pure potency, THC is your best bet. For a more relaxing but somewhat milder experience, I suggest indulging in the soothing effects of THC.

Both cannabinoids are legal when derived from hemp, although you have many more product options with HHC. Unless you reside in a state with legal recreational marijuana, you cannot purchase products with more than 0.3% THC.

HHC has a longer shelf life than THC, and the cannabinoids are similarly safe, providing you purchase from genuine vendors. 

We have no evidence that drug tests cannot detect HHC, despite the encouraging anecdotes, and both HHC and THC can interfere with prescription drugs.

Buy Hemp-Derived HHC and THC at CBD Genesis!

Buy Hemp-Derived HHC and THC at CBD Genesis!

If this HHC vs THC comparison has whetted your appetite, I invite you to check out the most popular federally legal hemp products available at CBD Genesis. We have plenty of delta-9 and HHC for sale – here are my two favorite products! 

CBD Genesis – HHC Disposables (2000mg)

Our HHC Disposable Pens deliver punchy, fast-acting effects, complete with the terpenes to produce a flavorful and tailored experience. Choose from a range of indica, sativa, and hybrid vape pens, all infused with a hefty 2000mg HHC distillate.

Soothing indicas are perfect toward the end of the day, especially given the already-relaxing properties of HHC. These vape pens are breath-activated, have a built-in rechargeable battery, and have been third-party lab-tested and approved. 

Strains: Maui Wowie (Sativa), Purple Urkle (Indica), Slurricane (Indica), Ekto Cooler (Hybrid), Pink Kush (Hybrid)

CBD Genesis – Delta 9 Gummies (Hemp-Derived THC Gummies)

Indulge in a legal yet authentic delta-9 trip with our Farm Bill compliant gummies. Each serving contains a substantial 7.5mg delta-9, complemented by the non-intoxicating and relaxing effects of 1.25mg CBC, CBG, and CBN extract.

With more than 0.2 but less than 0.3% THC, Delta 9 Gummies from CBD Genesis offer potent effects without falling foul of Uncle Sam. We sell them in resealable pouches and three different sizes. This is a third-party approved product.

Sizes: 20-count (150mg), 40-count (300mg), 80-count (600mg)

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