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HHC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the hemp plant. The popular hemp-derived cannabinoid is among the intoxicating cannabinoids available to adult consumers in the legal cannabis market.
Although new hemp-derived cannabinoids like HHC and delta-8 THC are psychoactive, they are legal on a federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill. HHC-infused products, like HHC vapes and gummies, are trendy, especially in states where delta-9 THC is illegal.
So when was HHC discovered? How does an HHC high feel, and is HHC safe? Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about this new-age cannabinoid.
A Brief History Of HHC
High-potency cannabis strains have two dominant cannabinoids and hundreds of minor cannabinoids. HHC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is among the minor cannabinoids present in hemp plants.
Minor cannabinoids like HHC and delta-8 THC occur naturally as dominant cannabinoid (delta-9 THC and CBD) degradation byproducts. Therefore, natural HHC and delta-8 THC are cannabinoid analogs or related cannabinoids of delta-9 THC, meaning they share a similar chemical structure but have varying atom arrangements.
However, although HHC occurs naturally in hemp plants and is probably as old as the plant itself, preliminary research into the cannabinoid is barely a decade old. So, when was HHC created and when did it come out? The first historical mention of HHC was in 1941 when American Chemist Roger Adams began his work with HHC from natural THC through the hydrogenation process.
Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction where a molecule loses atoms and then they are replaced with hydrogen atoms. In the case of HHC, Roger Adams used hydrogen atoms to replace the double bonds in the natural THC molecule, creating a hydrogenated form of THC.
Although HHC research took a six-decade hiatus, the cannabinoid has returned with a bang since 2021. Leading brands in the cannabis industry, including Bearly Legal, incorporate hydrogenation into their manufacturing process to create premium HHC extract. Premium HHC extract is the primary ingredient that creates HHC gummies and vapes for recreational and medical cannabis consumption.
However, unlike the American chemist Roger Adams’s hydrogenation process, cannabis industry brands making HHC and similar compounds (intoxicating cannabinoids) do not convert delta-9 THC molecules to HHC. Instead, they use hemp-derived CBD; hence present-day HHC is a hemp derivative. You can learn more about retrieving HHC from hemp plants below.
How Is HHC Different From Other Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids?
HHC’s primary distinguishing factor from other cannabinoids is the lack of the signature double bonds associated with cannabinoids. However, although HHC’s delta isomer position features hydrogen atoms rather than a double bond, the hydrogen atoms bind to cannabinoid receptors similarly to typical cannabinoids with double bonds on the delta isomer position.
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How Is HHC Extracted?
The above information shows that HHC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. However, the preliminary research on HHC does not show records of instances of natural HHC extraction from the hemp plant, even outside the HHC manufacturing process.
HHC is a trace element meaning that extracting it from the cannabis plant using conventional methods is impractical and non-viable. Consequently, Bearly Legal and other brands making HHC products use hydrogenation to extract HHC from hemp-derived CBD.
However, hydrogenation is not exclusive to the cannabis industry. Food industry manufacturers use hydrogenation in production processes for other compounds, including converting vegetable oil into margarine. The process has multiple advantages, including extending a product’s stability and shelf life; therefore, HHC is more stable than natural THC and other new hemp-derived cannabinoids.
However, cannabis manufacturers using hydrogenation for manufacturing the famous hemp-derived cannabinoid do not use delta-9 THC. The 2018 Farm Bill excludes Delta-9 THC from the legal cannabinoid market products list. Therefore, using delta-9 THC in HHC production would make HHC federally illegal.
So, the manufacturers use another hemp derivative, hemp-derived CBD, to extract delta-8 THC. They then use the THC content in delta-8 THC in the hydrogenation process to extract HHC.
However, the HHC molecules retrieved from hydrogenation have two diastereomers or mirror molecules. Some HHC diastereomers are active, while others are inactive. Therefore, the potency or effects of HHC fluctuates depending on the number of inactive HHC molecules in the HHC distillate.
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Is HHC Legal?
“ Is HHC legal?” is a question that is often asked in the cannabis space. American laws regarding cannabis, particularly intoxicating cannabinoids, are volatile due to mixed societal reviews about such products.
So can you possess and consume HHC gummies and vapes for medical benefits and recreational use without fear of failing drug tests and getting arrested? Well, perhaps.
The US has two sets of laws governing cannabis consumption; federal laws and state laws. The 2018 Farm Bill is the primary law regulating cannabis consumption on a federal level. According to the Farm Bill, it is federally legal to cultivate, process, and distribute hemp and any hemp derivative with a THC content not exceeding 0.3%.
Since HHC is a hemp-derived cannabinoid, it is federally legal despite having a similar chemical structure to delta-9 THC. The same goes for similar compounds with psychoactive effects, including delta-8 THC.
Also, the primary advantage HHC has over any other cannabinoid with the THC double bonds is that it has zero THC content. However, HHC still induces psychoactive effects despite having hydrogen atoms in THC’s chemical structure.
While HHC is federally legal, state laws are more of a grey area. Some state lawmakers, like the Former New York Gov, do not support the legalization of HHC and similar compounds, despite being naturally occurring hemp-derived cannabinoids. The Former New York Gov. publicly stated that he objected to recreational cannabis legalization because he felt cannabis is a gateway drug to hard drugs like synthetic opioids.
Although HHC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, industrial HHC production processes utilize hydrogenation, a chemical process. HHC is a delta-9 THC analog; hence state lawmakers use the Federal Analogues Act to counter the 2018 Farm Bill.
According to the Federal Analogues Act, any Schedule 1 drug analog derived via a chemical process automatically falls under the Schedule 1 substance classification. So, like delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids with psychoactive effects, HHC is only legal in 19 US states.
Nonetheless, 37 US states have medical cannabis programs, and most of them allow patients qualifying for medical cannabis access to HHC vapes and gummies for the cannabinoid’s therapeutic effects. Although trustworthy cannabis brands like Bearly Legal sell Farm Bill-compliant HHC vapes and gummies, avoid taking HHC products if you have a scheduled drug test.
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Is HHC Naturally Produced In Cannabis Plants?
Cannabis is a biologically interesting plant with high-potency cannabis sativa and indica strains containing multiple phytochemicals. The cannabis plant has over 100 identified cannabinoids, including dominant cannabinoids like CBD and delta-9 THC.
Besides the plethora of phytochemicals that cannabis possesses, another biologically exciting fact about the plant is that the cannabinoids degrade into other cannabinoids throughout the plant’s lifespan. For instance, a high-potency cannabis sativa may have flowers with a high THC content during the flowering season. Still, the THC can degrade into other analogs like HHC and delta-8 THC.
Therefore, cannabis plants naturally produce HHC during the natural THC degradation into its numerous analogs. However, the time it takes for THC to degrade into HHC naturally and the inability to predict how much HHC a cannabis plant can yield necessitates hydrogenation in HHC manufacturing.
How To consume HHC?
Most major manufacturers do not produce HHC products because hydrogenation requires specialized equipment, highly-skilled labor, and costly catalysts.
However, select brands do manufacture HHC-infused gummies and vape products. Therefore, ingestion and vaping are the two primary HHC consumption methods.
HHC-infused gummies are easy to consume because some people find smoking unpleasant due to throat irritation. Most candies have an HHC distillate dose ranging from 10 to 60mg. Identify the ideal HHC dosage, or follow the brand’s dosing recommendations to avoid undesirable side effects. HHC edibles typically kick in within an hour and peak at four hours.
On the other hand, HHC vape products include disposable vapes and pre-filled cartridges. The vape products are available in different HHC concentrations and cannabis strain terpene flavors.
The flavor is vital in your HHC vaping experience, so find your ideal flavor and begin with a puff or two. Take a break to gauge the effects because inhaled HHC kicks in within ten minutes, and taking too many puffs can cause undesirable side effects.
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Are There Any Side Effects Of Consuming HHC?
So far, HHC appears to be as safe as any other cannabinoid on the market. While the research on its long-term effects is scarce, some users may experience the following mild to moderate side effects after taking HHC products. One size does not fit all when it comes to side effects.
- Elevated heart rate
- Sleep disturbances
- Blood pressure dip
- The “munchies” (increased appetite)
The information on HHC’s side effects is primarily anecdotal. However, consider lowering your HHC dose on recurrent consumption after experiencing the unpleasant side effects above.
What Are The Different Types Of HHC Products Available?
As earlier stated, HHC-infused gummies and vape products are the primary HHC consumable forms on the market. HHC-infused gummies have multiple advantages, including palatability, diverse flavor options, convenience, discretion, easy dosing, and lingering. However, their effects take up to an hour to kick in.
On the other hand, HHC disposable vapes kick in within minutes, are available in multiple flavors, and offer discretion. However, while disposable vapes have a shorter learning curve and require zero maintenance, reusable vapes compatible with HHC carts require regular maintenance.
Both product categories have varying HHC distillate concentrations, depending on the brand. So, always check the HHC dose before buying a product, and exclusively purchase lab-tested HHC products.
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Does HHC Get You High?
HHC’s affinity to cannabinoid receptors, particularly CB1 receptors, allows it to induce psychoactivity. However, its psychoactive properties are milder than delta-9 THC’s due to the lower affinity for CB1 receptors.
Although the information on HHC’s psychoactive properties is anecdotal, consumers describe an HHC high as mild, characterized by pleasant euphoria, uplifting feelings, and full-body relaxation. The HHC high you experience depends on the cannabinoid dose and cannabis sativa and indica strains used in making the HHC distillate in a product.
How Long Does HHC Take To show Its Effects?
Edible HHC takes up to an hour to manifest its pharmacological effects, which peak within four hours. On the other hand, vaped HHC kicks in with ten minutes.
How Long does HHC Stay In the System?
HHC is lipophilic, meaning the body’s fat cells absorb its metabolites after consumption. Although the evidence on HHC is scarce, one study on cannabinoids shows that HHC metabolites linger in your system for anywhere from several hours to several weeks. How long HHC remains in your system depends on consumption frequency, dose, and pharmacological factors like body composition, age, and individual metabolic rate.
How Does HHC Interact With Drug Tests?
The popular opinion is that HHC does not appear in drug tests because it lacks THC. However, the information on HHC’s interaction with drug tests is purely anecdotal.
HHC metabolites are similar to THC metabolites detected by standard drug test kits; the metabolites include 11-OH-THC, delta-9 THC’s primary metabolite. Therefore, there is no guarantee that HHC can evade drug tests.
What Amount Of HHC Is Safe To Consume?
The FDA does not approve HHC’s medical use; hence there is no standardized HHC dose. Second, HHC induces individual-specific effects, depending on the pharmacogenetic factors mentioned above. Therefore, start low and go slow on the dosage.
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What Are the Potential Benefits Of HHC?
Despite HHC’s psychoactive properties, preliminary research shows that it may induce the following therapeutic benefits. However, more research is necessary for each HHC benefit highlighted below.
It Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
According to one study conducted among rats, HHC attenuates inflammation and has antioxidant properties that prevent unwarranted inflammation reactions.
Can Reduce Stress
One study posits that HHC’s interaction with CB1 receptors triggers the body to release endorphins or “feel-good” hormones that promote mental calmness and positive emotions.
Can Be Effective In Reducing Cancer Cell
One study on HHC shows that it inhibits cancer cell proliferation (rapid multiplication) and tumor angiogenesis (the body’s formation of new blood vessels to supply blood to a cancer tumor).
It may Help Relax The Body
HHC’s stress-relief mechanism explained above also extends to muscle relaxation.
Can Promote Sleep
One study on cannabis and sleep shows that HHC can potentially improve non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, the restorative sleep that promotes healing, bone cell regeneration, and memory consolidation.
What Are The Ideal Places To Buy HHC Products?
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HHC products are readily available in online cannabis dispensaries. However, only purchase HHC products from licensed vendors who stock lab-tested products or directly from your trusted brand’s e-commerce website.
Although the research on HHC is scarce, preliminary research shows that its pros outweigh its cons, and the cannabinoid is relatively safe. However, enjoy HHC products responsibly by purchasing lab-tested products and adhering to recommended dosages; start low and slow.