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HHC vs THC: Differences and Similarities

HHC vs THC: Differences and Similarities Many potential benefits are often associated with cannabidiol products that are getting more spotlight than ever. But what is the difference between THC and HHC? Some people have concerns about THC and HHC if…

HHC vs THC: Differences and Similarities

Many potential benefits are often associated with cannabidiol products that are getting more spotlight than ever. But what is the difference between THC and HHC? Some people have concerns about THC and HHC if it’s legal, what are the potential benefits and if using them has any impact on drug testing. In this article, we will delve deep into the specific molecules THC and HHC and explore their chemical structures, legal statuses and effects on the body.

What is THC?

THC molecule, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant. THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, affecting various functions and responses. THC is what makes you feel ‘high’ by stimulating the parts of the brain that respond to pleasure and release dopamine, a ‘feel-good’ hormone which gives you that euphoric feeling.

What is HHC?

HHC is a minor cannabinoid, occurring naturally in trace amounts in a traditional cannabis plant. HHC was discovered in a lipid extract from the seeds of the cannabis sativa plant. However, the amount of HHC is too small to be extracted from the hemp plant, so in 1947 it was first synthesised by the organic chemist DR. Roger Adams when he added hydrogen to the THC cannabinoid. It’s getting increasingly more popular as an alternative to THC’s psychoactive effects, as it is only 50%-80% as strong as THC is and has mellower sedative effects.

The chemical composition of THC and HHC

THC’s chemical structure is the same as CBD – 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. The only difference is that the atoms are arranged differently, but it makes all the difference – they have very different effects on your body.

The chemical composition of HHC is similar to THC – 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms. However, hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to the structure, altering the THC molecule into HHC.

How do THC and HHC affect the body?

THC and HHC interact with the endocannabinoid system, affecting the body more than just providing the intoxicating effects. They affect the body and mind in multiple ways. The effects depend on the level of THC and HHC in the cannabis product. The more potent they are, the more it affects your body and brain. By releasing dopamine and glutamate, THC and HHC influence mood changes, behaviour, and cognitive functions leading to that ‘high’ feeling.

Using THC and HHC can impair cognitive functions like attention and memory, especially when using chronically. There are several different effects that THC has on the body including increasing heart rate and blood pressure and stimulating appetite. Also, smoking cannabis products can irritate the lungs and lead to similar effects that are experienced by tobacco smokers.

HHC vs THC: potential therapeutic benefits

Cannabinoid research suggests that THC also has some therapeutic potential, one of the main ones is helping pain relief for people suffering chronic pain. THC is effective in controlling nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatments. Medications like dronabinol and nabilone, which are synthetic forms of THC, are approved for this purpose. THC products also have sedative properties which can be helpful for people with insomnia.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that HHC has similar psychoactive effects with similar pain-relieving properties. Like THC, it interacts with cannabinoid receptors and can alter the mood, make you more sleepy and increase appetite.

HHC vs THC: Potential side effects

There are potential negative effects that THC can cause due to its potent psychoactive effects. Short-term side effects might include impaired motor skills, and heightened feelings of anxiety or paranoia, especially if taken at higher doses. Long-term or frequent use of THC might lead to cognitive impairments and diminished learning and memory capabilities along with created dependency on THC’s psychoactive effects.

HHC might have similar negative effects to THC that include anxiety, confusion and tiredness. However, it is important to note that there is little research yet done on HHC and its long-term side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can THC and HHC show up on a drug test?

The short answer is yes. Whilst some people had luck passing the drug test while using HHC as a THC alternative, the only sure way to pass a standard drug test is to abstain from HHC and THC for at least 3 weeks before your expected test. However, if you’ve been consuming large amounts of these cannabinoids, you should give yourself more time, as cannabinoids can accumulate in body fat.

Is THC and HHC legal?

The first state to legalise medical marijuana was California in 1996. Now the medical use of marijuana (THC) is legalised in 40 states. Medical or recreational use of hemp-derived products has been approved in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The United States Farm Bill in 2018 legalised cultivating cannabis plant and its derivatives like hemp-derived CBD, as long as the hemp products have > 0.3% THC. HHC products like gummies or vapes meet this requirement, however, individual states might ban the use of HHC, so check your local laws before purchasing any THC or HHC products.   


  1. Cox, M. L., Haller, V. L., & Welch, S. P. (2007). Synergy between Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and morphine in the arthritic rat. European journal of pharmacology, 567(1-2), 125-130.
  2. Nasrallah, D.J. and Garg, N.K., 2023. Studies pertaining to the emerging cannabinoid hexahydrocannabinol (HHC). ACS chemical biology, 18(9), pp.2023-2029.
  3. Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-1422.
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