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What is Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)?

A guide to HHC

Cannabinoids are natural compounds found in the cannabis plant. Over 400 compounds are present in the plant and around 60 are called cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids said to provide therapeutic benefits are delta-8 THC and CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the main ingredient from marijuana that causes psychoactive effects. Cannabidiol or CBD is derived from the hemp plant and contains less than 0.3% THC. It is a non-psychoactive compound and will not cause you to feel high.

The cannabis industry has been discovering cannabinoids after cannabinoids. Adding to these cannabinoids is the Hexahydrocannabinol or HHC which is a cannabinoid claimed to be equivalent to the delta-8 THC. Like CBD and THC, HHC is also a compound known to provide relief from anxiety, improve sleep, reduce inflammation, and provide relaxation, among others. 

How is HHC made? 

HHC is a natural phytocannabinoid in the cannabis plant. However, it is found to contain little to none of the actual cannabinoid. Today, consumer products with the compound contain semi-synthetic HHC made with selected cannabis extracts. HHC was first developed in 1944 by a scientist named Roger Adams. He created the first compound in a lab through the hydrogeneration process by mixing hydrogen molecules with THC. This involved isolating cannabinoids from the cannabis or hemp plants, such as THC, and combining them with hydrogen to form a new compound with the same properties as the natural ones. 

What are the Current Laws around HHC in the UK?

Currently, the legality of the alternate cannabinoid market is not fully known. Except for CBD, cannabis is currently illegal to possess, grow, and distribute in the UK and is classified as a class B drug. Individuals caught will get up to 14 years in prison. Because THC is illegal, HHC must be derived from the hemp plant for it to be legal on a federal level in the UK.

HHC has not been fully studied and laws are yet to fully define the product’s usage. HHC is usually used sold in the form of vape carts. 

There are alternative cannabinoids you can try that are readily available in the UK market if you want to get the same benefits as those from HHC. Products containing CBD provide the same benefits and will not cause psychoactive effects that are normally present in products containing THC.

How is Hexahydrocannabinoil similar to other cannabinoids?

Like the other cannabinoid compounds studied, HHC is usually derived from the cannabis and hemp plant and can also provide consumers with therapeutic benefits.

Similar to CBD, HHC interacts with the receptors (CB1 and CB2) found in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating bodily functions in the body including mood, sleep, pain, and memory. Both of these compounds may also help reduce inflammation in the body by interaction with the CB1 receptor in the brain. However, CBD does not contain any THC and will not have that “high” effect that THC and HHC have.

HHC and THC are nearly identical due to their similar chemical structure. Currently, all HHC products in the market are derived from converting THC or through some other synthetic process. HHC is also said to be one of the most potent cannabinoids as it is said to be 80% as potent as delta-8 THC.

The main differences between these two compounds are the additional carbon bond, hydrogenated carbon, and an ester molecule in HHC. The “tetra” in Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) refers to four hydrogens that are partially saturating in the molecule. Adding two more hydrogens makes it ‘Hexa’ (six) - hydrocannabinol. These changes how well the molecule can interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. This can mean that HHC is a more stable compound and has a longer shelf life than THC.

What are the effects of HHC? 

We can assume that the cannabinoid effects of HHC are almost similar to THC due to their same chemical structures and their ability to bind to the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. These effects include:

  • Reduced Inflammation
  • Relief from Anxiety
  • Pain Relief
  • Relaxation
  • Alleviation of nausea and vomiting
  • Improved sleep

In contrast to THC and CBD, HHC is believed to metabolize in our bodies more efficiently, allowing us to get the full benefits of the compound. However, more research has yet to be conducted to determine if these assumptions are right or wrong.

Are there any clinical studies featuring HHC?

So far, there is no evidence suggesting that HHC is harmful. But like all new natural or hemp-derived cannabinoids like HHC, there has been little research conducted on the benefits and long-term effects of the usage of HHC. Here are some of the known studies conducted on HHC and its effects:

Both natural and synthetic cannabinoids have been found to suppress cancer cell growth as HHC is said to be one of the potential anti-cancer agents that inhibit cell proliferation and tumor angiogenesis. A particular study by Dinesh Thapa from the College of Pharmacy in Yeungnam University examined the angiogenic effects of several hexahydrocannabinol analogues to see how they can be used in cancer therapies. Two analogues LYR-7 and LYR-8 were selected based on their anti-angiogenic activity and lack of binding affinity for cannabinoid receptors. Both inhibited VEGF-induced proliferation, migration, and capillary-like tube formation of HUVECS in a concentration-dependent manner.

study published in 2011 by the European Journal of Pharmacology linked HHC and similar compounds to shrinking tumours in cancer patients due to the compounds’ activity in cancer cells.

study published in 2010 by the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry found that the effects of HHC lasted a long time in rats. However, there is not enough research that links HHC with the benefits claimed in this study.

The Bottomline 

We can assume that HHC has THC-like effects including its ability to provide cannabis consumers relaxation and relief from various health problems. Although slightly milder than the known-delta-8 THC, it may prove useful for individuals who find THC effects slightly too strong. While the discovery of this new cannabinoid may seem exciting, more scientific research to back claims for its efficacy and safety.

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