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Like delta 8 before it, HHC is a darling of the legal cannabis industry. That’s to be expected of a federally legal hemp derivative with effects comparable to delta 9 THC. While HHC carts and HHC edibles don’t have a total stranglehold over the hemp world, they’ve become a go-to.
The cannabis community’s response to HHC has been positive. Of course, there are some negative opinions, but that’s true of any popular product. Many users praise the uplifting, dreamy high, while others claim that it’s foggier or more disorienting than other forms of psychoactive hemp.
Although HHC can get you high, the experience is mellower than using delta 9 THC, the dominant intoxicating compound in marijuana. The type of high is relatively similar between the two, despite a difference in potency. Delta 9 and HHC also seem to share a handful of side effects.
As with trendy cannabinoids in general, manufacturers are eager to produce new products under the “HHC” moniker. Slight adjustments to the substance’s chemical structure have led to the creation of HHC-P and HHC-O. Prior to giving either of these newcomers a shot, we recommend reviewing their effects, benefits, and drawbacks. In HHC-O’s case, there are even important safety risks to keep in mind.
What is HHC?
Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a naturally-occurring cannabis compound, or phytocannabinoid. Minute amounts of HHC are found naturally in hemp, but direct extraction isn’t practical or cost-effective. Manufacturers utilize hydrogenation to convert more easily produced CBD into HHC. Delta 8 THC acts as an intermediary in this process.
Science has had its eye on HHC for longer than many emerging derivatives, including delta 10 THC and THCV. The HHC cannabinoid was discovered by American chemist Roger Adams in the 1940s, around the same time as CBD and delta 8 THC. Further research into HHC hasn’t been extensive.
Certain HHC analogs may be able to slow tumor growth in breast cancer patients. Some users report that HHC helps relieve aches and pains, a claim backed by research. In 2007, a separate team of chemists made the first link between HHC and pain reduction. Neither of these studies involved human subjects.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, HHC is a legal hemp derivative in the United States. This was reiterated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022, clearing up some leftover confusion around psychoactive hemp’s legality.
If you’re seeking a high similar to marijuana but with reduced intensity, HHC is a top choice. Mind-melting, cerebral highs are common, and some individuals experience muscle relaxation or minor pain relief.
Hexahydrocannabiphorol (HHCP) is a trace hemp cannabinoid. It’s unclear whether HHCP has ever been naturally isolated, unlike its cousins THCP and CBDP. HHCP is structurally distinct from HHC due to its extended carbon tail. You’ll notice the same when comparing THCP to THC.
HHCP carts are by far the most common type of HHCP product, although you’ll also see tinctures and disposables on dealers’ websites. Cannabinoid blends are especially prominent. Gummies, in particular, only appear to exist in this blended form. Formulas include cannabinoids like THCA, THCP, and, of course, HHC.
The only research on HHCP is a 2023 paper seeking to identify its stereoisomers, right alongside HHC. All we know of HHCP’s effects stems from its chemical structure, our early understanding of THCP, and user accounts. It’s possible that HHCP shares qualities with THCP, but at the end of the day, supportive research is nonexistent.
As with THCP, HHCP is fixed with a seven-carbon chain. It surpasses delta 9 THC and HHC’s alkyl side chains by two carbon atoms—highly significant in the scope of weed chemistry.
There’s good evidence that a longer side chain translates to improved cannabinoid receptor binding affinity and, in turn, higher potency. By extension, if HHC gets you high, HHCP will probably get you even higher.
All rules have their limitations, however. We don’t know at what point receptors become overwhelmed, and potency is limited. Even if you’re consuming a highly potent cannabinoid, the effects won’t necessarily match. There’s more to learn about binding affinity in the endocannabinoid system, bodily effects, and interplay between the two.
That aside, user accounts support the idea that HHCP hits hard. Most report that HHCP triggers a powerful, long-lasting high. There are conflicting claims on HHCP and sleep quality. Some say that HHCP has helped them sleep better, while others find that it makes them restless. If you tend to vape before bed, proceed with caution.
Don’t consume large amounts of HHCP during your first session. You should ease into any new cannabinoid, and that’s extra important when the compound is strong. Start with a small dose and take it from there.
HHCP benefits and medicinal uses
There’s no evidence of HHCP’s medicinal benefits. Should they exist, we don’t currently know what they are nor how effective. HHCP is practically unresearched, and there’s only so much we can extrapolate. It’s possible that HHCP shares medicinal properties with HHC, but that’s all we have to go on.
Multiple sellers claim that HHCP has anti-inflammatory or anxiolytic qualities. But this claim seems to come from a 2012 paper on hexahydrocurcumin, a substance that’s also abbreviated to “HHC.” Hexahydrocurcumin isn’t a cannabinoid, and as far as we can tell, it has no relation to hemp-derived HHC or HHCP. It’s actually a metabolite of curcumin, found in turmeric, and entirely unrelated to cannabis.
HHCP safety and legality
There are no safety studies on HHCP, but at the same time, no indicators that it’s hazardous. We’ll need a deeper investigation to uncover potential risks.
Regardless, don’t run out and buy the first HHCP cart you spot at the local smoke shop. Hemp-based products aren’t regulated, and skepticism is warranted. There’s no third-party testing requirement, though all reputable brands will take this upon themselves.
HHCP is legal for all the same reasons as HHC. As long as the HHCP vape product or edible contains under 0.3% delta 9 THC, it’s legal to distribute as hemp in the United States.
However, states may enact their own policies around hemp or specific cannabinoids.
What is HHC-O?
HHC-O-acetate (HHC-O or HHCO) is the acetate ester of HHC. From what we know of THC-O and its production, we can assume that HHC-O is synthesized from HHC by way of acetic anhydride.
Unlike HHC and HHCP, HHC-O may not exist naturally in hemp. Direct extraction likely isn’t possible in any capacity. As we’ve witnessed with THC-O, this could put HHC-O in a sticky legal situation. The 2018 Farm Bill only protects hemp cannabinoids that exist in nature. Man-made, synthetic substances aren’t given the same leeway.
Legality aside, there are some valid safety concerns linked to acetates. Thermal degradation affects compounds differently, and in HHC-O’s case, there’s a very real possibility that it will produce ketene. This toxic gas is associated with serious, long-term lung damage.
Before going into detail, we’ll stress it right away: you probably shouldn’t vape HHC-O, no matter how favorable the effects sound. Inhaling ketene can cause serious lung injuries.
Adding an acetate group can intensify the effects of psychoactive hemp. HHC-O appears to be more potent than regular HHC, perhaps by a large margin. This jump in potency was also the main appeal of THC-O. As THC-O is now considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be a Schedule I controlled substance, HHC-O seems like the obvious alternative.
The full range of HHC-O’s effects is unclear, but we can forge a rough idea from THC-O and user anecdotes. Both HHC-O and THC-O are capable of producing a psychedelic high. Plenty of users corroborate this, also stressing HHC-O’s intensity. Regular HHC doesn’t generally produce psychedelic effects.
We don’t recommend vaping HHC-O, but start slow if you’re using edibles. New users should begin with no more than half a gummy, maybe even a quarter or less, before checking in with their body. Adjust your dose as desired.
HHC-O benefits and medicinal uses
Virtually no studies exist on HHC-O, and we can’t say whether that research is coming anytime soon. Take anything you read online with a grain of salt.
There aren’t too many health claims by sellers, but some state that HHC-O reduces nausea or pain. The origin of this is uncertain. Most likely, it’s a general claim that applies to several other cannabinoids, so slapping it onto HHC-O felt believable to the sellers.
HHC-O safety and legality
There are no laws regulating or banning the sale of HHC-O carts and edibles…yet. Since it doesn’t seem to occur naturally in hemp, HHC-O could fail to meet standards set by the Farm Bill. Legal or not, avoid vaping HHC-O or the acetate form of any cannabis compound.
We need more research to confirm exactly how hazardous HHC-O is when it comes into contact with heat, but there’s good reason for concern. Thermal degradation of acetates can lead to the creation of ketene. This lung toxicant was a major player in the 2019 “EVALI” outbreak.
The vitamin E acetate filler was converted into the same gaseous substance. Vitamin E acetate is an additive used by untrustworthy cannabis oil producers looking to cut production costs at the expense of quality and users’ health. It’s been widely disavowed by the vaping community, as well as researchers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you’re still interested in giving HHC-O a try, stick to gummies. You’ll also want to closely monitor the evolving legal situation. It’s possible that HHC-O will go down the same path as THC-O, especially if it gains more attention.
HHC vs HHCP vs HHC-O: Summary
Most users agree that HHC is the least intense of the three, falling a smidge short of delta 9. A typical HHCP or HHC-O high is probably at least on par with delta 9 THC, perhaps stronger.
It isn’t always fair to compare—the type of high is unique, especially considering HHC-O’s psychedelic characteristics. An HHCP high is more reminiscent of HHC but longer lasting. Of these three cannabinoids, HHC is the only one with published research supporting its benefits, but none exists on its recreational effects.
Structurally, there are key differences that impact both effects and safety. HHCP’s long carbon tail aids in potency and appears to amplify the hit. The addition of an acetate group boosts HHC-O’s potency, as well, but also raises safety concerns. HHC-O should only be consumed in edible form, as thermal degradation can cause ketene production in vapes.
HHC occurs naturally in hemp and was first isolated several decades ago. It’s plausible that tiny amounts of HHCP exist in hemp; chemists have already isolated THCP and CBDP. HHC-O, however, is most likely synthetic.
Lastly, don’t ingest any HHC, HHC-O, or HHCP products without a clean bill of safety. Visit the manufacturer’s website for testing results, and check to ensure they’re in date. You can also ask a store representative for more information. Without rigorous testing, there’s no guarantee of a product’s actual cannabinoid content nor the absence of fillers.