HHC (Hexahydrocannabinol): Uses, Side Effects, and More

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on December 05, 2023
6 min read

Hexahydrocannabinol, or "HHC," is a cannabinoid, a type of substance that binds with cannabinoid receptors in your body, including in your brain. These receptors are part of your body's endocannabinoid system that controls many of your daily functions, from how you feel to what you think to how you eat and sleep.

Scientists have found more than 100 cannabinoids. The most commonly known types are Delta-9 THC and cannabidiol (CBD). 


THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes you feel high. CBD is the ingredient in many CBD products that claim to help with everything from pain and soreness to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. HHC, which is sometimes called HXC, is chemically like Delta-9 THC, but it's a semisynthetic CBD. It's made in a lab from CBD taken from low-THC cannabis or what you might know as hemp. A special chemical process called hydrogenation gives CBD additional hydrogen atoms, which turns it into HHC.

HHC vs. Delta-8

Like HHC, Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid that's begun to show up more and more often on vape store shelves and online. It, too, is made by taking some other cannabinoid and changing it slightly in a chemical lab. It's unclear whether HHC is more potent than Delta-8. Neither has it been well-studied. Neither HHC nor Delta-8 has an FDA-approved use. There's very limited information about their safety and usefulness, but there are some reports of negative side effects.


Some people refer to HHC as a "lite" form of cannabis that won't get you as high as THC. But not enough studies have been done to prove that's the case. Other reports describe the high you get from HHC is similar to that from THC. Again, there's not enough data to be sure whether this is true. One study found that although HHC has two isomers (molecules) that bind to the body's cannabinoid receptors, only one binds as well as THC.

How long does HHC high last?

Because HHC products aren't regulated, there's no way to tell just how much HHC is in a product you buy, if it will get you high, or how long that high could last. The lab process that's typically used to make HHC can also make it hard to get a consistent amount, even in the same batch.

Is HHC safe to use?

There's also not enough data to know if you could have side effects or even long-term negative effects from HHC. Much more research is needed, not just about how HHC affects you but also how the products are made. For instance, labs that make HHC often use heavy metals like platinum, but it's unclear if traces of those linger in the products and, if so, how they could impact you over time.

Because HHC products currently aren't required to be tested and don't have package or label requirements, it's hard to know how you could be affected.

Studies show that both natural and man-made cannabinoids may be able to help reduce the growth of cancer cells. But much more research needs to be done. It's also important to note that the cannabinoids that researchers use in their tests are very different from the products sold online or in stores.

There's also some evidence that cannabinoids may be helpful in managing pain and other side effects from cancer treatment. But again, many questions still need to be answered.

Not a lot of data exists about how HHC affects your body. But it is a form of THC, and those short-term effects are well-known.

THC can:

  • Alter your senses, including your sense of time
  • Change your mood
  • Impair how well you can move your body
  • Make it harder to think clearly, remember things, or solve problems

In high doses, THC can cause hallucinations. High doses over time also increase your risk of psychosis.

Research is still emerging about the possible risks of HHC. But scientists already are aware that cannabinoids like cannabis can lead to issues like:

  • Lowering your baby's birth weight if you use them during pregnancy
  • Raising your risk of a car accident
  • Habitual use can make it hard to stop (cannabis use disorder) especially in teens
  • Negative effects on relationships and productivity at home, work, or school
  • Higher risk of injury in older adults
  • Dizziness, which can lead to falling or passing out
  • Raising mental illness risk in some people

Experts have made it a point to warn against the use of vapes to inhale cannabis and cannabis-related substances. This is due in part to evidence of lung injury in people who use these substances with vape technology but also because scientists are in the process of doing more in-depth research.

Despite claims you might read online, HHC is not a medical treatment. The FDA has not approved any THC drug for use in a medical setting.

There is one CBD product, Epidiolex, that the FDA approved for use with medical supervision to treat seizures in limited cases. There are also three FDA-approved synthetic cannabis-related products to treat nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Beyond that, there's not enough evidence to know if these products are safe to use over the long term or whether they do what they say they do.

Online outlets, vape shops, gas stations, or convenience stores may sell HHC in different forms. These could range from vape cartridges that you smoke with a vaping device or chewy candies that you eat.

Many people simply use HHC products to get high. Although some may use HHC for various medical purposes, there isn't any research yet to support doing so.

Despite some ads that market HHC as a "legal" type of TCH, it's not entirely clear whether it's against the law to use it. The 2018 Farm Bill (The Agriculture Improvement Act) appears to allow use of parts of the cannabis plant that contain 0.3% or less of THC. The legal term for these parts of the plant is hemp.

Products like Delta-8 THC and HHC can be made from hemp. But some experts say that because you need to modify them in a lab, they become illegal. And in fact, federal authorities have moved in some cases to confiscate hemp-derived products with cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers HHC products illegal. They're also illegal to sell in some states, like Colorado.

HHC drug test

If you take a drug test, HHC could show up on it—especially if your urine is tested (you're asked to pee into a cup). That's because traces of drugs stay longer in your pee than in your blood. The concentration is also higher.

Manmade cannabinoids can show up in your urine 72 hours after you take them. If you use cannabinoids often, they can take even longer to get out of your system.

Hexahydrocannabinol, also known as HHC or HXC, is a man-made version of THC and can get you high. But because HHC products aren't regulated, you have no way of knowing if one was safely made or how much HHC it really contains. Because HHC isn't well-studied, experts also aren't sure of its benefits.