What Is HHC?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on March 23, 2022
3 min read

Hexahydrocannabinol, or “HHC,” is a cannabinoid, which are naturally occurring compounds in cannabis plants. Scientists have found more than 100 cannabinoids.

The most commonly known cannabinoids are Delta-9 THC and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes you feel high. Cannabidiol is the ingredient in many CBD products that claim to help with everything from pain and soreness to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. 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 is 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.

Cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC and HHC have appeared more recently in the marketplace. They are made by starting with THC or some other cannabinoid and changing it slightly in a chemical laboratory. They have no FDA-approved use. There is very limited information about their safety and usefulness, but there are some reports of bad side effects.

Like THC, HHC gives many people an enjoyable feeling when they take it. But just exactly what that feeling is may be harder to pinpoint. At least for now.

Some people report similar effects to conventional THC products, but there is not enough data to be sure whether this is true. Nor is there enough data to know if there may be bad side effects or even long-term negative effects from taking HHC.

Research is still emerging about the possible dangers of HHC. But scientists already are aware of possible issues that could take place when you use cannabinoid substances in a setting that is not medically supervised. Intoxicating cannabinoids like cannabis could lead to problems 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 on standing up, raising risk of passing out and falling
  • 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.

Even in the FDA-approved drug Epidiolex, some people have side effects like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Signs of abnormal liver function
  • Problematic drug interactions

But of course, these problems are easier to manage with a medically prescribed and carefully regulated drug like Epidiolex. That’s not the case with most cannabis and cannabinoid products, the vast majority of which are not regulated by the FDA. That gives manufacturers wide leeway in what they can claim about their products.

You might not even know exactly what the product contains. For example, in 2017, scientists made a close study of more than 80 CBD products sold online. They found that more than 40% contained more of the active ingredient than listed and about a quarter of the products contained less than what was listed.

Lots of online outlets and vape shops sell HHC in different forms similar to other intoxicating cannabinoids. These could be vape cartridges that you smoke with a vaping device or chewy candies that you eat.

Though some use it for various medical purposes, there is not yet any research to support these uses. In addition, many people simply use HHC products for their intoxicating effects.

It’s not entirely clear. 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 laboratory, they become illegal. And in fact, federal authorities have moved in some cases to confiscate hemp-derived products with intoxicating cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC.