HHC vs. THC-O: What You Need to Know

hhc vs thc-o

The world of hemp-derived products is constantly expanding. While you may be familiar with common compounds such as CBD or Delta-8 THC, there are newcomers that are now joining the conversation. Two of the most buzzworthy ones are THC-O and HHC. Standing for Tetrahydrocannabinol and Hexahydrocannabinol, respectively, THC-O and HHC share many similarities, as well as some key differences. If you’ve been curious about trying either of them, it’s important to know what you can expect. Today, we’re breaking down the differences between HHC vs THC-O and sharing everything you need to know.

What Is HHC?

HHC is a cannabinoid, a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. It’s one of more than 100 known cannabinoids, along with others you might have heard of, including Delta-9 THC and CBD. Natural HHC does exist, but it’s only found in very small quantities within hemp pollen and hemp seeds.

That leaves an issue of creating it in bulk. If it’s not readily available in nature, there needs to be a chemical process that helps bring it to life. Thankfully, this process was developed more than 75 years ago.

As a semi-synthetic substance, HHC was first produced back in 1944, by American scientist Roger Adams. To make HHC, Adams simply added a hydrogen molecule to Delta-9 THC. This process is known as hydrogenation.

By hydrogenating the Delta-9, Adams converted the compound into what we now call HHC. Today, it can also be derived from a process that starts with hemp. Hemp is the low-THC cannabis plant that the 2018 Farm Bill made federally legal.

HHC vs. Delta-8

When talking about HHC, many users are quick to point out that it delivers a high, with an overall experience that’s similar to another mild compound, Delta-8 THC.

While HHC chemically includes a hydrogen molecule that THC does not, these two substances are similar in nature. Both HHC and Delta-8 are known to be less potent than traditional Delta-9 THC. They also deliver a mild, relaxing high that doesn’t usually include any psychoactive effects.

What Is THC-O?

Now that we’ve shared a little bit about the scientific process behind your favorite HHC products, let’s dive into THC-O, also known as THC-O acetate. Unlike HHC, THC-O is not a natural cannabinoid, nor is it derived from hemp in the same way that other cannabis products, including CBD, are.

To synthesize THC-O, scientists use a chemical compound called acetic anhydride. This is a highly inflammable, colorless liquid and organic solvent. The process is complex and requires an array of specialized equipment.

To begin, scientists extract CBD from raw hemp plants. Once they’ve extracted the CBD, they convert it into Delta-8 THC. Then, they combine the acetic anhydride with those Delta-8 molecules and form THC-O acetate as a result.

This process strips the THC isolate of all terpenes and flavonoids. What remains is a flavorless, odorless, thick substance with immense potency. The substance carries a high concentration of THC-O, and it can be diluted with a carrier oil to make a tincture or prepare edibles.

To be considered safe and effective, THC-O must be made in a strictly controlled laboratory, following all necessary safety protocols and procedures. The substance requires a series of conversions, and scientists must perform each step with precision. It’s important to note that since THC-O is derived from federally legal hemp (containing less than 0.3% THC) and technically does not contain Delta-9 THC, it is legal on the federal level.

HHC vs THC-O: What Are the Key Differences?

Both HHC and THC-O will have an effect on your body, delivering a moderate high that can improve your mood and soothe away your tension. Yet, what makes them unique from one another?

Let’s take a look at a few of the main differences to note.

Molecular Structure

First, it’s important to understand that the molecular structure of HHC differs from the structure of THC-O. They are created via very two very different processes, using different materials and techniques.

As such, they are not chemically the same. In fact, only one of these compounds can be considered to be non-synthetic: HHC. To create sufficient bulk amounts of HHC, it’s true that scientists have to add hydrogen. Yet, HHC is still found naturally in the hemp plant.

This means that the end result is only semi-synthetic, not fully. Moreover, the process to create HHC is not considered a synthetic one since it uses naturally-occurring compounds.

On the other hand, the THC-O production process requires the addition of acetic anhydride. This substance alone renders the process a synthetic one. While THC-O is indeed a cannabinoid, we can’t call it a naturally occurring one.

Potency: THC-O

Let’s be clear about one point: Both HHC and THC-O will get you high. However, the intensity and potency of the high are not universal.

If you prefer the intense high you get from conventional THC marijuana, then you may be delighted to learn that THC-O is even more powerful. In fact, some studies show that it’s up to three times as powerful as Delta-9 THC, which is the primary form of THC that’s abundant in weed.

How is this possible?

Once THC-O is metabolized, it essentially becomes a highly bioavailable variation of Delta-9 THC. This means that your body can easily absorb it, and it circulates well throughout your bloodstream once you consume it. It’s believed that this improved bioavailability makes THC-O more potent than THC alone.

In other words, the ride is intense. The effect is strongly psychoactive, and even moderate doses of THC-O are stronger than Delta-9 THC. Strong doses can lead to significant psychoactive responses, with some even on the verge of hallucinations.

As such, this cannabinoid is best suited for seasoned cannabis users.

Keeping that in mind, we suggest preparing for your experience well in advance. If you’re going to take THC-O, make sure you have lots of water on hand so you can stay properly hydrated, as well as snacks for when those inevitable munchies hit. It’s also best to plan on spending the day somewhere safe and comfortable because you won’t be able to drive or work while you’re under the influence of this particular cannabinoid.

Potency: HHC

If you’re looking for a milder, less potent high, HHC might be your best bet. Often described as being similar to Delta-9 THC, HHC has a more gentle, sedative effect on most users. It will get you high, but you are less likely to experience any of the adverse side effects associated with Delta-9 THC or THC-O, including bouts of paranoia and anxiety.

Yet, this doesn’t mean you won’t feel anything. In fact, your experience will be quite the opposite! Compared to other intoxicating cannabinoids, HHC is considered to be stronger than both Delta-8 and Delta-10.

If you’ve smoked weed before, you can expect a similar high when taking HHC. The buzz you feel is often described as a cerebral buzz. You may notice that your mind relaxes and stops racing, or that you’re in a better mood than you were before.

In addition, you may also feel euphoric and happy, with a surge of motivation that inspires you to tackle the activities of the day. While you might notice some relaxing properties similar to Delta-8 THC, most people don’t get sleepy with HHC the same way they do with Delta-8.

However, at certain doses, you may feel as though HHC increases your body load, leaving you relaxed and calm. If this is your experience, it can be an ideal addition to your nightly wind-down routine, leaving you chill and ready for bed.

HHC vs. Delta-9

At this point, you might be asking: If Delta-9 and HHC are that similar to one another, why should you choose one over the other?

Put simply, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, though some states have deemed it legal. Conversely, HHC is federally legal under the aforementioned 2018 Farm Bill, as it’s a hemp-derived product.


Knowing how potent THC-O can be, we suggest starting with a very small amount of this substance, especially if it’s your first time using it. You can always increase your dosage once you know how your body will react to the substance. By taking a more conservative approach, you can avoid going overboard.

Though it’s gentler on your system, the same also applies to taking HHC. Begin with a smaller dose than you might even think that you need, and gradually work your way up to a stronger amount. Yet, don’t rush to increase your dosage as soon as you begin to feel the high.

Instead, wait at least 30 minutes to allow the THC-O potency to fully set in. Once you know how it affects your mind and body, you can decide whether you want to take a little more to make your high more intense.

The potential side effects of taking too much THC-O include:

  • Elevated anxiety
  • Racing heart
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Coordination issues
  • Short-term memory impairment

Especially if you get high relatively quickly when taking Delta-9 THC, it’s smart to use caution when experimenting with THC-O.

How to Measure Individual Tolerance

While these are the most common reactions to taking HHC and THC-O, remember that everyone’s experience will be unique. Cannabinoids may have different effects on you than they do on your friends or colleagues. Someone who finds THC-O intense might think it’s relatively mild, and vice versa.

Your individual tolerance level will depend on a few different factors including:

  • Your prior experience using cannabis
  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your body composition

Length of Effects

While THC-O might deliver a more powerful and potent high, you may notice that it’s also more short-lived than you expected. Once you hit the spike, you’ll usually only have a few hours before you begin feeling normal again.

However, an HHC high is known to last much longer. For some people, it can even last as long as 12 hours! This is because the addition of the hydrogen molecule makes HHC a fattier, slower-moving compound.

Put simply, it takes more time for HHC to travel throughout your body. If you’re considering a cannabis product to help relieve pain, you may prefer the longer-lasting results of HHC to those of THC-O.

Shelf Life

One of the reasons why users often prefer HHC to other hemp-derived compounds is that it’s extremely stable and boasts a long shelf life.

The molecular structure of HHC makes it impervious to certain conditions that would cause other substances, including THC-O, to spoil. For instance, room temperature seems to have little effect on HHC, as does heat or UV radiation.

Once you experience the high from HHC, you’re unlikely to have much sitting around on the shelf, but in the event that you need to store your HHC products for a while, this is definitely a perk to consider. While HHC can last for up to two years if properly stored, most THC-O products are only good for about six months.


Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, all hemp-derived products that contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC are federally legal. This includes Delta-8, Delta-10, and yes, HHC and THC-O extracts.

HHC or THC-O: Which One Will You Try?

Are you interested in venturing into the world of hemp-derived cannabis products? If so, both HHC and THC-O are options to consider, along with Delta-8.

When comparing HHC vs THC-O, it’s important to think about the kind of experience you want to achieve. Overall, THC-O is much more intense and is best suited for experienced cannabis users. However, HHC can also deliver an equally enjoyable, milder high!

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