What’s the Difference Between HHC, Delta-8, and Delta-9 THC?

Is HHC better than delta-8 or delta-9? Are their effects similar? How do they work in your body?

Cannabis plant rich in HHC and THC cannabinoids
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HHC and Delta-8 THC are intoxicating minor cannabinoids and THC isomers naturally present in cannabis. Both cannabinoids induce a moderately euphoric high in small-to-medium doses. 

HHC is roughly 70-80% the strength of delta-9 (THC), and delta-8 is approximately half as potent, meaning HHC is stronger than delta-8 overall. 

Despite the difference in potency, consuming HHC and THC products causes similar effects and benefits, including relaxation, sedation, energy, focus, concentration, and sleep promotion (among others). 

Natural HHC and delta-8 are likely legal on the federal level. The Agriculture Improvement Act (2018 Farm) legalized hemp and all hemp-derived compounds. Synthetically derived HHC and delta-8’s legality is questionable.

Is HHC Better than THC? (Community Poll)

The effects of HHC are frequently discussed and debated in communities like Reddit. We’ve compiled some of the popular feedback from experienced users below to help you compare the effects of HHC vs THC and other cannabinoids including delta-8 and THC-O. Keep in mind that the effects you experience may vary depending on your tolerance and the specific product you use, but this gives you a rough idea of what to expect.

User poll responses about the effects of HHC vs THC

HHC vs Delta-8 THC: What are the main differences?

  • HHC and delta-8 are intoxicating minor cannabinoids and THC isomers. They’re found naturally in all varieties of cannabis, including hemp and marijuana. Minor cannabinoid means they individually make up roughly 1% of the cannabis plant’s cannabinoid profile. 
  • Because HHC and delta-8 are minor cannabinoids, producers cannot create HHC and delta-8 products cost-effectively without chemically converting them from CBD or THC. State and federal lawmakers are undecided about whether chemically altering THC is a fully synthetic process. 
  • Converting THC or CBD to HHC requires a hydrogenation process. Producers take THC, saturate it with hydrogen atoms and expose it to a nickel or zinc catalyst. This process alters THC’s molecular formula and creates HHC. Adding hydrogen makes HHC a more stable compound than delta-8, with greater heat and ultraviolet (UV) resistance. 
  • Likewise, synthesizing delta-8 from CBD or THC requires a structural isomerization process using special chemical solvents such as hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, or glacial acetic acid. Introducing CBD or THC to these solvents alongside other ingredients and processes causes molecular structure alterations, thus forming delta-8.  
  • HHC and delta-8 have similar effects and benefits, such as relaxation, sedation, energy, and sleep promotion. However, HHC is noticeably more potent than delta-8. HHC is approximately 70-80% the strength of THC (marijuana), while delta-8 is roughly half as potent. 
  • Other HHC and delta-8 effects include visual distortions, physical sensations, and cognitive impairment. You’re more likely to experience these effects quicker after consuming HHC, especially in lower doses. 
HHC gummies product next to delta-8 THC edibles
HHC gummies next to delta 8 and delta 9 THC edibles. Photo: CBD Oracle

HHC and delta-8’s discovery 

HHC and delta-8 products are new to the cannabis market, but they are not new cannabinoids. HHC was first discovered by Roger Adams while chemically synthesizing naturally-occurring THC in 1947. Delta-8 was later discovered by Dr. Raphael “The Father of Cannabis” Mechoulam in 1965. Since then, many delta-8 producers and manufacturers have synthesized both cannabinoids for commercial and research purposes, with delta-8 being the more popular of the two. 

How do HHC and delta-8 work in your body?

HHC and delta-8 work inside your body almost the same way as delta-9 but with some slight differences. 

Both cannabinoids interact with your endocannabinoid system, a complex biological network composed of receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. Each component works together to bring your body to a state of balance — also known as homeostasis. 

HHC and delta-8 specifically target your cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors located all across your brain and central nervous system. 

CB1 receptor targeting causes a euphoric high, alongside various benefits such as anti-inflammation, pain relief, sleep promotion, and general health and wellness. 

Will HHC get you higher than delta-8?

HHC vape cartridge product next to delta-8 THC flower
The effects of HHC are generally stronger than Delta 8 THC. Photo: CBD Oracle

Yes, HHC will get you higher than delta-8 THC. As already mentioned, HHC is approximately 70-80% as potent as delta-9. HHC can cause strong feelings of euphoria in small doses with noticeable physical sensations. On the other hand, lower delta-8 doses result in mild and less potent euphoric effects. 

Delta-8 tinctures are a great starting point. They’re easy to use and won’t cause an overwhelming high in small doses. Because delta-8 is far milder than HHC, we recommend delta-8 products to beginner and casual cannabis users. 

HHC vs delta-8: Are they both legal?

HHC flower infused with delta 8 THC distillate

Natural hemp-derived HHC and delta-8 are likely legal under federal law under the Agriculture Improvement Act (2018 Farm Bill). This bill federally legalizes hemp and hemp-derived compounds across all 50 US states. However, since HHC and delta-8 are THC isomers with molecular structures similar to THC, the federal government might view them as controlled substances by default under the Federal Analog Act (FAA), 21 U.S.C. § 813.

Are marijuana-derived HHC and delta-8 legal?

No, marijuana-derived HHC and delta-8 are not legal under federal law. The federal government categorizes marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I means a drug or substance with no currently accepted medical use and a high level of abuse. 

Is HHC or delta-8 better for sleep?

Very little is known about HHC and delta-8’s ability to induce sleep and promote a better sleep pattern. Many studies have focused on CBD and THC, showing that both cannabinoids induce sleep when taken individually or together. 

However, one small preclinical study shows HHC prolonged sleep time in mice by 1.8 to 8.0 times — a significant increase. The research paper also presents HHC as a viable treatment for pain and pain-related symptoms. 

We believe a mixture of HHC and CBD is the best option. CBD is a known sleep promoter and balances the level of cortisol in your body. One study suggests that 25+ mg of CBD is the optimal dosage for alleviating sleep problems, especially if they stem from anxiety and stress. 160 mg of CBD increases sleep duration significantly. 

Is HHC or delta-8 better for pain relief?

We believe delta-8 is a better choice for pain relief than HHC and is best used together with CBD for more potent analgesic effects. 

One survey shows that 41% of delta-8 users use delta-8 products to manage severe pain symptoms, often choosing them over delta-9 THC and pharmaceutical drugs due to lower incidences of adverse side effects. 40-80 mg delta-8 doses relieve mild symptoms of chronic pain better than severe chronic pain. 

Combining 40 mg of delta-8 gummies with a CBD topical cream is optimal. CBD topical products target cannabinoid receptors (cannabinoid 2) and other receptor sites in the skin and muscle tissue, providing localized anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits. 

There are currently no comparative studies on the effectiveness of HHC and delta-8 for pain relief. 

Side effects of HHC and delta-8

The side effects of HHC and delta-8 are similar to THC. HHC’s side effects are generally stronger than delta-8 and roughly equal to THC, though this depends entirely on body weight, dose, and tolerance. HHC and delta-8’s side effects can include:

  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Physical sensations
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How to reduce an HHC and delta-8 high

The most obvious way to reduce an HHC or delta-8 high is not to consume more than you’re used to. Unfortunately, finding the correct dose is difficult. Some people can tolerate higher doses, while others can only handle smaller doses. It’s a fine line, and not everyone gets it right every time. 

One trick to reduce an HHC or delta-8 high is taking CBD, preferably a CBD isolate product with no other cannabinoids in the formula. Research shows CBD is a non-competitive negative allosteric modulator of CB1 receptors capable of inhibiting the effects of THC and its isomers. In theory, CBD consumption before or after HHC or delta-8 consumption could result in a less potent euphoric high. 

How do HHC and delta-8 compare to other cannabinoids?

CBD

  • HHC and delta-8 are pretty different from cannabidiol regarding benefits and effects. 
  • CBD is a non-intoxicating but psychoactive compound in cannabis. It does not induce a euphoric high or bind to your cannabinoid 1 receptors. It mostly binds to other receptor sites around the body, namely TRPV1 (pain relief), 5-HT1A (anti-anxiety), and GPR55 (anti-proliferation). 
  • HHC and delta-8 are intoxicating and do bind to cannabinoid 1 receptors. Whether they interact with other receptor sites is largely unclear. 
  • Hemp-derived CBD is federally legal across all 50 US states, though some states follow their own laws and restrict or ban CBD in all forms. Delta-8 is currently regulated or banned in 20 states.

THC-O

  • Unlike HHC and delta-8, THC-O is semi-synthetic and a prodrug of delta-9. It does not occur naturally in cannabis and is strictly a man-made cannabinoid. 
  • THC-O is five times more potent than delta-8, three times stronger than THC, and presumably four times stronger than HHC. Its effects are similar to THC but with psychedelic and hallucinogenic sensations, including visual distortions, heightened emotions, and auditory hallucinations. 
  • THC-O is isomerized with different chemicals. Producers convert natural THC using sulfuric acid and acetic anhydride. The acetate group gives THC-O more potency. 
  • While HHC and delta-8’s effects happen relatively quickly (within 30 minutes for tinctures), THC-O takes longer because it’s a THC prodrug and requires deacetylation through your liver before entering the bloodstream.

Conclusion: Is HHC better than THC?

HHC isn’t better than delta-8, and delta-8 isn’t better than HHC. It all comes down to your experience with cannabis and what you want to use them for. Because HHC is far stronger than delta-8, we don’t recommend HHC products to beginners. The euphoric high is generally way too potent and overwhelming. However, if you’re a seasoned cannabis veteran looking for a decent sleep aid, HHC should be your go-to. Beginner cannabis users should stick to delta-8. The euphoric high is mild and relaxing, even in moderate doses; a 15-20 mg dose is a good start.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is HHC Stronger than THC?

HHC is roughly 70-80% the strength of delta-9, and delta-8 is approximately half as potent, meaning HHC is stronger than delta-8 overall. 

Is HHC Stronger than THC-O?

THC-O is five times more potent than delta-8, three times stronger than THC, and presumably four times stronger than HHC.

Is HHC Legal to Buy?

As of now, you can legally buy HHC products online or in retail stores in most states.

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