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The Science

There isn't much published literature on HHC, but we're always keeping an eye out for new information. As we come across it, we'll share it here. The abstracts for the articles are pasted below, along with a link to the article itself.

Synthesis and pharmacological activity of the epimers of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)


Cannabis is a multifaceted plant with numerous therapeutic properties on one hand, and controversial psychotropic activities on the other hand, which are modulated by CB1 endocannabinoid receptors. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) has been identified as the main component responsible for the psychotropic effects, while its constitutional isomer cannabidiol (CBD) has shown completely different pharmacological properties. Due to its reported beneficial effects, Cannabis has gained global popularity and is openly sold in shops and online. To circumvent legal restrictions, semi-synthetic derivatives of CBD are now frequently added to cannabis products, producing "high" effects similar to those induced by Δ9-THC. The first semi-synthetic cannabinoid to appear in the EU was obtained through cyclization and hydrogenation of CBD, and is known as hexahydrocannabinol (HHC). Currently, there is limited knowledge regarding HHC, its pharmacological properties, and its prevalence, as it is not commonly investigated in routine toxicological assays. In this study, synthetic strategies were explored to obtain an excess of the active epimer of HHC. Furthermore, the two epimers were purified and individually tested for their cannabinomimetic activity. Lastly, a simple and rapid chromatographic method employing a UV detector and a high-resolution mass spectrometer was applied to identify and quantify up to ten major phytocannabinoids, as well as the HHC epimers, in commercial cannabis samples.

Saturated Cannabinoids: Update on Synthesis Strategies and Biological Studies of These Emerging Cannabinoid Analogs


Natural and non-natural hexahydrocannabinols (HHC) were first described in 1940 by Adam and in late 2021 arose on the drug market in the United States and in some European countries. A background on the discovery, synthesis, and pharmacology studies of hydrogenated and saturated cannabinoids is described. This is harmonized with a summary and comparison of the cannabinoid receptor affinities of various classical, hybrid, and non-classical saturated cannabinoids. A discussion of structure–activity relationships with the four different pharmacophores found in the cannabinoid scaffold is added to this review. According to laboratory studies in vitro, and in several animal species in vivo, HHC is reported to have broadly similar effects to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, as demonstrated both in vitro and in several animal species in vivo. However, the effects of HHC treatment have not been studied in humans, and thus a biological profile has not been established.

Letter to the Editor: The Cannabinoid Consumed Is Not Necessarily the One Expected: Recent Experience with Hexahydrocannabinol

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research

Letter to the Editor - No Abstract

Studies Pertaining to the Emerging Cannabinoid Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

ACS Chemical Biology

We report studies pertaining to two isomeric hexahydrocannabinols (HHCs), (9R)-HHC and (9S)-HHC, which are derivatives of the psychoactive cannabinoids Δ9- and Δ8-THC. HHCs have been known since the 1940s, but have become increasingly available to the public in the United States and are typically sold as a mixture of isomers. We show that (9R)-HHC and (9S)-HHC can be prepared using hydrogen-atom transfer reduction, with (9R)-HHC being accessed as the major diastereomer. In addition, we report the results of cannabinoid receptor studies for (9R)-HHC and (9S)-HHC. The binding affinity and activity of isomer (9R)-HHC are similar to that of Δ9-THC, whereas (9S)-HHC binds strongly in cannabinoid receptor studies but displays diminished activity in functional assays. This is notable, as our examination of the certificates of analysis for >60 commercially available HHC products show wide variability in HHC isomer ratios (from 0.2:1 to 2.4:1 of (9R)-HHC to (9S)-HHC). These studies suggest the need for greater research and systematic testing of new cannabinoids. Such efforts would help inform cannabis-based policies, ensure the safety of cannabinoids, and potentially lead to the discovery of new medicines.

Hexahydrocannabinol and closely related semi-synthetic cannabinoids: A comprehensive review

Drug Testing and Analysis

Since the early 2000s, there has been a turmoil on the global illicit cannabinoid market. Parallel to legislative changes in some jurisdictions regarding herbal cannabis, unregulated and cheap synthetic cannabinoids with astonishing structural diversity have emerged. Recently, semi-synthetic cannabinoids manufactured from hemp extracts by simple chemical transformations have also appeared as recreational drugs. The burst of these semi-synthetic cannabinoids into the market was sparked by legislative changes in the United States, where cultivation of industrial hemp restarted. By now, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), initially a blockbuster product on its own, became a “precursor” to semi-synthetic cannabinoids such as hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), which appeared on the drug market in 2021. The synthesis and cannabimimetic activity of HHC were first reported eight decades ago in quest for the psychoactive principles of marijuana and hashish. Current large-scale manufacture of HHC is based on hemp-derived CBD extract, which is converted first by cyclization into a Δ8/Δ9-THC mixture, followed by catalytic hydrogenation to afford a mixture of (9R)-HHC and (9S)-HHC epimers. Preclinical studies indicate that (9R)-HHC has THC-like pharmacological properties. The animal metabolism of HHC is partially clarified. The human pharmacology including metabolism of HHC is yet to be investigated, and (immuno)analytical methods for the rapid detection of HHC or its metabolites in urine are lacking. Herein, the legal background for the revitalization of hemp cultivation, and available information on the chemistry, analysis, and pharmacology of HHC and related analogs, including HHC acetate (HHC-O) is reviewed.

Identification of human hexahydrocannabinol metabolites in urine

European Journal of Mass Spectrometry

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a cannabinoid that has been known since 1940 but has only recently found its way into recreational use as a psychoactive drug. HHC has been used as a legal alternative to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in many countries, but first countries already placed it under their narcotic substances law. Our aim was to evaluate a reliable analytical method for the proof of HHC consumption by LC-MS/MS and GC-MS. We identified the two epimers of HHC and metabolites after HHC consumption by two volunteers (inhalation by use of a vaporizer and oral intake). LC-HR-MS/MS, LC-MS/MS and GC-MS with literature data (EI-MS spectra of derivatives) and reference compounds - as far as commercially available - were used for metabolite identification. Phase-II-metabolites (glucuronides) of HHC and OH-HHC were found in urine samples with LC-HR-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS. The main metabolite was tentatively identified with GC-MS as 4'OH-HHC (stereochemistry on C9 and C4' unknown). Another major side-chain hydroxylated metabolite found by LC-MS/MS could not be unambiguously identified. Both epimers of 11-OH-HHC were found in considerable amounts in urine. (8R, 9R)-8-OH-HHC was identified as a minor metabolite with GC-MS and LC-MS/MS. While (9S)-HHC was found in urine after oral intake and inhalation of HHC, the more psychoactive epimer (9R)-HHC was only found in urine after inhalation. Several other minor metabolites were detected but not structurally identified. We found that after oral or inhalative consumption the urinary main metabolites of a diastereomeric mixture of HHC are different from the respective, major Δ9-THC metabolites (11-OH-Δ9-THC and 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-THC). Although a sensitive LC-MS/MS and GC-SIM-MS method were set-up for the reference compounds (9R)-11-nor-9-carboxy-HHC and (9S)-11-nor-9-carboxy-HHC, these oxidation products were not detected in urine with these techniques. To further increase sensitivity, a GC-MS/MS method was developed, and the 11-nor-9-carboxy metabolites of HHC were confirmed to be present as minor metabolites.

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