CBD, THC & HHC - Key differences

CBD, THC & HHC - Wesentliche Unterschiede

A comprehensive overview of effects, differences to other cannabinoids and legal aspects

The hemp plant is one of the oldest useful and medicinal plants which was used in China 6,000 years ago for food, clothing, fishing nets, oil and medicine. From Central Asia, hemp reached the Middle East, spread across Europe to North and South America and was also cultivated in Germany until the middle of the last century. It also contains 113 cannabinoids, of which THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is considered the strongest psychoactive substance.

THC at a glance

THC, also called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the most researched cannabinoids in the hemp plant. Over the millennia, the plant has found a variety of uses. However, the plant's intoxicating properties overshadowed its reputation for a long time, leading to legal restrictions.

Differences from the other cannabinoids

The hemp plant not only contains the well-known THC, but also around 113 other cannabinoids. These include the non-intoxicating CBD, CBG or CBN, which can be isolated from each other using modern scientific methods. Unlike THC, CBD is legal and classified as safe by the World Health Organization.


Where is THC contained?

THC content in cannabis flowers

THC is mainly obtained from the female, unfertilized cannabis flowers, as this is where the THC content is highest at 6 to 20%. Interestingly, the rest of the plant only contains around one percent THC, while hemp seeds are even THC-free. It is important to know that eating the plant parts raw does not have an intoxicating effect - because the THC is only activated when heated.

Formation of THC through biosynthesis

THC is present in the cannabis plant in its inactive form as THCA. Decarboxylation, i.e. heating, converts THCA into THC, releasing the intoxicating effect. Smoking hemp is the fastest way to activate THC.


Effects of THC

Chemical structure and endocannabinoid system

The chemical structure of THC is similar to the body's chemical anandamide, which allows the body to immediately recognize THC and alter normal communication in the brain. THC works through the endocannabinoid system, a neural network that plays a crucial role in the normal functioning of the nervous system.

Areas affected by THC

The consumption of THC affects various areas such as pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination as well as sensory and time perception.

Why does THC get you high?

THC affects mental and physical functions, resulting in the state known as “high.” This can affect the ability to drive, exercise and other physical functions.

Long-term effects of THC

Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Germany, especially among teenagers and young adults. While most users use occasionally or stop after a short period of time, there is a group who use regularly for several years. This raises the question of the possible long-term consequences:



Influence on brain performance

Since the 1970s, research has focused on the question of possible brain damage caused by cannabis consumption. The current state of research suggests that substantial brain damage is unlikely to occur. However, a deterioration in brain performance is observed with prolonged and intensive consumption. This manifests itself in poorer learning and memory performance for regular users. However, brain performance improves rapidly with abstinence, and it is currently unclear whether mild impairments lead to permanent damage.

Respiratory tract: 

Burdens and possible consequences

Basically, inhaled foreign substances put a strain on the respiratory tract. The question of whether smoking cannabis leads to increased respiratory diseases has not yet been clearly answered. Studies show that heavy cannabis smokers may have an increased risk of bronchitis and inflammation of the respiratory tract. However, it is unclear whether these effects are due to inhaled tobacco smoke. According to a longitudinal study, long-term cannabis consumption hardly shows any impairment of lung capacity. However, the risk is the same as that of smoking tobacco. Hookahs do not reduce the risk, they only cool the smoke.


Influence on the development of the newborn

Studies on the effects of maternal cannabis consumption on newborn development are contradictory. Since endogenous cannabinoids play an important role in brain development, pregnancy is considered a sensitive period. Although the studies are not clear, as a precautionary measure, pregnant women are recommended to avoid cannabis as well as alcohol, nicotine and other drugs.

Hormonal and immune system:

Influencing the functions

There is currently no clear evidence of the influence of cannabis on the hormonal and immune systems. Some studies suggest that sexual function in men and the menstrual cycle in women may be affected. Sperm concentration and sperm motility can also decrease in men. However, these effects appear to be reversible after abstinence.

Cardiovascular system:

Possible risks and status of research

Possible effects on the cardiovascular system have only recently been researched. Preliminary study results indicate an increased risk of heart attack in the first hour after cannabis consumption. However, further studies are necessary to assess the actual risks.


psychological and physical components

With long-term use, psychological dependence can develop with the feeling that you can no longer do without cannabis. Contrary to previous assumptions, withdrawal symptoms can also occur if consumption is temporarily stopped or reduced. This suggests that there is a physical component to addiction, although it is less pronounced than alcohol or heroin addiction.

The risk of addiction varies depending on individual psychosocial risk factors. Psychological problems such as depression or anxiety symptoms increase the risk of abusing cannabis as “self-medication”.


Triggers and risk factors

Studies have examined whether cannabis can cause permanent psychosis. Although it has not yet been conclusively clarified, there is increasing evidence that cannabis cannot trigger an independent cannabis psychosis, but can trigger an existing schizophrenia. The vulnerability-stress model states that genetic vulnerabilities combined with external factors can trigger psychosis. The risk of psychosis increases with the intensity of consumption, especially with highly potent cannabis strains.

The consumption of THC

Cannabis for food

Edibles in particular, i.e. foods containing cannabis, such as CBD gummy bears, are becoming increasingly popular. Numerous recipes for making cannabis-infused delicacies such as cookies or brownies are easily accessible on the Internet.

Tinctures and oils

Another option for oral consumption is tinctures and oils. CBD oils are currently experiencing a real hype. However, laws and guidelines such as the Novel Food Regulation have created uncertainty as to whether the consumption of CBD products is permitted. Hash oil is also very popular in less restrictive countries. Here you can find the Calma CBD oils.

Many people are not aware that cannabis can also be used topically, i.e. applied directly to the skin. A thriving market for CBD cosmetics has emerged, and it remains to be seen whether additional cannabinoids will find their way into the cosmetics industry.


Dabbing refers to the vaporization of special concentrates, so-called dabs, at extremely high temperatures. Although dabbing is best known in Germany for the dance figure of the same name, it still plays a relatively minor role compared to other forms of consumption.

Traditional weed smoking

Despite cannabinoids like CBD and CBG, most people still think of classic pot smoking when they think of cannabis use. Most consumers consume cannabis flowers in the form of a joint, blunt or spliff. However, it is important to emphasize that not all consumption carries the same risks.

What exactly does smoking weed mean?

Smoking weed typically refers to smoking cannabis flowers containing THC in a joint. The CBD joint or other forms in which cannabis is burned also fall under this term. Bong, pipe and blunt also play a role.

Alternative to smoking - vaping

A less harmful alternative to smoking is vaping CBD or vaping cannabis. This method, known as vaping, is particularly popular among medical cannabis users. Vaporizing flowers in a cannabis vaporizer is a gentle and efficient way of consumption.

Side effects and long-term consequences of THC consumption

Short and long term side effects

In the short term, consumption of THC can lead to impaired short-term memory, reduced coordination, and an increased risk of injury. Long-term dependence, cognitive impairment and other consequences can occur, especially with early use in adolescence.

Influence on the brain

In the long term, THC can alter the areas of the brain responsible for memory and attention, which can lead to problems with thinking and learning. The effects depend on the start of consumption, the amount and the frequency.


Legal aspects: THC and the Narcotics Act

Legal situation in different countries

THC is illegal in most countries and is subject to narcotics law. There are exceptions for specially certified hemp varieties with low THC content and for medical cannabis under strict conditions.

Detectability of THC

THC and its breakdown products can be detected through drug tests. The detection time depends on the frequency of consumption, the amount consumed and the general condition of the person.


Who uses cannabis and why?

Diversity of consumers

There is no such thing as a typical cannabis user. Cannabis is now present in all levels of society and legalization is seen as necessary to rethink how society deals with cannabis. Questions about consumer behavior, such as the use of vaporizers by cannabis patients, are more effective than blanket judgments.

Reasons for consumption

The reasons for consuming cannabis are varied. Some consume for pleasure and intoxication reasons, with products containing THC and HHC being popular. THC is also increasingly being used for medical purposes and is even available with a prescription. CBD, on the other hand, is often used to increase general well-being without any psychoactive effects.

Medical uses of THC

Medical cannabis studies

There is evidence that the adjunctive use of THC can provide benefits for certain medical conditions. Medical cannabis is already approved in some countries, but further research is needed.

The cannabinoid active ingredients and their role

The therapeutic effect of medical cannabis is based primarily on the ingredients THC and CBD. These affect the body via the endocannabinoid system, which is present throughout the body. Although initial study results are promising, the number of high-quality studies is still limited, which leads to moderate to unclear significance depending on the clinical picture.

From medicinal plants to state regulation

Medical cannabis is regulated by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) and the state cannabis agency. The quality is controlled during cultivation, processing and distribution. Although cannabis is widely used as an intoxicant, it also has a long tradition as a medicinal plant. The discussion about the supply of cannabis-based medicines to patients is still controversial, as the potential for dependence can be classified as low compared to other substances.

Medical intake

Medical cannabis therapy is mainly carried out through inhalation using a medical vaporizer or by oral ingestion in the form of drops or capsules. Inhalation provides a quick effect, while oral intake has a longer, delayed effect. The choice of dosage form depends on the individual needs of the patient.


In which cases is medical cannabis used?

Medical cannabis has a wide range of therapeutic uses because it affects the endocannabinoid system, a body signaling system with a widespread presence throughout the organism. The effects of cannabis preparations are being researched in numerous studies, with some promising results being achieved. Potential indications emerging from clinical studies with moderate to fair power include:

  1. Chronic pain: For example, in connection with cancer, rheumatism or multiple sclerosis.
  2. Spasticity (cramps) : in multiple sclerosis
  3. Chemotherapy-induced: nausea and vomiting
  4. Rare forms of epilepsy: Such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
  5. Weight loss and anorexia: in HIV/AIDS


Other potential areas of application for which study results with low to unclear significance are available include:

Mental illness

  • Tourette syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • sleep disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • depression
  • Schizophrenic psychosis (CBD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (CBD)
  • Addictions
  • Anorexia nervosa (anorexia nervosa)


Neurodegenerative and neurological diseases

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Dystonia
  • tremor
  • Restless Legs Syndrome


Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis


Palliative therapy

In cancer cases

Glaucoma (green star)


As a rule, medical cannabis is used as an adjunctive therapy (“add-on”) in addition to medications or therapies already in use. The prescription requires the presence of a “serious medical condition” in which proven treatment options are unsuccessful or unavailable. Physicians may decide whether to use a treatment option, even if it is available, taking into account expected side effects and the condition of the disease. For example, doctors and patients could decide together against trying opioid therapy if there is a history of substance abuse or digestive problems.


Cannabidiol (CBD)

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce a "high" effect. CBD is primarily derived from the hemp plant, a strain of cannabis with low THC levels. It is known for its potential therapeutic properties, which include pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and possibly aiding in anxiety and depression. In many countries, CBD is legal and sold in various forms such as oils, capsules and topical creams.

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive component in cannabis. It is responsible for the feeling of intoxication or "high" often associated with marijuana. THC binds to receptors in the brain and influences functions such as mood, pain perception and memory. Although it has medicinal uses, particularly in pain relief and appetite stimulation, it is strictly regulated in many parts of the world due to its psychoactive properties.

Chemical differences

Chemically, CBD and THC are almost identical, with only minor differences in their molecular structure. However, these small differences are crucial to the different effects they have on the body. THC binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, resulting in psychoactive effects, while CBD has an indirect effect and does not result in a high.

Effects on the body

CBD and THC interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating a variety of functions. CBD is often used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, inflammation and anxiety. THC, on the other hand, is valued for its pain-relieving properties and its ability to reduce nausea and increase appetite. Both compounds can cause side effects, with THC potentially causing memory problems, altered cognition and, in some cases, anxiety.

Legal aspects and availability

The legal situation of CBD and THC varies significantly worldwide. CBD is legal in many countries and is sold as a dietary supplement or medical product. THC, on the other hand, is illegal or strictly controlled in many regions due to its psychoactive effects. In some areas, medical marijuana containing THC is legal for certain conditions.

application areas

CBD is used in a variety of health and wellness products, from pain relief to possible neuroprotective properties. THC is used in some medical contexts to treat pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis, and to relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea.



What is HHC?

Hexahydrocannabinol, abbreviated HHC, is one of the numerous cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that, despite its discovery in the 1940s, has only recently received increased attention. Unlike CBD, HHC can produce psychoactive effects.

HHC is another cannabinoid from the hemp plant - while it is already established in the USA, it is still largely unknown in Europe. It was discovered in 1940 by Roger Adams, an American chemist. However, due to the low natural occurrence in the hemp plant and the complex extraction processes, HHC has received little attention. As a rule, synthetically produced HHC is used.

Production of HHC: HHC is produced synthetically in the laboratory through hydrogenation because its natural content in the hemp plant is minimal. There are two variants of HHC molecules, 9R HHC and 9S HHC, which influence the effect.

Action and effectiveness: The effectiveness of HHC depends on the ratio of 9R and 9S HHC molecules. Since the study situation is limited, there are different reports and the exact therapeutic effects are still unknown.

Legal aspects: The legal situation of HHC varies from country to country, with synthetic HHC already being classified as a psychoactive substance in some countries.

Side effects and detectability: Experience reports indicate possible side effects, but the safety and detectability in drug tests have not yet been conclusively clarified.

Dosage forms: HHC is mainly available synthetically as oil, liquid for e-cigarettes or as chewable tablets.


Advantages and disadvantages of HHC



  • Non-psychoactive: One of the most important benefits of HHC is that it is non-psychoactive. Unlike THC, it does not cause a “high” feeling, making it an attractive option for those looking to reap the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects.

  • Little researched, little application experience


  • May contain toxic residues
  • Anti-inflammatory: Studies have shown that HHC has anti-inflammatory properties, making it promising for treating conditions such as arthritis or chronic pain.
  • Hardly any application experience


  • Risk of addiction
  • Antioxidant: HHC also possesses antioxidant properties that can help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.

  • Legal uncertainties and classification as a psychoactive substance in some countries



Is HHC the same as THC?

An interesting pair of these compounds are HHC (hexahydrocannabinol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which are not only chemically similar but also have comparable effects.


The emergence of HHC and its similarity to THC

The discovery of hexahydrocannabinol goes back to the American chemist Roger Adams. Adams first synthesized HHC by hydrogenating THC. This process adds two additional hydrogen atoms to the THC, resulting in structural changes. Both the molecular formula and the structural formula of the two cannabinoids show a clear similarity.

Comparison of effects between HHC and THC - Due to the structural similarity of HHC and THC, their effects are also similar. Experience reports suggest that in many cases the HHC high only differs from the THC high in intensity. HHC has a similar psychoactive effect to THC, which makes it attractive for some users.

HHC as a legal alternative to THC - HHC is gaining popularity because it may have a legal advantage over THC. The current situation suggests that HHC is legal, which makes it attractive to many consumers. Another advantage could be the longer shelf life, as hexahydrocannabinol is considered to be chemically more stable and is therefore better protected against oxidation.

Risks and Considerations - Despite the potential benefits of HHC, there are concerns about its research and availability. In contrast, the risks of THC are better understood and consumers can make informed decisions about consumption. Highly concentrated HHC products, especially artificially produced versions such as Acetate HHC-O, can contain substances that are potentially harmful to health.

Differences from CBD

A comparison of CBD and HHC reveals fundamental differences in safety, availability, intoxicating effects and scientific research.





Hydrogen-saturated form of THC

Unique structure without double bonds

Psychoactive effect



Main benefit

Still in research, potential pain relief and sleep support

Anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, neuroprotective

Receptor binding

Weak binding to cannabinoid receptors

Low binding to cannabinoid receptors

Frequency in plant




Generally well tolerated, but less researched

Very well tolerated


Varies depending on region

Freely available in many countries

Intoxicating effect



Risk of addiction

Unknown, but probably minor

No known addictive potential



Differences between HHC and other cannabinoids



Medical benefits

Occurrence in the plant















Medical use of HHC

Pain Management: HHC has shown promise as a pain relief agent, particularly in patients with chronic pain.

Sleep Support: There are reports that HHC helps with sleep disorders and insomnia by making it easier to fall asleep and promoting restful sleep.

Neuroprotection: Preliminary research suggests that HHC may have neuroprotective properties, protecting brain cells from damage.


How to consume HHC

The correct dosage of HHC depends largely on the preferred consumption method. HHC liquids are vaporized and inhaled, HHC flowers are usually smoked or vaporized, while HHC edibles, such as HHC gummy bears, are simply eaten.

There are different ways to take HHC depending on preference and medical need:


  • HHC Vape

Onset of action: Practically immediately or after 30 minutes at the latest.
Duration of action: Usually after one hour at the latest.
Harmfulness: Increased health risk beyond the side effects of HHC.


  • HHC flowers (smoke)

Onset of action: Almost immediately or after 30 minutes at the latest.
Duration of action: Usually after one hour at the latest.
Harmful to health: Very harmful to health.


  • HHC flowers (steam)

Onset of action: Practically immediately or after 30 minutes at the latest.
Duration of action: Usually after one hour at the latest.
Harmfulness: Vaporizing (medical) cannabis flowers is a gentle form of application.


  • HHC hashish (smoking)

Onset of action: Almost immediately or after 30 minutes at the latest.
Duration of action: Usually after one hour at the latest.
Harmfulness: Very harmful to health.


  • HHC Edible Substances

Onset of action: The effect occurs after 30-90 minutes, in exceptional cases up to 2 hours.
Duration of effect: Depending on the amount, tolerance and other factors, over many hours.
Harmfulness: The form of application does not additionally increase the health risk.


  • HHC Spray (sublingual)

Onset of action: variable
Onset of action: varies between almost immediate and 30 minutes.
Duration of action: Depending on absorption via the oral mucosa.
Harmfulness: Sublingual use poses little risk, but can influence the effect.


  • HHC oil (oral)

Onset of action: The effect occurs after 30-90 minutes.
Duration of effect: Depends on the amount and individual factors.
Harmfulness: The form of application does not additionally increase the health risk.


It is recommended to consult a doctor before taking HHC to ensure safety and effectiveness.



Are there any side effects of HHC?

Is HHC dangerous? - As with all cannabinoids, some people may experience side effects.

Due to the lack of long-term studies on HHC consumption, accurately listing side effects and risks is challenging. Nevertheless, consumer experiences and isolated studies give us at least a preliminary insight. User reports point to potential side effects such as dizziness, nausea, paranoia, anxiety and restlessness associated with HHC consumption. At higher doses, heart palpitations and an increase in blood pressure can also occur.

It is important to speak to a doctor before consuming HHC or other cannabinoids.



Is HHC legal?

The question of the legality of HHC in Germany is complex and raises a variety of aspects. Despite the apparent freedom for HHC-containing products on the market, the exact legal situation remains uncertain. Here we take a look at current findings, age restrictions and possible developments.

Is HHC legal in Germany?

The legal situation of HHC in Germany is based on the law on new psychoactive substances (NpSG), which bans synthetic cannabinoids. The crucial question here is: Is hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) produced synthetically or does it occur naturally in the cannabis plant? Because HHC is obtained through hydrogenation and is therefore considered a semi-synthetic cannabinoid, many manufacturers argue that the NpSG does not apply to their HHC-containing products. In addition, HHC is not listed in the Narcotics Act (BtMG), which is interpreted by some as a further indication of legality.

Age restriction of HHC products

Regardless of the legal situation, most HHC providers have introduced an age restriction for their products and purchase is only possible from the age of 18. We still recommend caution, especially when consuming HHC at a young age, as the structural similarity to THC may indicate that HHC may affect brain development.


HHC legality

🟩 - Legal

⬜️ - Gray area in legislation

🟧 - Prohibition/regulation

🟥 - Illegal



Can HHC trigger a drug test?

Because HHC is non-psychoactive, it is unlikely to trigger a drug test. However, it is advisable to avoid consuming cannabinoids before taking a drug test.



HHC compared to other cannabinoids

With over 100 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, HHC stands out for its non-psychoactive nature. This makes it particularly attractive for medical applications in regions where psychoactive substances are strictly regulated.



Future prospects for HHC

With the increasing legalization of cannabis and the growing acceptance of cannabinoids in the medical community, HHC is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. Companies are already developing a variety of HHC products, from tinctures to edibles to topicals.

Research into therapeutic applications of HHC is expected to increase, which will not only deepen our understanding of this particular cannabinoid but also expand its applications in the medical world.




THC as part of the hemp plant

Although THC is the most commonly consumed intoxicant worldwide after alcohol, it is important to emphasize that it is only one of many cannabinoids in the hemp plant. The clear distinction between these cannabinoids opens up the possibility of exploring the therapeutic benefits of the hemp plant without the intoxicating effects of THC.

Legal alternatives with CBD oils

For those who want to reap the potential benefits of the hemp plant without the intoxicating effects of THC, all-natural, organically certified CBD oils offer a legal and natural alternative. Here you can find the article 'What is CBD?'


The differences between CBD and THC are significant in both their chemical structure and their effects on the body. While CBD is known for its therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects, THC is known for its pain-relieving properties


HHC is an intriguing cannabinoid with potential medical benefits. Although it is not as well-known as THC or CBD, it offers a unique option for those who want to experience the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. However, research is still in its infancy and there are no valid studies on short- and long-term effects. CBD remains recommended as a proven alternative suitable for everyday use because it is considered safe and positive effects have already been proven in studies. Thorough research and consultation with a doctor are essential to achieve the best possible results and ensure your own safety. As research progresses and interest in cannabinoids grows, HHC will undoubtedly continue to gain traction in the coming years.

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Prof. Dr. Niemeyer

CALMA CBD expert

Dr. Niemeyer is a renowned expert in the field of cannabidiol (CBD) research. With a doctorate in pharmacology, she specializes in researching the therapeutic uses of CBD. Through years of work, she has made significant contributions to the scientific community and is internationally recognized for her research on the effectiveness of CBD for various medical conditions, including pain relief, anxiety and neurological disorders. Their work has not only deepened the understanding of how CBD works, but also helped open new avenues for the development of CBD-based therapies. Dr. Niemeyer is passionate about educating people about the potential benefits of CBD.