Cooking, Research

Cannabis Decarboxylation Explained, Why it’s Important, and How to Do it


by Lo

August 14, 2019 04:33 pm ET
Cannabis Decarboxylation Explained, Why it’s Important, and How to Do it

When it comes to cannabis, you may have seen or heard of the term “decarb”. If you aren’t aware of what decarboxylation is, it’s the most crucial step in the process of cannabis consumption. Without it, cannabis wouldn’t be the least bit effective. Let’s learn why.

What is Decarboxylation?

In scientific terms, Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group from a molecule. A carboxyl group in molecular form is identified as COOH, or a carbon atom that is double-bonded to an oxygen and an -OH group. This process occurs naturally at a very slow rate but it can be expedited when a certain level of heat is applied for an amount of time that allows for the molecules to break down and be released as CO2. 

You may not realize it, but it’s this process that actually allows the medicine in the cannabis plant to work.

Why Decarbing Cannabis is Important

In raw marijuana plants, THC and CBD don’t exist. The cannabinoids THC and CBD originally have an additional carboxyl group attached to their molecular makeup. They begin as THCA and CBDA. Neither are intoxicating. If you eat a large amount of raw cannabis thinking you will get high, you’ll be very disappointed and probably very sick to your stomach. 

decarboxylation molecule examples | Veriheal

With their carboxyl groups still attached, THCA and CBDA cannot effectively bind to our cannabinoid receptors. This would explain why you won’t experience any euphoric effects if you ingest it in raw form. In order to be bioavailable to our endocannabinoid system, these cannabinoid molecules must undergo decarboxylation. That is why it is so important to decarb your cannabis before making edibles and why we need to apply heat for it to be medically effective.  

Different Ways to Decarb Cannabis

Combustion, or smoking, is the quickest and most convenient way to decarb cannabis. This can be done through a variety of different approaches such as taking a flame to a pipe, joint, or handmade device. If smoking isn’t a preference, vaporization would be the next most effective method to decarb. Vaporization can be achieved through using a portable vaporizing device, or by dabbing concentrates. To decarb cannabis for edibles, there are many decarboxylator devices on the market that easily facilitate this. But if you don’t have one of these products, you can certainly do it in the oven as long as you remember to go low and slow. Do be aware that this can be a very aromatic endeavor. 

Cannabis Decarboxylation in the Oven

To decarb cannabis flower in the oven, grind it up, and spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat it in the oven at 240° for about 30 minutes. The color should be a variant of light to mid-brown with a dry consistency. Once done, let cool.

decarb cannabis flower | Veriheal
After you decarb cannabis flower, it’ll look like this.

For cannabis concentrates, let it heat in the oven at 200° for 20 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once thoroughly heated and the concentrate is bubbling, turn off the oven and let cool while inside. Once cooled down in the oven, the consistency will be very sappy and sticky. Put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes so that it can easily be removed from the parchment. 

decarboxylation of concentrates
Decarbing cannabis concentrates

After you finish decarbing, your cannabis is then activated and ready to use at your disposal! There are many cannabis recipes out there and most, if not all, will require that you first decarb your cannabis. When utilizing either of these methods, take care not to burn your cannabis. Burning will compromise the THC and CBD availability and effectively ruin it. 

The word ‘decarboxylation’ can be intimidating. It has many meanings in the chemistry world. But for the cannabis community, it’s merely the process of applying proper heat to cannabis products to activate the cannabinoids. Without activation, we wouldn’t get to maximize the many health benefits of the cannabis plant. Once you become comfortable with any form of cannabis decarboxylation, you’ll be able to profit on all that cannabis has to offer! 

Post Your Comments

Rye says:

August 14, 2019 at 8:41 pm

If there is no THC in raw marijuana, then why it illegal to possess in the raw, unsmoked form?

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