Decarboxylation … What Is It Exactly? See Here



de-kärb-ˈbäk-sə-ˌlāSH(ə)n | Noun

A chemical reaction that uses heat to activate the compounds in cannabis, typically cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Applying heat to cannabis results in removing a carboxyl group from the cannabinoid, which enhances its ability to interact with the body’s receptors. All cannabinoids have an extra carboxyl group attached to their chain. This process is dependent upon time and temperature. Cannabidiolic acid naturally decarboxylates into cannabidiol over time or immediately after being exposed to heat.

“Most hemp CBD products offered on the market have undergone decarboxylation.” 

Decarboxylation can be both a natural, slow process or an immediate one when the hemp plant is exposed to heat.” 

What Is It?

The cannabis plant in its raw form is non-intoxicating and doesn’t produce potent effects. This means that to produce the properties the plant is known for, its acidic cannabinoids must get activated. Therefore, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) must be transformed into cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

The first step in decarbing is the proper curing of the hemp plant. After harvest, farmers gently dry their plants under stringent humidity and temperature control. Slow curing ensures maximum development of the plant’s cannabinoids. 

Cannabinoids naturally decarboxylate over a long period of time. However, due to the use of different products, manufacturers need to speed up the process. Therefore, they activate the cannabinoids by heating them. When exposed to heat through vaping, smoking, or cooking, the CBDA and THCA are converted to CBD and THC, respectively. 

For edibles and topical applications, decarbing allows faster absorption of the cannabinoid. If edibles are not decarbed, they won’t reach maximum potency. Another advantage of this process is that it reduces the risk of microbiological contaminants. It removes the moisture from the cannabinoids and decreases the chance of bacteria growth.  

Decarboxylation is fulfilled via two basic processes: 

  1. Time
  2. Heat

This process is almost always a part of a CBD product’s manufacturing process, whether you buy CBD from an online outlet or a dispensary. Therefore, if you’re making your own CBD products at home, the first step should be to decarboxylate your CBD flower

Why Is It Important? 

For users of marijuana flower, decarboxylation is essential because it allows them to get high. With CBD flower, it’s important because it activates the healing effects of cannabidiol. Does decarbing hemp flower destroy CBD? No, this process doesn’t ruin CBD, but it’s a necessary step to ensure that this cannabinoid is activated. 

The raw hemp plant doesn’t contain cannabidiol molecules but cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). CBDA doesn’t interact with the body the same way CBD does, so this conversion is necessary to give consumers a number of positive therapeutic effects.

How to Tell If A CBD Product I Bought Has Been Decarbed? 

Most CBD products for sale have already been decarbed unless the label states they are in a raw condition. A simple way to determine if a CBD product has been decarbed is to check the label for CBDA. If the product has high CBD levels and low CBDA levels, it’s been decarbed. The label also gives you info on testing and should include the percentage of primary cannabinoids in each serving, as well as the absence of molds and pesticides.

How Long to Decarboxylate CBD Flower? 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in weed speeds up the decarboxylation process. Hemp flower contains only trace amounts of THC and needs longer heat exposure than marijuana. Also, the lower the temperature, the longer the decarboxylation process will take. 

Using high temperature is also not recommended because you might end up scorching or combusting the plant material. The optimal temperature to decarb CBD effectively is from 240 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Going over this temperature range can degrade the cannabidiol (CBD) in the bud. 

Here are the typical steps to decarbing CBD flower: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to confirm the temperature of the oven and adjust accordingly. 
  2. Grind the CBD flower with a grinder, or break it down into very small pieces with your fingers. You can use a credit card to chop them to even smaller pieces.  
  3. Place the ground flower onto a cookie sheet or parchment paper, creating a very thin layer. 
  4. Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. 
  5. Every ten minutes turn the flowers with a spatula. 
  6. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. 
  7. The CBD flower should have a brownish color, a toasted appearance, and feel dry to the touch. It should also have a fragrant scent and crumble when rolled in your fingers.  

Can You Decarb Cannabutter? 

Properly made cannabutter has been decarbed already. Therefore, you don’t need to decarboxylate cannabutter. The process of making this product involves mixing the butter and cannabis and letting it simmer to the point that the cannabis materials get fully decarboxylated. During this process, cannabinoids get pulled out of the plant matter and bind to the fats in the butter. The result is a product full of decarboxylated and activated cannabinoids.

CBD Concentrates and Decarboxylation

CBD concentrates are made using physical agitation, pressure, or a solvent. Most methods don’t include heat, which is why concentrates contain mostly CBDA rather than CBD. Through dabbing and vaping, you combust and vaporize the concentrate to get the cannabinoids activated. 

CBD hash is a classic form of concentrates derived by soaking CBD flower in a solvent that pulls out most of the cannabinoids from the plant matter. When the solvent is evaporated, it leaves behind a thick, oil-like substance full of concentrated cannabinoids. But, because the final product wasn’t exposed to heat, it contains unactivated CBD and other cannabinoids. 

Decarboxylated CBD hash is only created at the moment of consumption when you heat it for smoking or vaporizing it for dabbing.

CBD flower and concentrates eventually decarboxylate on their own when exposed to heat and light. If you want to maintain the freshness of your concentrates and flower, store them in a cool, dark place with minimal exposure to light and heat. 

Decarboxylation in Biochemistry

Aside from cannabis, this process has a range of applications in biochemistry. Decarboxylation changes the ability of CBD to bind to our body’s cannabinoid receptors. But, that happens with other amino acids as well. An L-tryptophan amino acid, an essential amino acid necessary for the body to make serotonin, occurs through decarboxylation. 

Plants and insects decarboxylate but differently than humans. The reverse process of decarboxylation is carboxylation. This is the first step of photosynthesis and involves adding carbon dioxide to a compound. Another decarboxylation process is the ketonic one. It forms the ketones produced by the body during fasting or low carbohydrate intake, typically during the ketogenic diet.

Decarboxylation Using A Microwave

Can you decarboxylate your CBD flower in a microwave? It’s certainly possible but riskier and not always worth it despite its shorter time frame. Using a microwave to decarb your CBD flower is a quick and easy way to get the job done. Some people have used this method successfully, while others unsuccessfully. The drawbacks of this method include burnt flower with lost potency and a degraded smell and taste. 

Final Thoughts

Decarboxylation occurs when CBD flowers are exposed to heat or age with time. This process activates compounds in cannabis like CBD and THC.