Decarboxylation is an essential yet often misunderstood chemical process in activating the main cannabinoids in marijuana. The decarboxylation process involves heating cannabis to the point where a carboxyl group is removed, converting cannabinoids like THCA and CBDA to their active forms.
Years of prohibition have allowed inaccurate pseudoscientific information about decarboxylate cannabis to spread like the plague.
That said, understanding the fundamental works of decarboxylation will not only help to uncover the shroud behind the creation of many marijuana products, but it will also elevate your cannabis experience to a whole new level.
Interested in exploring how to fully realize the potential of your cannabis flowers? Let us explore the topic with you.
What is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation refers to the process responsible for removing a carboxyl group from a cannabinoid. This results in an enhanced ability for the cannabinoid to interact with our receptors.
The raw plant material of marijuana is largely non-intoxicating and will not yield strong psychoactive effects; At least not without decarboxylation – the cannabinoid composition of raw marijuana is largely comprised of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid also known as THCA, and Cannabidiolic acid also known as CBDA.
These particular cannabinoids are respectively inactive forms of THC and CBD and must be activated through decarboxylation to have any substantial effects. THC and CBD in raw marijuana is activated by combustion through smoking, vaporizing, or by heating raw marijuana for a controlled period of time.
Does Decarboxylation Destroy Cannabinoids?
Decarboxylation, when done correctly, is usually non-threatening when it comes to the health of cannabinoids.
As a matter of fact, the process is necessary to experience the full psychoactive effects of marijuana.
However, it should be noted that cannabis requires a certain temperature to be effectively activated without destroying any compounds. When exposed to extremely high temperatures, you run the risk of burning off several terpenes and cannabinoids, compromising the flavor profile of your cannabis.
How to Decarboxylate Cannabis
Decarboxylation comes in a variety of forms. Achieving perfect results will take some practice and patience as there are several factors that come into play.
It’s important to be cognizant of the correct temperatures required to achieve good results, as overheating will lead to the loss of several terpenes and cannabinoids, and under-heating will only result in partially decarbed cannabis.
Keep in mind, it is highly advised to keep the temperature below 300°F(148°C) when exposing marijuana to heat for extended periods of time. Here is a decarboxylation temperature chart to refer to when heating in an oven:
Decarbing Raw Plant Material
- 300°F(149°C): Heating raw cannabis for approximately 10-18 minutes will lead to high levels of THC. Heating raw cannabis for approximately 15-25 minutes will lead to high levels of CBD.
- 245°F(118°C): Heating raw cannabis for approximately 50-60 minutes will lead to high levels of THC. Heating raw cannabis for approximately 60-90 minutes will lead to high levels of CBD.
Decarbing Kief and Hash
- 300°F(149°C): Heating kief or hash for approximately 5-10 minutes will lead to high levels of THC. Heating kief or hash for approximately 10-15 minutes will lead to high levels of CBD.
- 245°F(118°C): Heating kief or hash for approximately 30-40 minutes will lead to high levels of THC. Heating kief or hash for approximately 40-50 minutes will lead to high levels of CBD.
A classic method of cannabis decarboxylation is through cooking in a preheated oven. Be sure to break your cannabis into small pieces over some parchment paper or a baking sheet, carefully spreading the flower out to make sure there is even coverage throughout.
This process may take anywhere from 90-120 minutes depending on the temperature used. It should be noted that the process can be expedited by increasing the temperature at the expense of terpenes and cannabinoids.
To preserve the flavour and potency of your cannabis, It is recommended to take a slower approach.
Boiling Water Bath
A stealthier method to decarbing cannabis. This method is particularly helpful in preserving the terpenes and cannabinoids in the marijuana while also containing the spread of any strong odors that may emanate from heating the plant.
The cannabis is usually heated in a mason jar submerged in boiling water, preventing terpenes, cannabinoids, and odors from being evaporated into the air.
Decarboxylation can also be achieved with a hot oil bath using a slow cooker. This method is best catered for creating cannabis-infused oils or tinctures.
Using a slow cooker, dry cannabis is heated and mixed with cooking oil such as coconut oil or olive oil on a medium to high heat for an hour and then toned down to a lower heat for another two to three hours. Once cooked in the oil bath for long enough, the mixture is strained using filters. Cannabis oils may be also incorporated into cooking recipes if desired. A great way to store and decarb kief or cannabis for future usage.
One of the most expedient ways to decarboxylate cannabis is through vaporization. By far, inhalation has proven to be the easiest and fastest way to administer cannabinoids into the bloodstream.
That said, the experience can be highly customizable to the needs of the individual. Here is a list detailing the vaporization temperatures used and what to expect at each level:
320°F(160°C) to 350°F(176°C)
Light roast, the subdued level of effects provides a full range of terpenes. Usually easier to inhale and will give users the ability to experience the full flavor profile. Suitable for daytime use or micro-dosing.
350°F(176°C) to 390°F(199°C)
Medium roast, an excellent balance in both flavor profile and cannabinoid potency. A moderate level of effects leading to potential body high and euphoria without compromising much in the flavor profile. This temperature setting is great for casual use.
390°F(199°C) and Above
Fully roasted, a very intense level of psychoactive effects with less of an emphasis on flavor profile. The strong level of intoxication is excellent for those who are looking for heavy medication. This temperature setting is best suited for night time use.
Once your “bowl” is done, you’ll have an abundance of AVB (already vaped bud) that’s decarboxylated and ready to be used however you wish.
Final Thoughts on Decarboxylation
Decarboxylation comes in many ways and forms. Decarboxylation is by no means an easy process, but figuring out how to correctly harness the skill can make all the difference in your experience with cannabis- especially if you’re planning on making edibles or your own concentrates such as honey oil or tinctures.