Decarboxylating marijuana is a must-do if you want to enjoy the full benefits of the herb. Marijuana contains more than one hundred therapeutic cannabinoids, of which THC and CBD are the most studied. Before decarboxylation, these compounds are found in their inactive forms. They need to be activated, however, so they can produce the body effects that we expect them to.
What is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a scientific term that refers to the removal of a “carboxyl group” from the chemical structure of a compound. When this carboxyl group is removed, the compound loses its acidic nature.
THC and CBD are derived from the same parent compound, Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA gives rise to THCA and CBDA, which are the acidic forms of THC and CBD, respectively. THCA and CBDA, when decarboxylated, will produce the active cannabinoids that are responsible for making one high, hungry, sleepy, etc.
For decarboxylation to happen, the acidic compounds have to be subjected to heat at a certain temperature. The heat will break down the compounds and helps them release the carboxyl group. It is important to monitor the temperatures for decarboxylation as extremely high temperatures will cause some phytonutrients to evaporate.
Why is Decarboxylation Essential?
Some people wonder if they need to go through the hassle of decarboxylation, especially when they will be cooking their marijuana at the end of the day. Cooking marijuana will definitely heat up the inactive cannabinoids, but this is not all that there is to decarboxylation. For decarboxylation to happen effectively, the cannabinoids need to be exposed to heat at an ideal temperature and for a given duration of time. Ideal temperatures should not exceed 240 degrees Fahrenheit, and the duration varies depending on the method being used. Also, the heat needs to be spread out so that the cannabis is evenly decarboxylated. This means that heating up your raw cannabis for 5 minutes before cooking it will not do the trick.
Decarboxylation is essential to enhance cannabinoid potency. It is not that acidic cannabinoids don’t have any therapeutic use, but decarboxylation brings out the full effects of the cannabinoids.
Decarboxylation takes different forms, depending on preference and availability of equipment. It may also be argued that there is the best way to decarb your marijuana, but again, this depends on what you want to achieve. Here is a list of some basic methods and how they work, and this should help you pick the best way to decarb your marijuana.
This is the most basic form of decarboxylation, but some people will not even consider this as a decarb method. Curing involves trimming and laying out raw cannabis leaves and flowers in the sun to dry. Over time, the chemical composition of cannabis begins to transform.
This is not the most effective way to decarb marijuana as it may take a long time for the cannabis to be decarboxylated fully. Also, it is hard to tell when the cannabis is fully decarboxylated. Due to this, many people, even after curing their cannabis, still subject it to more effective ways of decarboxylation.
- Decarboxylation Using an Oven
After curing cannabis, you can put it in an oven to finish the decarb process. First, you need to break the buds by hand to allow the heat to spread evenly through the cannabis. Next, place the ground buds on the baking sheet. Set your oven to 240 degrees Fahrenheit and throw the loaded tray in the oven. Let the cannabis remain in the oven for 30-45 minutes. When done, the buds will appear medium brown, but not burnt. Terpenes begin to evaporate at 240 degrees Farenheit; decarbing at below this temperature helps to preserve terpenes. Afterward, you can grind the decarboxylated buds into fine particles to increase the surface area using a coffee grinder. Do not grind the cannabis into powder as this will be very difficult to work with.
When decarboxylating kief, heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Do the same for shatter as you watch for the bubbling to stop. Once done, cool the shatter in the fridge to make it solidify.
- Decarboxylation Using the Sous Vide Method
The sous vide method is among the best there is because it preserves terpenes as well as moisture. This method uses a device called the sous vide that helps to regulate temperature.
The cannabis flowers are broken by hand and placed in a zip lock back. Put water in a pan and place the sous vide device inside the water, then heat the water to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Insert your zip lock bag with the buds in the water and leave for about one and a half hours. The sous vide device helps to monitor the temperature so that the cannabis doesn’t get burned. This method also ensures that the cannabis is evenly decarboxylated and does not dry out.
4. Decarboxylation with Ardent Nova
Ardent Nova is a device that is specifically intended for decarboxylating cannabis. This is a very simple and precise method. You take your cannabis buds, break them into small pieces and place them in the Ardent Nova device. Turn the device on and leave for about two hours. When decarboxylation is complete, the machine will automatically switch off. This device emits minimal fumes, which is good if you want to be discreet.
What are the Benefits of Cannabinoid Acids?
Decarboxylation brings out the oomph of weed; this is when you get the psychoactive buzz. Aside from this, it is now emerging that undercarboxylated cannabis has therapeutic benefits as well. THCA and CBDA have been the focus of recent research, which has uncovered some unexpected properties of raw cannabis. As much as these acids do not interact with endocannabinoid receptors, they interact with the endocannabinoid system through other mechanisms. By so doing, they are able to influence the following processes:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cancer treatment
Clinical studies are yet to be done to investigate these therapeutic effects. For now, hopes are high regarding their use in suppressing inflammation and treating cancer. Given that cannabinoid acids do not have psychoactive effects, they could offer a suitable alternative treatment.
- NCBI 92016): Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/
- NCBI (2018): Cannabis Therapeutics and the Future of Neurology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6200872/
- NCBI (2018): Analysis of cannabinoids in commercial hemp seed oil and decarboxylation kinetics studies of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29182999