Perhaps you didn’t know this, but there is a chemical process that allows both the cannabis plant and its buds to transform their cannabinoids from acidic to activated, i.e. going from THCA to THC and from CBDA to CBD. This process is known as decarboxylation and brings about different effects in cannabinoids, which will ultimately provide the basis for medical formulations. For instance, THCA is not psychoactive, while THC—resulting from decarboxylation—is deemed as the main psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant.
What Kind of Reaction is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a fundamental metabolic process that occurs during molecule oxidation. It consists in removing what is known as a carboxyl group from THCA and CBDA, which activates the psychoactive effect of cannabis.
How to Decarb Cannabis
For this proceeding, two factors must be considered: time and temperature. In order to turn the acidic forms of cannabinoids into THC and CBD, these compounds must be exposed to heat at a certain temperature, like the one obtained when smoking or vaping. A low temperature causes less terpenes and cannabinoids to evaporate, maintaining their properties. When heat exposure is prolonged, the surrounding air will help THCA convert to CBNA (or cannabinolic acid), and then into CBN—a compound that produces an effect of sleepiness. The suggested temperature to appropriately decarb cannabis is between 106 and 120°C over 30 to 60 minutes.
If the administration form consists in smoking or vaping, decarboxylation occurs as a result from the high temperature obtained from combustion. The temperature must not be lower than 157°C when vaping. When it comes to oral forms of administration, decarboxylation occurs spontaneously during cooking when preparing cannabis edibles in a stove or using any method involving fire.
Why Do I Need to Decarb Cannabis?
Medical cannabis preparations require decarboxylated cannabinoids, which is why flower or the resin obtained from extraction must undergo this process prior to consumption. In this way, THCA and CBDA turn into THC and CBD.
Where and How to Decarb
You can use a baking tray if you wish to prepare a significant amount or just a heat-resistant capped glass jar. Spread buds evenly on the tray, cover them with aluminium foil and place the tray in a pre-heated stove. Electric or gas stoves will do, but you must watch closely the temperature and the time of exposure. If you have a pure extract, or macerated or diluted oil in a closed bottle, you can resort to the so-called “double boiling” method along with a bath thermometer to check the temperature of water.