Without decarboxylation, marijuana does not have any of the properties which are regularly attributed to it…
The CBD inside will have no beneficial medical effects. Nor will the THC – and ingesting this latter will not result in any kind of psychoactive effect.
This means the marijuana decarboxylation process is important to understand if you want to get anything out of the cannabis plant.
Here is everything you need to know about the decarboxylation weed process:
What is marijuana decarboxylation?
Marijuana decarboxylation is a process of heating cannabis to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time in order to activate the cannabinoids in the plant.
Cannabinoids are a type of chemical compound found inside the cannabis plant. There are currently thought to be over 113 of them.
The two most famous “active ingredients” in cannabis are:
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) – this is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
CBD (Cannabidiol) – this cannabinoid has some beneficial medical properties. For example, a certain type of CBD oil was recently approved by the FDA as a treatment for two forms of epilepsy.
Some research is current underway to find out whether un-decarboxylated marijuana might have some kind of medical benefits.
But, in general, decarboxylation of marijuana is a vital part of the process if you want to get almost any effect – medical or otherwise – from ingesting the cannabis plant.
The raw marijuana plant, cannabis concentrates, cannabis vape oil – whatever format you take your cannabis in – without decarboxylation, weed won’t do much for you.
How does decarboxylation of marijuana work?
Decarboxylation changes the molecular structure of cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids in the trichomes of cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl group in their chain. The decarboxylation process does away with that extra group.
Here are a couple of examples:
THCA to THC
THCA is the cannabinoid which tends to have one of the highest concentrations in the raw cannabis plant. THCA, however, has no psychoactive effect. It’s only after decarboxylation that the THCA becomes THC and will produce the psychoactive effect when taken.
CBDA to CBD
CBDA also needs to be decarboxylated to become CBD in order to have any real effect. In fact, today’s medical research into what else CBD might be able to do (in addition to the epilepsy treatments already found) would not have happened if it remained as CBDA.
CBD isn’t psychoactive active whether it’s decarboxylated or not. But it’s only after it loses its extra carboxyl group that it starts to have noticeable medical benefits in the pain relief, anxiety and sleep disorder fields.
What does decarboxylation do?
Without decarboxylation, marijuana and its active ingredients – notably THC and CBD – will not be active. Decarboxylation affects all cannabinoids. For some, such as CBC, there isn’t much of an effect. But research has shown that while the two arguably most important cannabinoids – THC and CBD – are present in the raw plant, it’s only after being decarboxylated that their concentrations rise.
How to decarboxylate weed
It follows then that figuring out how to decarboxylate weed has been a major concern for most people who use it since the process was first understood. Luckily, the basic process isn’t that complicated.
However, there a range of methods which are available. Which will be best for you will vary depending on your experience and the equipment you have available:
Decarbing cannabis works best with heat. Which is best will depend on:
- The cannabinoid you want to decarb (CBD requires more heat and time than THC, for instance)
- The type and quality of cannabis plant you have
- The type of heat source you are using
Some experimentation or research is generally called for in order to figure out the correct time and temperature for heat to work.
2) Smoking and vaporising
As far as heating marijuana to decarboxylate it goes, smoking or vaping are the easiest methods available. They might not be as scientifically precise as other methods – and smoking, in particular, has its own risks to consider – but it gets the job done as far as decarboxylation is concerned. You also have a built-in way of taking it.
Using an oven makes applying the precise temperature and duration of the heat you need relatively simple. The necessary measurements will change depending on the type of cannabis you have – raw plant, hash oil, kief or shatter, for instance – however. The usual method of taking weed decarboxylated in this way is by using it in edibles.
Temperatures over 300 degrees Fahrenheit are enough to start destroying the cannabinoids and terpenes present in marijuana. However, some people do resort to using a microwave to decarb cannabis when no other methods are available. It only takes a matter of minutes to decarb any material treated in this fashion.
5) Sous Vide
The other end of the spectrum from the microwave is the very precise and scientific sous-vide method. This involves a sealed bag of cannabis floating in a pot of heat-controlled water, meaning that there is no danger of “over-cooking” the cannabinoids or drying out the cannabis.
You do need a few items to make this method work, however:
- A sous-vide device (you can use a thermometer, but it is much more difficult)
- Heat-safe zipper bags or a vacuum sealing machine
- A grinder
- A pot of full of water
6) Professional decarboxylation machines
Some companies have specialist machinery which decarboxylates marijuana. These huge ovens aren’t suitable for the home. But there are smaller devices available which are also suitable for personal use.
Another easy-to-do but non-scientific method of decarboxylating cannabis is to cure it. To cure weed, you simply trim the leaves and flowers and leave them out to dry. The cannabinoids inside will slowly change as they dry out and get older. This is far from the most effective method. But there is a chance it will result in a kind of accidental decarboxylation.
Decarboxylating your weed
If you use cannabis for any purpose – recreational or medical, raw or in the form of different cannabis concentrates. You need to decarboxylate it if you want it to have any effect.
But whichever of the methods above you choose to decarb your weed, make sure you select the one which you feel is safest and most appropriate for you.