Decarboxylation is an essential process in activating the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. If you ever tried to down a baggy of raw cannabis, it would probably produce little to no effect at all.
No matter how you choose to consume your cannabis, we must first decarboxylate our weed in order for us to experience the psychoactive effects.
That said, most of the decarboxylation occurs during combustion while smoking or vaporizing cannabis or when weed is heated up when cooked.
It’s important to understand how decarboxylation works, so if you want to find out how you can get the most out of your weed, keep reading.
What is Decarboxylation?
Cannabis in its raw form only carries trace amounts of THC, the active compound responsible for the cannabis high. That said, cannabis carries a large amount of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), the inactive non psychoactive cannabinoid which is readily available to be converted to THC through decarboxylation. The same can be said about Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and CBD.
Decarboxylation is the chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl or acid group from the inactive compounds in cannabis and activates key cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. The removal of this carboxyl group enhances the cannabinoids ability to interact with the receptors in our endocannabinoid system. There are two factors in which decarboxylation is dependent on – time and temperature.
The decarboxylation of the acidic cannabinoids can occur naturally through prolonged exposure to air and light, but is immediately sped up through the acute exposure to heat. By far, exposure to heat is the most expedient method of cannabis decarboxylation.
Prolonged exposure to heat or the use of extremely high temperatures may burn off or damage several terpenes and cannabinoids, taking away certain aspects of your weed, which is why it’s important to know how to properly store it.
What Causes Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation can occur naturally through exposure to light, heat, and air. The aging and oxidation of cannabis plant material also promotes the conversion of THCA to Cannabinol (CBN).
As a result of aging, cannabis possessing high levels of CBN tend to produce more mild psychoactive effects with stronger sedative qualities. That said, the anti-inflammatory effects of aged cannabis coupled with the strong sedative qualities can provide an effective solution for those who suffer from chronic pain and sleep disorders.
Methods to Decarboxylate Your Weed
There are a variety of ways to initiate the decarboxylation process. Much like smoking cannabis, choosing to decarboxylate cannabis at high temperatures will damage terpenes and cannabinoids within the plant, taking away from its flavor profile.
That said, you’ll want to keep the temperature in check as the mono and sesquiterpenes in weed are usually unstable and will dissipate at a decarboxylation temperature exceeding 300°F(148°C). Here are a few ways you could go about decarbing cannabis flowers decarbing kief.
One of the most common methods of cannabis decarboxylation is through the use of an oven. Cannabis can be baked over a sheet of parchment paper at a temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit or 105 degrees Celsius.
Be sure to break your cannabis into small pieces, creating a thin layer over the parchment paper to ensure the heat exposure is consistent throughout.
This process usually takes around 30-45 minutes. If you’re in a rush you can expedite the process by increasing the temperature, however, this comes at the cost of terpenes and cannabinoids, reduce the flavor and possibly the strength of your weed. Decarbed cannabis can be incorporated in almost any edible recipe.
If you’re not big on including baked weed in your recipes, try opting for a cannabis infused oil instead.
Aside from baking cannabis, many opt to decarb their cannabis in a water bath using a mason jar. This method preserves the terpenes and cannabinoids in your bud by preventing them from being evaporated into the air.
It also eliminates the strong smell that marijuana can leave behind, especially important if stealth is a requirement. Rather than decarboxylating your cannabis on a baking sheet, heating your cannabis in water using a mason jar will prevent any evaporated cannabinoids and terpenes from escaping.
Fun fact – a water bath is also the process behind creating bubble hash!
Decarboxylation can also be achieved using a slow cooker with oils such as coconut oil or olive oil. This method is best suited for those who are looking to create cannabis-infused oils.
Using a slow cooker, dry cannabis is heated and mixed with cooking oil on a medium to high heat for an hour and then set to cook at a lower heat for the remaining two or three hours. The mixture is strained once the cooking has been completed. The exact mixture can vary depending on the strength desired.
Of course, the most common way to decarboxylate cannabis is through combustion. The easiest way to get cannabinoids in your system is by smoking a joint or vaporizing your weed.
If you’re using a vaporizer, you’ll want to keep tabs on the temperature and operate within a range of 320 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Here is a simple guide on what to expect at each temperature level:
- 320°F(160°C)-350°F(176°C): Lightly toasted, best for experiencing the full flavor profile of the bud and a subtle high. The lower temperature will create a cooler vapor, resulting in less coughing and discomfort. Suitable for daytime use when you still need to get things done.
- 350°F(176°C) – 390°F(199°C): Medium roast, great balance of both flavor and potency. Bodily effects will be more evident at this level without compromising many terpenes. Generous flavor profile with ample psychotropic effects. Great for relaxation, euphoria, and meditation.
- 390°F(199°C)+: Fully baked, very strong level of medication with a subdued flavor profile. Great for heavy medication, inducing feelings of strong euphoria and lethargy. Best suited for nighttime use when most of the important tasks are done for the day.
Final Thoughts on Decarboxylation
With a library of knowledge at your disposal, why not experiment with the several ways you could go about consuming your cannabis.
Whether it’s your goal to vaporize your weed more efficiently or to make some dank brownies, we hope this article has helped you expand your knowledge in the world of weed. As always, have fun exploring your options, but make sure to take heed as responsible consumption is always the way to go. Enjoy!