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What is decarboxylation?

Cannabis Decarboxylation

Did you know that raw cannabis is non-psychoactive?

Cannabis only becomes psychoactive when two things happen. First, when the plant material or flowers/buds, dries and ages. Second, when the cannabis is heated. More psychoactive compounds are created by heating the plant than via ageing. In order to fully activate the Cannabinoids and maximise the potential of Cannabis, you must first go through a process called decarboxylation.

The word “decarboxylation” may seem intimidating at first glance, but in reality, the process by which you eliminate a carboxylic acid group from an organic compound is one that many Cannabis users undertake on a daily basis. In fact, every time you smoke a joint, bong or hit the button on your vaporizer, you’re effectively decarboxylating cannabis. It’s the critical step to unearthing the psychoactive effects within cannabis, and without it, there are no cannabinoid acids being produced, and thus, no high.

All cannabinoids contained within the trichomes of raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain. For example, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is synthesized in prevalence within the trichome heads of freshly harvested cannabis flowers. In most regulated markets, cannabis distributed in dispensaries contains labels detailing the product’s cannabinoid contents. THCA, in many cases, prevails as the highest cannabinoid present in items that have not been decarboxylated (e.g., cannabis flowers and concentrates).

If you want a high, you need to decarb first. However, there are some benefits to leaving your cannabis raw. Keep in mind that “raw” does not mean dried and cured. When you dry and cure your cannabis, a little decarboxylation happens as the herb ages.

Raw, uncured cannabis has a variety of health benefits. Cannabinoid acids are potent anti-inflammatories. The herb is also packed full of vitamins and nutrients found in other healthy greens.

To use the Cannabis raw, you’ll need to use freshly picked buds or fan leaves. You can also store raw cannabis in the refrigerator for a day or two like you would any other leafy green herb. Though, be mindful of mould and wilting. Densely packed cannabis flowers can become moldy quite quickly when they’re exposed to moisture. You really want to use them as quickly as possible. They also begin to lose potency and denature the longer they sit.

Many medical cannabis patients have success by simply drinking raw cannabis juices or smoothies.

THCA has a number of known benefits when consumed, including having anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective qualities. But THCA is not intoxicating, and must be converted into THC through decarboxylation before any effects can be felt.

Cannabis begins to decarboxylate at around 105 degrees Celcius. For the optimal oven method, you should preheat to 105–118 degrees, and bake the ground-up flower for about 30-45 minutes, depending on your preferences and the cannabis being utilized. It’s recommended that you grind up your cannabis finely before spreading it evenly upon a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Kief can also be decarboxylated with the oven method, but in half the time that it would take flower.

The THCA in cannabis begins to decarboxylate at approximately 105 degrees Celcius after around 30-45 minutes of exposure. Full decarboxylation may require more time to occur. Many people choose to decarboxylate their cannabis at slightly lower temperatures for a much longer period of time in attempts to preserve terpenes. Many mono and sesquiterpenes are volatile and will evaporate at higher temperatures, leaving potentially undesirable flavors and aromas behind. The integrity of both cannabinoids and terpenoids are compromised by using temperatures that exceed 148 degrees C, which is why temperatures in the low 100’s are recommended.

Heat and time can also cause other forms of cannabinoid degradation to occur. For example, CBN (cannabinol) is formed through the degradation and oxidization of THC, a process that can occur alongside decarboxylation. CBN accounts for a much more sedative and less directly psychoactive experience.

It’s important to note that a household oven doesn’t always match the exact temperature that it’s dialed to, thus it’s essential to constantly check the temperature and the oven itself throughout the process. Once your decarboxylated cannabis is dry and brown in colour, let it cool down and pulse it within a food grinder. From here, you can start thinking about binding your decarboxylated cannabis with the fats in certain oils or alcohol.

Take time to learn the temperature of your oven and see the decarboxylation study below to assist you in making up your mind on what you want to achieve.

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