What is Decarboxylation and Why do my Edibles need it?
If you’ve ever eaten a nug of raw cannabis expecting to experience the plant’s psychoactive effects – only to feel a very minimal or no buzz at all then you’ve already discovered why decarboxylation is so important. The explanation behind this lackluster outcome is because the cannabis had not been properly decarboxylated or in other words – activated by heat.
Taken as a raw plant, cannabis is non-intoxicating and will not produce strong psychoactive effects.
In its natural state, the cannabis plant contains a cannabinoid called THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) which unlike THC will not get you high. As the plant dries THCA is slowly converted to THC naturally over a long period of time. Decarboxylation is essentially the act of speeding up this conversion process.
Doesn’t decarboxylation happen naturally during heated infusions?
To a certain degree, decarboxylation does take place when you are making heated infusions such as baking or cooking with your herb. Although decarboxylation will take place to a certain extent during your infusion, it is still highly recommended to go through the process to insure you are activating as much of your THC as possible and getting the most for your money. Decarboxylation is typically performed when working with edibles, tinctures, and oil.
When you apply heat to your cannabis either by vaporizing or smoking it you are in a way, performing immediate decarboxylation. The high temperatures used to heat your herb converts the THCA to THC for inhalation.
What does the word decarboxylation even mean?
THCA is identical in molecular structure to THC except for a carboxyl ring that is not present in THC. The presence of this extra carboxyl ring found in THCA prevents the binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body’s brain and nervous system resulting in diminished bioavailability of the plants most beneficial properties.
THC is not the only cannabinoid that has an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to its chain. Every cannabinoid found within the plant has this extra ring meaning decarboxylation works to activate cannabinoids other than just THC.
To get technical, decarboxylation is the loss of carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by heating the cannabis plant. The decarboxylation process removes this extra chain from the THCA molecule when it is heated by releasing water and CO2 thereby converting it to THC.
How to Decarboxylate Cannabis
There is a mixed consensus within the cannabis community on best practices for decarboxylation due in large part to lack of credible research combined with notoriously inconsistent lab results within the cannabis industry. The method I share with you today is based on my own in-depth research mixed with personal trial and error.
- Parchment Paper
- Finely ground cannabis
- Baking Sheet
Start by preheating your oven to 250 degrees F. The unique flavors you find in your cannabis plant come from natural oils called terpenes. It is important to decarboxylate your herb at a lower temperature to preserve the integrity of the cannabinoids and terpenes which can become compromised at temperatures that exceed 300 degrees F.
Take your finely ground cannabis and spread it evenly over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place your cannabis in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. (Tip: If you are decarbing kief it will only require about half the time).
After 30 minutes your cannabis should appear to be very dry and slightly browned. When your Cannabis appears to be slightly browned remove it from the oven and allow it to cool down and you’re all set to start on your infusions!
It is important to note that during the process of decarboxylation there will be a particular herbal aroma coming from your cannabis in the oven. So if you have roommates who may not enjoy the aroma, it may be a good idea to open some windows, turn up the fan, and perhaps burn some incense to get rid of the smell faster.