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Decarboxylate Cannabis
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Why And How To Decarboxylate Your Cannabis

3 min
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Decarboxylation is required to activate cannabis before cooking and extraction. This process involves heating weed until it chemically changes cannabinoids from their precursor form to their active form. Without this process, your edibles won't be effective.

It may come as a surprise to many cannabis users that the raw cannabis plants contains little to no psychoactive substances. If you were to eat a handful of raw cannabis flowers or put them through a juicer, you wouldn’t feel any noticeable high. This is because cannabinoids in raw cannabis exist in their acid form, meaning the molecule has an extra carboxyl group. So, instead of churning out tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), the trichomes instead produce tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).

Cannabinoid acids have been shown to have some medicinal benefits of their own, but to become their better known active forms, including THC and CBD, they must go through a process called decarboxylation.

WHAT IS DECARBOXYLATION?

Decarboxylation Joint

Decarboxylation, or decarbing, refers to the process of exposing cannabis to heat, such as when flowers are vaporized or smoked. During the process of lighting and smoking a joint, the plant material inside is exposed to temperatures hot enough to release the carboxyl group from cannabinoid acids such as THCA and CBDA. During this process, THCA becomes the psychotropic cannabinoid THC and is able to interface with endocannabinoid receptors with ease. CBDA, on the other hand, becomes the well-respected and researched medicinal cannabinoid CBD.

Decarboxylation THCA & THC

WHY DOES CANNABIS NEED TO BE DECARBED?

WHY DOES CANNABIS NEED TO BE DECARBED?

During smoking and vaping, decarboxylation happens automatically. However, if you are looking to cook with cannabis or make a variety of extracts such as oils and tinctures, you need to be sure to decarb your plant material first to end up with an “active” final product. It’s true that some cannabinoid acids have unique and powerful benefits, and implementing raw cannabis in the form of juice is on the rise, but decarbed cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are much more well-researched and have more applications. Plus, if you are planning on using cannabis to experience a high, your bud must be decarbed in order to create adequate levels of THC.

HOW TO DECARB YOUR WEED AT HOME

HOW TO DECARB YOUR WEED AT HOME

Decarbing your weed requires exposing it to rather hot temperatures for specific periods of time. For example, to ensure THCA converts into THC, you’ll need to expose your cannabis flowers to temperatures of around 105–116°C for 30–45 minutes. Some publications suggest temperatures as high as 120°C, but this is usually considered the ceiling. It’s important not to decarb your weed much longer than this (or at higher temperatures) in order to preserve the aromatic terpenes that give cannabis its flavour. Both cannabinoids and terpenes will start to degrade at temperatures above 150°C, so temperatures around 105°C will ensure preserved taste and potency.

These temperatures can be reached using various different methods, and largely depend on what you favour or have access to. Below are three different tried and tested methods of decarbing weed.

METHOD 1 - DECARB USING YOUR OVEN

DECARB USING YOUR OVEN

Most people have an oven installed in their kitchen, making this method one of the most practical. By the end of it, your stash will be fully psychoactive and ready to cook with or make extracts.

  1. To begin, preheat your oven to around 105°C (the exact figure will depend on your oven). Whilst waiting for the oven to warm up, take your plant matter and break it up into smaller pieces with your hands or use scissors to form small chunks.
  2. Next, place a sheet of baking paper over a baking tray and spread your weed out evenly over it. Place it into the oven for 30–45 minutes.
  3. After time passed, remove your weed from the oven. It should appear golden brown in colour and should be crumbly to the touch. Once cooled, use a grinder or food processor to turn your THC-rich weed into a coarse grain ready for cooking or extraction.

METHOD 2 - DECARB YOUR WEED IN THE MICROWAVE

DECARB YOUR WEED IN THE MICROWAVE

Using a microwave oven is a quick and easy way to decarb your cannabis, but it may come at a price. Some users state that microwaves cause degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes. However, even if this is the case, the smell at the end of decarbing will be enough to convince you that a lot of these desired chemicals still remain. On the up side, this method is much faster than others, and also minimises the chances of burning your stash.

  1. To decarb in the microwave, begin by breaking up your cannabis into small chunks using your hands, scissors, or a grinder.
  2. Spread the processed buds across a plate that is suitably sized for your microwave. Close the door and set the timer for 2–3 minutes. Feel free to flip the buds about half-way through.
  3. Decarbing in the microwave is as simple as that. Your cannabis is ready for both cooking and extraction.

METHOD 3 - THE SOUS VIDE METHOD DECARBS WEED EVENLY

THE SOUS VIDE METHOD DECARBS WEED EVENLY

The sous vide method involves vacuum-sealing your cannabis in plastic bags and placing them within a cooking pot filled with water. It’s known to evenly and thoroughly decarb cannabis and protect it from becoming burnt in the process. For this method, you will need a vacuum sealing machine, weed grinder, sous vide precision cooker, and a cooking pot.

  1. To begin the process, grind your weed up to a coarse grain, but not a fine powder.
  2. Next, seal your ground flowers in a heat-safe plastic bag using your vacuum sealer.
  3.  Fill the pot with water and place the sous vide precision cooker within the pot, setting the temperature at 95°C.
  4. Once the water has reached the desired temperature, add the sealed bag of weed into the pot for 1 hour.
  5. From here, all you must do is carefully remove your bag from the pot, then remove your buds from the bag!

Luke Sumpter

Written by: Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter is a journalist based in the United Kingdom, specialising in health, alternative medicine, herbs and psychedelic healing. He has written for outlets such as Reset.me, Medical Daily and The Mind Unleashed, covering these and other areas.

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