Decarboxylation - what you need to know about cannabis and decarboxylation

Don't worry. We won't transport you back to school or force-feed you a lecture from your chemistry degree. Although the word decarboxylation seems to be highly complex, very complicated and only understandable with a master's degree in quantum physics, we can reassure you: it's actually not that complicated. On the contrary, decarboxylation is relatively simple in practice and very important at the same time. After all, if you consume cannabis, you should have at least heard this term before. Now, what exactly is decarboxylation and why should you know it? We will give you answers to these questions in our article.

What is decarboxylation?

The process of decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that takes place when a molecule is heated. Here, a carbon molecule is split off from the molecule. Decarboxylation takes place, for example, in our own body during glycolysis (breakdown of simple sugars). All well and good, but how does this information help me now? Not much yet, but now comes the context: Decarboxylation should also be applied before using cannabis flowers.

What does decarboxylation have to do with cannabis?

Imagine buying cannabis flowers and eating them. This might be a chill movie snack for you, but you probably won't get the desired effect. This is because the active ingredients of the cannabis plant, CBD and THC, are not yet called CBD and THC. Without processing, only the acids CBDA and THCA are found in the cannabis plant. At this stage, we are still far from the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD and the psychoactive property in THC. To reach this stage, decarboxylation is needed. Here, the cannabis flowers are heated and the acids CBDA and THCA are converted into the active ingredients CBD and THC, respectively.

If I want to smoke cannabis, do I need to decarboxylate before I do so?

The convenient thing about smoking cannabis is that by heating it, you automatically convert the CBDA into CBD. This means the following: No, you don't need to decarboxylate your cannabis flowers before smoking. For centuries, cannabis has been smoked and not eaten for this very reason.

When do you need to decarboxylate your cannabis?

If you don't have to decarboxylate your cannabis before smoking it, when will you? The hemp plant is characterized by its versatility - in the active ingredients, but also in the processing. One way you can use your cannabis is to cook with cannabis. For example, you can bake very well with hemp or even make cannabis butter from it. Here it is a good idea to pre-treat your cannabis in the form of decarboxylation, so that it spreads its effect in the food. 

Many people create their own CBD oil or cannabis tinctures at home with their cannabis. In order to also notice the effect of CBD in these products, one must decarboxylate.

Decarboxylation at home - how to do it?

We promised you at the beginning that it would not be too chemical and complicated. We keep that promise. You don't need a centrifuge or a chemistry lab in a trailer in Albuquerque (sorry, Breaking Bad fans). You just need a regular kitchen, really. But before that, let's get to a few things you should know.

For successful decarboxylation, you'll need to heat your hemp for a period of time. You should make sure that the temperature is not too high. Too high means that the temperature should not exceed 120 degrees Celsius. Also, your cannabis should not be exposed to the high temperatures for more than 45 minutes. The reasons are that too high temperatures or too long drying, the terpenes in the cannabis disappear. The terpenes in cannabis are responsible for giving your cannabis its distinctive taste and smell. When they break down, your cannabis no longer tastes good.

In the next points, we'll show you the best way to process your cannabis flowers at home.

Decarboxylation by water bath

A warm bath is a great way for people to relax. The cannabis flowers relax in their own way in warm water. For decarboxylation in a water bath, you first need to crush the cannabis flowers and put them in a waterproof screw-top jar (jam jar, honey jar, etc.). After that, you put this jar in a pot of boiling water. The jar must then chill in the hot water for about an hour. If you want to decarboxylate professionally, you can also use waterproof plastic bags that you vacuum seal before the water bath. When the hour is up, you simply take out the jar or bag and enjoy your blossoms.

The advantage of a water bath is that you treat the cannabis evenly and the flowers don't burn. The fact that flowers burn can happen in the next procedure.

Decarboxylation with the oven

If you don't want to put your cannabis flowers in a "whirlpool" but in the "sauna", the oven is exactly your contact for that. To do this, you first need to preheat your oven to 105-110 degrees Celsius. 

In the time when the oven is preheating, you can use the minutes gained by crushing your cannabis flowers with a knife or a grinder and placing them on a baking sheet with baking paper. Once the oven is hot and the cannabis is reduced in size, the plants will go into the oven for around 30 to 45 minutes. 

During this time, you should watch the flowers a bit and, on occasion, give them a quick stir. If they are brown and a little crumbly after 30 to 45 minutes, you can take them out of the oven. The CBD-containing buds are thus finished and ready to be used.

What distinguishes the two processes from each other? Staying in the oven too long can cause the cannabis plants to burn. Along with the buds, all important and enjoyable additives become unusable here. Furthermore, the long baking in the oven can cause a very strong cannabis smell in your apartment or house.

As an alternative to an oven, a microwave can also be used for decarboxylation. With this method, you don't need to fry the plant parts for 45 minutes, two to three minutes are enough here.

Decarboxylation with the oven

Decarboxylation: long and low or short and hot?

So there are various procedures for arriving at your result. Which method or which approach is the best at all now? Basically, it makes more sense to decarboxylate at lower temperatures, but for a longer time. The lower temperatures are more gentle for the cannabis plant and the healthy and important ingredients are preserved to a greater extent. At high temperatures there is a risk that the terpenes decompose and thus not only the ingredients disappear, but also the taste.