Ask Cheri

Decarboxylation and Cannabis Topicals – What you need to know! 

By Cheri Sicard
June 26, 2024

Dear Cheri,

Do you need to decarboxylate the cannabis first when making cannabis topicals?  Thank you!

When it comes to decarboxylation and cannabis topicals, you can decarb but it is not absolutely necessary.  To be honest, most of the time I don't.  (Side note, if you don't know what decarboxylation is and why you might need it, this post explains all include how to easily decarb your cannabis).

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Why don't I usually decarb before making topicals?  Two reasons:

#1 A fair amount of decarboxylation will be taking place in the process of infusing the carrier oil for whatever topical products you are making.  Unlike edibles, where people are usually trying to extract the maximum possible THC potency, this is not a factor with topicals as you won't be feeling any kind of high, but they will provide localized relief from pain, inflammation, and a host of other conditions.

#2 Both THC and THC-A, the acidic form of the cannabinoid that exists in the plant before decarboxylation, have medicinal properties.  The same goes for CBD and CBD-A.  I choose to not decarb when making topicals as some of th THC-A and/or CBD-A will add a broader spectrum of therapeutic benefits to my topicals.

So when dealing with cannabis topicals and decarboxylation, it's up to the topicals maker, but it's not necessary to take this extra step and, as I said, in this case you can potentially enhance effects by not doing so.

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About the author

Cheri Sicard is the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women, and The Easy Cannabis Cookbook.  Her online courses at have educated 1000s of students about marijuana, cannabis cooking for home cooks, and making infused topicals.

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