Marijuana Decarboxylation: What It Is, Why You Need It, How To Do It

28
Marijuana Decarboxylation: What It Is, Why You Need It, How To Do It

Pin this image

Decarboxylation. DO NOT let the long scientific name intimidate you and scare you off from reading this article. If you use cannabis and ESPECIALLY if you cook with cannabis, this tutorial on marijuana decarboxylation is vital information you need to know in order get the most out of your cannabis.

Don’t worry, I am going to break everything down in layman’s terms to make it easy to understand and to do.

What is marijuana decarboxylation?

Scientifically speaking, Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2).

So why the heck should cannabis users care about this? Because if you want to feel a buzz from your cannabis, you need it to be decarboxylated. Why? Because believe it or not, the raw cannabis plantcontains no THC!

Raw cannabis contains the acidic form of this cannabinoid, THC-A or Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid, which will not make you high. It takes the process of age and/or adding heat to decarboxylate the cannabis and convert the THC-A into psychoactive THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol.

All the cannabinoids contained in raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain, so decarboxylation works with more than just THC, although this is where its effects will most be felt by the end cannabis consumer as the other cannabinoids don’t make you high.

What causes decarboxylation?

Time and heat are the two main catalysts that cause decarboxylation, but mostly heat. It’s true that over time, some decarboxylation will occur, but not a lot. This is why some raw flowers will lab test positive for some THC, although THC-A will be far more prevalent.

Of course when you smoke or vape marijuana, decarboxylation naturally occurs due to the heat of the flame or heating element. But according to expert Shanel Lindsay, inventor of the Ardent Decarboxylater, smoking or vaping flowers that have been decarboxylized first will up your high’s potency! I know most people don’t do this, but it’s something to consider.

You might also come across the term “activate” the cannabis, which also means to decarboxylate it.

Why do you need decarboxylation?

Besides the fact that you need decarboxylation if you want to get high from your cannabis, it also unlocks the full medicinal potential of other cannabinoids, such as CBDs, CBNs, and CBGs. Now to be sure, the acidic form of all these cannabinoids also have important medicinal benefits, so if a high is not important to you, full decarboxylation may not be either.

So what do I mean when I say “full decarboxylation?” This would mean you are converting 100% of the THC-A in your plant material into THC. This is nearly impossible for reasons I’ll discuss in the next section, but know that usually some is left unconverted.

Does it matter? To a degree yes, but in my opinion not as much as a lot of people think it does. I say this because unless you are ultra sensitive to THC you probably are not going to notice a few points difference. And the THC-A left unconverted is imparting health benefits, so it’s not a big loss.

I also say this because, long before lab tests showed that decarbing before making slow cooking infusions like butter and oil increases potency, we still made some potent AF infusions. Many people still do not bother to decarb before making these infusions and still get great results.

That said, most people do want to get as much potency as possible from their cannabis, so they are going to want to convert as much THC-A into THC as possible, which means they are going to want to know how to decarboxylate their marijuana. And not just flowers – kief, hash, and hash oils all benefit from decarboxylation as well.

What types of marijuana need to be decarboxylated?

Marijuana in most of its forms will benefit from decarbing.  Of course flowers/buds and trim, but also kief, and hash.  Most hash oils have not been decarbed either, so if you cook with these, know that you will want to decarb first.

How to decarboxylate marijuana

Marijuana before and after decarboxlation

After decarboxylation (left); before decarbing (right)

Consult 10 difference sources and you’ll find 10 different methods for how to decarboxylate your marijuana. I tried to get some testing labs and scientists to go on record with the best times and temperatures for decarbing and could not get a straight answer out of any of them. Perhaps this is because, like so many things with cannabis, there is no one simple answer. For instance, the amount of moisture in your plants can significantly affect the time needed to decarb, with more time needed for drying, and then decarbing. Or that decarbing CBD-A takes more time than decarbing THC-A.

After researching lots of methods, especially those that have been lab tested, my own views on decarbing have evolved. While I used to recommend about 20 minutes at 220 degrees F, I know see that a much longer decarb time can achieve far greater THC conversion. So I now recommend about an hour at 240 degrees F. thanks to the fine folks at the Marijuana Growers Headquarters who did some experiments and lab testing.

Place your cannabis or cannabis concentrate in an ovenproof dish, or on a baking sheet if you are decarbing a lot of plant material. Cover with foil and place in a preheated 240 degree oven for about an hour. Your cannabis is now decarbed and ready for cooking. You will notice that it appears and smells a bit “toasty.” You may also notice that you lost a little volume. This is normal. The photo above show the same strain and amount of cannabis after (left) and before (right) decarboxylating.

Decarboxylating CBD

How to Decarboxylate CBD

Interestingly enough, the experiments done by the Marijuana Growers Headquarters did not convert much of the CBD-A to CBD. Probably because as a general rule CBD needs longer to decarboxylate. I will make the disclaimer that I have not lab tested this, but I typically decarb my high CBD strains for 2 hours at 220 degrees F.  I hope to be able to get some testing done next time I get good strain, as it’s impossible to tell with CBD without the lab tests.

Is it always necessary to decarboxylate even if you will be cooking with the cannabis anyway?

For maximum potency, it is preferable, yes. If you are just stirring kief or hash oil into a brownie batter or other such cooking tasks you will DEFINITELY want to decarb first to get more potency. But lab tests show that even when making long, slow cooking infusions like marijuana butter and cannabis oil, decarbing first can help you achieve more potency.  For more on this, see this page.

The importance of marijuana decarboxylation when calculating cannabis edibles dosages

For those who have taken my free online Edibles Dosing Class and use my edibles dosage calculator tool, proper marijuana decarboxylation is important in order to get accurate dosing estimates. If you fail to convert a majority of the THC-A to THC your dosing estimates will be high and you may be disappointed in the potency of your finished product. Generally speaking I usually estimate a few points less than the calculator says in order to make up for some THC-A that may remain unconverted.Precise dosing for Marijuana Edibles

What can go wrong when decarboxylating?

Ovens are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to temperature, and they can have hot and cold spots. Use an oven thermometer and check the temperature before decarbing. Make sure it really is 240 degrees, no matter what temperature you set the dial to. My friend’s oven was a whopping 100 degrees off so do not skip this important step. Too little heat and you won’t activate enough of the THC, too much heat and you can kill it.

As we have also discussed, a lot of moisture in your cannabis can make it take longer to decarb. If you are working with fresh, wet cannabis, try adding another half hour or so to your decarb time.  Same if you are decarbing a high CBD strain.

Sometimes decarbed kief can come out powdery and easy to incorporate into recipes, other times and other strains can come out downright gummy. This page can help you deal with the various consistencies of decarboxylated kief.

Dry Ice Kief after decarboxylation

Dry ice kief after decarboxylation

How to Achieve Perfect 100% Decarboxylation Every Time

Ardent Decarboxylator, Ardent Nova

Decarboxylation can be tricky as there is no agreed upon optimal time and temperature, the issues we talked about above, and the fact that without lab testing, you will never really know how much THC-A you are leaving unconverted.

While it is difficult to achieve 100% decarboxylation with home ovens, know there is a handy gadget on the market that promises to do just that. About the size of a portable coffee grinder, The Ardent Decarboxylator does the job easily and neatly with zero guesswork. Put your cannabis flowers, kief, hash or has oil in, place on the lid and in a little less than 2 hours your cannabis will be perfectly, 100% decarbed.

If you make a batch of brownies once a year, you can probably live without this gadget, but if you are serious about your edibles and achieving maximum potency, then the Ardent Decarboxylartor is a great tool to add to your kitchen arsenal. No more stressing and guessing over decarbing, you will KNOW it’s done right.

SPECIAL GET $30 OFF THE ARDENT DECARBOXYLATOR!!!!

A reader asked me if I had a coupon code for the Ardent Decarboxylator.  I didn’t at the time, but I wrote to the folks at Ardent and asked and they said sure!  So enter the code CANNACHERI at checkout and receive $30.00 off the price of this great gadget.

Ardent Decarboxylator Dscount

Pin this image

What happens if you don’t decarboxylate your cannabis?

You still get medicinal benefits but you won’t get high, or at least you won’t get as high, depending on how much of your cannabis was decarbed through age or the heat of cooking.

Remember, THC-A still has important medicinal qualities including being a neuroprotectant and anti-inflammatory agent.

Share.

28 Comments

  1. that gadget looks kinda cool. I only have a convection / toaster oven with no heat control, so my method involves a ceramic plate, some tin foil (to keep the weed from being blown around by the convection fan), an oven thermometer, and me standing there for an hour, turning the oven on and off as the temp would slowly fluctuate. Worked well.

        • You can but it is not necessary. According to Shanel Lindsey, inventor of the Ardent Decarboxylator, you will get better potency if you decarb before smoking, however, in my personal experience, I don’t feel any difference and I have tried it a number of times, so I don’t usually decarb before smoking.

  2. I need to extract a 5:2 ratio CBD& THC into coconut or olive oil for medicine. Would you recommend the 2 hour decarb and then the 2 hour bake in the oil (4 hours total) or is the 2 hour bake in the oil also the decarb? I want to get the most out of the herb but I’m really scared to overdo it and render it useless because it costs me a fortune and I need my medicine! There’s not a lot out there about cooking CBD! Thanks for your help ❤

    • The ratio of THC and CBD has to do with the plant material you are extracting from, not decarbing. You can’t create something that isn’t there to begin with. I never recomemended a 2 hour decarb, I recommended a one hour decarb, then make your butter or oil. As to the CBD to THC ratio, that I cannot help you with, that is determined by the plant material.

  3. Thanks for your reply Cheri! I must not have been clear. My starting material will be a mix of CBD and THC at a ratio of 5:1. I’m not trying to use extraction to establish that ratio. I though it might be important to mention since CBD and THC seem to have different cooking times. In your article you said “I typically decarb my high CBD strains for 2 hours at 220 degrees F.” That’s what led to my question.

    • Sorry, I misunderstood OK, so you have two different strains? You could decarb separately, or you could decarb together as the THC-A and CBD-A still have medicinal benefits, so if some of the CBD does not get decarbed, I don’t think you will miss the difference, at least not in the same way as THC, as you can feel the difference with THC and most people are seeking the high. Does that make sense? If I was cooking for myself, that is likely what I would do, but then I am not trying to achieve that ratio. Be sure to take your oven’s temperature too, as this is where most people’s decarbing problems come in.

    • There is an excellent article at Green Flower Media about cannabinoids that goes into the terapeutic benefits of them. As far as THA-A and CBD-A it says

      #1) THCA is the acidic parent of THC found in the raw cannabis plant.

      When exposed to heat, sunlight, or time, the THCA in the harvested plant will convert to THC.

      THCA is non-psychoactive and is particularly useful for reducing nausea, reducing seizures, reducing muscle spasms, and fighting tumor and cancer cells. Like THCA, CBDA is non-psychoactive. CBDA is also great for reducing nausea, reducing inflammation, and fighting tumor and cancer cells.

      Find the whole article at this link
      https://www.learngreenflower.com/articles/128/beginners-guide-to-cannabinoids

  4. Oops, I meant to say 5:2, but that’s not the important part. I’m most interested in confirming the 2 hour decarb before extracting in oil. Thanks a million!

  5. i decarb my herbs using sous vide. First I dunk the peeled hebs in a vacuumed bag into a 203F water bath for an hour, then infused it in butter using sous vide also at 185F for about 4 hours. Question is, can i decarb it straight in the butter @203F for an hour then tone it down do 185F for the infusion process? Thanks Cheri!

    • 203 degrees IMO is not hot enough too fully decarb, as I state in this article. I don’t use sous vide, although you can. You CAN do any method you like. But I like to decarb before adding to butter for 1 hour at 240 degrees. As I state, lab tests have found higher potency by decarbing BEFORE infusing into butter.

  6. Kalena Everton on

    How long after you decarb do you have to do the infusion process? Can you wait a day in between?

  7. Is it ok to freeze my cannabis wax, after I decarb, until I use it? Will it affect the THC levels?

    Also, do I need to heat the wax prior to putting in my gummies or just add it when the mixture is hot?

    Thanks

  8. I am using Hash. After I decarb it, can I just disolve it in some butter for a few minutes? Or do I still need to use double boiler/simmer on low heat for hours? Will be baking Brownies at the end.

    • Thank you. the Ardent Decarboxylator does work very well. I have noticed a potency difference in my own edibles and readers have written in with the same experience.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: