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Decarboxylation and Why It’s So Important

Users can smoke cannabis, and eat it too. But it must be decarboxylated for it to produce any noticeable effects. 

What is Decarbing?

Decarboxylation, aka decarbing, is heating up cannabis to activate many of its compounds. Activating the cannabinoids, like THC, will help users get the most of their highs.  

Heat is the quickest way to activate cannabinoids; but it isn’t the only method. Cannabis decarbs naturally over long periods of time. But heating it in the oven or over a double boiler, for example, condenses the waiting period. 

Add Some Heat

When someone smokes cannabis, like through a pipe, for example, the heat from the flame of the lighter instantly decarbs the cannabis. 

But eating a plain nugget of herb or mixing it into butter for edibles without decarbing it first won’t give users the psychoactive high they’re looking for. 

According to Project CBD, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the cannabinoid present inside cannabis before heat is applied. After THCA is heated, it turns into THC, the cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects.

“THCA is not psychoactive—it does not activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain,” reports Project CBD. “In order to make psychoactive THC from THCA, one needs to heat it.” 

Users can do this in a variety of ways. They can smoke or vape raw flower, bake edibles, or heat cannabis in the oven or on the stove. 

Heating cannabis at 220 degrees Fahrenheit to 240 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes is the decarbing sweet spot.

The flower’s molecular structure changes when it’s heated. Carboxyl groups, or weak acids, are removed when heat is applied. This decarbs cannabis, according to Extraction by IchiBanCrafter, a lifestyle blog reporting on the science of extraction.

How to Decarb Your Cannabis

Decarbing requires a little more effort than just smoking cannabis and having it heat rapidly. But, for those who’d rather have it in edible or pill form — they must first decarb the cannabis manually. The raw cannabis can be baked in the oven or on the stovetop.

Monitoring the heated cannabis at 230 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes is the safest way to ensure the cannabis does not burn.

Breaking cannabis into smaller pieces and spreading it onto a baking sheet reduces the chance of it burning. Afterwards, the cannabis should appear darker in color. This means the cannabis will now give the user psychoactive effects. 

Leafly notes that baking the cannabis for a longer time at lower temperatures may keep the cannabis’ as strong as possible. For this, the oven should be 220 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly lower.

“Heating cannabinoids at a lower temperature over time allows us to decarboxylate the cannabinoids while preserving the integrity of the material we use so that we may infuse it into what we consume, says Leafly.”

Should You Dismiss THCA?

Decarbing cannabis isn’t necessary for people looking to feel certain benefits. Without decarbing, the acids in cannabis can still help people who want to microdose.

THCA produces anti-inflammatory effects, according to a study from the Institute of Plant Sciences, and the Agricultural Research Organization. THCA is an alternative for people looking to reap the benefits of cannabis without psychoactive effects. 

Absolute Extracts recommends getting the best out of your THCA by juicing, pressing the oil into tinctures, or THCA-specific edibles. 

THCA certainly has its benefits for consumers looking to experience the plant’s milder side. But decarbing cannabis and altering THCA to THC will bring out the stronger qualities the cannabis plant has to offer.

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