Decarboxylation is not a word you hear every day. Yet without decarboxylation, you can’t get high from cannabis.
So, what exactly is it?
In a nutshell, decarboxylation is the process of activating the psychoactive properties of cannabis. But let’s dive deeper into a more comprehensive definition of what decarboxylation is, why it’s so important, and how to do it.
Decarboxylation is the process — more specifically, the chemical reaction — of removing a carboxyl and releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). The opposite (or converse) of this process is carboxylation, the first step in photosynthesis. The catalyst for decarboxylation is time (in which the raw material dries) or heat, which accelerates the process.
Essentially, decarboxylation converts THCa, another cannabinoid, to THC, the cannabinoid that gives users a “buzz.” While THCa doesn’t get you high, research suggests it has potential therapeutic potential including anti-inflammatory benefits, neuroprotective properties, and antiemetic properties (prevents nausea and vomiting).
If you were to consume raw cannabis, you might get some therapeutic benefits, but you wouldn’t get high. You get high once you smoke or vape it. Or, in the case of edibles, the producers decarboxylate cannabis flower by heating raw cannabis beforehand.
Beyond unlocking the psychoactive effects of cannabis, decarboxylation also unlocks the full potential therapeutic properties of other cannabinoids, including the second most prominent cannabinoid, CBD. Without decarboxylation, cannabinoids may still have therapeutic properties, but to a much lesser degree.
In the cannabis world, most people abbreviate decarboxylation to the less scientific-sounding term, “decarb.” We know you can decarb cannabis by smoking or vaping it. But what if you want to consume cannabis in another form, like edibles?
Drying cannabis is one catalyst to decarb it, however, the process is slow and doesn’t yield as much THC as heating. It’s more efficient to bake or heat it.
Don’t Get Baked…Yet. Bake Your Cannabis
To bake your cannabis, you’ll need cannabis flower (doh!), a baking pan, and aluminum foil. Grind the flower into a coarse powder (with a cannabis or coffee grinder) and spread the powder evenly over the pan into a thin layer.
Next, bake the cannabis at 220°F (107°C) to 245°F (118°C) for 40 to 45 minutes. Bake for less time if you’re using older and drier cannabis. Alternately, you can bake it in less time (between 10 and 18 minutes) by raising the heat to 300ºF (149°C). However, your best bet is to bake it at a lower heat for a longer time (“slow and low”). By baking at the lower temperature, you’ll release the terpenes, too.
Make Cannabis Butter
If you plan to make edibles, after you’ve baked the cannabis, you can make a cannabis butter which you can add to whatever recipe you’re following. Some recipes bypass the initial step of baking the cannabis because simmering in butter will decarb your cannabis. However, this isn’t as effective of a process and will produce a weakly activated finished product.
There you go! Now you can impress your friends with your newfound knowledge of what decarboxylation is. And more importantly, you’ve learned how to decarb cannabis. Why not give it a try? Visit your favorite Have a Heart location to pick up some flower and try it yourself!