Why Cannabis Cooks Need CBD and/or THC Decarboxylation

If you use cannabis and ESPECIALLY if you cook with cannabis or hope to make your own edibles, this tutorial on decarboxylated marijuana is vital information you need to know.

What is CBD or THC Decarboxylation?

Don't let the long scientific name intimidate you and scare you.  Decarboxylation is not difficult to understand or to do.

Before we get into the explanation, know that you might also come across the term “activate” the cannabis.  This is exactly the same thing as decarboxylating or decarbing it.  So these terms can be used interchangeably.

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

Huh?

Ok that is the wonky explanation.  On to a layperson's explanation.

Raw cannabis contain little to no THC or CBD.  This surprises a lot of people.  It actually contains the acidic forms of these cannabinoids, THC-A and CBD-A.

Actually, all the cannabinoids contained in raw cannabis flowers have an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their chain.  Likewise,  decarboxylation works with more than just THC, although this is where its effects will most be felt by the end cannabis consumer.

That's because the other cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, etc. don’t make you high.  

THC-A doesn't either.  That's why if you hope to make edibles that deliver a buzz, you need to decarboxylate the cannabis before cooking with it. It takes the process of age and/or adding heat to decarboxylate the cannabis and convert the THC-A into psychoactive THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol.

But even if you are cooking with CBD, which will not make you high, you should still decarboxylate your plant material as decarboxylation activates the CBD and makes easier for the body to use.

This is not to say that THC-A and CBD-A don't have benefits in and of themselves.  They definitely do.  But that's a topic for another article.

Learn how to Cook with Cannabis.

Cannabis Cheri teaches you how to make great tasting, perfectly dosed edibles, every time!

What are the Causes of Decarboxylation?

Two things cause cannabis decarboxylation:

  • Time
  • Heat

 If the cannabis you are cooking is a year or two old, you probably do not need to decarb it.  Time has done that for you.  Once of our readers once found a 40 year old stash.  He definitely did not need to decarb that.  But he was still able to cook with it as it had been stored properly for all that time.

Most of the time, however, you will want to add heat in order to activate the THC or CBD in your cannabis.

How to Decarboxlate Cannabis

If you ask ten difference sources, you'll get ten different answers on how to decarboxylate marijuana.

We 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.

This is likely 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 as more time is needed for drying, and then decarbing.

Or that decarbing CBD-A takes slightly more time than decarbing THC-A.

We researched lots of methods, especially those that have been lab tested.  We recommend you decarboxylate for one hour at 240 degrees F. .  Thanks go to the fine folks at the Marijuana Growers Headquarters who did some experiments and lab testing.

To do so, 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. 

That's all there is to it.  Your cannabis is now decarbed and ready for cooking or making infusions like cannabutter and cannaoil.

 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 below shows the same strain and amount of cannabis after (left) and before (right) decarboxylating.

before and after decarboxylation

Is decarboxylation necessary for edibles?

A frequently asked question about cannabis and decarboxylation is:

Is it always necessary to decarboxylate THC or CBD if you are going to be cooking with it anyway?  Won't it decarb while cooking?

Yes it will to some degree.  However, for maximum potency, it is preferable to take the time to decarb first.

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.

No your edibles will not be ruined if you don't decarb. And depending on the plant material you are using they might still be mighty potent.  But if you want to extract maximum potency from your cannabis, always decarb first.

The importance of cannabis decarboxylation when calculating cannabis edibles dosages

CANNADEMY'S DOSAGE CALCULATORS

Get the edibles dose you need each and every time. Works for edibles or topicals in Imperial and Metric measurements. Even works when cooking with non-lab tested cannabis!

Never guess again!

For those who have taken my Cannademy's free edibles dosing class, or who have purchased their invaluable cannabis dosage calculators (and you haven't checked out these awesome resources, we suggest you do),  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, we like to estimate a few points less than the calculator says in order to make up for some THC-A that may remain unconverted, as you will rarely, if ever, convert 100% of the THC-A to THC or the CBD-A to CBD.  But you can get most of it.  And don't forget, the acidic forms of THC and CBD have medicinal value too.



About the author 

Senior Stoner Staff Writer

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