To try to define decarboxylation in a short sentence, decarboxylation is the process of applying the right amount of heat and time to activate the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis.
Because of this, you can’t experience any effects of cannabis (i.e. feel “high”) until it’s been decarboxylated.
Many cannabis users have their first experience with decarboxylation when they make their first edibles or create a product for topical use. Whether they use an oven, a crockpot, or even a double-boiler, these at-home activations rarely reach a decarboxylation rate of over 70%. This leaves almost a third or more of your cannabis’ potential unrealized, resulting in a waste of plant material, unnecessary expenses, and frustration.
At Ardent, we spent almost a decade working with laboratories to test and fully understand the decarboxylation process and how it impacts our cannabis. After years of research and fine-tuning, we were able to produce complete decarboxylation in three easy steps with the invention of the Nova.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about decarboxylation and how you can leverage it to improve your experience with cannabis.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Decarboxylation? (Deeper Definition)
Decarboxylation is a function of time, temperature, and atmosphere.
A deceptively simple concept, executing proper decarboxylation is difficult even for professionals. Incorrect decarboxylation leads to hydrolyzed (or “burned off”) cannabinoids, THC degraded to CBN (a cannabinoid which has little-to-no psychoactive effects), and/or a failure to fully convert the available THC—all of which results in inferior medicine with wide variability in dosing and effectiveness.
However, properly decarboxlyated cannabis has several benefits:
- THC activated directly in the cannabis flower
- Maximum THC potential per gram of cannabis
- Easily used for sublinguals, edibles and medicines once you learn how to measure THC at home
In its natural plant form, the cannabinoids (including THC) are locked in an acidic form that is not bioavailable to the body’s cannabinoid receptors.
The acidic form of THC is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). THC and THCA are identical in molecular structure, except for a carboxyl group present in THCA that is not present in THC. This small difference is a big deal! The presence of this single carboxyl group prevents THCA from binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body’s brain and nervous system.
The presence of THCA in the plant explains why eating raw cannabis does not produce the therapeutic effect or “high” that a patient would expect from ingesting cannabis. For inactive THCA to become bioavailable THC, able to properly bind with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, the carboxyl group must be removed from the THCA, hence the term “decarboxylation.”
What Does Decarb Mean?
Decarb means exactly the same as decarboxylation, it is simply the shortened version.
What causes decarboxylation?
The process of decarboxylation has two main catalysts: heat and time. Though partial decarboxylation can occur when simply allowing the raw plant material to dry, the results are minimal and provide a comparably lackluster experience. Instant decarboxylation can be achieved through smoking and vaporizing, making cannabinoids instantly available for absorption through inhalation, thanks to the extremely high temperatures present.
While decarboxylated cannabinoids in vapor form can easily be absorbed through our lungs via joints or vaping, many people desire alternative ways to reap the benefits of our favorite plant. Edibles, which are mixed or infused with decarboxylated cannabis, allow our bodies to absorb the THC and CBD through digestion.
For this reason, many people prefer to decarboxylate their material at slightly lower temperatures for a longer period of time. While this method is great for preserving the integrity of the original plant material, it is also key when trying to preserve terpenes, the flavorful oils found naturally on the marijuana plant. When terpenes evaporate at higher temperatures (around 300 degrees Fahrenheit) undesirable flavors or aromas may emerge, and unique strains of cannabis may lose the qualities that made you choose them in the first place.
Why decarb your cannabis before consuming?
It’s easy to see why decarbing your cannabis before consuming is so important. Decarbing at home provides you with great benefits:
- You can stop buying marked-up dispensary products and make your own, exactly how you like it: joints, edibles, tinctures, and more!
- Increase the potency of your plant material: stop wasting the product you do buy, so you can buy less of it in the long run.
- Rest assured that you have the most effective, most potent dose for your needs.
How can I decarb my weed?
While decarboxylation may seem slightly confusing, the good news is, you can learn how to decarb weed yourself.
A few traditional methods include:
- Toaster oven
- Traditional oven
Proper decarb requires very precise and consistent temperatures and even heat distribution througout the material without exposure to oxygen. Traditional methods of decarboxylation are inconsistent and have been shown at best to get only 70% of available cannabinoids depending on the method used. Below we explain a few decarb challenges that most people face:
- Finding the perfect temperature in an oven is challenging. Although some people claim it works, for decarb beginners getting it set up correctly takes time and precious cannabis that you don’t want to waste. Not to mention all the time spent adjusting baking sheets and messing with grinders to achieve an even decarb. You also don’t want to get burned by a hot oven!
- Recent lab-testing shows that depending on your oven’s temperature and the time spent baking, you could be losing 54mg of THC per gram. Scale that up to an ounce and you could be wasting up to 1/4 or more of your stash – OUCH!
- If you live with other people (or have neighbors), these methods can also stink up your home.
Today, you no longer have to use confusing methods to decarb marijuana, as the painstaking process has got much easier.
What can you do with decarbed cannabis?
Everyone has preferences when it comes to their decarboxylate cannabis, whether its the type of food, the ease of creation, flavors, or even consumption method they enjoy most.
Some people prefer to go old school: just straight old weed, smoked or vaped.
Many go the subtle route: hemp lotions, oral tinctures, and infused oils for application directly on the body.
Others enjoy being a little gourmet: infused caramels, indulgent desserts, sprinkled over homestyle recipes, and more!
Check out some of our favorite ways to prepare our decarb on our cannabis recipes page.
Best Decarb & Infusion Tool
Now that you understand the basics of decarboxylation, you are ready to start decarbing your cannabis. If you are looking for a simple way to get it done, we highly recommend you get your Nova today to make the process much easier.
👉 If interested, you can learn more about the NOVA here.
Questions? Please leave them below!
Hey where so we buy this. I would love to carry this at my shop.
Great article and really helpful in understanding how it all works!! Thanks heaps.
If I’m using hash rosin in the nova to decarb, I run the same time as using flower? Just push the button and forget it lol
Yes that is correct!
I just purchased an FX and am looking forward to trying it out. The only question I have is after I harvest my plant, I have always hung it up to dry and then placed The dry buds in jars and open them daily for 10 minutes for a few months. Do I still need to go through the drying process before using the device?
As a matter of fact, you can actually decarb fresh flower right in the Precision Decarboxylator, with no additional steps! If you go to https://www.ardentcannabis.com/education/decarboxylation-myths and scroll down to Myth 1, you will see that this is, in fact, a very common misconception.
In fact, decarbing fresh flower is a good way to preserve more terpenes in the final product (think about the smell of fresh vs. dried flowers).
Please be aware that if you don’t dry the fresh flower prior to decarb it will come out wet. It can still be used in edibles and topicals but can’t be smoked. If you would rather your flower not be wet after the decarb make sure to dry it at least for a little bit, preferably at least a day or so. (I recommend trying it first with a very small amount so you can make sure you like this new-to-you texture 🙂
Decarb Myths Debunked
Learn about the true power of decarboxylation from the experts