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What Is Decarboxylation? Why Does It Matter For Cannabis?

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.

What Is Decarboxylation

What is Decarboxylation?

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, medicine, and dose 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 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 decarb weed yourself.

A few traditional methods include:

  • Toaster oven
  • Traditional oven
  • Crockpot

A proper decarb requires consistent temperatures throughout the process. Most of these methods are inconsistent and have been shown to get only 70% decarboxylation 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 recipe page.

Further reading on decarboxylation

This post is part 1 of our series on decarb.

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!

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