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What is Decarboxylation? Why Does it Matter?

In short, Decarboxylation is the process of applying the right amount of heat and time to activate the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis. You can’t experience any effects of cannabis (i.e. feel “high”) unless it’s been decarboxylated.

Many cannabis users have their first experience with decarboxylation when they make their first edibles or topical. Whether they use an oven, a crock pot, or a even a double-boiler, these at-home activations rarely reach a decarboxylation rate of over 70%.

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. Most importantly how to decarb cannabis at home.

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 (burned off) cannabinoids, degraded THC to CBN, and/or fail to fully convert. All of which result in inferior medicine with wide variability in dosing and effectiveness.

However, properly decarboxlyated cannabis has a number of benefits:

  • THC activated directly into your cannabis flower
  • Maximum THC potential per gram of cannabis
  • Easy to create your own 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 as the presence of the 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.  In order for inactive THCA to become bioavailable THC that can properly bind with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, the carboxyl group must be removed from the THCA, hence the term “decarboxylation.”


Decarboxylating Saves Time & Money

Decarbing the wrong way can waste cannabis and affect a patients dosage. Unfortunately, none of the common methods of decarbing were efficient and effective until the invention of the Ardent NOVA Decarboxylator. Now there is an easy way for patients to precisely decarboxylate cannabis outside of a laboratory setting.

Traditional Methods To Decarb Cannabis

While decarboxylation may seem slightly confusing, the good news is, you can decarb weed yourself at home.

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 setup correctly takes time and precious cannabis that you don’t want to waste. You also don’t want to get burned by a hot oven while decarbing.
  • Recent lab-testing shows that at the oven’s temperature and time, you’d 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.

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis at Home

Here at Ardent, we’ve created the first in home decarboxylator that makes it simple to decarb weed from the comfort of your home. After years in the lab working with a scientific research team, we developed the NOVA. Finally, patients can have the perfect decarb with the simple push of a button without using an oven or stove. In addition, to saving your house from the potent smell of marijuana.

Step One – Set Aside Your Materials

You can activate any cannabis product in the Nova, whether you have flower, kief, or any other concentrate. Dense flower composed of solid nugs can be placed into the device as-is, while powdery ‘shakey’ flower, kief, and other related concentrates should be placed on parchment paper or a silicone container to keep them from sticking.

Step Two – Prepare the Nova

Slide the container back into the device and place the purple silicone lid on top. The lid prevents any oxygen from entering the container while also not allowing any pressure to escape. Then, place the outer black lid on tightly. Notice it does not ‘lock,” instead it clicks into place. You are good to go once the lid is pushed down securely.

Step Three – Get Started

The Nova’s user interface is easy to understand. When you close the lid, the light on the Nova will be green. This means that the device is ready for use. Press the button located on the front of the Nova to begin the decarboxylation process. The green light will immediately turn red which indicates the decarb cycle has begun.

The entire cycle takes about an hour and a half to two hours to finish. While the Nova is running,  the sensors and algorithm work in conjunction to create a precise even heating cycle to fully decarboxylate the material. When the process is complete, the red light will again turn green, signaling that the material is now ready for use. When you remove material from the Nova you will notice that it is darker than it was previously. The color change is very noticeable when decarbing flower and kief, a bit less so when dealing with extracted concentrates.

Before Decarb

After Decarb

Why Decarb?

For many cannabis patients, properly decarbing means getting their life back. The ability to easily and accurately improve the quality of their medicine not only reduces their medical expenses, but also frees them from the process of having to plan their day around their doses. Decarbing allows medical cannabis patients to turn any food product into highly potent medicine without being overwhelmed by the taste and smell of cannabis. The perks don’t end there. Keep reading to learn all the ways to use marijuana after it’s decarbed.

How to Use Your Decarbed Cannabis

We spend a lot time answering questions from current and future customers. Throughout this process, we’ve found that a lot of myths are still assumed to be facts. These questions encouraged us to continue our research, as we aimed to constantly increase our efforts to educate consumers with accurate tips on how to decarb. One of the most commonly misunderstood subjects surrounding decarboxylation is what to do with decarbed material once the process is complete.

Through community discussion, we discovered that plenty of Nova users still think it’s a requirement to infuse their decarbed material into a butter or an oil. Butters and oils are easier than ever to make – see more on that below – but you should know that when the decarb process is complete, you can simply take a small amount of the material and use in these ways:

Eat It

No additional processing means that you can choose a delivery method as simple as grinding a small amount of decarboxylated flower and adding it into a vinaigrette before you put it on your salad. The possibilities for infused food are endless and there is no infusion or processing required because the THC has been activated and is ready to be absorbed. Being able to use such a small amount of material allows you to avoid tasting the cannabis in your food without compromising its potency. Since processing the decarbed cannabis further (especially with old school infusion methods) can result in more of a “weedy” taste, people who don’t like that taste will particularly enjoy this method.

Use it Sublingually

Sublingual use refers to placing the cannabis under your tongue and letting it absorb, ideally for at least a few minutes. Sublingual delivery has gained popularity, especially among medical patients due to its ease of dosing (especially microdosing) and discretion, not to mention versatility. The onset of effects are usually between 15 minutes and 30 minutes after consumption, and can last anywhere from 3-6 hours. Swallowing the cannabis will allow whatever wasn’t absorbed sublingually to be ingested like any other edible and the onset will be stronger and last longer. Using the Nova to decarb you can know and control the amount of mgs you are administering. Whether you create a tincture or use the direct route. Want sublingual effects without any work? Mix a (very) small amount of your decarbed flower with a drop of coconut oil and hold it under your tongue. Yup, it’s really that easy!

Apply It

Cannabis flower, extract, and concentrates are ready for use in any topical as soon as they complete the decarb process in the Nova. Cannabis topicals have grown in popularity to become to a mainstream product. CBD infused lotions are even beginning to show up at your local pharmacy! Lotions and salves are the most common topicals, but the options are as broad as your imagination. Feel refreshed by your end of the day toner? You can medicate that, too 🙂 Topicals are useful for relieving everything from neuropathic and fibromyalgia pain, acne and dry skin to arthritis and so, so many more. Many topicals can be used anytime, anywhere since they don’t cause a “high” effect like other delivery methods. You may depend on topicals for symptom reduction or they may be a part of your beauty routine. No matter which category you fall into you, and whatever your preferences, making topicals with your Nova is as easy as adding infused oil or decarbed cannabis concentrates to a non-cannabis lotion you already love.

Smoke or Vaporize it

I know what you’re thinking, why would I need to decarb my cannabis if I’ll be smoking or vaping it? Doesn’t it get decarbed during the smoking and vaping? While it is true that smoking and vaping perform some decarb during the process, they aren’t efficient and there is waste. A joint is a great way to understand this concept: While the smoke is caused by the combustion (or flame) you use to light the joint, nearly all of the cannabinoids that come into contact with the combustion will simply burn off or quickly turn to ash. Each time you take a puff of your joint, you are pulling the hot air through the rolled cannabis.

That hot air is vaporizing the cannabinoids in the joint and some decarb is occuring as well, but the time it takes you to smoke the joint is much faster than the full decarb process can be completed. While you still may feel a strong effect, you only consumed a fraction of what that joint could have given you. On the other hand, smoking a joint filled with decarbed flower from your Nova means all that the hot air needs to do is pull the already activated THC off the plant matter, and into the smoke you inhale. Whatever touches the flame will still burn off, but the additional mg’s of activated THC in your smoke will give you a stronger, more effective joint. Combustion on already decarbed flower will also create more CBN, which is very sedative. Many patients who are seeking a deep relaxation effect (for example patients suffering from PTSD or insomnia) prefer to decarb before smoking to both maximize THC and increase the CBN intake.

The same principles apply to vaporizing cannabis. It is a great idea to decarb your flower to get more yield before you start vaping. You can also vape at the lowest possible temps, while still experiencing an intense effect.

Infuse It

Many people still want or need to infuse their cannabinoids into oil or butter. This is particularly common with patients or clients who use their decarbed material to make beauty products, topicals, edibles, and tinctures. Material decarbed in the Nova is primed to infuse into any oil you’ve chosen. Whether you are looking to make cannabutter or THC oil.

There are many myths and theories about infusion and we’ve received so many questions about the best way to infuse after decarbing. When we approach an issue at Ardent, we always ask ourselves, “ Do we think this is true, or do we know this is true?” Patients and consumers deserve factual information based on science. We are proud to bring cannabis science to light with our experiments and testing to get to the root of the infusion puzzle.

As a result, we are also thrilled to announce that Nova is an incredibly efficient infusion device! You can easily extract over 80% of the THC in your decarbed flower to make both THC oil or cannabutter. As the infusion rate is over 90% with the right oils. It’s simple to make high dose infusions with a small amount of flower. Because there is no cannabis or oil minimum requirements in the Nova, you can make as much or as little as you need. The future of cannabis infusion lets you spend more time enjoying the fruits (or brownies) 🙂 of your labor! For more about our big reveal and to see infusion testing results, check out our infusion guide.

Infusing With the Nova

The Nova is a multipurpose device capable of completing every step in the process of decarbing and infusing any cannabis material you choose. The process is surprisingly simple, regardless of the cannabis product you choose.

Check out our post on infusion with the Nova here.

Step One – Choose Your Materials

Make sure you know the THC content of your starting material (flower, concentrates, or extractions) so you can determine the strength of your infusion. Check out our dosing guide for more info on determining the THC content of your material.

Pick your extraction oil based on what you plan to make. Remember, certain oils are better for ingesting, while others are more tailored for beauty products.

Step Two -Decarboxylate Your Materials

Decarboxylate your material as you normally would. As soon as your material completes the decarb process, it is ready to be infused.

Step Three – Prepare Your Materials for Infusion

Place your chosen oil in a glass or silicone container (like our silicone sleeve) with your decarbed plant material. Ensure that the container is large enough so if the oil bubbles a bit during the process, it won’t come out of the container. Do not place a cap on the glass or silicone container. Place the container into the Nova’s internal decarb chamber (the metal inner canister) and put the purple lid on. Then the Nova’s main black lid. Remember that this lid does not lock shut, but is secure as long as it is pressed down firmly.

Step Four – Infuse

Press the green light to start the cycle. Run your oil mixture through a full Nova cycle, just as you did when you decarbed the material. When the cycle is complete, you will be in possession of fully activated and infused oil. A THC oil that is ready to be used to cook, bake, or mixed into a homemade topical or beauty product. You can use a small funnel and screen to strain the plant material from the oil.

Please note that the container you use for your oil might be warm when you remove it from the Nova. Be careful when handling the material post infusion.

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.

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  • Shane 1 month ago

    Great article and really helpful in understanding how it all works!! Thanks heaps.

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