What Is Decarboxylation And Is It Necessary For CBD?

What Is Decarboxylation And Is It Necessary For CBD?

CBD and THC are the two best known chemical compounds found in cannabis. But did you know that while cannabis plants are still in the ground and growing, they only contain a little bit of each?

Raw cannabis mainly produces the acid form of phytocannabinoids. It has to go through a certain process before its compounds become their neutral forms that we all know and appreciate – THC, CBD, CBG, and the like.

But what is this mechanism, how does it occur, and why? Read on to learn all about decarboxylation.

Depiction of the cannabidiolic acid molecule in blue

What Is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation happens when the key phytocannabinoids in cannabis change from their acidic forms to their active states that allow communication between the neurotransmitters that make up our endocannabinoid system (ECS) when consumed.

Now, that’s just science-talk for compounds turning into better compounds that properly work in each of our bodies. Before raw hemp goes through decarboxylation, it contains various 2-carboxylic acid molecules.

The more well-known molecules consist of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabinolic acid (CBNA). And similar to their decarboxylated forms – CBD, THC, etc. – these non-decarboxylated phytocannabinoids also bring beneficial effects.

For instance, CBDA is known for its usefulness with stress, minor discomfort and swelling, dizziness, and agitation. THCA shares many of the same properties, along with reducing fat storage and sustaining metabolism.

A stylized depiction of a complex molecule chain in blue and purple

How Does Decarboxylation Work?

Decarboxylation works through the use of heat and time. If you remember from earlier, cannabinoids start with an extra carbon-oxygen-oxygen-hydrogen (-COOH) molecular bond, also known as a “carboxyl,” which makes them acidic clusters.

Fortunately, this carboxyl bond isn’t too durable, and heat and time can break it. Naturally, decarboxylation is a chemical process that changes acidic cannabinoids' structure to their neutral or non-acid forms.

Decarboxylation can happen in one of two ways:

  1. The natural way – raw cannabis matures over time. With exposure to sunlight and air, decarboxylation slowly transforms compounds such as CBDA and THCA into CBD and THC, respectively.
  2. The manual way – using an artificial heat source to ignite the compounds and cause decarboxylation instantly. Smoking or vaporizing raw cannabis are prime examples of manual decarboxylation.

Decarboxylation is an essential mechanism because it lets the cannabinoids yield their desired effects when raw cannabis or hemp is heated up. Otherwise, people would just be eating cannabis raw instead of typically smoking it.

A dropper readies to drop a droplet of cbd oil into a glass container against a green background

Does CBD Need To Be Decarboxylated?

Decarboxylation is needed for both THC and CBD consumption. For CBD to bring all its wholesome benefits, it needs to be decarboxylated before it’s used in any specific manner or product.

Decarbing CBD releases its valuable benefits. For you to enjoy all of CBD’s useful properties, it must go through decarboxylation before commercial or personal use.

Essentially, decarboxylation of CBD is required for each of us to receive the most beneficial aspects. But there are some fantastic benefits with non-decarboxylated CBD as well.

Multiple square beads spell out the word stress with a bead at the end showing the words both free and full

What Are Some Benefits Of Non-Decarboxylated CBD?

Even though CBD compounds have been researched more than its non-decarboxylated form (CBDA), some evidence suggests that CBDA can host several benefits of its own.

These beneficial effects may include reducing swelling and discomfort, lowering stress responses, fighting bacteria, and preventing nausea and vomiting. And the best way to get non-decarboxylated CBD is by juicing with raw cannabis.

However, raw cannabis flower that’s rich in CBD isn't quite readily available yet. But as more research regarding non-decarboxylated CBD comes out, there may come a time when CBD products may combine both CBD and CBDA.

An aluminum baking pan sits inside a warm oven on the lower rack with red hot heating elements above it

How To Decarb CBD

Decarboxylation happens with heat, but when it comes to decarbing cannabinoids such as CBD and the like, lower temperatures work better. However, it will take much longer to complete.

Decarbing CBD at a lower temperature is the preferred method because it preserves the terpenes. These terpenes give cannabis material its flavor and aroma; they also contain a few beneficial traits.

They also work to enhance the effects of CBD and other cannabinoids. And decarbing cannabis is an easy process that most people can do in the comfort of their homes. All you need is an oven, a baking sheet, aluminum foil, and your cannabis flower.

Decarbing cannabis:

  1. Preheat your oven to 230 ℉/110 ℃
  2. Place the aluminum foil on the baking sheet
  3. Break up or grind the cannabis flower into smaller pieces so that they can heat up evenly
  4. Spread your cannabis pieces onto the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 40 minutes
  5. Remove from oven, let pieces cool, infuse in alcohol or oil
A woman turns a knob on an oven with a digital readout that reads 200 C in red numbers

At What Temperature Does CBD Degrade?

As you can see, we suggest that 230 ℉ is the best temperature to decarb CBD. But don’t quote us on that. If you asked several different experts what the CBD activation temperature for decarboxylation is, you’d get several different answers.

And they all may work depending on the results you’re aiming to reach. One thing is for sure: if you use a much lower temperature, then the decarboxylation CBD process will take much longer. Conversely, if you use a high decarboxylation temperature for a prolonged time, you’ll end up ruining the active ingredients in cannabis.

Among cannabis researchers and experts, there is a debate about CBD’s exact decarboxylation temperature. Many studies imply that it’s 230 ℉, which is why our instructions also suggest it.

But neither CBD nor THC will decarb as soon as their decarboxylation temperature is reached. It takes time for the -COOH bond to break down into water and evaporate – usually 40 to 60 minutes.

Keep in mind that decarboxylation temperatures and boiling points for cannabinoids are very different:

Cannabinoids/Temperature
CBD 356 180
THC 314.6 157
CBN 365 185
CBC 428 220

But why boil cannabis? Boiling cannabis is another popular method for decarboxylation. The reason is that water boils consistently at 212 ℉ – assuming it’s at sea level.

And even though it’ll take decarboxylation much longer to occur, you’ll still be able to preserve all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids at water-boiling temperature.

CBD And Decarboxylation

Decarboxylation is a chemical process in raw cannabis. Acidic, non-decarboxylated cannabinoids (THCA, CBDA) lose their structural bond and turn into their neutral decarboxylated forms (THC, CBD).

Cannabis becomes decarboxylated with heat and time. Naturally, decarboxylation will occur as cannabis matures and is continuously exposed to air and sunlight. However, heating cannabis for a prolonged period with a heat source can cause decarboxylation.

Before CBD or any other cannabinoids can be useful, they must go through decarboxylation. Otherwise, they’ll remain in their non-decarboxylated forms, though this isn’t always a bad thing as far as CBD goes because research shows that CBD and CBDA have beneficial properties.

It is possible to decarb CBD and other cannabinoids at home using an oven or boiling water. However, each cannabinoid has a different decarboxylation temperature and a much more unique boiling point.

Heating cannabis at too high a temperature for too long can destroy the valuable cannabinoids you’re trying to decarb. But heating cannabis at a low temperature too quickly won’t allow decarboxylation to occur. It requires pinpointing the exact temperature and the precise time the cannabis should be heated.

Have you tried decarbing cannabis on your own? Are there any other decarboxylation methods we haven’t mentioned? Let us know your decarbing stories on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages.