What Is Decarboxylation? Why Is It Important? - Glow Bar London

September 27, 2022 5 min read

What Is Decarboxylation? Why Is It Important?

What goes on in your mind when you take CBD gummies or vape the product? Have you ever wondered what processes the CBD products you use, from tinctures to edibles, go through during their manufacture? This article discusses these concepts.

Do you know the chemical processes involved? Unfortunately, not so many are aware of this. One of the most carefully done processes during production is decarboxylation. The cannabis plant from which CBD is obtained has psychoactive compounds that need activation. When talking of CBD products, what is decarboxylation? Does it have any importance? Read on to get the answers.

What is Decarboxylation?

Typically, decarboxylation is a chemical process involving the removal of carboxyl from a molecule. In cannabis, decarboxylation is heating the cannabis plant to activate the cannabinoids it contains. Thus this is the process by which the psychoactive compounds in cannabis are activated. This means that cannabis must first undergo the heating process to be effective and produce the "high" effect.

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the active components of cannabis and hemp plants. It does not have intoxicating effects. The cannabinoids are present in these plants' leaves, buds, or trims. Since the process of decarboxylation aims at the product fully taking effect in the end, it is carried out to allow the end user an experience with the uniqueness of the cannabis plant. The plant's active components contain no intoxicating properties; thus, decarboxylation ensures the consumers get the most out of this too.

The primary target of decarboxylation is cannabinoid acids, which form the inactive components of the plants. Examples of the acids are tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). They are largely present in cannabis flowers with smaller quantities in the stems and leaves. These acids do not have a high effect unless converted to THC. The conversion is done by heating which can be achieved through a spark from a lighter to the heat from an oven.

After the heating process, a carboxyl group is lost from the cannabinoid acid while a hydrogen atom is retained. Therefore, the molecular structure of the cannabinoid acids changes after decarboxylation. For example, you can only remove the extra carboxyl ring in THCA through heating. The heat thus decarboxylates, or removes the ring, from the THCA. Find out the importance of this process.

Importance of Decarboxylation

Decarboxylation is a necessary chemical process in the production of CBD edibles, even before its infusion with base oils like coconut, sunflower, and olive oil. It is crucial for producing CBD topicals, edibles, and oil infusions.

When taken raw, cannabis is still wealthy and nutritious in this form. However, if you want the therapeutic benefits it brings, it must undergo the decarboxylation chemical process. Heating the plant will activate the chemical compounds in it.

When you don't perform decarboxylation to marijuana or cannabis, don't expect to get most of the CBD benefits. Not performing decarboxylation equates to adding raw cannabis to the recipe you are preparing. According to Atalay et al. (2020), you won't benefit from CBD's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Therefore, this is a crucial chemical process on your cannabis before taking it. Decarboxylation also activates THC, which is another component of cannabis. If you want to get high from weed edibles, consider decarboxylation first. Don't take it in its raw state.

Decarboxylation could be useful for getting the purported benefits of CBD, such as reduced inflammation and anxiety. However, remember that time and heat are necessary for this chemical process. Wang et al. (2019) showed that the higher the temperatures, the greater the activation process of the components of cannabis, and the shorter the time is taken for decarboxylation.

Even making edibles require some form of heat for decarboxylation, so the compounds of cannabis become effective. This is because there is no process involving using heat when taking edibles.

Decarboxylation goes a long way in ensuring that cannabis is effective. It activates the THC and CBD in raw cannabis. If the process of decarboxylation is not carried out, the components of cannabis are inactive.

The Temperatures and Time

The growing popularity of cannabis has led to the growth of its community. It is not surprising to hear that they decarboxylate cannabis at different temperatures. When you decarb weed at lower temperatures will take longer for the process to complete. On the contrary, Zhang et al. (2018) showed that higher temperatures result in a shorter time for decarboxylation.

However, does this mean you expose your cannabis to extremely high temperatures? This is particularly risky if it prolongs as it can damage the active components of the cannabis plant. There's no point in having very high temperatures that can destroy the active components.

This means there should be a balance between the temperature and time taken for decarboxylation. Before you start the chemical process, balance the two. You will not yield desirable results when there is an imbalance in any of these.

Always keep the temperatures in mind. Anything above 3000F during decarboxylation can cause the degradation of cannabis. According to Nuapia et al. (2021), temperatures of around 2300F are okay for CBD decarboxylation.

Because the chemical process is not instant, don't be in a rush. It needs time to break down the carboxyl group into water and carbon dioxide. A good time frame to work with is anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour.

Conclusion

Cannabis is beneficial in its raw state. At this state, its main components, CBD and THC, are also in their raw form. This is their inactive form, meaning you cannot expect to get most of the reported benefits of these two. Therefore, decarboxylation is necessary to activate the components of the cannabis plant. It makes them more effective when used by the end consumer. Also, when doing this chemical process, it is important to keep two factors in mind; temperature and time. The temperature is the most important because extremely high temperatures degrade the components. Therefore, strike a balance between these two.

References

Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2020). Antioxidative And Anti-Inflammatory Properties Of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants, 9(1), 21.

Nuapia, Y., Maraba, K., Tutu, H., Chimuka, L., & Cukrowska, E. (2021). In Situ Decarboxylation-Pressurized Hot Water Extraction For Selective Extraction Of Cannabinoids From Cannabis Sativa. Chemometric Approach. Molecules, 26(11), 3343.

Wang, T., Zhang, Z., Zhang, H., Zhong, X., Liu, Y., Liao, S., ... & Zhou, G. (2019). Sorption Of Carbendazim On Activated Carbons Derived From Rape Straw And Its Mechanism. RSC Advances, 9(71), 41745-41754.

Zhang, Z., Yang, Q., Chen, H., Chen, K., Lu, X., Ouyang, P., ... & Chen, J. G. (2018). In Situ Hydrogenation And Decarboxylation Of Oleic Acid Into Heptadecane Over A Cu–Ni Alloy Catalyst Using Methanol As A Hydrogen Carrier. Green Chemistry, 20(1), 197-205.