Decarboxylation of Cannabidiol: How CBDA becomes CBD
Decarboxylation is a long and complicated word. However, the process of decarboxylation can be very simple. It is an essential step in the process of creating CBD hemp oil. As CBD, Cannabidiol, becomes more popular, people want to know more about it. Makes sense. In this article, we delve a little bit into the process of how our products go from organically cultivated hemp to premium hemp products.
Raw cannabis won’t offer the numerous benefits that you can get by using CBD, but that does not mean there aren’t any benefits to raw cannabis. We will write more about that later.
While the science behind decarboxylation is complex, it is extremely important in creating the supplement many people have come to rely on.
So, what is decarboxylation? The scientific definition of this term is that it is a chemical reaction that will remove a carboxyl group and release carbon dioxide. The process converts inactive components in cannabis – which are not psychoactive – into active components, which unlock the effects that many people are looking for. With time, cannabis can go through the decarboxylation process on its own, or there are other ways that you can speed up the process.
The two main components in the decarboxylation process are heat and time. Curing or drying cannabis over time could result in partial decarboxylation. Smoking and vaporizing can instantly decarboxylate cannabinoids as a result of the high temperatures that the flowers are exposed to.
This makes them immediately available for absorption via inhalation. However, people with respiratory conditions, children, or the elderly who are attempting to use cannabis for its medicinal purposes likely will not want to inhale the smoke. Being able to extract numerous cannabinoids and terpenes in the form of oil is often a better strategy, and also beneficial for many more reasons.
Why Decarboxylation is Important for CBD
When discussing decarboxylation, the difference between CBD-A and CBD needs to be addressed. CBD-A is known as the acidic precursor to CBD, and when cannabis grows, it produces CBDA and not CBD. The same is true for one of the other main compounds of marijuana – THC – as the decarboxylation process is needed to turn the inactive THC-A into the psychoactive THC.
In order to activate the CBD and to experience all of its benefits, it needs to be heated through vaporization, cooking, or smoking so that decarboxylation occurs. Even after the process has been completed, you still won’t get high by taking CBD, as the product is non-psychoactive and does not bind to receptors the same way as THC.
The decarboxylation process is important for getting the most out of the CBD. After the process activates it, CBD is available to be used within the body.
In the past, CBD-A has had a tendency to be overlooked with CBD getting the attention of medical researchers. However, there are several studies that are currently examining the potential benefits of CBD, as well, including:
- Antibacterial. A study completed in 2000 notes that more CBD-A in a hemp plant will lead to greater antimicrobial potency within the CBD that results after decarboxylation.
- Anti-Nausea. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology showed that CBD-A could be used as an alternative to THC when it comes to preventing nausea and vomiting, and it doesn’t offer the psychoactive properties of THC. It has also been shown to have significant benefits in helping with anticipatory nausea experienced by chemotherapy patients.
- Cancer. CBD-A is thought to be one of many cannabinoids that can help to control the growth of tumors in cancer patients. A 2012 study published in Toxicology Letters found that CBDA could work to inhibit the migration of breast cancer cells.
Cannabidiol is not the only cannabinoid that can be decarboxylated. THC-A is not intoxicating. THC becomes intoxicating once the acid chain is lost. CBG, CBN and CBC all have versions with their acid chain components. They are CBG-A, CBN-A and CBC-A respectively.
Decarboxylation Temperature and Terpenes
When going through the decarboxylation process, the temperature that you use is extremely important. While a lower temperature will cause the process to take longer, delaying the process can actually be a good thing, as lower temperatures will allow you to retain more terpenes. The terpenes are the oils that give cannabis its unique smell and flavor, and they offer a variety of benefits. Some of the most popular terpenes in cannabis include:
- Caryophyllene. A spicy smell, providing medical value for ulcers, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems
- Limonene. This citrus-smelling terpene offers anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and it can also help with depression and heartburn
- Linalool. Medicinal value includes relief of depression and anxiety, and the terpene smells sweet like flowers
- Myrcene. Myrcene offers an earthy smell and is good for relieving muscle tension, insomnia, and chronic pain.
Besides the fact that retaining as many terpenes as possible will allow for some of these benefits, there is another important reason you’ll want to keep them around in your CBD Oil products – terpenes can actually boost the power of CBD and other cannabinoids, if they are present.
Decarboxylation At Home: Cooking With Cannabis Made Easy
If you are interested in trying out the decarboxylation process on your own at home, there are some simple steps that you can follow:
- Preheat your oven to 230° F.
- Break up cannabis buds and flowers by hand until they are in small pieces of one ounce or less.
- Place the pieces on a baking sheet in a single layer, and make sure that the cannabis takes up the entire pan. There shouldn’t be any empty space.
- Bake the cannabis for up to 40 minutes, stirring it every 10 minutes to ensure even toasting.
- After the cannabis has turned a medium brown color and is dried, remove the baking sheet from the oven and give the cannabis time to cool. When handled, the plant material should be crumbly.
- Use a food processor to pulse the cannabis until it becomes coarsely ground.
Renowned cannabis chefs such as Miguel Trinidad of 99th Floor and Michael Cirino of A Razor/ A Shiny Knife rely on decarbing for their cooking needs. The two most common methods of decarboxylation are through the oven or with a boiling process.
Cannabis begins to decarboxylate around the low 200’s.
For the optimal oven method:
- Preheat to 220–245 degrees
- Grind up your cannabis flower of choice. Pro tip: it finely ground flower is best.
- Line a cookie sheet or baking tray with parchment paper.
- Bake the ground-up flower for about 30–45 minutes, or for kief bake 15-20 minutes.
It’s important to note that a household oven doesn’t always match the exact temperature that it’s dialed to, thus it’s essential to constantly check the temperature and the oven itself throughout the process. Once your decarboxylated cannabis is dry and brown in color, let it cool down and pulse it within a food grinder. From here, you can start thinking about binding your decarboxylated cannabis with the fats in certain oils or alcohol.
For all you sous vide fans there is a way to do something similar to decarb your cannabis:
- you must place the cannabis in a vacuum-sealed boiling bag.
- Submerge the cannabis-filled bag into boiling water for about 90 minutes, ensuring that the water does not evaporate from the high temperature.
- After 90 minutes, the bag is removed from the water and cooled before opening. Like the oven method, you should be sure to moderate the temperature throughout the process (which should be at around 212 degrees Fahrenheit for the boiling water bath).
This method can also be performed with a hot oil bath, but at higher temperatures (250 degrees) and until the bubbles begin to taper off. After the process, make sure that you store the cannabis in an airtight container so that it stays fresh until you need to use it to make extractions.
The process of decarboxylation can be fairly simple or complex. This depends on what route you choose to go.