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What Is Decarboxylation?

Cannabis-based science can be complicated, to say the least. First off, there are more than 100 cannabinoids discovered to date. At the beginning of their journey, there are two main cannabinoids present within cannabis seeds. These are known as the precursors: CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid) and CBGVA (Cannabigerovaranic Acid).

Cannabinoids go on to transform with natural occurrence. CBGA converts to THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid), CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid, and CBCA (Cannabichromenenic Acid). Whereas CBGVA mutates into THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivarinic Acid), and CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic Acid).

During a seasons harvest, early stages of the second transformation of cannabinoids take place via a process known as decarboxylation.

What Is Decarboxylation And How Does It Affect Cannabinoids?

There are two processes of decarboxylation, one that occurs organically over some time, the other is by introductory heat. Even though there are only three cannabinoids present during early stages of raw cannabis, the process of decarboxylation naturally begins during harvest. Dependant on the cannabis seed, the dominant cannabinoid will either be CBGA, CBDA, or THCA. With organic decarboxylation, minor traces of other cannabinoids will be present within the flower; such as CBD (Cannabidiol), CBG (Cannabigerol), and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).

For a better understanding, let’s view it from a non-scientific angle: Recreational cannabis will not induce the “high” when eaten in its raw form. This is because the THC is in its Acidic state – THCA – Which is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. By smoking a “joint” the heat instantly transforms a large percentage of the THCA into the intoxicating cannabinoid, THC. Furthermore, cannabis edibles are also psychotropic as decarboxylation has occurred during the process of baking.

The Difference Between Decarboxylation Via Heat Treatment And Natural Occurrence

Now that we have identified the two major catalysts behind decarboxylation, let’s further explore the differences between the two:

Natural Occurrence – Or Curing

The slowest of the two methods is to “cure” the cannabis. By leaving the flower out to dry, the molecular structure will gradually shift from acidic to neutral. Although it is true to say that raw cannabis is non-psychoactive, if left to dry over a long period, THCA will proceed to transform into THC. If left long enough, the THC will start to degrade into CBN (Cannabinol), the highly sedative and sleep-inducing cannabinoid – this process is known as oxidation.

Heat Treatment

From the two, applying heat is by far the most reliable. Particularly if you are looking for a specific cannabinoid as different temperatures impact the alteration in molecular structure. Moreover, cannabis is extracted and trimmed into a variety of forms, such as oils, kief, and hash. The disparity between each substance requires different temperatures to achieve the same effects. However, a temperature beyond 300 degrees Fahrenheit will begin to destroy the cannabinoids. In addition, overheating the cannabis will burn off the highly therapeutic terpene profile.

The Methods Of Decarboxylating THC And How To Do It At Home

Over recent years we have witnessed the re-birth of cannabis. In particular with CBD and the range of consumption methods. However, cannabis consumption isn’t a new thing – the psychotropic elements of THC has always been popular, most notably as a recreational substance. Just like its close sibling, CBD – THC to has its array of options to consume.

Let’s take a look at the best ways to convert your THCA into THC:


When it comes to cannabis consumption, smoking is the most popular. Smoking cannabis can be achieved by smoking raw flower or as an oil via a vaporiser. In general, cannabis oil or e-liquid should be decarboxylated after a manufacturing process called distillation. The required temperature to distil the oil is efficient enough to convert the THCA into THC.

As for raw flower – by smoking a “joint”, you will convert much of the THCA into THC, thus inducing a “high”. However, to fully decarboxylate the cannabinoid requires a bit of time, even with the heat. With that, smoking raw flower may be the most traditional of methods, however, it is not the best to maximise your THC intake.


Cannabis edibles are ever-growing in popularity. In the light of what’s been discussed with regards to decarboxylation and heat treatment, simply adding cannabis as an ingredient to your baked goods is not enough. To maximise your cannabinoid conversion of THCA into THC, it is advised that you adopt the cooking technique known as the “sous vide method”.

How To Sous Vide Your Cannabis

When it comes to decarboxylation and cannabis, the sous vide method is by far the greatest technique. This approach would require a sous vide machine and either a vacuum sealer or a heat-safe zip-lock bag. Firstly, you finely grind the cannabis into the seal-able bag and then place the bag into a pot filled with water that has been pre-heated to a temperature of 230-240 degrees Fahrenheit.

To evenly-decarboxylate your cannabis, you must ensure that the temperature remains consistent and you leave it for approximately 90 minutes. Don’t worry if you do not have a sous vide device, as this can be achieved with a pot of boiling water. However, this would require that you monitor the process with a thermometer, to prevent the cannabis from drying out or burning.

Once you have achieved this, your cannabis is ready to be added to your favourite baking recipe.

It is important to note that this suggested method cannot be applied to CBD flower. CBDA requires a higher temperature to transform into CBD. Moreover, the decarboxylation process also requires additional time. Furthermore, it is important to note that a different consideration of heat and time would also apply to THC dominant kief and hash.

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