DECARBOXYLATION: WHAT IS IT?

THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the acidic precursor to THC. This effectively means that without THCA, THC would not exist. In its natural state, THCA does not induce the psychological effects THC is prized for. However, through the decarboxylation process (the application of heat), a carboxyl group is removed (the “A”), and raw THCA is converted into usable THC.

Yet, THCA does appear to have its uses. It is theorised that, in the wild, THCA functions as an acidic deterrent against threats such as predators and pests. Moreover, early research suggests that THCA may even provide therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Research suggests that, if harnessed correctly, THCA could display many of the same therapeutic benefits as THC—just without the high.

HOW TO DECARBOXYLATE CANNABIS

For smokers and vapers, decarboxylation happens naturally as a result of the toking process. Although much less refined than the methods below, igniting your weed with a flame decarbs the cannabinoids and terpenes immediately, allowing you to quickly suck in and benefit from the effects. However, the excessive heat produced from this method is known to “kill off” some of these volatile molecules. Vaporizing is a bit more controlled; devices are heated up to activate THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes right around their boiling points, allowing for a nearly full dose of each compound.

  • OVEN METHOD

The most common method of decarboxylating cannabis, especially when making edibles, is simply “baking” it in the oven. There are a few steps involved in this method:

1. Grind up your cannabis until it is even enough to smoothly spread over a thin surface.
2. Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment or baking paper.
3. Pour your ground cannabis over the sheet, making sure to evenly spread it out.
4. Preheat an oven to 115℃ and place the tray inside for approximately 45 minutes, stirring the cannabis about halfway through.

It is important to be mindful of your oven’s temperature during this process. Cooking your buds at a higher temperature may seem like it would get the job done quicker, but it will most likely just degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes, making it potentially unusable. Cooking it at a lower temperature for a longer period of time is generally considered to be the safest and most effective method of decarboxylating cannabis.

While this is the most commonly used method (and many would say the easiest), there are several other ways to decarboxylate marijuana.

Decarboxylation
Decarboxylation
Decarboxylation
  • MICROWAVE METHOD

If you don’t have 45 minutes to bake your weed in the oven, this method is perfect. While it's a little more hands-on, you can use your trusty old microwave to decarb your cannabis in just a few minutes. Here’s how:

1. Like the previous methods, grind your weed to a medium consistency. Place it in a microwave-safe bowl or tray.
2. Microwave on HIGH for roughly 90 seconds.
3. Take out your weed and smell it. It should smell pungent, but not burnt. If it’s not there yet, give it a stir and place it back in the microwave for another 60–90 seconds.

Microwaving cannabis is a little trickier than using an oven, as you don’t have any control over the temperature. Plus, microwaves vary a lot, so you’ll have to play things by ear depending on the make and model you’ve got at home.

If you’re worried about burning your weed using this method, consider using a lower microwave setting and cooking your bud a little longer. Always keep an eye on your bud to ensure it's not burning, and use your nose to tell whether it’s been decarbed properly.

Whichever way you choose to decarboxylate your weed, remember: low and slow. Using high temperatures to rapidly heat your cannabis risks burning both cannabinoids and terpenes, which will ruin the potency and aroma of your weed. Stick to lower temperatures and take your time, and you'll end up with perfectly activated weed ready to use in any of your favourite recipes.

  • SOUS-VIDE METHOD

This method is arguably our second favourite method for decarboxylating cannabis after the oven method. Because water boils at 100℃, it's literally impossible to burn your weed using this method. Plus, because you’ll be using a thermometer, you’ll also have really close control over your temperature to ensure you activate all the cannabinoids in your bud.

Here’s how to decarb your weed using sous-vide:

1. Grind your bud to a medium consistency, place it in a sous-vide bag, and vacuum-seal it.
2. If you have a sous-vide precision cooker, set it up to cook at 95℃. Place your bag in the cooker and cook it for roughly 1 hour. If you don’t have a sous-vide cooker, fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Once boiling, bring down the heat and use a thermometer to keep your water temperature at 95–100℃.
4. Place your vacuum-sealed bag of weed in the water and cook for approximately 60 minutes.

When using sous-vide, patience is key. This method takes notably longer than the others on this list, but the results are really consistent.

  • NATURAL METHOD

It’s worth noting that cannabis naturally decarboxylates over time if left alone. Its exposure to the elements is enough to gradually turn THCA into THC, and THC into the cannabinoid CBN. However, this process is incredibly lengthy, so heat will almost certainly be necessary in order to push it along. Whichever method you choose, decarboxylation is essential to “unlocking” the psychotropic power of our illustrious THC.

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