According to Wikipedia Decarboxylation is simply a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). When talking about cannabis, cannabis decarboxylation means breaking up the chemical chains within the herb and releasing the THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) necessary to get high.
Firstly, fresh raw cannabis isn’t going to get you high, because it contains THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). Simply by drying the herbs, you start to remove water and carbon from the bud. This process starts to transform the THCA into THC.
Once your buds are dry, applying heat kicks off the chemical reaction that really releases the THC. THCA becomes THC when you heat it. When you light up a joint you start a chemical reaction that releases THC into the smoke you breathe. It’s the most basic form of chemistry, applying heat to turn one substance into another.
When cooking with cannabis to improve the THCA to THC conversion you can gently bake your buds before using them.
There are plenty of ways to decarboxylase your cannabis to increase the potency. In short, the technique is to apply enough heat to decarb the cannabis without applying to much heat to set your cannabis on fire or have the THC burn off. The Wake and Bake Cook Book pulled together a detailed analysis of the THCA/THC conversion and THC loss with different cooking times and temperatures, but the short version comes down to this. Bake at 240 degrees Fahrenheit (115 degrees celsius) for 1 hour. Job Done.
You can also decarboxylase your cannabis in a slow cooker mixed with cooking oils. This will give you a substance similar to cannabutter that can easily be used in any edibles. The beauty of using oils is that it will reduce any temperature fluctuations. While your slow cooker may vary the temperature during the cooking time, the carrier oils will change temperature slowly lessening the THC loss.
You can also buy a variety of decarboxylators online. Small ‘ovens’ specifically designed to decarb cannabis, they boast 100% conversion of THCA to THC with zero loss. They start at around $200 so if you’re a very occasional partaker then this may not be the product for you. However, if you’re eating cannabis regularly, more than once a week the improved potency of your cannabis can probably offset the initial cost of the product.
What happens to CBD
THC is psychoactive and leads to a blissful high, but in too high doses can lead to paranoia. CBD balances the high caused by THC and is preferred for therapeutic use for its ability to help manage pain, seizures, blood sugar, depressing, anxiety… the list goes on. The good news is decarbing will work just as well at turning CBDA into CBD.
This means that decarbing will keep your cannabis in balance while increasing its potency. Give it a go, just remember to tread lightly – like the first time you had some ‘special’ brownies, the effects may be more than you expect.