Why is it that smoking and cooking cannabis produces a high, but eating a green bud of cannabis does not? The secret is Decarboxylation, or "Decarb" for short. Most people don't realize it, but we must decarb weed with every single sesh in order to release the cannabinoids and allow cannabis to become bio-available to our endocannabinoid system.
That's a pretty big mouthful for "how to toke", but really, it's a simple matter of chemistry. Today, VESSEL is diving into what it means to decarb weed, why do it, and how to decarb correctly for the best flavor and high.
What Does It Mean to Decarb Weed?
Decarbing weed means to activate it with heat. When cannabis is heated up, the cannabinoids transition from their molecularly locked acid form into the high-inducing molecules that we know and love. But just what is decarbing, and what does it mean?
Decarbing means to decarboxylate. Decarboxylation is a process of removing a carboxyl molecular group which also releases carbon dioxide from the compound. For cannabis the decarboxylation process involves heat, a gentle yet persistent heat that allows a small but important chemical reaction to occur. Without it, even edibles and topicals would not be very effective, no matter how strong the cannabis strain they were made from.
Why Do You Need to Decarb Weed?
We decarb weed to release the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids from their acid state. To understand, let's talk about cannabis molecules for a moment.
The mother of all cannabinoids is CBG-A, the A stands for acid, but don't worry. Orange juice and vinegar are also acids. When CBG-A matures inside the cannabis plant, it develops into THC-A, CBD-A, and all the other natural cannabinoids that have been discovered, in their -A forms. However, our endocannabinoid system can't absorb and process cannabinoid-A's. So we decarboxylate, removing that acidic element from each molecule using gentle heat.
When you light cannabis with a lighter or heat in a pan before making an edible, this is decarboxylation the cannabis, releasing the A element along with some carbon dioxide. Once this happens, the cannabinoids are bio-available to produce all the benefits we know and enjoy.
The Difference Between Decarbing and Scorching Cannabis
It's also important to know that decarbing is done at a low heat, usually around 200-260 degrees F and no higher. If the temperature goes higher, the cannabis will scorch and you will lose cannabinoid strength to that damage. This is why it's important to know what you're doing when planning to decarb your cannabis.
What are the Pros and Cons of Decarbed Weed?
- Makes cannabinoids immediately bioavailable for smoking, edibles, or topicals
- Allows you to cook potent edibles
- Creates more potent waxes from extraction
- Some terpenes are lost
- Cannot be made into shatter
How to Decarboxylate Your Cannabis?
So, just how do you decarb your weed to increase the high through bioavailability? There are three standard ways, and three non-standard ways to decarb your weed.
Instantly with a Lighter
When you hit a bowl by flicking a lighter over ground-up cannabis leaf, you are instantly decarbing the leaf and inhaling the result. The heat from the flame immediately cooks the cannabis and helps it release that -A element, which is why smoking cannabis provides an instant and holistic effect.
Because the flame from the lighter is not very hot on it's own, you will typically get the optimal effect without scorching your cannabinoids, but avoid any lighter that advertises itself as extra hot, as this is not ideal for cannabis.
Gently Baked at 250 F
Most of the time intentional decarbing of weed is done to make edibles, and starts in an oven. You can decarb your weed easily by setting your oven to about 250 F and gently baking your buds on a cookie sheet for about half an hour. This slow-heats them without scorching the cannabis, allowing all the THC-A to process into bioavailable THC in a reasonable amount of time.
You can decarb faster at a higher heat, but don't turn the oven up higher than 265 degrees F or you risk scorching your buds and losing potency. Once buds have been decarbed in the oven, they can be made into edibles and topicals. Just be sure to use low-heat recipes, as well.
In a Dry Herb Vaporizer
Not everyone realizes that there are vape pens for dry herbs, but these also effectively decarboxylate and burn up your cannabis in order to provide a clean, bioavailable hit. Set to the correct temperature and enjoy quick well-decarbed leaf hits all day.
Freeze the Cannabis
Freezing does strange things to molecules. it can denature meat, crystalize vegetables, and it can also decarb your cannabis. Freezing cannabis buds solid is one way to decarb, but be careful, as thrichomes fall very easily from frozen buds.
You can sometimes decarb weed in the microwave if you are in a hurry, but always use the lowest setting and pull it out after a minute. It's hard to test successful decarbing, but absolutely do not let your cannabis burn in the microwave, which is prone to do.
Sous Vide Decarbing
If you already have a Sous Vide kit, you can decarb your cannabis this way. Sous Vide uses a plastic bag set into boiling water to provide even heat in an unusual way. Make sure the water is no hotter than about 220 degrees and burp all the air out of your cannabis bag before immersing it in the water.
Slowly in a Jar
Lastly, cannabis will slowly decarboxylate if left completely alone in a sealed jar. However, this process can take years and the leaf itself may lose potency in that time.
Optimize Your Process with High-End Accessories
Working with cannabis at home, it helps to have the right accessories for the job. When decarbing weed, many people prefer to use a high-quality grinder to better break up the buds, especially if you are planning an infusion for cooking or topicals as your next step.
You will find a great selection of high-end cannabis accessories with VESSEL, and we are always proud to become part of your at-home cannabis process.
To Sum It Up
Decarbing your weed is a necessary part of enjoying it. The many different types of decarbing can be used based on what you plan to do next. From slow-cooking your cannabis to boiling it in a bag, you have a surprising number of options. To find some of the best accessories to combine with your decarbing process, contact Vessel at email@example.com .
What happens if you decarb weed for too long?
It is similar to overheating the cannabis: you will cook off your cannabinoids and terpenes.
What does decarbed weed look like?
The buds change color from light green to light brown.
Is decarbed weed safe?
Yes, it's the way it should be consumed in most cases.
Is it safe to decarb weed?
Yes, very safe. But it can start to smell very "dank" in your house.
What is the right temp to decarb weed?
Between 200 and 260 degrees F.
What should I do with decarbed weed?
Most people infuse it into butter to make cannabutter and then edibles.
Cooking weed just right will prevent it from disturbing its taste.