Do I Need to Decarboxylate CBD Flower?
6 months ago
You just bought your first cannabidiol (CBD) product. Unfortunately, you didn’t notice much, if any, beneficial effects. Does that mean CBD just doesn’t work for you?
The problem may lie in how the manufacturer processed the product prior to you buying it. Because, for CBD to be optimally effective, decarboxylation must take place.
Read on to learn what decarboxylation is, why it’s important when consuming CBD and how you can decarboxylate CBD-rich cannabis flower at home.
What Is Decarboxylation & Why Is It So Important?
Decarboxylation, or decarbing, is a process that converts inactive components in the cannabis plant into active compounds.
Most people talk about decarboxylation in terms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is because there’s actually no THC in fresh cannabis plants. Rather, there’s THC’s acidic precursor, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). But decarboxylating THCA turns it into THC, and this is important because THCA can’t produce the feelings of euphoria that THC can impart. So, a consumer hoping to achieve this effect from cannabis, but who doesn’t decarb their marijuana will be sorely disappointed.
Though many may not realize it, CBD works in the same way as THC does when it comes to decarboxylation. CBD actually starts life as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and only converts to CBD after decarboxylation.
Decarboxylation is carried out via two basic processes:
Decarbing is almost always a part of a CBD product’s manufacturing process, whether you buy CBD from an online outlet or a dispensary. But if you’re making your own CBD product at home, your first step should be to decarb your cannabis flower.
An experienced cannabis farmer knows that proper curing of cannabis is the first step in decarbing. Following harvest, farmers gently dry their plants, using stringent humidity and temperature control. Patient, slow curing results in maximum development of the plant’s beneficial cannabinoids.
Decarbing also takes place when you heat cannabis flower. When you smoke or vape cannabis flower, the flame from your lighter or heat from your vaporizer take care of the decarbing. But if you’re making CBD edibles or your own oils, you can easily decarb your flower in the oven.
In terms of the pre-made CBD edibles you buy, manufacturers decarb dry flower prior to baking, using a separate, temperature-controlled process. Gentle heating of flowers is one of the most basic forms of decarboxylation.
What Is CBDA & How Is It Related to CBD?
As mentioned previously, raw cannabis and hemp contain CBDA, which is an acidic form of CBD. It’s structurally more difficult to pass through the body’s blood-brain barrier than CBD is. This is one reason manufacturers decarb CBD-rich cannabis. Decarboxylation converts CBDA to the much more accessible CBD, making it easier for the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to put CBD to work inside your body.
That said, CBDA has benefits of its own. The cannabinoid has been shown to help ease:
One of the most exciting findings in the early studies of CBDA is some evidence that it takes far less CBDA than CBD to elicit beneficial effects, but more study is needed.
If you grow your own high-CBD cannabis plants and wish to take advantage of CBDA, you’re in luck. You can access raw CBDA from the leaves and even the stems of fresh, high CBD-strain cannabis.
To get the benefits of CBDA, try adding fresh leaves to a green smoothie, blend up the leaves and freeze them for future use as canna ice cubes or add fresh, pungent leaves to salad.
If you want to experiment with CBDA and aren’t growing cannabis, look for CBD products that are labelled raw CBD.
How Do I Decarboxylate High-CBD Cannabis?
For most people growing CBD, decarbing is essential when making edibles or topical treatments, and is an affordable way to keep the home cannabis pharmacy stocked with quality products that you can trust. Start with cannabis strains that are known for their high-CBD content, such as:
Basic decarboxylation is a relatively simple process that requires:
- An oven
- A baking sheet
- Parchment paper (optional)
- A timer
CBD decarboxylates at a slightly higher temperature than THC does. Because most of the research into decarboxylation has been on THC, there are lively online debates about the ideal decarb temperature for CBD. Most folks agree though that you can effectively decarb CBD at 240–300 degrees F. Temperatures higher than 300 degrees F will degrade the CBD in your bud.
To decarboxylate CBD:
- Use an oven thermometer to confirm the temperature of your oven and adjust the temperature accordingly.
- Break buds into small, dime-sized pieces and spread on your cookie sheet. Use parchment paper if desired.
- Place buds in the oven. Set your timer for 30 minutes.
- Turn your flower with a spatula every 10 minutes or so.
- When flowers are fragrant and toasted, they’re decarboxylated.
- Let cool before storing or continue preparing your favorite cannabis recipe.
Remember that, as with any herb, toasted cannabis has a distinct odor that people may detect beyond your kitchen.
How Can I Tell if the CBD Product I Bought Has Been Decarbed?
Nearly every CBD product for sale has already been decarboxylated, with the exception of products that are identified as raw.
One very simple way to determine if your CBD product has been decarbed is to look at the label. As we discussed earlier, CBDA is more predominant in raw cannabis. If your product has a high CBD level and a low CBDA level, you know it’s been decarbed.
And as always, check labels for testing information, which should ideally include the percentage of primary cannabinoids in each serving and verify the absence of molds and pesticides.
Photo credit: 420MediaCo/Shutterstock.com
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