The Science of Decarboxylation

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The process of decarboxylating cannabis is quite a requisite when it comes to cooking with it but what is decarboxylation and decarboxylation of Cannabis?

This article reasons to why you need to heat cannabis before cooking with it to feel the psychoactive effects and to get the most of the flower power and to why it holds such an important process in Cooking with Cannabis?

What is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide(CO2). Carboxyl groups(COOH) are weak acids which dissociate partially to release Hydrogen ions.

Remember photosynthesis from School which states that energy from sunlight is used by plants to convert Carbon dioxide and water into molecules needed for growth?

The whole process consists of two main stages in which decarboxylation is the opposite of the second stage (following the light reactions), involving atmospheric CO2 fixation and reduction of the fixed Carbon in Carbohydrate else known as Calvin cycle. In the process of Decarboxylation, the Carbon atom is removed from a Carbon Chain.

Decarboxylation of Cannabis

THCA Source: Wikipedia

We know by means of popular culture that the reason we get to experience the psychoactive effects when we smoke cannabis is that because of the psychoactive compounds present in it mainly Cannabinoids. When the Cannabinoid receptors in the cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain, we have Cannabinoid receptors in our brain to which Cannabinoid or it’s constituents bind to, for example, Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) which is the primary psychoactive compound alongside Cannabidiol (CBD) being the other major compound widely known for its medicinal properties. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids isolated from Cannabis, exhibiting varied effects.

Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) is a biosynthetic successor of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid(THCA) which is a base of Hydrogen Ion added to it or THCA is THC in its acidic or non-psychoactive form.

THC Source: Wikipedia

We use the process of decarboxylation which is treating the plant with heat within a time interval to extract THC from THCA.

If we discuss this with respect to cooking cannabutter, we decarboxylate cannabis or heat the plant to extract or transfer THC from THCA into fats upon further heating.

Temperature and Time

THCA begins to decarboxylate at approximately 220°F/104.44°C around 30–45 minutes of heat exposure.You should decarboxylate your cannabis at slightly lower temperatures for a much longer period of time to preserve terpenes.

For the optimal oven method, you should preheat to 220–245°F degrees, and bake for about 30–45 minutes.

What happens when you do not Decarboxylate Cannabis? Can you Smoke Decarboxylated Cannabis?

If you cook with cannabis which hasn’t been decarboxylated then you are going to loose a lot of THC which was available in the plant and If you smoke decarboxylated Cannabis, chances are it wouldn’t work out because of the extra heat which invariably will burn out THC beforehand.

By theory, we can decarboxylate a plant at an early stage, presumably before budding and still feel the psychoactive effects by cooking.

Procedure for Decarbing

  1. Preheat your Oven to 240°F. / 115°C. or to the minimum temperature possible.
  2. Grind your weed or loosen up the buds a little.
  3. On a baking sheet on a baking tray, add your weed.
  4. Bake the weed for about 30–40 minutes giving the tray a little shake every 10 minutes. Notice that it’ll the color of your plant will go a bit dull.
  5. Remove the tray after the weed is dried.

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