The TL;DR for your average smoker:
This is the process by which your non-psychoactive THC-A (peak here for info on the health benefits of THC-A consumption) turns into good ole THC, which will definitely get you high 🙂
The long answer which I know you Cannasseurs came for is this:
In order to properly understand decarbing, you need to understand carboxylation. Carboxylation is one of the steps of photosynthesis during which the plan absorbs CO2, which combines with hydrogen atoms to create carboxylic acids from our Cannabinoids (one of which is THC-A – also called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid).
Now that we know those delicious chemicals are all wrapped up in carboxylic acids we can discuss how to get them out for consumption! So if carboxylation is the adding of the carboxylic acid group to the Cannabinoid, decarbing is the removal of that acid. Decarbing starts the moment the chemicals are created and is influenced solely by time and temperature. Since we can’t very easily control the time in which the chemicals have existed we’ll have to tinker with the variable we can control: heat! This comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, a few being burning (combustion), vaporization, and heating in an oven or on a stovetop.
How To! – ish…
Combustion and vaporization are straightforward as both of these actions cause instantaneous decarboxylation of your Cannabinoids, however decarbing for edibles (and sublinguals/tincutures) is a totally different story!
Regardless of what you are infusing with your Cannabis, from alcohol (tinctures), coconut oil (gel caps, edibles), butter (edibles), or some emulsifier (for sublinguals), there will be not enough to no heat in the standard process to properly decarb your Cannabinoids. No decarbing = no chemicals passing the blood brain barrier = no psychoactive effects! Remember it!
Here is where I say that my method is by no means the best there is. I’m here to provide facts and tips so you can come to your own conclusion on what best suits your particular needs and some anecdotes to get beginners started in the right direction!
- Cannabinoids and terpenes have a minimum vapor point of 246.2° (Source) so you can safely assume that if you maintain this temp or below you will see minimal loss of your medicinal essential oils.
- Higher rates of THC converting to CBN via oxidation occur as decarbing goes on for longer amounts of time so longer decarb != higher THC
- Higher levels of CBN lead to a less psychoactive, more anti-inflammatory, more sedative feeling. So if this is what you’re looking for in your medicine then play around with longer decarb times (multiple hours or days even)
- Water boils at lower temperatures than you may be achieving with your decarb so be sure to slowly heat your product before full decarb if it contains moisture. Ridding the material of moisture if you’re going to put it through higher temperatures will stop the present water from boiling and rupturing cells that can release chlorophyll into your final product.
- EVERY PLANT REGARDLESS OF STRAIN MAY BE DIFFERENT!!! That means different terpenes, slightly different Cannabinoid profiles, etc. Some terpenes vaporize at different temperatures than others (hell some vaporize while the plant is still alive)! Additionally each batch of material has already undergone some level of decarboxylation just by virtue of exposure to light and air and temp changes. ALL OF THIS TO SAY YOUR RESULTS MAY VARY SLIGHTLY ON TIME AND TEMP 🙂
Ok, quick rundown of my method for anyone wanting to get a jump start, but understanding the underlying reasons for what’s happening can only serve to improve your Cannabis game!!
- Starting with already slightly dry, cured Cannabis break down/grind nugs and trim together until they’re roughly even sized particles throughout
- Preheat oven to 240°, letting the material from step one heat up in the oven to a point with this if there’s any moisture still needing to be removed from the product
- Spread thin, even layers across a baking sheets, usually lined with parchment for easy collection afterwards
- Bake in oven for 25-35m depending on initial dryness, whether it was heated in the oven yet or not, etc. as I prefer a maximum THC to CBN content for my purposes 😀
At this point you should have decarbed cannabis that can be via your preferred method. It can also be consumed as is with the same effects.
Here’s a good starting point for some recipes once you’ve got your infusions!, but once you understand that you can infuse most any oils with cannabis you’ll see that any recipe (that doesn’t require enough heating to significantly decarb further) can be a medicated recipe!!!