The raw cannabis plant has phytocannabinoids. Everyone is aware of CBD and THC. However, there is less awareness that the CBD compound is present in an acid precursor form called CBDA or cannabidiol acid. CBDA is dormant and needs to get stimulated for unlocking its total benefits.
The process helps to activate the CBDA in the raw plant transforming into an active CBD. Due to the acidic cannabinoids are sensitive to heat they go through decarboxylation when exposed to heating, smoking, or drying.
How does decarboxylation work?
In the molecular structure of raw cannabinoids, there is a carboxyl ring [COOH]. The carbon atom is bonded with an oxygen atom and hydroxyl group. When it gets heated the carbon atom gets detached from the arrangement, and carbon dioxide gets released. It is a concept that applies to every member of the cannabis family.
Is there a need to decarboxylate CBD products?
On CBD dispensary, you will find activated products sold like capsules, tinctures, soap, or topical. It means you don’t need to get concerned about decarboxylation. So, when does the hemp gets decarboxylated, while these topicals are made?
Decarboxylation, before or after the extraction is possible. However, before extraction is much preferred as the moisture gets removed and this speeds up the extraction process. You get an end product with high yields, especially when the CO2 extraction method is used. The activated cannabinoids get easily dissolved in the supercritical CO2 that separating them from the material becomes easy.
When you use LC/MS [liquid chromatography & mass spectrometry] to separate and isolate the cannabinoids, you can decarboxylate plant material simultaneously. So, after extraction decarboxylation is possible. The LC separates cannabinoids in a pressurized liquid system. The MS detects captures, deflects, and ionizes the different cannabinoids depending on their mass: charge ratio.
Decarboxylation needs a balance of time and temperature
The needed temperature and time for every cannabinoid differ. For example, THCA needs 220°F for 30 to 45 minutes to start decarboxylation. Therefore for total decarboxylation, more time is needed.
If the CBD-dominant uses high temperature and long exposure, then it damages other valuable content. Besides, cannabinoids you need to consider the terpenes while applying heat. To avoid the terpenes from burning, the minimum temperature has to be used for a long period. Exposure to high heat can destroy the taste, smell, and benefits of the essential compounds.
Temperature more than 300°F compromises the cannabinoids and terpenes integrity. The recommended temperature is 200°F.
The potency of cannabinoid before & after decarboxylation
In the raw acid form, the cannabinoid has a little more mass than the decarboxylated variant. When heated, the mass of CBDA or THCA gets shrunk by 12.3% because the CO2 atom gets detached. Multiply the acid form of resulting potency of CBD or THC by 0.877.
During decarboxylation, 100% of raw cannabinoids don’t get transformed. There are remains of a small percentage of CBDA or THCA seen on the lab tests.
The heated molecules are preferred because acid-based forms still need research. However, decarboxylation gives an active CBD having healing properties.