by Old Hippie BeyondChronic.com
Decarboxylation: Why you never heard of it, why you should understand it, and how to do it.
Little-known fact: there’s little or no THC in raw marijuana.
That’s right. It’s only when people process it generally by smoking, vaporizing, or cooking it that the THC becomes usable by the body. And that chemical process is called decarboxylation.
There’s an awful lot of misinformation floating around about decarboxylation. Some of it stems from the fact that the main precursor to the THC molecule has about half a dozen names, all of them perfectly valid.
So, for instance, the Wikipedia article on Decarboxylation says (in different places) that 11-nor-9-Carboxy-THC and 9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid both decarboxylate to THC upon heating. Other sources refer separately to THCA, tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid, and THC-COOH (which is how we’ll refer to it from here on).
Not only are all these exactly the same molecule, but to make matters worse, it also happens to be the main metabolite of THC as well! So the way it works is THC-COOH + heat = THC, which in your body metabolizes right back to THC-COOH again (and that’s what they look for in drug testing for marijuana, by the way). Think of it as recycling.
Tale of the Tail
The reason I recommend calling it simply THC-COOH is because that name makes it easier to visualize the process of decarboxylation itself, which literally consists of the extra carboxylic acid “tail” being “snipped off” the molecule to leave the THC we all know and love. This usually happens by adding heat, but the process of curing converts THC-COOH to pure THC as well.
That’s why uncured bud not only doesn’t taste good when you smoke it, but doesn’t really give you a proper high or the right medicinal effect: you’re not getting the normal mix of cannabinoids you’d expect. The flip side of that is why eating raw cannabis or putting it into food is often quite a good idea for many patients, precisely because you don’t get the psychoactive effects of THC. Without THC, the relative level of CBD is higher, and this new mix can give people more pain relief with less effect on the brain.
And that’s why generations of pot smokers never even heard of decarboxylation. When you smoke or vaporize, it’s done automatically by the heat. Decarboxylation began to come to people’s attention when serious work started on using cannabis medicinally. But there were hints all along, if you know where to look, and that would be in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.
Alice B. Toklas was infamous for her “canibus” brown-ie recipe, which was also infamous for being extremely vague on how much of the crucial material to use. So people have been throwing random handfuls of weed in brownie mix for decades, cooking at different tempera-tures, and getting wildly different results. There are three main reasons for this problem:
• Incorrect dosing.
Many people just use way too much or too little. A gram per dose is usually a good starting point for many patients.
• Cooking at too high a temperature.
This essentially vaporizes out the THC before it gets to you (look for recipes that cook at 325°F (160°C) or less to prevent this).
- Green marijuana just can’t decarboxylate fully inthe short time it takes to cook brownies.
The end result is that brownies often have the reputation of putting people on the floor with heavy body effects. That’s because the last two factors artificially lower the amount of THC in the finished product, letting the effects of the other cannabinoids take over. And it’s not just brownies; many people know stories about friends wasting large amounts of expensive cannabis trying to make edibles that didn’t perform up to expectations.
The Secret Recipe
So, in the interest of creating better medicine, here is an effective procedure for decarboxylating cannabis in your oven, whether the final result is intended for use in mak-ing edibles, tinctures, or capsules. You should use a thermometer to check that the oven is actually at the temperature you set it to, before you use it for such a heat-sensitive operation.
Many people simply put their marijuana on a cookie sheet, but if you do that, you’ll be pouring crispy cannabis off a hot, flat surface, and I can almost guaran-tee you’ll be spilling some. Instead, I recommend using aluminum foil to make a kind of flat bowl with a fold-ed spout, and putting that on a cookie sheet.
Decarboxylation Bowl: Not fancy, but functional
Now preheat your oven to 225°F (105°C). You can now just heat your cannabis for 60 minutes, or use the slight-ly more complex and effective (and patented!) method of 225°F (105°C) for 15 minutes, followed by 250°F (120°C) for 60 minutes. Either way, be prepared, because your kitchen will smell like a pot party.
Take it out of the oven, let it cool for five minutes or so, and now it will be brown and brittle and very easy to grind to small particle size (more like oregano, rather than powder). You can use a regular weed or spice grinder, a mortar and pestle, or even a coffee grinder or small blender.
The result is fully activated cannabis, which can be put directly in gelatin capsules, added to recipes (preferably next to ingredients with a high fat content), or used to make cannabutter or canna oil. And because it retains all the THC of the original material as well as all the other cannabinoids, it is quite powerful.
If you use a vaporizer on a regular basis, you can use the ABV (Already Been Vaped remains, sometimes called duff) in the same manner, because vaporizing also decarboxylates. But you’ll have to use between 25% and 33% more of it to make up for the THC that’s already been vaporized.
The good news is that it will now help you twice!