If you're wondering what's up with all the talk about decarbing your cannabis, you're not alone! As the world becomes more flower-friendly, the many different techniques to prepare cannabis infused products has been brought to light and you may be surprised to learn that this small (but mighty) step in your process will completely change your game.
So what is decarboxylation?
decarboxylation. noun. de·car·box·yl·ation | \ ˌdē-kär-ˌbäk-sə-ˈlā-shən \ : the removal or elimination of carboxyl from a molecule.
AKA: "decarbing" or "activating"
When working with cannabis, this process effectively transforms the plain-jane "THC-A" that is found in raw flower, into psychoactive "THC" by releasing C02 and H2O molecules under a specific temperature and over a certain period of time. When the THC-A loses its "A" and becomes just THC, your body's receptors will metabolize it differently and you will experience the "high" that cannabis is typically known for inducing. This is why if you were to eat flower straight off the plant you won't feel the psychoactive effects. But if you smoked that very same flower, the decarb process happens immediately under the flame, and the psychoactive effects are released.
NOT JUST TO GET HIGH. You can replace the "THC-A" and "THC" with "CBD-A" and "CBD", and so on, with all the many different cannabinoids found in your strain. Although THC is mainly responsible for the "high" you would feel, decarbing to activate the other cannabinoids can be very beneficial as well. Keep in mind that the temperature at which other cannabinoids "activate" can vary and are specific to each one.
So why does this matter when making cannabis infusions?
Simply, if you don't complete this step prior to infusing your flower into oil, then the oil you end up with will not be fully activated and it will not get you "high". By activating your dry cannabis first, and then infusing it into oil, your finished product that comes out of your LEVO will be ready to go with full-spectrum, decarbed goodness to use in tinctures, capsules, topicals, and more! (ie. no need to bake the oil into brownies afterwards)
What happens if I DON'T decarb before I infuse?
That's OK too! The great thing about making your own infusions is that you have complete and total control over the end result that you're looking for. The medicinal value of cannabis casts a wide net, and the benefits can be experienced in different ways depending on how you prepare and consume it. While one person may benefit from the psychoactive effect of THC to calm their nerves, another person may have the opposite response and prefer a tamer experience, while enjoying the beneficial cannabinoids found in the same strain.
How do I decarboxylate?
A quick Google search on the topic will pull up 50 different ways to get the job done. The most important thing to consider above all else is the temperature and time at which your flower is undergoing this reaction. If you get these factors wrong, you could end up with minimal transfer of THCA to THC, or you could actually lose some of the active compounds like THC altogether. Decarbing is most successful when done with a tool that has precise temperature controls, like the LEVO II. The LEVO II will also keep the strong fragrance that's released during this process to a minimum.
Temperature: 240ºF is a widely accepted temperature setting that we tend to agree with when activating THC.
Time: This varies more depending on a few factors, like moisture content of your herbs, but 30 minutes to an hour should get the job done.
If using the LEVO II, we recommend Activating with the default settings; 240ºF for 30 minutes (plus the Warming Up period of ~10 minutes). When performing tests at a certified cannabis testing lab in Denver, CO, the Activate cycle on the LEVO II resulted in an almost 100% transfer of THC-A to THC, compared to a less than 50% transfer of the same strain using a household oven. This is because of the temperature fluctuations happening inside the oven and the uneven heat distribution. If you do not have a LEVO II and are using an oven to decarb your flower, we recommend monitoring the temperature inside the oven with an external thermometer.