Definition - What does Decarboxylation mean?
In order for a user to experience the desirable psychoactive effects of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, the product must first be decarboxylated. This can be done by using either heat, alcohol, or fats to knock off the carbon molecule from the cannabis so it can bind with your cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabis molecules cannot easily bind to your receptors with the carbon molecule intact, so it's important to use decarboxylation. To decarboxylate dried cannabis is to heat it up is some way in order to unleash its psychoactive properties. In edibles, the cannabis is either heated up or converted/decarboxylated using fat or alcohol before the product is used in baking.
Decarboxylate, or decarboxylation, is also commonly referred to as activating or decarbing. Some people also refer to it as 'converting your cannabis.'
MaximumYield explains Decarboxylation
There are many different types of fats you can use to convert cannabis for edibles, including butter, coconut oil, or bacon fat. There are also many different types of alcohol you can use to convert cannabis for edibles, including rum, vodka, and gin. Another way to covert cannabis is using dry-cooking techniques done in an oven or a slow cooker, and some patience.
Decarboxylation of cannabis also occurs to some degree over time as the plant naturally dries out. The cannabinoid acids are transformed through heat into a form that the human body can readily absorb and utilize.
Heat removes the carboxyl form of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and converts it into THC. Once the carboxyl has been removed, the remaining THC readily binds with the body’s cell receptors in the brain and nervous system to produce the ‘high’ feeling that so many cannabis users seek.
However, not just THC requires a decarboxylate process to be more readily available to the human body. The other cannabinoids of cannabis such as cannabidiol (CBD) also becomes easier for the body to utilize if it undergoes decarboxylate. Decarboxylating requires high heat to be the most successful.
However, a high temperature often wastes the cannabis plant's terpenes, so it becomes a trade-off situation. Terpenes often help accentuate the health benefits CBD and THC so taking great care not to overheat the plant fiber during the decarboxylation process is essential. The maximum temperature to preserve the plant’s terpenes is 310-400 Fahrenheit (154-205 Celsius).