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March 2, 2021

The Basics of Decarboxylation

In most endeavors, preparation is the key to success. A farmer who doesn’t till the soil will have trouble planting the seed. A painter who doesn’t prime the wall will find that the paint doesn’t adhere as well. Likewise, hemp that isn’t decarboxylated will not produce effective CBD. Understanding the basics of decarboxylation is the key to creating CBD products that people want to use.

The Science of Decarboxylation

If you put newly harvested industrial hemp under the microscope, you wouldn’t find THC or CBD. At least, not in the form that we value. What you will find are THCA and CBDA. The “A” here stands for acid. These precursor acids are considered inactive and won’t produce any of the effects or benefits we associate with them.

If you break down the etymology of the word “decarboxylation,” it literally means the process of removing a carboxylic acid from a molecule. When applied to hemp, it refers to removing that carboxyl group through the release of CO2. This activates the THC and CBD, enabling them to bind to receptors in the body and, thus, allowing us to experience the benefits.

How Decarboxylation Works

Decarboxylation occurs before hemp goes into an ethanol extraction system and is done with heat. Individuals place their hemp into a vessel that will heat it to 220 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit after 30 to 45 minutes of exposure, though the exact time depends on the batch and the exact strain.

Common Mistakes During Decarboxylation

Too Much Heat

Although heat is a basic of decarboxylation, facilities need to be wary of applying too much heat. Cannabinoids and terpenes, which are the compounds in hemp that provide flavor and aroma, can be degraded if exposed to too much heat.

Grinding Hemp Before Decarboxylation

Many extractors choose to grind hemp before decarboxylation to help with consistency during heating. However, grinding hemp can potentially disrupt the trichomes on a plant. Trichomes are small hair-like profusions that contain the THC and CBD in hemp. Decarboxylation without grinding makes for more effective CBD and longer shelf life.

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