What is decarboxylation and how does it relate to CBD oil ? Hemp contains a huge range of different cannabinoids, the most famous of which are probably THC and CBD . In growing hemp, or in a freshly dried hemp flower, these cannabinoids are not actually present at all. They only contain cannabinoid precursors, cannabinoid acids. Cannabinoid acids must go through a chemical process called decarboxylation, where those cannabinoid acids are converted into cannabinoids. In this article we will learn about decarboxylation and what it has to do with CBD oil!
From cannabinoid acid to cannabinoid
The creation of cannabinoids is a multi-step process. During the growing season, the hemp grows a flower in which small crystals are formed, just like small crystals. These crystals are called trichomes and most of the cannabinoid acids produced by hemp accumulate in them. The compounds in hemp are first transformed into cannabigerolic acid ( CBG-A ) and from there into cannabinoid acids such as CBD-A , THC-A , CBN-A, etc. In the fall, the completed inflorescence is harvested and dried, which is when the transformation of cannabinoid acids into cannabinoids begins. Heat, oxygen, light and time bring about a process called decarboxylation, which transforms cannabinoid acids into a neutral form into cannabinoids CBD , THC , CBN , etc.
Heat causes decarboxylation
Decarboxylation is a natural process that can happen in two ways. Naturally by the influence of light, heat, oxygen and time or mechanically with the help of heat, speeding up that natural process. The natural decarboxylation process is slow, lasting even months, but with the help of sufficiently high heat, the molecular reaction can be accelerated to take place in a few hours.
Decarboxylation is a molecular reaction
Decarboxylation is perhaps a familiar term from biology or chemistry classes. It is a molecular reaction in which the carboxyl attachment detaches from the molecule, releasing carbon dioxide at the same time. The molecules of all cannabinoids are different from each other, but all of them, or their precursor cannabinoid acid, have in common the carboxyl bond carbon-oxygen-oxygen-hydrogen (-COOH). The bond of the carboxyl group to the molecule is not very strong and is easily broken by heat. The carbon released from the molecule releases carbon oxide and thus converts the cannabinoid acid into a neutral cannabinoid. (1,2)
Is decarboxylation necessary?
Cannabinoid precursors such as CBD-A found in hemp also correspond to the endocannabinoid system. CBD-A has been less studied than its cannabinoid form CBD, but it is also versatile and effective in its effects. According to user experiences, CBD-A helps e.g. to relieve stress. It has been found to lift the mood and calm a restless mind.
CBD has been found to have more good properties than CBD-A, which is perhaps only due to the fact that CBD has been studied more.
On the other hand, it is believed that CBD-A is, as it were, inactive, while CBD is the active form. It is thought that CBD would have more therapeutic effects and that it would respond better and more widely to the endocannabinoid system. However, there is no absolute certainty about this.
Is CBD oil decarboxylated?
The answer is yes and no. Most of the CBD oils on the market have gone through the decarboxylation process, but we also have unique CBD-A oils available.
How does decarboxylation affect other compounds?
120 different cannabinoids have been identified in hemp. In addition to them, hemp has a huge number of other effective compounds such as terpenes , flavonoids and minerals. In order to convert the cannabinoid acid CBD-A into CBD, but at the same time preserve other active ingredients such as terpenes, you have to be careful with the temperature and time. Some of the compounds are destroyed at lower temperatures than the decarboxylation of cannabinoids, so not everything can be preserved. On the other hand, the boiling temperature of many active compounds is higher than that required for the formation of CBD, so some of the other compounds survive gentle heating well.
Common decarboxylation methods
A few different methods have been developed to speed up the decarboxylation process. Different cannabinoid acids have their own relationships to the temperature and time in which decarboxylation into cannabinoids takes place. Studies have shown that, for example, TCH is formed at a lower temperature, but more slowly than CBD (1). CBD-A starts to decarboxylate at 120 degrees, and the boiling point of CBD is 160°. After crossing the boiling point, CBD starts to evaporate and thus disappear completely. (1,3)
Decarboxylation in the oven
Of the decarboxylation methods, the oven method is probably the most familiar and used, where the hemp blossom or CBD-A juice capsule juice powder is heated in the oven, on the oven tray. According to research, CBD concentrations are at their highest when the oven is kept at 130 degrees approx. 40 minutes. (1,3)
Decarboxylation by vacuum method
Another, more effective method according to user experience, is the vacuum method, where hemp flowers placed in a vacuum bag are immersed in water in a pot. The temperature of the water in the boiler is kept at 95-100 degrees approx. for an hour. The water must not boil. The vacuum method is slower, but gentler, because there is no risk of burning the flowers!
Decarboxylation of CBD oil
CBD oil should no longer be decarboxylated once it has been bottled. CBD oil is decarboxylated during its extraction stage by heating. The CBD oils sold in the world are largely decarboxylated, but today, more and more, there are oils available with, for example, half of the oil extracted from raw hemp and half of decarboxylated CBD oil . There is also oil extracted from raw hemp only, which is the so-called CBD-A oil .
Although decarboxylation may seem like a necessary and important reaction at first glance, the fact is that we are not completely sure if decarboxylation is as essential as we think. CBD-A has been found to have many good effects in studies, despite the fact that almost all studies focus on CBD. In principle, you could even say that the studies distort the idea that only the cannabinoid CBD is effective and therapeutic.
- Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry. 2016. Wang M., Wang YH., Avula B., Radwan M., Wanas AS, Antwerp J., Parcher JF, ElSohly MA, Khan I.. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc /articles/PMC5549281/ . Referred on 02/28/2022
- What is decarboxylated CBD. 2021. Keehn J., El-hajj S.. https://cbdschool.com/what-is-decarboxylated-cbd/ Cited 2022-02-28
- Evaluation of thermo-chemical conversion temperatures of cannabinoid acids in hemp ( Cannabis sativa L.) biomass by Pressurized liquid extraction. 2021. Olejar K., Kinney C.. https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-021-00098-6 Cited 28/02/2022