Have you ever wondered why you can’t just eat raw hemp and benefit from its effects? Or why people have always smoked marijuana? It seems that there is a certain amount of processing required to be able to get the effects of the natural cannabis plant, and this is because it needs to be what’s known as decarboxylated.
CBD and other compounds in the cannabis or hemp plant can be a great way to enhance your natural well-being as well as help some people with more specific health issues, but if you take it as a ‘raw plant material’ you won’t find that it gives you anything like the benefits that you are expecting.
What is Decarboxylation?
CBD or cannabidiol is a compound which is found in the cannabis or hemp plant which can have certain effects on the body when it is taken. However, CBD (and, incidentally, THC – another compound which is the part of the cannabis part which makes you high) in its natural form won’t have much of an effect on you.
In many places around the world, THC is legal, but in many more, it is the part of the plant which is still illegal. In the UK, for example, CBD products must have a THC level of under 0.2%. This means that it won’t make you high. Hemp has been specially cultivated to naturally contain legal levels of THC, meaning that CBD fans can get the full effect of all of the other compounds in the plant, without it being illegal. This is known as full spectrum CBD oil.
When CBD is found in the plant, it is actually a substance known as CBDA – which is an acidic cannabinoid. To be able to turn it into CBD, it must be ‘decarboxylated ‘– meaning that a carboxyl group is removed from the molecule – and activating the CBD to make it more effective in the human body.
CBD – and not CBDA is a cannabinoid which is showing to have a great degree of therapeutic potential for those who take it. It can interact with the endocannabinoid system in the human body, offering hope for people who are suffering from a number of health problems such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic pain
- Issues with inflammation
- Problems with appetite
- High blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- People with epilepsy
It is obvious, therefore why people might want to try CBD.
When the hemp extract is decarboxylated, however, it doesn’t turn 100% of the CBDA into CBD – which is why you might still see certain amounts of it on a breakdown of a lab test report. This is actually a good thing, however, as CBDA can also have some therapeutic benefits to your health.
Studies show, for example, that it can have anti-inflammatory properties  as well as help reducing anxiety in rats , and anti-bacterial properties .
The Process of Decarboxylation
The process of decarboxylation is based on heat and time. The cannabinoids are activated when they are heated up, hence why people burn the cannabis plant when it is smoked. The combustion of the plant is what activates the raw plant material to give it a better effect. This is what turns CBDA to CBD, and, incidentally, THCA to THC.
Almost all CBD products have hemp extracts which have been decarboxylated and this is done by heating the extract. It can either be heated quickly to a high temperature, or slowly at a lower temperature, but it is generally agreed that the low and slow method is better because higher temperatures can destroy some of the other compounds in the plant.
Using the entourage effect, these other compounds which are found in the cannabis plant can make the CBD that you are taking more effective, so the more of these that are present, the better.
Full spectrum CBD oil is made using decarboxylation processes which help to preserve the other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, making the oil as effective as possible.
Decarboxylation at Home
It might sound like decarboxylation is something that needs to be done in a lab or using special machinery. In fact, decarboxylation can be done just as easily at home. If you have raw plant material, decarboxylation is actually very simple.
- Preheat your oven to between about 100°C and 150°C.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper
- Break up your plant material into small pieces and spread it evenly on the baking tray
- Bake it for around 30 minutes – or until it is completely dried out
- Leave it to cool.
Many people use their decarboxylated plant material to go and use it for cooking as a fun and exciting way to get their CBD. However, you can also eat it as it is if you wish!
Although decarboxylating in your kitchen is easy, it won’t get you as good results as you would if you got it pre-decarboxylated. If you are looking to know exact details about levels of each compound, buying CBD oil with a lab test breakdown might be easier.
It is also worth noting that all of the compounds in the hemp plant have melting points when they will evaporate. This is why it is important that you don’t heat it up too high – or you might render it useless and void of any therapeutic benefits
Unless you have bought raw hemp, and unless it is otherwise stated, it will already have been decarboxylated. This means that usually your CBD product will be good to go as soon as it arrives.
If you are thinking about trying CBD and are already taking medication, it is important that you first talk to your doctor. This is because CBD can affect some of the enzymes which break down medication, meaning that it can be more or less effective than your doctor anticipated with the dose that they have given you. You might be able to still take it but might have to adjust your dose.
CBD is safe and you cannot overdose on it. It is what’s called biphasic, meaning that it can have different effects according to how much you take. Added to the fact that everybody is different, so, it is difficult to give advice on doses, and it is recommended to start off with a very low dose of CBD and increase it slowly.
Nobody has ever died from taking too much CBD, so once that you have ‘taken too much’ you will just find that it is less effective for you. CBD is non-addictive and its side effects are not serious or long term.
Decarboxylation is an important process in making the therapeutic benefits of CBD available to those who take it. It is a process that activates the compounds within the hemp plant, that can release the goodness that is locked inside it, and allow people to get the health benefits that the magical plant can give.