Cannapedia Encyclopedia of cannabis strains


While the word “decarboxylation” may seem scary, this process of removing the carboxylic acid from an organic compound is in fact an everyday reality for every cannabis user.

Whether they are lighting a pipe packed with dried herb, or turning on a vaporizer, they start effective decarboxylation. This step is crucial because it provides access to psychoactive effects of cannabis – without it the cannabinoid acids would not turn into cannabinoids, thus there would be no intoxication (in case of THC).


Simple chemical process

Decarboxylation, in other words the reaction of the cannabis plant material (in its raw form) with the source of heat, is actually a very simple chemical reaction. Behind this simplicity, however, lies a complex and permanently developing science, which has been gaining on significance as a response to the fact that using cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes had become one of the major themes in the society.

Before the flame of the lighter prompts decarboxylation, cannabis still contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) – a non-psychoactive chemical compound which is created in trichomes on female flowers of the raw plant. To achieve the desired effect, the THCA needs to be transformed into the good old tetrahydrocannabinol.


Natural or artificial

Decarboxylation can be initiated in two ways: either naturally and slowly by drying the plant and exposing it to light, or quickly by heating the plant material up. Decarboxylation by the means of smoking or vaporization does not require particular craftsmanship, nor concentration, as extreme heat triggers an immediate THC activation which is then absorbed in the body through cannabinoid receptors, inducing both the state of intoxication and medicinal effects. However, when preparing a cannabis infused dish, the psychoactive cannabinoids need to be activated beforehand – for instance by decarboxylating the plant material in a kitchen oven.