What is the Decarboxylation Process of Cannabis?


Precision Team


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    In the CBD extraction process, there are numerous steps to achieving an end product, one of which is decarboxylation. Many people think of decarboxylation only in terms of THC content, but it is a critical step to achieve optimal CBD content as well. Decarboxylation is a main step needed in the pre-process before distillation of CBD can occur. You cannot perform a distillation until your crude has been fully decarboxylated.

    But what exactly is the decarboxylation process? When does it occur in the CBD distillation process? And how can it be achieved?

    What is the Decarboxylation Process of Cannabis?

    Answer: Decarboxylation is the process of removing carboxylic acid from cannabinoids present in either raw biomass or a cannabis extract.

    Decarboxylation (often shortened to decarb) is often performed prior to distillation in the extraction process. Decarbing is necessary to obtain a consistent vacuum level during the initial distillation pass. Whether you’re utilizing wiped film, or a traditional short path distillation apparatus this step helps assure consistent results from batch to batch.

    The Science Behind Decarboxylation

    Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). Heating the extract to high temperatures under vacuum for an extended period of time will convert the acidic cannabinoids to their neutral (activated) forms while also releasing CO2, residual solvent, and other highly volatile constituents of the extract (terpenes).

    Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid decarboxylates to give the psychoactive compound Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the activated form of THCa. CBDa does the same thing in the process, changing from CDBa to CBD.

    While the process of decarboxylation activates THCa/CBDa, it is also releasing CO2 which, if not removed, will create positive pressure in your distillation unit and cause the vacuum to not reach the depth you need to perform the process efficiently without increasing processing temperatures.

    How to Achieve Decarboxylation

    At its simplest, the decarb process is achieved by exposing cannabis biomass or extract to heat for a specific period of time. There are several methods that may be utilized to achieve the same end product but taking a technical, scientific approach will always yield the most consistent results.

    Why Decarbing Cannabis is Important

    Cannabinoids offer several benefits. Some of which are only achieved if the cannabinoid of interest is in the appropriate form. CBD in the neutral form (post decarb) is believed to provide greater therapeutic benefits than CBD left in the acidic form.

    Precision’s experts are here to help you with solutions for cannabis processing. Learn more. 

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