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Cannablog: Decarboxylation - What's it all about?

Posted by Lab Geek on

Decarboxy-wha? We will walk you through the process, why it’s important and what it does. 

Decarboxylation is a necessary part in activating the cannabinoid properties within cannabis. Why is that?

Because cannabinoids are made from cannabinoid acids. Cannabinoid acids don’t produce intoxicating effects on their own, but research has shown many may have insecticidal or antibiotic properties. This likely explains how these compounds ended up in cannabis in the first place - as a defense mechanism.

The process is basic chemistry. We start with the cannabinoid acids, which have an extra carboxyl ring (COOH) attached to their molecular chain. Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction - it removes the extra carboxyl group and releases CO2:

The cannabinoid acids transform into corresponding cannabinoid compounds that can then interact with our endocannabinoid receptors:

                Cannabinoid Acids           +             =      Canabinoid Compounds

  • THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
  • THC (Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol)
  • CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
  • CBD (Cannabidiol)
  • CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
  • CBG (Cannabigerol)
  • CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
  • CBC (Cannabichromene)
  • CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
  • CBGV (Cannabigerivarin)
  • THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
  • THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
  • CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
  • CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
  • CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
  • CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)


Time is another catalyst for decarboxylation to occur - this is one reason why drying and curing cannabis is an important step in its production. Smoking and vaporizing instantly decarboxylate cannabinoids because of the high heat involved.

Time can also cause other forms of cannabinoid degradation through the process of oxidation. An example of this is THCA degrading into CBN, which tends to cause a more sedative effect.

We’ve covered the biochemistry of how cannabis interacts with our bodies, next week we will be talking terpenes!

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