Having the right amounts of certain cannabinoids in hemp is crucial. If you are looking to raise CBD-rich hemp, making sure you don’t exceed THC limits is really important. But accurately determining how much THC is actually in your or any strain of hemp requires a process called decarboxylation.
Did you know that raw hemp itself doesn’t cause any kind of psychoactive high?
Raw, unaltered hemp contains raw cannabinoids, which are precursor versions of the cannabinoids that we’re all familiar with. The reason that hemp in its raw state can’t be the catalyst of a psychoactive experience is because its raw cannabinoids have to be exposed to heat to cause that well-known “high”. This process is known as hemp decarboxylation.
Let me explain…
What Is Hemp Decarboxylation?
The process of hemp decarboxylation involves heating the hemp somehow (i.e. smoking, cooking, UV rays, etc.) Heating the raw cannabinoids changes their chemical structure, unlocking their psychoactive properties, and allowing them to interact with our endocannabinoid receptors differently.
As an example: the original version of THC is THCa. THCa doesn’t have any psychoactive abilities of its own; but once it’s exposed to heat, its chemical composition changes and it becomes psychoactive.
Synergistic Energy Associates says heat and light are the two key elements to hemp decarboxylation: “Cannabinoids are converted into their neutral forms upon heating or exposure to light. Depending upon the end product, processors may choose to decarboxylate cannabis plant material before or after the extraction.”
We keep saying that heat or light changes the chemical composition of the raw cannabinoids; but what exactly are the logistics of this?
The raw cannabinoid’s chemical composition has an extra carboxyl ring or group attached to their chain. Hemp decarboxylation removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide. This “activates” the cannabinoid and gets it ready to deliver the desired therapeutic properties.
It’s a bit easier to extract decarbed cannabinoids versus raw cannabinoids. Research indicates that the plant’s moisture content can have a negative impact on extraction yields; the extraction process is slowed down and becomes less efficient because water interacts with the solvent and affects the flow of extraction.
But if you heat the hemp prior to extraction, it removes the water from the plant and increases extraction efficiency. Neutral CBD and THC (the two most commonly known decarboxylated cannabinoids) are more soluble than their more acidic precursors CBDa and THCa.
If you want to determine whether or not the THC levels in a crop are within acceptable legal limits, you have to measure the cannabinoid levels in the hemp pre-decarboxylation. And you can easily do that using this equation:
[THCa x 0.877] + [delta-9 THC] = Total Potential THC
Notice that you have to start out with the THCa (pre-decarb) levels to make this equation work. If you don’t, then your conclusions will be inaccurate.
Hemp decarboxylation is the process of heating raw cannabinoids to activate their different potential health benefits. It also makes extraction easier and more effective.
While it can still be somewhat misunderstood, decarboxylation has been a major topic of discussion in the cannabis world in recent years.
Hopefully, this has given some clarity to the subject.
Do you have any questions about decarboxylation? If you do, then leave your comments and questions below!
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