Decarboxylation and Cannibinoids


Have you ever wondered why people who use marijuana smoke it? Ok, so you’re thinking dumb question, right? Because they want to get high! Well, yes. But why smoke it? Why not just eat it or snort it? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because of decarboxylation!

A little science

So what is decarboxylation?

Phytocannibinoids that are naturally present in cannabis (marijuana and hemp) are in an acidic form. These molecules, THCA, CBCA, and CBDA, are known as raw cannibinoids. When these molecules are subjected to temperatures of approximately 220 degrees Fahrenheit these molecules undergo a change. A carbon atom is released from the cannabinoid molecule in the form carbon dioxide. These new compounds are THC, CBC, and CBD. This change in molecular structure changes how they interact with body’s endocannabinoid system. So there you have it. When you and your roommate are smoking some bud, you are decarboxylating THCA to THC. THC is the compound which has the psychoactive effects on the body. Decarboxylation predominantly happens via heat, but also happens to a much lesser extent naturally over time.

Decarboxylation and Therapeutic Cannabinoids

Ok, so you don’t necessarily want to get high. You want to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids. Understanding decarboxylation and the resultant compounds is still important. When you are looking for cannabis extract to provide therapeutic benefits, you need to understand the cannabinoidal profile to ensure you are getting the right cannabinoids to realize the researched benefits. Manufacturers utilize the decarboxylation process to achieve higher concentrations of CBD for their products. They also provide raw, or “non-carbed” hemp extract that has both CBD and CBDa.

So let’s break it down.

Non-decarboxylated cannabinoids (Cannabidiolic acids) are THCa, CBCa, and CBDa.

Carboxylated cannabinoids are THC, CBC and CBD.

Each of these cannabinoids has different research associated with them showing various benefits. Research also shows that cannabinoids are more effective when present in the endocannibinoid system with a variety of other cannibinoids. This is called the “entourage effect”. Although the THC component in cannabis extracts are still largely illegal, it’s still beneficial to use full spectrum extracts to maximize the effect. Many manufacturers are now offering hemp extracts with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to CBDa.

How do I know what cannabinoids are present in your supplement?

Great question! The cannabis extract industry is undergoing tremendous growth. It seems like new companies are jumping on the bandwagon of “CBD” popularity and new products are hitting the market every day. It’s “buyer beware”. I recommend buying cannabis extracts from suppliers who perform third party lab testing of their product and provide those results to the consumer. These lab tests will tell you exactly what the cannabinoid profile contains. Quality testing will also ensure no mycotoxins or solvents are present as well as showing the terpene profile. Populum is an Arizona based supplier that has this lab testing done on its products.

Therapeutic Benefits of CBDa

  • Prevention of cancer cell migration, particularly cases of aggressive breast cancer. (Source)
  • Anti nausea and vomiting. (Source)
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain relief. (Source)
  • Positive effect on seizures, epilepsy, when used in conjunction with CBD. (Source)
  • Anti-anxiety (Source)
  • Anti-depression effects. (Source)


With the explosive growth of CBD products, it really pays to do a little research. Be careful to not just choose any product that claims to contain “CBD”. Sadly, it’s still the Wild West out there when it comes to cannabis extract marketing. A little research will go a long way in helping you understand what you are putting in your body and evaluating the therapeutic benefits you see.

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