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Decarboxylation Before or After Extraction?



Decarboxylation is the cannabis processing world has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years and perhaps still somewhat poorly understood. In scientific terms, all cannabinoids in raw cannabis flowers have an extra ring ar carboxyl group (COOH) on their chain. Decarboxylation is the chemical reaction in which a carboxyl group is removed, and carbon dioxide is released. By removing the carboxyl group in the main cannabinoids, THC, and CBD are "activated" and ready to deliver the desired medicinal properties of cannabis to the final product.


Chemistry is important to understand why CBD and THC are not found in raw buds. Instead, acidic forms of cannabinoids known as CBDA and THCA exist in the plant. In their natural state, THCA and CBDA have different medical properties.


What are the main elements of decarboxylation?

Heat or light. Cannabinoids are converted to neutral forms when heated or exposed to sunlight. Depending on the final product, processors may choose to decarboxylate cannabis plant material before or after extraction.


Decarboxylation before extraction

Decarboxylation before extraction has several advantages. It is well documented that moisture levels in the plant can affect extraction yields. Water makes extractions slower and less efficient by involving solvent interaction and flow during the process. Heating the material before extraction removes moisture from the plant and increases the extraction efficiency. In addition, neutral THC and CBD are more soluble than acidic THCA and CBDA, making extraction with non-polar solvents more effective at capturing cannabinoids and increasing extraction yield.

On the other hand, decarboxylation before extraction may cause some loss of key constituents, as insufficiently controlled heat can lead to the degradation of terpenes and some cannabinoids.


Pros
  • Converts THC-A (A = acid) from the cannabis plant into THC, making oil extractions psychoactive.

  • Because THC is more soluble (easier for CO2 to extract) than THC-A, extraction is about 50% faster and yields higher yields by melting waxes into solubles during the boiling process.


Cons
  • Loss of terpenes

  • Can't break, a popular consumable


Post-extraction decarboxylation

Post-extraction decarb requires the same precise control over time and temperature parameters as the pre-extraction procedure. Decarboxylation after extraction also has drawbacks. Decarboxylation requires control of high temperatures for long periods. Degradation of the total cannabinoids can occur if the material is heated for too long or too hot.

When run at low temperature for a concise period, the precursor cannabinoids do not decarboxylate. The optimal time and temperature parameters for decarb are important. A lot of oil tends to stay at certain temperatures during phase changes. This makes it difficult for the oil material to reach the temperature necessary for decarboxylation to occur and control it for long periods. An oil with more solvent or terpenes will take longer to reach a certain temperature.

Because the composition of cannabinoids and terpenes can be influenced, plant materials should be tested before and after decarboxylation to determine the impact on material properties.


Pros
  • Maintains THC-A for medical marijuana drugs with non-psychoactive therapeutic properties.

  • THC-A is needed to break down.


Cons
  • Longer extraction times

  • Lower incomes