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decarboxylation cbd vs thc

Decarboxylation cbd vs thc

Decarboxylation is a crucial step in the consumption process, but not all cannabis will or should be decarbed. Much of today’s cannabinoid research has focused on the two main cannabinoids: THC and CBD. More recently, however, researchers have set their sights on the potential therapeutic application of non-psychoactive cannabinoid acids such as THCA and CBDA.

Decarboxylation refers to the process of heating cannabis and hemp to activate the cannabinoids within its buds, trim, leaves, or kief. Decarboxylating, or “decarbing,” cannabis, in essence, makes consumers experience the plant’s unique and intoxicating effects by using its active components.

To Decarb Or Not To Decarb? That Is The Question

Decarboxylation ovens feature temperature controls to within plus or minus .5 degrees celsius. Manufacturers can check temperatures on built-in and easy-to-read LED displays and set the timer for ultimate precision and a reliable decarbing session.

The decarboxylation temperature chart shows that for optimal THC content, decarboxylation temperatures between 252 to 293ºF can be applied for seven to 30 minutes. Of course, these numbers are not a hard-and-fast rule. Terpene retention will need lower temperature decarbs for a longer period of time.

What Is Decarboxylation?

One of the main selling points of THCA and CBDA is their non-psychotropic nature. That means users do not experience a “high.” For example, THCA’s larger molecular size compared to THC does not allow it to pass through the blood-brain barrier and attach to cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

To understand the decarboxylation reactions that can occur with phytocannabinoids, efficient analytical methods are necessary to determine the concentration variations of decarboxylation reactants (acidic cannabinoids) and products (neutral cannabinoids) over time. Many analytical instruments have been applied to analyze cannabinoids in cannabis. 3,6,7 Among them, gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (LC) are the most commonly used techniques.

Efficient production of Δ 9 -THC, CBD, and CBG from cannabis is important for the development of dosage formulations to facilitate the successful medical use of cannabis. These neutral cannabinoids do not occur at significant concentrations in the plants. Cannabis synthesize primarily the carboxylic acid forms of Δ 9 -THC, CBD, and CBG, namely, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). These acidic cannabinoids are thermally unstable and can be decarboxylated when exposed to light or heat via smoking, baking, or refluxing. As a result, the requisite forensic analyses are usually expressed as the sum of the acidic and neutral forms of the cannabinoids. Reports also show that Δ 9 -THC itself readily oxidizes to cannabinol (CBN) with oxygen and light during the decarboxylation process. 6

Supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) is a mild separation technique by which decarboxylation of the acid cannabinoids can be avoided. 12 It is fast, cost-effective, and able to provide the resolution necessary to separate neutral and acidic cannabinoids simultaneously. 13 Thus, ultra-high performance supercritical fluid chromatography (UHPSFC) with photodiode array (PDA) and mass spectrometry (MS) detections was used the first time to our knowledge to conduct a decarboxylation study of phytocannabinoids in a solvent extract of cannabis.

1 National Center for Natural Products Research, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi.


Conclusion: The reported UHPSFC/PDA-MS method provided consistent and sensitive analysis of phytocannabinoids and their decarboxylation products and degradants. The rate of change of acidic cannabinoid concentrations over time allowed for determination of rate constants. Variations of rate constants with temperature yielded values for reaction energy.

3 Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi.

The plant Cannabis sativa, in the form of crude drugs, marijuana, hashish, or hash oil, is the most widely consumed and popular recreational/medicinal botanical drug product in the world. 1 The legal status of cannabis varies significantly from state to state within the United States and also from country to country. As a result of the rampant use and confounding legal issues, there has been a significant case load increase seen in forensic laboratories. Therefore, cannabis is now one of the most thoroughly studied and analyzed plant materials. More than 100 cannabinoids have been isolated and identified in cannabis 2 along with the primary psychoactive component, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 -THC). In addition to Δ 9 -THC, there are other components of cannabis that have been shown to be medically beneficial. For example, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) can moderate or influence the psychoactive effects of Δ 9 -THC. 3,4 Studies of cannabis have also investigated the potential benefits of phytocannabinoids as anticancer, antiemetic, sedative, and palliative agents for several other disease states and symptoms. 3,5

Associated Data

1 National Center for Natural Products Research, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi.

Introduction: Decarboxylation is an important step for efficient production of the major active components in cannabis, for example, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 -THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabigerol (CBG). These cannabinoids do not occur in significant concentrations in cannabis but can be formed by decarboxylation of their corresponding acids, the predominant cannabinoids in the plant. Study of the kinetics of decarboxylation is of importance for phytocannabinoid isolation and dosage formulation for medical use. Efficient analytical methods are essential for simultaneous detection of both neutral and acidic cannabinoids.