What Is Decarboxylation and How Does It Benefit CBD?

When you’ve looked at Vapor Connection’s selection of Pittsburgh CBD supplements, you’ve probably noticed that we sell both heat-treated and raw CBD products. What’s the difference, and why might you want to choose one type over the other? That’s what we’re going to explain today. Strap yourself in, because things are about to get interesting.

Unlocking Cannabinoids With Heat

Have you ever smoked cannabis? Did you wonder why it isn’t possible to get the same effect from simply eating the raw plant? Why does it have to be smoked?

The cannabis plant contains many different chemical compounds called cannabinoids, and the human body has cannabinoid receptors that interact with those compounds. As it turns out, though, the raw cannabis plant contains almost none of the famous compound — THC — that makes you feel high. What it does have, though, is a precursor to THC called THC-A. While THC-A may have certain health benefits, it doesn’t make you feel good in the way that THC does.

To convert THC-A to THC, you need to remove a carboxyl group from the THC-A molecule — and you can do that by converting the carboxyl group to carbon dioxide. Decarboxylation is the process of removing the carboxyl group from a molecule — and if THC-A is the molecule in question, we do that by applying heat. That’s why people smoke cannabis rather than eating the raw plant. Without really understanding the science behind it, humans were already decarboxylating cannabis thousands of years ago.

What Decarboxylation Means for CBD

At this point, you’re probably wondering what all of this information has to do with CBD. CBD also has a precursor with a carboxyl group: CBD-A. If you want a supplement to contain the most possible bioactive CBD that the body can uptake easily, you’ll need to decarboxylate the CBD by applying heat. You can do that in three ways:

  • Decarboxylate the industrial hemp before performing the extraction
  • Use heat to assist the extraction process
  • Decarboxylate the CBD oil after extraction

When you see a CBD supplement that mentions heat activation on the label, the manufacturer is saying that they’ve decarboxylated the CBD at some point during the extraction process. Decarboxylation ensures total conversion from CBD-A to CBD and results in a more bioavailable product that your body will use more easily. If the label doesn’t mention decarboxylation or heat activation, though, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that the product is raw. Many manufacturers use heat during the CBD extraction process because it makes for a more complete extraction.

Does Raw CBD-A Oil Have Any Benefits?

If you consume only raw foods, you may prefer a CBD-A oil because it conforms to your dietary needs. Even if a supplement contains only the CBD-A cannabinoid, your body will still convert a portion of it to CBD. In addition, some believe that CBD-A may have anti-inflammatory effects. There could also be potential benefits in consuming an oil that hasn’t been altered by heat. If you experience any benefits from using a CBD-A supplement, though, it’s likely that you will experience those benefits even more strongly with a decarboxylated CBD oil. Since there is little medical research regarding the benefits of CBD-A, though, we don’t fully understand what it can do — so you should consider trying both.

CBD-A vs. CBD: A Medical Perspective

Research into the potential benefits of CBD has produced promising results. Research suggests that CBD may help to fight chronic pain and anxiety. It may reduce seizures in those who suffer from seizure disorders. In animals, CBD — much more so than CBD-A — has demonstrated anti-tumor properties. It is important to remember, though, that CBD research is still largely in the early stages. Most physicians would advise against replacing a conventional remedy with CBD for any condition. That being said, most researchers are focusing their attention on decarboxylated CBD — not CBD-A — so that should tell you something about where they believe most of the potential is.

Can You Decarboxylate Your Own CBD-A Oil?

You can decarboxylate CBD-A oil yourself, but you may not find the effort worthwhile. Heated gently in a double boiler to a temperature no higher than about 250 F, CBD-A oil will begin to release carbon dioxide. As the CO2 boils away, you’ll see small, regular bubbles in the CBD-A oil. Stir gently as the oil bubbles. When the bubbling stops or the bubble sizes become irregular, the conversion process from CBD-A to CBD is complete.

Before you decarboxylate your own CBD-A oil, you should consider the fact that many terpenes and other natural plant substances will also vaporize during the heating process. If you purchased your CBD-A oil to experience the benefits of a raw, full-spectrum plant extract, you will lose some of those benefits even through the decarboxylation process will make the CBD oil more bioavailable.

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