If you want the very science and complex version of decarboxylation - including data, graphs, charts, and diagrams - then you've come to the right place!
Decarbing – What is it and how do you do it?
There’s a lot of discussion on cannabis web sites and discussion groups on decarboxylation. Some common questions are:
- What is decarboxylation?
- How do I decarb?
- Do I need to decarb?
Let’s start with the last question first, do I need to decarb? The answer is, “it depends.” Each cannabinoid has its own unique interaction with your body. Depending on your desired effect, you would choose the desired cannabinoid. Once you have the desired cannabinoid, you choose the plant strain and processing method.
The two most common or popular cannabinoids are THC and CBD. (THC is the one that produces the strongest psychoactive effects) THC and CBD are actually only produced in trace amounts in the cannabis or hemp plants. BTW, for simplicity and purposes of this discussion, we will define the cannabis plant as those varieties that predominantly produce THCa or THC while hemp is defined as those varieties that predominantly produce CBDa or CBD. Anyhow, cannabis and hemp plants mainly produce THCa and CBDa. Note that THCa is not psychoactive. If you want THC or CBD, then you most transform the THCa into THC or transform the CBDa into CBD through a process called decarboxylation.
The act of vaping or smoking cannabis or hemp will generally decarb. However, if you are using cannabis infused oils for making edibles, it is important to decarb before you make your infusion because the cooking or baking process is generally not long enough to decarb. Additionally, when you mix the infused oil in with other ingredients such as flour or sugar, the other ingredients will absorb heat energy, requiring additional decarb time.
What is decarboxylation?
Decarboxylating, or decarbing, is the process of heating cannabis in order to change THCa or CBDa into THC or CBD. You may sometimes see people using the term “activating” instead of “decarboxylating”. Just like baking a cake, time and temperature matters when decarbing. The generally accepted industry standard is based on a study published in 1990 , then updated in 2016 in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 
How to decarb THCa into THC
So, a few things to note here in the graph:
- If you heat the cannabis at 176F, you will never achieve complete decarboxylation
- If you heat the cannabis at 266F, you’ll be fully decarbed in about 10 minutes
THC boils at 311F so stay below this temperature to ensure that you don’t over decarb your plant material and evaporate off all of the THC. Note that several terpenes boil below 311F so you will lose these during THC decarboxylation. 
How to decarb CBDa into CBD
You can see that compared to THCa -> THC, there are several differences right away:
- It takes more energy to decarb CBDa into CBD. For example, at 266F, it takes about twice as long to fully decarb CBD.
CBD boils at 329F so stay below this temperature to ensure the strongest possible materials. Because CBD requires a higher decarb temperature, you will lose more terpenes. 
Conclusions and recommendations
- To decarb THCa rich cannabis into THC, we recommend 230*F for at least 45 minutes
- To decarb CBDa dominant hemp into CBD, we recommend 266*F for 25 minutes
 Wang, M., et. al., “Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids: A Novel Approach Using Ultra-High-Performance Supercritical Fluid Chromatography/Photodiode Array-Mass Spectrometry”, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Dec 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5549281/
 Veress, J. I., Leisztner, L., “Determination of cannabinoid acids by high-performance liquid chromatography of their neutral derivatives formed by thermal decarboxylation: I. Study of the decarboxylation process in open reactors”, Journal of Chromatography, Volume 520, Nov 1990, pp 339-347. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/002196739085118F
I hope the above information on decarboxylation is helpful to you as you navigate your way through the vast world of cannabis!
Was this too much information? Want something simpler? Check out our How To - Decarb Instructions (simple) version.