What is decarboxylation and why is it necessary for CBD?


What is decarboxylation and why is it necessary for CBD?

  • All cannabinoids begin in their acidic form in the raw cannabis plant. Decarboxylation transforms these raw acidic cannabinoids into active cannabinoids, bringing out their full benefits.
  • Decarboxylation occurs through heat and time. Research suggests that the ideal temperature for decarboxylation is around 110℃.
  • Decarboxylation is an essential step in Naturecan’s CBD oil purification process.
  • Decarboxylated CBD has been suggested by some studies to possess anti-inflammatory properties and can interact with the endocannabinoid system, which may help to relieve certain health conditions.
  • While research surrounding cannabis has typically focused on CBD, the acidic precursor CBDA may provide its own distinct benefits.

Cannabinoids are the active compounds in the cannabis plant. They’re similar to a substance our bodies produce themselves called endocannabinoids and can interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex system that helps regulate several key bodily functions. The coolest part? The ECS is actually named after cannabis! 

Two of the best-known cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But did you know that while cannabis is in its raw state, it contains very little of either cannabinoid

In order to activate these cannabinoids in cannabis, the plant first has to go through a process called decarboxylation or “de-carbing”. But what is decarboxylation, and how does it work? That’s what we’re here to explain. 

Read on to learn all about decarboxylation, how it fits into the CBD oil testing process, and why it’s necessary for pure CBD oil.

To fully understand decarboxylation, we have to dive into the chemistry. Don’t worry–there won’t be a test later.

All cannabinoids begin as acidic precursors in the raw cannabis plant. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) begins as THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBD (cannabidiol) begins as CBDA (cannabidiolic acid). These acids have a carboxyl group (COOH) attached to their molecular structure. In order for THCA and CBDA to become active cannabinoids, they have to shed this extra carboxyl group. In other words, they have to be “de-carbed”. 

Decarboxylation removes the extra carboxyl group from THCA and CBDA’s molecular structure, transforming them into the active cannabinoids THC and CBD.

Why decarboxylation is necessary for CBD

Interestingly, THCA doesn’t have intoxicating effects in its raw state. Decarboxylation has to occur before THC takes on its intoxicating properties, so raw THCA won’t make you “high”. However, while decarboxylation activates THC, it also activates CBD.

THCA and CBDA don’t interact with our bodies the same way that THC and CBD do. They don’t interact with the CB1 or CB2 receptors in our ECS. 

Thankfully, it’s possible to extract CBD from cannabis with only trace amounts of THC, so that you can experience the benefits of decarboxylated CBD without any intoxicating side effects.

How does decarboxylation work?

Decarboxylation needs two things to occur–time and heat. The extra carboxyl group in THCA and CBDA is fragile, and heating cannabis can shed it quickly. This is why recreational users smoke cannabis or put it in the oven when making CBD edibles

The right temperature for decarboxylation is something of a debate. If you ask 10 different cannabis users what the right temperature for decarboxylation is, you’ll likely get 10 different answers. Overheating will destroy the cannabinoids and other terpenes. But underheating can cause the process to drag out for hours.

According to scientific research, the ideal temperature for decarboxylation of cannabis is around 110° Celsius or 230° Fahrenheit. But this can vary, depending on the type of cannabis used and the amount that needs to be decarboxylated.

How decarboxylation fits into the CBD oil testing and extraction method

Decarboxylation is a crucial step in the purification process for our CBD oil. All of Naturecan’s CBD oils are derived from hemp, which only contains trace amounts of THC even after undergoing decarboxylation–less than 0.2%

After our hemp has been harvested and dried, we use pressurized co2 to extract the raw CBD. We use the co2 extraction method because it’s one of the gentlest ways to create a pure, potent CBD concentrate free of phytochemicals. Decarboxylation can occur either before or after co2 extraction. We do it afterward, as part of our purification process. 

After extraction, our oils go through a purification and distilling process. We use an advanced purification system called Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (CPC) to filter out THC and other impurities. Then we distill our oils to keep THC at an undetectable level while preserving minor cannabinoids and other terpenes. This is also when we decarboxylate our CBD oil to activate the cannabinoids

Finally, we go through a rigorous 6-step CBD oil testing process to ensure that our oil is as pure as we can possibly make it.  

You can learn more about the extraction method and testing process for Naturecan CBD oil on our blog post, “How is CBD Oil Made?”.

What are the benefits of decarboxylated CBD?

Once CBD oil has been properly extracted, decarboxylated, and purified, it’s ready for you to use. And according to one of the most reputable organizations in the world, CBD has a high safety profile.

According to a 2018 preliminary report by the World Health Organization (WHO), naturally occurring CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated in humans and animals. The report noted that CBD is “not associated with abuse potential” and that “there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD”. However, the report did point out several of CBD’s potential positive effects. 

Some studies have suggested that CBD oil may have positive benefits for a number of health problems, including: 

You can learn more details about the suggested benefits of CBD oil on our blog, here.

Does CBDA have benefits?

Previously, it was thought that CBDA was useless. But recent studies have revealed that this raw compound in the cannabis plant may have its own benefits, just like its decarboxylated counterpart.

Potential benefits of CBDA

Unlike CBD, CBDA doesn’t interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Researchers believe its key function may be to stop pain signals. Early studies show CBDA works as a COX2 inhibitor. Essentially, this means that CBDA may help to block inflammation and pain, but in a different way from CBD. 

This could make CBDA useful as a topical application to soothe skin irritations like itchiness. It’s why Naturecan’s Skin Soothing Balm for pets will soon use a new formula of CBD and CBDA isolate to soothe irritated skin.


Decarboxylation helps bring CBD to its full potential. It’s a necessary step to create a pure broad-spectrum CBD oil and one of the most important aspects of the CBD oil testing process. But non-decarboxylated acids, like CBDA, may also provide their own set of benefits. 

If you’re interested in trying CBD oil for yourself, you can try Naturecan’s broad spectrum CBD Oil here. They’re some of the safest and purest CBD oils on the market, making them perfect for both beginners and seasoned CBD users. 

Naturecan will soon use a combination of CBD and CBDA isolate in many of our pet products, so your best friends can experience the potential benefits, too. You can view those here.  

Disclaimer: There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the condition(s) mentioned above and this text by no means reflects recommended uses. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication or are thinking of using CBD for your condition. 

Written by Brooke Helton and reviewed by our qualified experts, Moyra Cosgrove, Head of Nutrition at Naturecan, SENR Registered Nutritionist and DProf candidate at LJMU, and Paul Holmes, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Manager at Naturecan, BSc Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, Member of UKAS/FSA CBD Food Product Approval Expert Group



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