The Science Of Decarboxylation


The chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group (COOH) and releases CO2 is referred to as decarboxylation. This is the reverse process of carboxylation, commonly known as the first chemical step in photosynthesis. It is one of the oldest organic reactions and the term itself identifies both the product and reactant. Let’s take a look at the science piece by piece.

Carboxyl groups are common in amino acids, fatty acids, and other biological molecules. A carboxyl group consists of a carbonyl and a hydroxyl group attached to the same carbon atom. This grouping results in new properties for the molecules. These weak acids frequently release the H from the hydroxyl group as a free proton (H+). When the carboxyl group ionizes like this it leaves the O carrying a negative charge. The term decarboxylation represents both the removal of COOH and its replacement with hydrogen.




Decarboxylation has long been a topic in the cannabis industry. This is because using a combination of heat and time, decarboxylation transforms Δ⁹ tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) to Δ⁹ tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It does the same for Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDa) and Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGa) and Cannabigerol (CBG), and so on. The acid forms of these cannabinoids have shown themselves to be medicinally valuable. However, smoking, vaping or ingesting them does not produce the same effects as their downstream compounds

Although the decarbing process begins as soon as we begin to dry or cure buds, the majority of the THCa converts into THC when we apply heat through methods such as vaporization, smoking a joint or making butter using the Magical Butter.

November 22, 2017

by Cara Wietstock

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Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she put down her budtender hat and dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the cannabis plant fuel the passion in her posts.


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