Decarboxylation is the scientific name for removing a molecule made up of carbon and two oxygen atoms from the cannabinoid molecule using heat as the catalyst. This carbon/oxygen molecule is known as an acid molecule due to it's negative polarity. Once removed, the main cannabinoid molecule is now small enough to slip through the blood vessel walls and arrive at the CB1/CB2 receptors. That's it, very easy. Lighting up a joint is the most common way of applying the heat catalyst to make this happen.
There are two approaches to decarbing, either before or at the end of making oil. The recommendation is to decarb at the end of making oil. Why? Carla Kay, one of Gray Wolf's team members explains it well. The goal is to end up at the highest percentage of the target cannabinoid without pushing it into CBN, the final metabolic endpoint of THC and CBD. The problem is, decarbing using a fixed time approach cannot take into account the natural decarbing that has taken place since harvest. It's impossible to predict an accurate time necessary to decarb due to the cultivar, ripening stage, curing technique, and storage conditions that have brought the plant into your hands. The only accurate way to decarb to the maximum cannabinoid potential is to visually watch for that moment to occur. That moment can be seen when the heated oil stops actively producing bubbles of C02. The released carboxyl molecule become C02 and can be seen as bubbles surfacing on the oil. Once bubbling has stopped, you have reached your maximum potential cannabinoid. Further heating will start degrading the cannabinoids into CBN. Carla distiquishes the two as Day time and Night time oils. CBN is known to be very sedative lending itself to the urban legend of "Couch Lock" cannabinoids.
Carla's 'recipe' for optimizing cannabinoids is to use a fondue pot with accurate heat control. She runs a consistent temperature of 121c/250f so not to burn the oil. Alcohol boils off at 180f, water at 212f and above that, decarboxlyation takes place at various rates. By holding 121c/250f, this rate of conversion happens within minutes. Any remaining water will boil out causing large bubbles. Bubbling continues and transitions into smaller bubbles once the water has boiled out. Keep a close eye on the oil at this stage. Active bubbling will be for a short time. Once the oil stops producing blumes of small bubble patches, you are near the optimal point and can stop.
Tips and Tools
WARNING: Never distill alcohol near open flame. Alcohol vapors are highly flammable so always distill in well ventilated spaces.
This oil is appropriate for oral ingesting and vaping. Due to the potential of residual salts, do not torch this oil. Torch temperatures can reach over 760c/1400f and can vaporize any residual salts.
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