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Cannabis,  Natural Health

How to Decarboxylate Cannabis to Use in Oils, Edibles & Salves

Are you interested in using cannabis to create homemade edibles, cannabis-infused oils, or healing topical salves? If so, it is very convenient and effective to start with cannabis that has been properly decarboxylated first. Wait, what? Don’t worry… It’s cool if you aren’t familiar with the term. This article will give you a quick run-down of what cannabis decarboxylation is and why it is important. Then, we’ll go over how to decarboxylate your cannabis, including easy step-by-step instructions on how to “decarb” cannabis in the oven. The result is a ready-to-use, versatile, activated cannabis product. 

What is Decarboxylation? 

Think of decarboxylation (also known as “decarbing”) as activating raw cannabis into an enhanced potent form. In more scientific terms, decarboxylation is the process of physically altering the chemical structure of various cannabinoid compounds found in raw cannabis plants – including both marijuana and hemp. 

When a cannabis plant is growing or freshly harvested, the cannabinoids found within the flower trichomes contain an extra carboxyl ring or group (COOH) attached to their molecular chain. The process of decarboxylating cannabis removes that carboxyl group from the cannabinoid molecule. This process is what effectively transforms THCA into active THC (or, raw CBDA into CBD) described more below.

Some slow and natural decarboxylation occurs as fresh cannabis dries and cures after harvest. However, heat is the most quick and effective catalyst to trigger the cannabis decarb reaction. For example, decarboxylation is virtually instantaneous when cannabis is smoked or vaporized. 

A diagram showing how THCA turns into THC when it is heated.
The cannabis decarboxylation reaction. Diagram courtesy of Restek

Temperature and Decarboxylation

As we explored in this article about vaporizing cannabis, various cannabinoid compounds and terpenes respond to distinct temperature ranges. Some are activated, altered, or even destroyed at different temperatures. This is one of the many reasons we love using a dynamic heat range vaporizer rather than combusting (smoking) cannabis. You get to reap the benefits of far more intricate elements of the bud.

In the same manner, it is best to decarboxylate cannabis low and slow. Experts say that approximately 230-250°F is the “sweet spot” temperature to decarb cannabis. In that range, THCA converts to THC while also preserving many other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes. The chemical reactions (and THC activation or degradation) will vary with time, as noted in the chart below.  

An L graph diagram showing how THC is activated when heated at different temperatures for different amount of times.
The content (activation or decomposition) of THC with time and temperature. CBD takes about twice as long to convert at the same temperatures. Graph courtesy of 420 Magazine

Why Decarb Cannabis

In the cannabis community, the raw or non-decarboxylated cannabinoid compounds are referred to as the “acid” forms – such THCA or CBDA. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and the acidic precursor to potent CBD. Likewise, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is not psychoactive until it is converted into the more well-known compound THC. For instance, when you ingest raw cannabis there is very little psychoactive effect or “high” experienced. Then, when cannabis is decarboxylated it becomes psychoactive

Obviously, this is important for folks who are hoping to feel the psychoactive effects of their cannabis edibles, oils, tinctures, or otherwise. Yet the benefit is so much more than just feeling the “high”. Both THC and CBD exude scientifically-proven powerful healing properties in their decarboxylated forms. This includes providing relief from anxiety, pain, inflammation, and more. THC and CBD readily absorb in our bodies and interact freely with our bodies endocannabinoid system to work their magic. 

On the other hand, the raw acid forms of THC and CBD (THCA and CBDA) also have some promising but lesser-studied medicinal applications of their own. Therefore, folks who are interested in a full-spectrum, ultra-healing experience may choose to use a combination of raw and decarbed cannabis in their homemade oils and cannabis salves

A pint mason jar is open and visible from the top, it is filled full of decarboxylated cannabis, the colors range from greenish yellow to purple and they all have a slight golden brown to them. Below the jar is a potted agave plant as well as garden beds that are filled with fava beans and mustard greens.
Isn’t it pretty? A mix of our homegrown Cookie Wreck and Gold Lotus, post-decarb.

Ways to Decarboxylate Cannabis

The good news is that it is very easy to decarb cannabis. Especially the way we do it – in the oven! Because the basic idea behind decarboxylating cannabis is to heat it, there are clearly many ways you could decarb cannabis at home. This includes heating it on the stove, in a double-boiler, or in a crock pot. Some people add it directly in food or oil as part of the final cooking process. 

However, those methods require more hands-on monitoring or stirring. Also, they easily lend themselves to accidentally overheating or unevenly heating the cannabis. Overheating will destroy many of the beneficial cannabinoids, and the resulting product can also become very lethargic. In contrast, decarbing cannabis in the oven is extremely precise, effective, and virtually hands-off.  The only easier (and odorless) option is to use one of these badass Nova or Magical Butter automatic decarboxylator devices.


  • Preheat oven to 250°F. Also, keep in mind that this is will make your house smell strongly of weed for a few hours. You’ve been warned.

  • Line a baking sheet or glass baking dish with parchment paper. This makes it easy to collect and package everything after baking.

  • Choose your cannabis of choice. We specifically save our more fluffy, loose, less-manicured homegrown buds for this. I also like to use the strains we grow that are high in both THC and CBD (as opposed to high-THC, low-CBD strains) to create well-balanced and healing oils or salves. You can obviously do this with a CBD-only strain of cannabis as well. If you’re using homegrown cannabis, it is best to use material that has already been properly dried and cured first. If you need tips about harvesting, drying, and curing homegrown cannabis – see this article.

  • Rip the buds into small pieces. See the photos below for scale. Some people grind their cannabis for decarboxylation, but I don’t find it necessary.

  • Now, decarboxylate the cannabis on 250°F for 25-30 minutes. You could also use a lower temperature for slightly longer time to preserve more terpenes (e.g. 230°F for 45 minutes). Refer to the chart above.

  • Note that CBDA takes longer to fully convert to CBD than the THC decarb process does. So if you’re working with a high-CBD strain and attempting to make CBD oil or salve, double the time at any given temperature.

  • Some people cover their baking pan of cannabis with foil or second baking sheet upside down on top, in order trap any cannabinoids or terpenes that may volatilize in the process.

  • When the time is up, remove the tray from the oven and allow the cannabis material to fully cool. It should have changed from green to light brown.

  • Transfer the decarboxylated cannabis into a glass air-tight container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a mason jar.

  • Finally, store the jar of decarbed cannabis in a cool dark place, like you would with other cannabis.

  • Plan to use your decarbed cannabis to make oil, salve or edibles within 3-6 months. I recommend a year maximum, unless you wan’t a sleep aid! It won’t “go bad”, but over time the THC naturally degrades to CBN – a cannabinoid that makes weed very sleepy. Your can find our homemade cannabis-infused oil recipe here, instructions to make cannabis tinctures (aka Green Dragon) here, and our healing topical salve recipe here.

A two way image collage, the first image shows green and purple cannabis flowers arranged on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. The second image shows the flowers after they have been broken apart by hand to increase the surface are for decarboxylation while being heated in the oven.
Break up buds into small pieces.
A hand is holding some broken down cannabis flowers before they have been heated in the oven. The colors are bright green and purple.
Before decarboxylation.
A pint mason jar is on its side with decarboxylated cannabis flowers spilling out of it onto a washed concrete surface. The flowers have a darker golden brown hue to them after decarboxylation.
After decarboxylation.
Need a chill pill, minus the pill? Check out favorite organic full-spectrum CBD oil – NuVita! Use our affiliate code “DEANNACAT” to save 10% any time. With less than 0.3% THC, it is non-psychoactive and legal in the US. The orange label is great for anxiety, stress, inflammation, and pain – anytime. The CBG (white) has some added power against inflammation, IBS, nausea, and cancer cell growth. CBN (black) will help you sleep more soundly while also easing tension, perfect for bedtime use.

That was easy, right?

Now you know how to decarboxylate cannabis, ready to infuse in oil, edibles, or use in any recipe that calls for decarbed cannabis! My favorite use for it is to make homemade topical salve. Or, learn how to make cannabis-infused oil here. Please remember to heed caution when you consume homemade cannabis products. Because it is challenging to determine exact potency, I highly suggest micro-dosing (taking only tiny amounts) at first.

In closing, I hope you found this article to be useful and enlightening! Please feel free to ask any questions, and spread the love by sharing this post.

Until then, you may enjoy these other related articles:

A hand holding a pint jar of decarboxylated cannabis. The jar is filled to the top with green and purple golden brown decarboxylated cannabis flowers. The background is a sea of green and purple vegetable plants.

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


  • cat

    Interested in adding a bit of decarb weed to a loose leaf herbal sleepy time tea mix I make, to increase sleep and help joint pain.
    Taste is not an issue. Any suggestions?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Cat, sounds like it should work just fine. Maybe just start slow with small amounts as to not overdue it until you find the right amount to use. You can also add a tiny bit of coconut oil into your tea which will help your body more readily absorb the THC and its other beneficial properties. Hope it works out well for you and good luck!

    • Vanessa

      Thank you for putting this article out there!! I was hoping to make a brandy tincture with decarbed cannabis. Has anyone has success with tinctures? Thanks!

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Vanessa, I believe it is recommended to use high proof full grain alcohol that is 190 to 200 proof (like Everclear) as regular proof liquors do not work nearly as well. Some say you can use Bacardi 151 or something similar but it still won’t be as good as 190 or 200 proof. Assuming you have the high proof alcohol, place your specified amount of decarbed cannabis in a jar and pour the alcohol over the top until it covers the cannabis. Store this is a cupboard for anywhere from a couple days to 6 months (the longer the infusion the more will be extracted from the flower), once it has steeped to your desired time, let the alcohol burn off from the jar by leaving the lid off for a number of days as this will get rid of the high heat alcohol bite. Transfer to an amber colored bottle with a dropper for administering the tincture. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Teri

    Hello, I have been making Cannabutter for about a year now. Using your methods above. My question is once I decarb, make my butter, and strain I usually take the pulp and freeze it. then when I need more butter. I decarb it again and make another batch of butter. I always call the first batch, my A-Team brownies, and the second batch is the B team not quite as strong, is there anything bad about reusing the pulp, and am I harming the pulp by decarbing it a second time?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Teri, you likely don’t need to decarb the pulp again for use in your B-Team brownies as it has already been decarbed. Have you liked the results of the B-Team brownies? If so, just keep doing what you are doing! Good luck in your canna-butter ventures.

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        You can start off with a strain that is more sleepy and sedate, many indica strains help with this. I would just stick to the recommended time for decarboxylation and use a stain (indica) that is geared more towards a sleepy high.

      • Gloria Mitchell

        Cat I find it more helpful for bones than soft tissue taken internally but as a topical rub it works well for soft tissue.

  • Andie

    Hello and good morning, afternoon, evening, and good night. 😉
    I was wondering can you over shake it? Did the mason jar method work? Can I use both vaped and baked in the oven ? I used maker’s mark because that is what I had so I am excited. I am really really hoping and praying this works. I used the tin foil pocket method to bake it in the oven. I am really hoping that mason jar thing helps. I am excited to see if this works I am tired of Doctors pushing pills that do more harm than good, The pills do not help at all on many things I needed help with So thank you for any tips or tricks anything will help …Thank you so much for your time.
    Please have a wonderful day

      • Rph2fnp

        Is anyone else filling gelatin capsules with this decarbed bud? I’d love to swap thoughts about capsule fill recipes. Leonard

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hi Leonard, I am sure people do this although the plant material can be tough on some people’s stomach. The best and most consistent (as far as desired effects) capsule recipe I have found can be found if you google “Hallucinating Hash Capsules” and there is a thread on grasscity forums. The end result isn’t as scary as the title unless you take a large dose, I found 4 drops to be mild where close to 10 drops was way more than enough. Anyway, hope that helps and good luck!

    • Marty

      I make butter and oil. My question is. I cook it in my crockpot for 4 days not letting the temperature get over 180 degrees. Do l still need to decarb my buds before I cook it in my crockpot with the oil/butter???

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Marty, the process you use works for activating the THC so you don’t need to decarb beforehand. If you want to try something different, decarb the flower as we describe and make oil from there, you can probably make your oil/butter in a couple hours compared to days although it is a tad more hands on than your method. Good luck!

  • Antknee

    Once I Decarb the Weed do I have to make canna butter or canna oil with it or can I just toss some in my brownie mix, bake and enjoy?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Antknee, you could do that however, decarbed cannabis does not taste good, nor will it mix evenly throughout your brownies as butter or oil will.

      • Antknee

        Thanks I actually enjoy the flavor it gives off when I eat it so taste is not an issue. Is there such a thing as under decarbing and/or over decarbing? If so, How would one know if they did either one? If I am putting the cannabis in with my brownie mix then baking the brownies would that decarb the cannabis or should I still start by doing the decarbing step? Thanks for answering my questions I have be doing loads of research on this topic and you have been the first person to answer!!

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          I would decarb the cannabis separately before adding it into your brownies to further bake. You can under or over decarb your cannabis if it doesn’t reach the proper temperature or if it exposed to temperatures that are too high which will destroy many of the terpenes as well as lower your overall THC percentage. It is a fairly basic process and one that doesn’t need to be over-examined unless you are going to be producing commercial product. You should be good to go if you stick to our directions and go from there. Good luck and let us know how they turn out.

  • Steve Alexander

    I’ve read various articles about decarbing and I’m still confused. One article that said that a medical journal published a “scientific “ report on this subject. It said these studies found the optimum time and temp for decarbing was 230 degrees Fahrenheit for 110 minutes. Seems the 110 minutes was a little long. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Steve, that does seem like a little too long. While we haven’t done any testing on our results, we have been more than happy with the results. Try decarbing for different amounts of time and see if you can tell a difference in the final product. Good luck and let us know what you find out.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Den, when you smoke cannabis you are heating it which already decarbs it in the process. The additional step of decarbing cannabis for salves, oils, or edibles is what activates the THC to make it available for your body’s absorption. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Royston

    Hi. I’m about to try making some infused honey for use in micro-dosing. Having read many articles on decarboxylation etc I’m still slightly confused about temperatures and durations. Given the cost of the raw material where I live in Europe the prospect of burning away money is slightly scary. I have seen an authoritative looking site which suggests 115 degrees centigrade but other sites state 240 degrees (centigrade? fahrenheit?)
    Another question. Is it OK to use kitchen foil as a base for the preparation. I’m not sure I’ve ever had or heard of cooking “parchment”!
    Thanks in advance for your help and extremely interesting site.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Royston, we suggest 230-250 degrees Fahrenheit which would be between 110 and 121 degrees centigrade. If you go with the higher end of the suggested heat, decarb for 25 to 30 minutes, if you opt for the lower temperature, decarb slightly longer for 45 minutes. You can absolutely use foil instead of parchment paper, we use parchment because it’s what we have around and it can be heated in the oven no problem. Decarbing cannabis is actually quite easy so don’t worry yourself too much, it will work out fine and I am sure you will enjoy the results. Good luck with your honey oil venture and let us know how it works out for you!

  • Melissa

    Healing and the best vibes being sent to you from Los Angeles. 🙂 My question is about shelf life. I decarboxylated some cannabis a few weeks ago to make some salve but ran out of my carrier oil. Is my 2+week old decarboxylated cannabis still good? Also, say I have cannabis from last October, which I made into salve a few weeks ago. Does it’s “best by date” life begin when I made it into the salve or the date it finished curing? Many thanks in advance. I’m a big fan 🙂

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Melissa, if the decarbed cannabis is stored in a cool, dry, dark location it will hold up for quite awhile so you will be just fine on that front. I also wouldn’t be worried about a “best by date” with your salve made from older cannabis, the product should hold up for some time. Thanks for reading and being a part of the community, enjoy that salve!

  • Claire

    Hi. I am planning to make salve today from your recipe. I was also wanting to make something to help a friend battling cancer to help her sleep. What would you suggest?

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Claire! Has your friend tried CBD oil before? I don’t love using our homemade cannabis oil for edibles/sleep because the THC levels tend to last too long and make me groggy the next day – but I have had really great results with CBD! We personally like the NuVita CBD brand – they have a standard full-spectrum oil (orange label) that helps with issues all-around (including better sleep) but doesn’t make you groggy. They also have a full-spectrum CBD with added CBN (the black label) that is specifically for night time use and sleep, since it does cause drowsiness – great sleep, but no groggy “hang over”! Finally, they also have a white label that is CBG-infused, said to have superior anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Non of them are psychoactive (except for the CBN sleepiness) and have very very little THC (less than 0.3%).

      I hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by and trying the salve! I got them for my Mama too, who is a cancer survivor. I am sorry about your friend… Sending best wishes!

  • MJ Blanchette

    this is so fabulous! i’ll be ready and waiting the very minute your recipes hit the airwaves (er, no pressure tho). in considering just how much to decarb, can you give a sense how much oil might be extracted from say, a pint?

    thank you, thank you for this!!

    • MJ Blanchette

      ps. question 2 (and this might be a weird one, but…) since vaporized weed is heated to these specs, would those emptied bowls not technically be decarbed? so, if one were to save it…?

      • DeannaCat

        Hey MJ! So yes, your thinking is correct! The “spent” cannabis from a vaporizer is indeed decarbed. Many folks to keep their spent bowls to “recycle” and further make products with. Yet many of the good terpenes and some of the cannabinoids have been burned off when you inhale, and personally I am not as excited to use it because of the burned aroma – but it is possible!

      • DeannaCat

        I should also mention that it depends on your vape settings too… For example, we usually set our Firefly about 380. That is significantly higher than the ideal “low and slow” decarb temp. We get the benefits all temperature ranges (and terps, cannabinoids, etc) as our vaporizer heats up and passes through all the various temperatures, but at the end it has likely denatured or otherwise burned off the majority of the good stuff.

        • Bill

          Which of the strains? Sour diesel cbd? We’re searching for a nice sativa.
          Recently read an article, Extractcraft, about decarb in a Mason jar in the oven. Doesn’t stank the house up.

          • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

            Hi Bill, good tip on the decarb method to reduce the odor. Strain choice is really up to personal choice, if there is a cross available to you that is Sour Diesel crossed with a CBD variety, that sounds like a good choice to me. We like Maui Waui or similar Hawaiian sativa strains because they are usually uplifting but relaxing at the same time. Jack Herer is another sativa dominant strain that is widely available and is a personal favorite. However, the two strains are more THC dominant and may be lacking in CBD so it really depends on what you are looking for. Good luck!

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