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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.
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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


  • Pete

    Hello Deanna Cat

    I was actually looking for advice on the best way to make ganga tea; as Im not a smoker.
    Im guessing its not necessary to Decarboxylate if it goes into the hot water?
    Also, have you written any articles on making ganga tea?

    thanks for your help

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Pete, if you are interested in making tea, you could make cannabis oil with coconut oil and add the canna/coconut oil to your tea. If you just wanted to steep the flowers themselves, I would still decarb the flowers before using them in this fashion, but I would think using canna oil or even tincture in your tea would be more effective. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Mick Reed

    Hi, i was given some material but it has been stored in a plastic bag and seems quite dry. do i still need to decarb it or just put straight into the coconut oil for infusing ?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Noeleen, yes using cannabis that hasn’t been decarbed should contain a fair amount of THCA which is useful as an anti inflammatory, a neuroprotective, and a muscle spasm suppressant. Another option which may be better for you would be to use CBD flower which may do a better job for pain relief compared to the benefits offered by THCA alone. High CBD premium hemp flower is becoming more readily available online and it may be a viable option for you. Hope that helps and good luck!

    • Trill_Gramz

      Just get some cbd bro, that would be much easier, you won’t get any effect from weed in any form if you skip the decarb process

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Carrie, it shouldn’t, although your house may smell quite strongly. It is advised to open some windows and have some fresh air moving around to help eliminate the odor more quickly. If you have an air purifier, it is a good idea to run it nearby. We recently got an Ardent Nova that is a contained vessel that is supposed to greatly reduce the smell of the decarb process. My idea is to run the machine in a spare room with an air purifier running to reduce the odors. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Wendy Ponka

    How do I increase the CBD potency after decarbing weed? Do I add drops of CBD oil into the batch of canna butter I’m making? Do I have to find “hemp” and add that? The THC in my cannabutter is perfect but I want more CBD in it to enjoy the benefits with pain relief. My daily intake of THC is approximately 300 mgs. Thank you for your answer.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Wendy, the easiest way for you to add CBD to your butter would be to add CBD oil or CBD isolate into your butter once you remove it from the heat. You may have to find which one provides the most bang for the buck for your use but look for the products with high mg of CBD for the most benefits. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Gary

    The bud I use was grown outside. We use bud left over from last years crop. Maybe older.
    Will the bud decarb some while getting old? Would I decarb less time to take into account its age?
    All bud is stored long term in vacuum sealed quart jars.
    I fear I am over decarbing. Should I lower heat or reduce time?
    Does percentage of moisture influence decarb time or temp? Bud is 50-62% before decarbing.
    Thanks for any help.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Gary, it is said that older cannabis naturally decarbs with time but I have yet to see any exact information on how much of the THCA or CBDA is converted to THC or CBD with the natural process of aging. There are probably a number of factors that can influence the decarb time but we try not to overthink it and the way we describe in the post works well for us. Even if I am going to use older cannabis, I will still decarb just to be sure.

  • Garry

    I’ve decarbed 2oz. of cannabis in my oven at 240 for 40min. it wasn’t turning brown, so I left it in for another 20min. still didn’t brown any, but after an hour I wasn’t going to take any chances of overcooking it, so out it came, I used it to make Oil. I was surprised with the quantity produced, it burned well, tasted good, but, I didn’t get the high I was hoping for, sure it helped me relax and feel good, just hoping for more out of it.
    Should the cannabis be brown after cooking it? How long is too long when cooking your weed? Your article said to bake for 20min., others say 40min., and still some say longer, the main thing in common is low and slow at 240, how do I know when it’s done?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Garry, the times can be different because oven temperatures can vary so much from one to the other. It seems your oven may run cool because decarbing cannabis usually turns the flowers more brown and crispy. The effects of the oil also depend on your tolerance level and how strong the oil is in general. As long as your flowers aren’t turning black in the oven, they shouldn’t be getting over-cooked, however, baking flowers on 240 for 20 to 40 minutes should be enough to correctly decarb your cannabis. When making your oil you can also heat the decarbed cannabis for longer in the oil itself, keeping it within the specified temperature range and hopefully extracting more THC and other beneficial compounds. Hope that helps and good luck!

      • Garry

        Thank you Aaron(aka Mr Deannacat) for your response to my inquiry, it was very helpful, Great site, lots of info on a variety of subjects, when I’m in doubt I’ve asked for and received the advice I was seeking, again Thank you for your help.

    • Ufo

      You decarbed for too long do not decarb for more then 30 mins and no higher then 250 i found 245 and 25 mins in does the perfect job also grinding it prior to decarbing helps. Also not all strains will turn brown when decarbed some will turn dark brown while others turn light brown or dark green if its same color as when you put it in then your doing something wrong

  • mark taylor

    how long do i soak the hemp for when using hemp oik and do i strain the shicks out of it or leave it in there also can i vape using only hemp and hemp oil thanks a billion in advance x

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      I don’t quite understand your question but this oil is not for vaporizing, it is for use in salve/body products or edibles. Good luck!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Mark, 130 degrees Celsius is around 266 degrees Fahrenheit so it is a bit hotter than what we recommend in our article which states around 240F, you also don’t need to heat it for that long as the THC will degrade and change to something else with continued exposure to heat.

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