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Cannabis,  Natural Health & DIY

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

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

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 Ardent 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


  • Texas Pickles

    I decarb in the oven using Reynolds’s Turkey roasting bags. I tie them off to be airtight. The house has zero odor.
    I’m using my buds to put in a bone broth I give my elderly dog. Works much better than her prescription meds for arthritis. About one gram (dried) to one quart broth. I purée it well. She weighs about 100 pounds, so I give 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup a night and the difference in her gait, comfort and mood is amazing. Funny thing tho- I have never tried cannabis myself. Was just desperate for pain relief that wasn’t an opiod or nsaid for her.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Mark, yes you can use a mason jar for decarbing cannabis and it is supposed to dramatically cut down on the smell. Be sure to use a metal lid, don’t screw the lid on too tight, some people recommend placing a lightly damp cloth on a baking sheet so the jar won’t roll around as much when taking it in and out of the oven, lay it on its side and every 15 minutes or so, take out the jar and shake it around so the cannabis will evenly heat. We like to use our Ardent decarboxylator as it does a really great job of decarbing the flower to a beautiful color with no burnt small, it can be a little expensive but if you are interested in making tinctures, edibles or topicals often, it may be worth the investment. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Joyce b.

    Your site is very informatve. I’ve learned a lot.
    i’d like to know if cannibis seeds should be used in either topicals or ingestibles? Thanks

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Joyce, cannabis seeds themselves aren’t typically used for either application. The resulting plant material from a seed grown through harvest is what most people would use for topicals, edibles, or inhalation. We do enjoy hemps seeds for eating as they contain a good amount of protein, omegas, and vitamins, however, those can be purchased at most grocery stores. Let me know if I didn’t answer your question as you’d hoped or if you have any other questions.

      • Kay

        This was such great info! I want to recommend the instant pot decarb method. It’s not *quite* as hot but high pressure for 45 minutes on a jar or two is smell-free, controlled temp, fast, and free of having to mess with it. You need to do your grinding first, imo, to get best results but it always works exceedingly well for me! (Did I mention the no stink?)

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Thanks for sharing Kay, maybe we should try out our Instant Pot for decarbing as well as it doesn’t get much use otherwise.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hello Yaron, yes, some people save their already vaped bud (AVB) to use in edibles as it has been decarbed. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Stephanie Olin

    Hi, Great article. I am going to procur some Cannibis seeds. I called a company, HoliMoli, and asked which seeds are best for plant to harvet to make a topical salve for pain (arthritis, RA, fibromyalgia and general sore muscles from exercising. What I am not sure about, and I am avid gardenenr, is exactly when to harvet the cannibis to make my salve? Looks to me from the photos that the Cannibis is like pre buds kinda like when Basil starts to flower? Is this correct? Thanks so much!

      • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

        Hi Ken, check out the seed section in this article for a list of vendors, not all of them, but many have international shipping. If you are looking for plants with both THC and CBD, you may want to check out Hoku Seed Co. as they have an extensive list of high CBD genetics and some with mixed ratios. Were you looking for something specifically or just different seed banks?

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