Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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PsychedelicSam
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Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

Post by PsychedelicSam »

Recently I've been exploring natural decarboxylation through aging, both dry material and Green Dragon extractions, in an effort to maximize the retention of the terpenoids in the final product. Heat as low a 200°F is enough to burn off some of those compounds. The terpenes are important in the overall effects of cannabis in that they act as influencing agents on the THC, as much as the THC antagonizers CBD and CBG and others. For medical patients this can make a huge difference and the loss of those terpenes is why the effects of edibles made from a particular strain often don't completely provide the same effects as the smoked/vaped method.

For the last few months I have been having lab tests performed to find the definitive answer to how long it takes for a good decarb in the oven or air drying or in solution. I don't have a lot of money so I've had to start slow but that's not a bad thing for this kind of study on aging. I now have enough data to start this thread with 2 complete studies. At this point they are not fully proven because there has only been one source for each and a valid study needs many sources, but there is enough data to make a good case for each conclusion.

The source material for these tests, up to this point, has not been top shelf material but mainly fan leaf and trim. The amount of compounds is not important, just that there is enough to give us good readings for comparison. There seems to always be discrepancies with the numbers from test to test because of change to the product, like from dry material to the tincture. For now we're using the graphs for comparison. Tonight I'm just going to post the test results for the most important question in edibles processing, "How long to decarb?" This is not getting in to the natural decarb data yet since this is an oven process, but it is the foundation of the whole study because it is the accepted, but misunderstood, way to activate cannabis for internal ingestion. I'm just going to drop in the tests, 2 of them, and let you look them over. What you are seeing should be obvious but I'll go over the results with later.

You should know that this material was harvested and dried then jarred. The material was from several different plants and combined when jarred. There is some difference in the numbers from one sample to the other because the blending was rough and not fully homogenized but the graph tells the whole story. The original material was placed in a pyrex dish in an oven pre-heated to 230°F with no cover and it was left there for 30 minutes, then it was taken out. The oven was an old one and the temperature would fluctuate from 225°-230° so we're just using the latter temp as the data. The point of interest is how much of the THCA converted to THC and how much CBN was created due to degradation of the THC with too much heat.

The first one is the original material and the second is the heated decarb. :)


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Last edited by PsychedelicSam on Sun Jan 18, 2015 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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The first step to successful edibles is a process called decarboxylation, which is a big word for activate. When cannabis is smoked or vaped, that process is accomplished by the heat source at that instant and the vapors are inhaled and the activated cannabinoids are immediately uploaded into your system. It doesn't work that way with ingestion, whether in the form of tinctures or edibles. For those to be effective, the cannabinoids need to be activated before consumption.

Fresh cannabis contains very little THC at the time of harvest. Instead you'll find the compounds that are basically the precursors of the cannabinoids, such as THCA, CBDA, CBGA, etc, with the "A" meaning "acid". In order for those compounds to become the desired cannabinoids the "A" has to be lost and the ways to do that are through natural aging or by applying heat. The natural aging process is slow, very slow so most people use heat.

The first set of tests I posted utilized heat and is the way most people "decarb" their cannabis although the exact technique and temperatures are in dispute. One of the most asked question on this forum by new users is about decarbing. Many people go by charts that have been created by corporate entities for products like Sativex and companies like Skunk Pharmaceuticals and Dixie Elixirs and others. Unfortunately, those charts can be read to justify anything, like heating at high temp for 5 minutes or heating at slower, longer intervals but there hasn't really been any real-time experience being discussed.

The first post lab results are one answer for that discussion. I include it first because it is the basic DIY process most people perform and it clearly shows the success of the THC conversion without additional degradation at that specific time and temperature. If you cover your dish in the oven or alter the conditions at all then your own results may vary from that shown. There are a lot of methods and that is mine and I've backed it up, so I'm sure it works.

Okay, so if that works so well, why not stop there? I've proven my point, which isn't too much in contention any more. Well, I'm glad you asked that question. There's really more to it than just activating the cannabinoids so we can catch a good buzz. There are a lot of other compounds, called terpenoids, that greatly influence the effects of cannabis just as much as the other cannabinoids. When we toke it, we get the effects of all those compounds and their special ratios to each other that make the final outcome. The heat from the toking will vaporize those compounds along with the others and get inhaled but when adding heat in an oven or other method for edibles, those compounds can be lost because they usually have a lower vapor point than the cannabinoids.

Most people aren't concerned with the terpenes too much and accept the trade off but those can make a huge difference to medical patients, many of which are not stoners and more concerned with curing cancer, dealing with chronic pain or some other debilitating condition. Many don't want any psychoactive effects at all and for those you want little to no activation. For these patients a different process is best that will allow the cannabis to age naturally and not use heat anywhere along the way.

For a while I have been interested in whether cannabis products will decarb after extraction and how long it takes, especially with Green Dragon and RSO type products which are my main field of study. If you have a patient with a certain type of MS you may want to use a completely inactive extraction for various reasons but if that inactive tincture or oil eventually activates, then it may start losing it's beneficial properties and start causing some undesired reactions.

I have been searching to see if someone has done any research on this issue and can only find conjecture and anecdotal stories of it being "stronger" after sitting a couple of months. But no hard data. So, I'm doing it myself.

In the upcoming months and maybe years, I'll be posting test results detailing how long it takes for decarb to happen in various scenarios with dry plant material to RSO to tincture and whatever else I can think of as I go along. All tests will be HPLC instead of Gas Chromatography so that we can see the THCA conversion to THC and the other details. When I get a little further along, I'll also be doing some things with CBDA and CBD but for right now my samples have contained too little for comparison.

The next posts will illustrate the extraction rate of the process I use as well as results showing the increase in THC and decrease of THCA in a non-decarbed GD with natural reduction and the same GD with only a 10 minute heated reduction. Currently I was working on a 6 month timeline with new tests every month or two but life has interfered and slowed down the schedule but not stopped it. I'll try to get those up as soon as I can.

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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This next set of tests is to give a basic idea of the extraction rate of the process I use to make my tincture as well as a first glimpse at the types of things we'll be looking at over the course of the project. Like the previous ones, this is just laying a foundation for the future. These are from undecarbed fan leaf and trim and you'll notice there's not a very high percentage of cannabinoids but that's not really important. What's important is how those percentages change as the sample ages. This also illustrates the differences in values between the testing of dry material and a concentrated tincture.

The first one is the dry material. As you can see, nothing special with most of the other cannabinoids too low to measure. This material was then made into a Green Dragon extraction. That extraction was divided in half and each half was reduced by evaporation by 50 percent, one was natural evaporation and the other half was reduced with heat. The second test is of the natural evaporation and the third is the heated reduction. The second one you'll be seeing often because it will be the control for all the following tests in this series.

Take a look at the last two tests, the first is just reference material. This gives a basis for the argument that heat alone will cause some decarboxylation in a product. That is clearly shown in these samples. Check them out.

Arid1Control.jpg
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Reduction Control.jpg
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Heated reduction1.jpg
Heated reduction1.jpg (305.32 KiB) Viewed 20919 times

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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Before we move on to more test results I'd like to provide some easy to understand graphics about the effects of the various cannabinoids and terpenoids we'll be encountering during the course of the project. You may have seen these elsewhere but I got them from one of the labs I've used and it's in a format suitable for our needs.
Cannabinoids.jpg
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Terpenes.jpg
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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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Now we get into the first set of the natural decarboxylation comparisons and this is what this project is about. The previously posted samples were the foundation and now we get to the real action.

You've seen the first one in the previous set comparing the natural evaporation and the heated evaporation, neither with decarb. In this set we see the original natural evaporation at the time it was made and the second one is the same extraction from the same jar taken 2 months later. Nothing has changed from the first one except the age and the volume taken for the first one. No additional evaporation has taken place.

Again, we're looking at the graphs and not so much the numbers. You'll see some confusing numbers that are due to the changing volume of the original extraction. You can definitely see the increase in THC over THCA after 2 months of sitting, much more than the heat alone. The next sample is the heated one and after looking at this set, I expect to see it nearly completely decarbed. This set will get it's next installment soon, I hope, then we'll start having a different series beginning that will test fresh bud.

Check it out and see if you have any questions or comments. This will be a slow thread since future tests will be done as the funds become available This set shows an important property that is usually overlooked and when mentioned, is just considered rumor. We are now seeing actual data that will help you improve your tincture and edibles and there are many more to come. With enough sources of data we will soon be able to apply a timetable for aging your products without losing your terpenes and lower cannabinoids with a heated decarb. You "stealth" folks out there in dorm rooms and other venues where you can't decarb your weed, stay tuned.

As the graph in Natural 2 suggests, this would be a good point at which to process the cannabis for purposes that work best with a balanced ratio of the cannabinoids and their acid counterparts such as THC & THCA and CBD & CBDA.
Reduction Control.jpg
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Natural 2.jpg
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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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Wow, you've been busy. It took me a while to go through all of that.

It sure would be interesting to have my own lab... ;)

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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Really. That's why it's taken so long to just get results. At eighty bucks a pop, my disability doesn't allow too many without a lot of sacrifice but I occasionally will do so because I want to know. So it's well worth it. I even have more tests I haven't posted yet. :)

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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I'd like to see what's leftover after butane extraction/purge too. I always thought butane was pretty clean and easy to purge.

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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I don't go near butane just to be safe and I'm not a fan of dabbing so I guess I'm not missing much. :)

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Re: Natural Decarboxylation Testing Program

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I'm not worried, I worked around potentially dangerous chemicals for years, I can handle a little butane. I won a wax vaporizer from @CloudVapes on twitter so I've been playing with waxes lately but not the giant dabs like you see on youtube. That's one of the reviews I'm behind on, sorry @CloudVapes... :(

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