If you’re a fan of hemp flower, then you probably enjoy the calming effects of smoking or vaping CBD-rich hemp. But did you know you can eat it too?
That’s right. Just like with regular THC-rich cannabis, making and consuming hemp flower edibles can add a completely new dimension to your use. However, cooking with cannabis isn’t as easy as just throwing your dried flower into any old recipe. Rather, you have to make sure that the cannabinoids you are working with are ‘activated’. That’s why, just as with THC-rich cannabis, before you start cooking you need to decarb your hemp buds in order to ‘activate’ the CBD.
This article will explain just what decarbing is, why you need to decarb hemp flower as well as regular cannabis, plus everything else you need to know about the entire process.
What is decarbing?
“Decarbing” is short for decarboxylation. And decarboxylation is the process of using heat to turn cannabinoids from their acidic form into their ‘activated’ form. By heating raw cannabinoids, a chemical reaction takes place that removes carboxyl and releases CO2.
The importance of decarbing cannot be understated, especially when making edibles from THC-rich cannabis. This is because raw cannabis does not actually contain psychoactive THC. It actually only produces THCa (the ‘a’ stands for acid), which doesn’t have any psychoactive effects – and is why eating raw cannabis won’t get you high.
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Do you need to decarb hemp flower?
Many CBD oils and CBD-containing products will contain CBD meaning that it’s already been decarboxylated. Hemp flower, however, contains mostly CBDa and usually only trace amounts of CBD.
Therefore, in order to convert the CBDa in raw hemp flower into CBD, you will need to decarb your buds. It is important to note that CBD-rich cannabis flower generally needs more time to decarboxylate than THC. Possibly twice as long for a complete decarboxylation.
How to decarb your hemp flower
- The oven method
Using an oven to decarb your hemp flower is going to be the simplest for most people. All you need is an oven, baking tray, parchment paper, and hemp flower.
1. Preheat your oven to 230-260 degrees Fahrenheit. Ovens fluctuate in temperature so if you have an oven thermometer, it’s with double checking the temperature in the middle of your oven.
2. Break your hemp flower up into very small pieces with your fingers or chop it all up with a grinder or scissors.
3. Evenly spread your chopped flower out onto a parchment sheet on a baking tray.
4. Put the tray on the middle shelf in your oven.
5. Leave for 2 hours.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool. The hemp flower should have completely dried out and turned brown in color. It should smell toasty crumble easily between your fingers. It’s now decarbed.
- The mason jar method
Decarbing hemp flower in a mason jar is a useful method in that it minimizes the smell of cooked cannabis you get with the oven method. This is what you’ll need: a mason jar (and lid), baking tray, oven gloves, hemp flower.
1. Preheat your oven to between 230 and 260 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Grind up your hemp flower and place it into the mason jar. Lightly screw the lid on – if it’s too light you’ll crack the jar.
3. Put the baking tray on a baking tray and place on a middle shelf in the oven.
4. Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 60 minutes. Every 15 minutes, carefully remove the mason jar from the oven with the oven gloves and give it a shake to disperse the cannabis evenly.
5. After 2-3 hours, take the jar out of the oven with oven gloves on. Let it cool before making use of if.
- The sous vide method
You may need some specialist equipment for this method, but it is a pretty fool-proof way of decarbing hemp flower while preserving terpenes and producing no smell. Here’s what you’ll need: a thermal immersion circulator, a large pot or tub, zip-lock freezer bag, hemp flower.
1. Fill your pot or rub with water and pop the immersion circulator inside. Set the immersion circulator to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Chop or grind up your hemp flower the cannabis finely and put it inside your zip-lock bag.
3. Seal the plant matter as flat and as tight as possible. This will minimize air pockets and maximize surface area, allowing for a more even decarb.
4. Put the sealed bag with the hemp into the water bath for 2 hours.
5. Remove the bag and let it cool off and dry before pouring the ground hemp into a bowl for use.
- Ardent Nova
If all that sounds like too much hassle, there is a much easier method. The Ardent Nova is a useful but of kit that can reliably decarb hemp flower at the press of a button. It was designed for decarbing THC-rich cannabis, but after some testing by the company, they found out you can also debarb CBD with it.
To do this, you just put you hemp onto the metal sleeve which then slides into the machine. Put the lid on a press the on button. Do this once to decarb THC and twice to debarb CBD. Simples. At over $150, this gadget isn’t cheap, however,
What temperature to decarb hemp at?
There is no agreed best temperature to debard hemp flower at, although there are some useful guidelines to consider. We know that CBD boils at somewhere between 320 and 356 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you don’t go this hot.
It’s also known that many terpenes – which are naturally occurring aromatic oils that give plants their smell and offer their own unique health benefits – start to boil when you reach the 300 degree F mark.
Therefore, you should probably keep you decarbing temperatures to between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. But note that the lower the temperature used, the more time your hemp will need to decarb. And vice versa.
How long should I decarb my hemp flower for?
When it comes to debarbing CBD rather than THC, it’s necessary to heat the material for longer. About twice as long, by most estimates.
The company behind the Ardent Nova conducted research on decarbing CBD and found that 235 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 hours (two cycles in the Ardent Nova) decarbed 86% of the CBD present.
Benefits of CBDa
Short for cannabidiolic acid, CBDa is one of a group of compounds known as cannabinoids and produced by cannabis (including hemp). As the precursor to CBD, CBDa is present in raw hemp flower and CBD-rich cannabis strains.
CBDa acts quite differently in the body to CBD. Instead of activating or regulating the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), CBDa inhibits the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme, which is associated with the inflammation response. In this way, CBDa offer anti-inflammatory effects similar to that of commonly prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
CBDa has also been found to be a potent treatment for nausea and anxiety. One 2013 study found that CBDa was a thousand times more powerful than CBD at binding to the 5-HT₃ serotonin receptor, which is linked to nausea and anxiety, particularly in chemotherapy patients. It may also have an anti-depressant effect.
Ways of using decarbed hemp flower
Just like when you decarb regular THC-rich cannabis, hemp flower is very versatile and can be used in numerous ways. Here’re a few ideas:
To make edibles with decarbed hemp flower, you have a couple of options. You could first infuse your hemp into an oil or butter, which you then use to cook or bake with. Alternatively, you could just add the decarbed hemp to a recipe without infusing it first.
Both ways will work fine, although you’ll probably get better absorption rates if you infuse first into an oil. This is because CBD is fat soluble rather than water soluble.
You can infuse your hemp flower into oils or butter by gently heating the two together. Heathig on a low heat for about 30-60 minutes should do the job. You can then consume the infusion directly or use it a recipe.
To make a tincture with your hemp flower, add your bud to some high-proof alcohol (preferably Everclear) in a mason jar. Close and let sit for a few weeks, shaking it up once a day. After a few weeks, filter it with a coffee filter and you’ll be left with a CBD tincture that you can consume directly.
You could also try adding your decarbed hemp flower (or infusion) to some coconut oil/beeswax and other essential oils to create a luxurious hemp-infused balm, salve or serum. CBD is very good for the skin, after all.
So there you have it. Decarbing hemp flower is pretty similar to decarbing THC-rich cannabis. It just takes a bit longer. However, there are plenty of cheap and easy methods to get the job done effectively.
Once you’ve successfully decarbed, you can make anything from edibles and infusions to tinctures and topicals. The possibilities are endless, so get creative.
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