• Frederic A. Melius, MD

Here's What You Need to Know About CBD Capsules.

There are so many CBD products on the market these days, it can be confusing to sort out what type of product is best for you. I’m going to try to sort some of this out for you in this article; specifically, what capsules are most useful for.

You’ve no doubt seen CBD drops, tinctures and oils but there are also capsules, a nasal spray, tablets, orally disintegrating tablets, topical lotions, ointments, patches, oral sprays, inhalants, vapes, smokables, gummies, chewing gum, mints, drinks, drink mixes and more. You can also buy CBD as isolate or distillate to make your own products. Look for future blogs on different delivery systems, but for now let’s talk about CBD Capsules.

Let’s break down capsules.

Capsules are favored by many people for their ease of use, familiarity and convenience. Capsules have two components. The outer shell, and the ingredients inside. The properties of each make a big difference in how they work in your body. The outer shells are generally made of plant material for hard capsules or gel material for softer capsules. Hard capsules can be made differently depending on intended use. Hard shells can dissolve rapidly within the stomach for rapid release, or they may be designed to pass through the stomach’s acids and dissolve lower down in the GI tract. Delayed release, or enteric coated capsules dissolve beginning about an hour after ingestion and continue to release CBD for about an additional half hour.

Soft gel capsules are designed to rapidly break down in the stomach for rapid release within minutes of ingestion. Immediate release is sometimes called “dose dumping” because the entire dose is released at once which can result in decreased absorption and increased side effects. Rapid release capsules and soft gels work like most ingestibles, gummies, tablets, drinks and the like. They release CBD fast but, they are also metabolized rapidly. This means they get into your blood stream fast, but their effects diminish quickly and the risk for side effects is greater.

What is the advantage of a delayed release hard capsule?

Delayed release capsules are designed with properties that prevent stomach acids from breaking down their plant-based coating. Delayed release capsules are a form of a modified release delivery system. This allows the capsule to move much lower into the GI tract before beginning to slowly break down. Delayed release CBD capsules dissolve gradually and release their CBD slowly to maintain levels within the therapeutic window to avoid peaks in CBD concentration following ingestion. This serves to maximize therapeutic efficiency and reduce potential side effects. Effective blood levels persist longer compared to capsules that break down in the stomach. Delayed absorption means longer lasting. Another potential advantage to delayed release capsules is the potential for the CBD to work locally on lower and more areas of the GI system. This could help certain GI conditions.

Why are capsules more expensive than some other forms of CBD?

Building a pharmaceutical quality hard shell CBD capsule is an expensive process. By contrast, making gummies is simple and can be done easily in your kitchen. CBD can be purchased online and gummy molds are easy to find on Amazon. Gummy recipes are readily available as well. Edibles are generally simple and inexpensive to manufacture. Gel caps are also less expensive to produce because CBD in an oil is simply put into a gel cap.

The highest-quality hard capsules on the other hand require expensive ingredients (excipients) including the capsules, specialized equipment and highly trained pharmaceutical experts. Pharmaceutical mixing machines are needed to evenly distribute nano, water-soluble CBD within the other substrates to create a powder that will flow like a liquid through the capsule filling machine. High quality products will be uniform in all characteristics of their capsules just like any prescription capsule. Third party analytic testing will confirm a good consistent product.

Does the form of CBD within a capsule matter?

The answer is probably obvious; yes! CBD in big chunks, or crystals will not absorb as efficiently as water soluble, tiny, amorphous, nano-sized particles. For a simple visual, imagine dissolving table salt in water. Now imagine trying to dissolve a big salt crystal like you’d put in a water softener. The tiny salt crystals dissolve much faster than the big chunk of salt , right? That’s how big vs. little CBD particles dissolve too.

But, that’s not the whole story. While size matters, the carrier makes a difference as well. CBD molecules in oils are happy to stay in their oils. Water soluble CBD, on the other hand, looks for a chance to jump into a fat, or lipid. Our cells have membranes made of phospholipids. Water soluble nano sized particles jump into our cells much more readily than the large CBD crystals in oil.

Here’s my take home prescription.

There are many ways to get your CBD. Taking a capsule is easy, reliable and convenient. Delayed release capsules with water soluble tiny amorphous particles offer a distinct advantage over gel caps, rapid dissolving capsules and other edibles. A high-quality delayed release capsule will provide a long duration of action and contact a greater surface area within the GI tract for both local and longer lasting effects.

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