CBD Edibles vs. Capsules: Which Is Better?
CBD capsules vs. CBD edibles: one provides quicker absorption, one is a tasty snack. Which is best for you?
Written by Cathy Rozyczko
Edited by Jason Brett on
September 27, 2021
For people who are considering CBD or have already started trying what is available, one of the most common questions to ask is, what’s the difference between CBD edibles and capsules? For those seeking relief and integration of CBD into their personal pain or stress management routine, it can be pretty hard to choose which one is right for you.
We are here to illuminate the differences, similarities, and appeal of both CBD edibles and CBD capsules to help you decide which is best for you.
What’s the Difference Between CBD Edibles and Capsules?
Let's start at the beginning with the difference between CBD edibles and CBD capsules.
CBD Edibles Defined: CBD “edibles” covers the entire range of products that are food-like. They taste like food, they contain calories, they can be eaten like snacks, and they contain CBD. CBD edibles aren’t limited to premade goods—you can cook CBD into just about anything, from chocolate to spaghetti sauce, by carefully preparing at home.
CBD Capsules Defined: CBD capsules are non-food gel capsules containing cannabidiol (CBD). The CBD is sometimes mixed with coconut oil or hempseed oil, but capsules containing only pure CBD oil are available. These are almost exactly like fish oil or liquid gel-caps you’d find in the supplement aisle. CBD capsules look exactly like other capsules unless a brand has gone out of their way to make CBD capsules distinct.
CBD Edibles Overview
CBD edibles are any food that has been made with CBD in them. Edibles bought in stores have specific doses that you can read on the package and use to manage your CBD consumption. Gummies are the most common CBD edibles; they are made of CBD, gelatin or pectin (for vegans), flavoring, and sometimes, coloring.
A few types of edibles you’re likely to see while shopping around for CBD include:
- Gummies (some come infused with melatonin, for sleep)
- Baked treats
- Lollipops and sugar candies
- Infused beverages
- Raw honey
There are companies that make CBD gum!
Like all CBD products, edibles can be full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate, meaning they contain all of the hemp plant’s compounds, all of the compounds minus THC, or only CBD, respectively.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of CBD edibles:
- Tasty snacks
- Low-profile in public
- Home cooking customization
- Slow-acting (digestion speed)
- Snack temptation
- Some contain unhealthy artificial ingredients and preservatives
CBD Edibles Absorption
CBD edibles absorb as quickly as your body digests. This means it could take up to an hour before you start to feel the effects. However, the effects typically last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Your rate of absorption will vary depending on your personal metabolism and how much food is already in your stomach.
CBD also interacts with the cytochrome P450 enzyme system in the liver. This system breaks down toxins passing through the body, including many prescription and over-the-counter medications. CBD inhibits the P450 system, which may influence how other medications affect your body. To avoid any negative interactions, it’s important you speak to your doctor before trying CBD edibles.
CBD Edibles Dosing
CBD edibles are made by adding cannabidiol oil to a normal, snack-like item or recipe. Often, the amount used barely affects the recipe and does not count as a cooking oil replacement. This keeps doses small and easy to self-regulate.
Most edibles, especially CBD gummies, will include information on the amount of CBD, in milligrams (mg), per serving. Many people work out a system, learning the exact number of their favorite edible to eat to achieve the desired result, like relieving pain or getting to sleep.
When first figuring out your ideal CBD edible dosage, start slow and low. Give the edible at least an hour to absorb, and then decide if you’d like to adjust your dose from there.
DIY CBD Edibles
You can also make your own CBD edibles at home by cooking with CBD oil, as long as you're still very careful about dosing and portions. When making your own CBD edibles at home, it's best to stick to low-temp baking, no-bake, or adding the CBD after the meal is mostly cooked. This is because high temperatures can degrade the quality of your CBD oil.
If you bake CBD items, we suggest you keep oven temperatures below 320 F or mix CBD into your icing or topping instead. If you make a sauce, stir your CBD in at the end. You can also use a dropper when plating or portioning, saturating the top of an item with an exact amount of CBD per portion to get your dosing correct.
Be precise. Use a measured dropper and know how much CBD is in each portion or individual snack item you make. If you store homemade CBD edibles, label the container clearly with “CBD” and the exact dose per portion.
CBD Capsules Overview
CBD capsules, on the other hand, don't taste like anything and you do not chew them. CBD capsules are gel-caps that contain a few carefully dosed drops of CBD oil, and possibly coconut oil or hempseed oil. These gel-caps look exactly like any other oil-based vitamin you take with your daily medicine, and they are swallowed with water like any other gel-cap.
Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of CBD capsules:
- Faster absorption rate than edibles
- Most consistent dosing
- Discreet with other medicines
- Difficult to modify the dose
- Not tasty
- Can interact with other vitamins/supplements
CBD Capsule Absorption
CBD capsules absorb into the body slightly faster than edibles because the gel cap dissolves efficiently in your stomach, and there are no other ingredients or components to digest. However, it could still take up to an hour for you to feel the effects, which could also last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
Like edibles, the speed of absorption and the strength of the effects of CBD capsules can be influenced by your personal metabolism, other food in your stomach, and the P450 enzyme system.
CBD Capsule Dosing
CBD capsules provide absolutely consistent dosing. They are designed to function exactly like other vitamins and oil supplements, and can easily be added to your current wellness regimen.
Each capsule provides an exact dose of CBD; the label on your CBD capsule bottle will tell you how many milligrams of CBD are in each. People who take capsules will slowly learn how many capsules they require to achieve the desired effects. If you decide to give them a try, give yourself an hour to absorb the CBD, notice the effects, and then adjust your dosage from there.
If you’re adding CBD capsules to a daily vitamin routine, make sure you read our guide on mixing CBD oil with supplements first. Because CBD inhibits the P450 system, some vitamins and supplements may be affected when taken in combination.
Best CBD Capsules
Leading brands in CBD capsule production include CBDistillery, Joy Organics, and Sagely Naturals.
- CBDistillery uses all-organic stalks and stems, producing both full-spectrum and isolate CBD and offers a continuous 10% discount for veterans.
- Joy Organics focuses on full-spectrum CBD with an emphasis on bioavailability through soft gels made with nano-emulsion.
- Safely Naturals is formulated by a PhD chemist with over 20 years of medical experience. It’s no surprise they produce incredibly high-quality capsules.
What Conditions Do They Help with?
Most people looking into CBD are hoping to manage chronic pain, inflammation, or anxiety, among other conditions. These common ailments are currently treated with medications that can ultimately do harm to the body. For this reason, CBD is starting to be used as a non-addictive alternative to drugs like opiates and SSRIs to reduce symptoms.
When it comes to deciding between a CBD capsule or edible, ultimately the choice is yours. The following are meant to be suggestions—not medical advice.
Conditions Better Managed by Edibles
- Alzheimer's disease
- Edibles may be more enjoyable than capsules. They’re easily taken and if swallowing or handling pills are difficult, edibles provide a familiar method of administration.
- Crohn's disease and other digestive disorders
- Edibles may make their way further through the digestive system than a capsule, which could be more fully absorbed by the stomach. The note of caution here is to avoid edibles high in sugar and/or spice, which could further irritate the lining of the digestive tract.
- Chronic pain
- Capsules would also work here, but wouldn’t be as enjoyable to take throughout the day.
- Conditions in children
- If you’ve consulted with your pediatrician and decided to use CBD to help your child manage a condition, edibles present a familiar and tasty delivery method. They may also be less intimidating than a CBD capsule.
Conditions Better Managed by Capsules
- If you’re a nervous eater or are prone to stress or anxiety-induced digestive issues, CBD capsules may be easier to manage than CBD edibles.
- Arthritis swelling and pain
- CBD capsules can easily be worked into your daily medication routine. Their quicker absorption rate will ensure you’re getting the help you need in a timely manner.
- CBD edibles can contain high amounts of sugar, and at their worst, artificial preservatives and fats. If you’re using CBD to manage obesity, capsules are the better option.
- CBD capsules are more precisely dosed than CBD edibles. If you’re following a strict, high-dosage regimen to manage epilepsy, they will provide better dosing control.
- CBD capsules don’t contain sugar; CBD edibles typically do.
CBD Capsules vs. Edibles FAQs
Which Acts Faster?
Many people ask whether CBD edibles or capsules provide a faster perceptible effect on the body. The answer to this one is capsules.
While all forms of consumed CBD responds slower than vaped or sublingually applied CBD, capsules break down faster in the stomach than edibles. However, if you take your capsules with food so that you are digesting the capsule and food at the same time, absorption time is about the same. Both are estimated to take effect between 30 minutes to an hour to take effect, depending on the individual item and your own metabolism.
Which is Better for Flexible Dosing?
Because most people trying CBD are looking to experiment carefully with dosage, capsules are a safe place to start, but edibles are better for slowly ramping up the dose.
If you find that CBD works best for you taken multiple times a day or in concentrated doses, taking handfuls or continuous capsules becomes tedious. However, taking two gummies every two hours, or one gummy every half-hour is both enjoyable and easy to do without a beverage to wash them down.
Which Is More Discreet?
This one is a little more situational. No one will blink twice if they see you taking one more gel capsule with your morning or lunchtime medication if you already take medicine on a regular basis, making capsules medicinally discreet. But popping a capsule in the middle of the day when you start to feel pain is not so discreet.
Edibles are more low-profile for social situations where you are not taking other medication because snacking on candy does not strike anyone as strange. But you need to be prepared to say something quietly if a friend asks for one. Or just carry backup non-medicinal candy to share.
Which Are Easier to Find?
You may also be wondering if CBD capsules or edibles are easier to find in stores. Both are about equally available to modern consumers. Many brands are branching out and offer a variety of CBD edibles including chocolates, brownies, gummies, and even cooking oils.
At the same time, capsules have been around longer and are available from more retailers, but are really no more or less easy to find than edibles. So, it depends on where you can shop. In conservative regions, CBD capsules are more available in local health stores. However, both are equally available online.
Is Full-Spectrum or Isolate Better?
Good question. We can't give you a quick answer except that everyone has their own preference when it comes to CBD isolate versus full-spectrum CBD oil. CBD edibles and capsules are available in both forms.
Full-spectrum is usually more affordable than pure CBD isolate due to the intensity of the extraction process, but it contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which some people would prefer not to consume. CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like: pure CBD isolated from all other compounds of the hemp plant. Broad-spectrum CBD oil is your happy medium: it contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes of a full-spectrum product except THC.
Full- and broad-spectrum CBD contains additional terpenes and cannabinoids, which produces a more pronounced effect than CBD isolate. This is known as the entourage effect, which is the combined benefit of using the whole plant rather than a single component or isolate. For this reason, many people prefer full- or broad-spectrum CBD capsules and edibles.
Which One Is Right for You?
Whether CBD edibles or capsules are better for you is a choice only you can make. Both have their pros and cons.
If you're the kind of person who “pops and just can't stop” with a good snack, then capsules will be safer. Or if you're a home chef looking to manage your does more personally, then try making your own edibles with CBD cooking oil. It's all in how you want CBD to fit into your lifestyle.
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