CBD Capsules: the hassle-free alternative


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CBD in recent years has increased in popularity exponentially, with millions of people now including it in their supplement routine. To put into perspective the demand for CBD, Global Market Insight predicts the CBD industry to be worth $89 billion by 2026. With this extraordinary rise in CBD use, manufacturers are continually developing new methods to administer CBD, with each having its benefits and drawbacks. 

CBD Capsules have become the hassle-free alternative for many people. Within this article, we will explore the different variety of capsules on the market, and will compare them to the various options used today so a consumer can make an informative decision of whether capsules are the right choice for them. 

We will also delve into the world of CBD lab testing for consumers to have a better understanding of how to investigate a Certificate of Analysis. This will assist people in deciphering between a poorly made CBD product and a well made CBD product, which has become vitally important in the current climate of CBD manufacturing.

Firstly, we will give an overview of what CBD is and the health benefits associated with the supplement, which are solely responsible for the CBD's meteoric rise.

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What is CBD, and why is it so popular?

CBD, formerly known as cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the Cannabis Sativa L plant. Natural chemical compounds found within this plant are called cannabinoids, and CBD is just one of 113 that have been reported by cannabis lab researchers.

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The rise in popularity of CBD has been due to the reported benefits to well-being and health. Many consumers of CBD have reported it helping with mental and physical illnesses, such as epilepsy, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, skin conditions and Alzheimer's, just to name a few. This makes it an incredibly exciting proposition for the replacement of pharmaceutical drugs, which can often have many adverse side effects on the body. 

Although there is a lot of information suggesting CBD can have a significant positive influence on health and well-being, it is listed as a food supplement by the Food and Drug Association (FDA). This means it is not recognised as a medicine and should not be used or prescribed to patients to cure their ailments. There needs to be more peer-reviewed scientific research that proves these reports from consumers to be true to achieve validity. 

If you would like to learn more about CBD in general, visit our ultimate CBD guide.

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What are CBD capsules?

A capsule is commonly used in medicine to apply a safe and accurate dosage for the consumer through ingestion. The precise dosage of medicine is enclosed in a hard soluble container which dissolves in the stomach allowing the medication to be safely released into the body. This differs from a pill, where the medicine is tightly compressed into a small, solid shape. 

Capsules are commonly used when the drug, supplement or herbal remedy cannot be compressed into a pill. CBD products are more prominently used within capsules, as broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD cannot be compressed tightly enough to form a pill. 

Although harder to find, CBD pills are on the market but are made up of a concentrated extract, in a crystal form of an isolated cannabinoid. For example, you could isolate the cannabinoid CBD in a pill form, but you cannot include the full spectrum of the other 112 cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant as it cannot be made into a solid substance. 

CBD Softgel Capsules

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A 'softgel' is a one-part capsule made from gelatin. To create a softgel capsule, it is formed into a liquid by mixing glycerin or sorbitol to create a liquid. Many prevalent over the counter medicines use softgels as its preferred form, including fish and omega oil supplements and Phazyme or Gas-X which are commonly used for gas relief. 

Softgels are also tasteless unless you chew them, which would release the contents of the pill that contains the carrier oil. Unfortunately, softgels start at a higher price in comparison to standard capsules as the manufacturing process is more complicated and time-consuming. 

A softgel capsule shares many similarities with a typical CBD capsule, but there are a few distinct differences that set them apart:

  • Softgels start at a higher price in comparison to regular capsules as the manufacturing process is more complicated and time-consuming.
  • Softgels have a smoother surface area and curves when compared to regular capsules. Consumers usually prefer Softgels for ingestion as they are easier to swallow.
  • Softgels are air-tight sealed, meaning they have a longer expiry date than regular capsules.
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  • It is a preferred choice to use softgels when dealing with oils, as it has a more effective vitamin retention rate than your standard capsule.
  • It is known that most consumers also prefer to use softgels because they are tasteless and odourless - sometimes normal capsules can leak oil into the mouth.
  • Softgels are also known to be better for non-water-soluble liquid, such as the carrier oil that is used within CBD capsules and oils.
  • The gelatin in softgel capsules also has several known health benefits, including joint health improvement, digestive system, improved cognitive functions and it is known to help regulate hormones. 

Vegan capsules vs non-vegan capsules

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As gelatin is sourced from animals - usually from chicken, pork and beef - many people are unable to consume softgel capsules or hard-shelled capsules due to dietary requirements. This could be down to religious and cultural reasons, or it could be a lifestyle choice. 

Softgel capsule gelatin is commonly sourced from the skin as it provides more plasticity, whereas hard-shelled capsules often take a blend of pork skin and bone which provides a hard but brittle outer-coating that is easy enough for the sulphuric acid in your stomach to break it down, but secure enough that the supplement won't fall apart.  

Fortunately for vegans, you can find solutions to CBD softgel capsules and hard-shelled capsules, it just depends on the company, the brand's values and the manufacturing process. There are many brands which specialise in vegan and vegetarian capsules, and they can be easily found in your local supplement and CBD shops, as well as online.  

The best known alternative material found on the market today is cellulose. This is a non-toxic substance found from natural plant origins. It is widely used across all-vegan CBD capsules today, but it is essential before purchasing a product to check the ingredients to verify its suitability. 

Synthetic vegan alternatives 

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With a spike in the number of people choosing to turn vegan, synthetic alternatives have been at the forefront of research in the medicine and supplement sector. Since 2011, researchers have been studying the possibility of replicating the organic structure of collagen, and they have achieved some success by using self-assembling peptides. As research progresses, the hope is to consolidate another option for vegans and people that hold religious beliefs - in turn; products will be more accessible. 

Although these alternatives are widely available, the health benefits associated with gelatin cannot all be replicated with vegan CBD capsules, such as help with joint pain and maintenance. But as we are readily aware, CBD is an anti-inflammatory, and has been reported to promote recovery in people with joint ailments, such as arthritis. This means that the difference in consuming vegan CBD capsules compared to regular CBD capsules is minimal because of the innate effects associated with CBD. 

If you are interested in buying CBD capsules, visit our ultimate guide to CBD Capsules are softgels.

CBD Oil vs CBD Capsules

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Many consumers are often overwhelmed with the different ways to administer CBD, and often this decision whittles down to oil or capsules. Firstly, it is important to say that both methods are an effective way to consume CBD, meaning consumers will feel similar effects, depending on the dosage they take. However, many subtle differences set the two supplements apart, which could influence a consumers decision.


The main benefit in administering capsules is that the dosage will always be correct. As each pill will have an exact milligram, a consumer can always be confident that they are not taking too much, or too little. 

On the contrary, administering oil is particularly difficult if a person wishes to take a precise dosage. Although each droplet will be a very similar amount, complete accuracy cannot be achieved - a consumer would have to measure out the droplets if you wanted to ensure that you were administering the precise amount each time. 

It can also be easy to accidentally squeeze too many droplets out of the pipette when taking the oil, which means that a user will waste the CBD as the body can only consume a certain amount before the limit of bioavailability is reached. Because of this, inexperienced users may find it more straightforward and cost-effective to use capsules. 

If you would like to gather more information about dosage for other products, visit our guide here.

Convenience and discreteness 

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Another benefit in using capsules is the ease and quickness of which it can be administered, while it is also conveniently discrete. If a consumer needed to take a capsule in public, they could quickly take their required dose out of the container and swallow with water. 

Oils, on the other hand, can often be tricky to administer, as to achieve the desired effects, the droplets must be absorbed under the tongue without swallowing the liquid. Many people also find oils to be indiscreet and inconvenient to use in public - having to bend your head back and accurately take the required dose around strangers can be embarrassing for some consumers. 

In addition, some consumers would rather keep their use of CBD anonymous, as using a product that is associated with cannabis could have a negative repercussion on their work and social life. At the same time, it offers an alternative that can mask what they are taking due to the countless other types of medication and supplements that come in capsules. 


Possibly the most significant reason for consumers opting to use capsules instead of oils is due to the odourless and tasteless properties of the product. CBD oil has an earthy, grassy taste that can be off-putting for some people, while others dislike the texture of the oil within their mouth. To take this daily can be difficult for people that do not like the properties of the oil. It is worth trying the oil before you buy it to see if it is suitable for you, rather than purchasing a £60 bottle to find out you do not like the taste. 

While most options available on the market are naturally flavoured, there are solutions that consumers may find more appealing, but you will have to pay a slight premium. You can find CBD oil in different flavours, including orange, peppermint and lemon, just to name a few. This can significantly improve the taste for some people, but it does not change the texture of the oil, which can be the main reason for people opting for capsules instead.

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The main advantage that oils share over capsules is a higher level of bioavailability. This means your body's endocannabinoid system receives a higher percentage of CBD per milligram when using oil instead of capsules. 

With oils, the reported level of bioavailability is 12% to 35%, whereas with capsules, the reported level is 4% to 20%, according to a study in 2009. To put this into perspective, if we were to take the higher percentage of each method (35% for oil and 20% for capsules), and weigh that against 100mg dosage, with oils, 35mg of CBD would reach your bloodstream, whereas, with the capsules, only 20mg would enter your bloodstream. 

Capsules have a significantly lower bioavailability due to our digestive and metabolic system. Most of the active substance is broken down by digestive enzymes in the stomach - the products of this digestion are then excreted from the body. The active component absorbed into the bloodstream is then distributed around the body until it reaches the liver. Here it is metabolised into two chemical compounds, which give the consumer the benefits associated with CBD.

On the contrary, CBD from oils is sent into the bloodstream via sublingual consumption. Under the tongue, there is a vein called the sublingual gland, which is incredibly useful for absorbing substances straight into the bloodstream. Because of this, not only does it impact the body at a faster rate when compared to oral consumption, it also has higher bioavailability. Although it is a significantly more effective method, a large portion of CBD is lost through enzymes in saliva, which is why the bioavailability at its highest has been recorded at 35%.  

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Market availability 

In the market currently there is a wide selection of oils available, with different strengths and sizes, tailored to a customer's specific needs. 

Capsules are usually capped at 25mg and do not share the same availability than in America. As the industry progresses, the range of different types of capsules and strengths are bound to increase in number, but in the current climate, it may be challenging to find a product which has the strength that you may require.

If a consumer is experiencing bad anxiety or severe insomnia, a higher strength would be required, which currently only oils cater to.    

Nanoemulsion capsules

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One promising new method for improving CBD's bioavailability in capsules is nanoemulsion. This is a solution to a standard carrier oil mixture that contains a combination of oil, water and other substances that sustains and stabilises the mixture. It includes a large number of evenly scattered, microscopic particles that increase the surface area, improving absorption of CBD, which enhances bioavailability significantly. 

This new technology can be found within many products on the market today, and it is thought that nanoemulsion is the future for CBD capsules.

A study produced by scientists from the Showa University of Tokyo and the Mahidol University in Bangkok illuminated some significant results. The researchers devised an optimised nanoemulsion of CBD, which they named 'CBD NE'. It contained several ingredients including 99% cannabidiol, distilled water and an oil phase which consisted of vitamin E, ethanol and Tween-20, a substance that is commonly used to stabilise emulsions.

The scientists compared the use of the newly created nanoemulsion CBD NE against the use of regular CBD oil by administering each to rats. They gathered blood samples frequently over 24 hours to see if the absorption was more effective using the technique of nanoemulsion. 

The data regarding absorption showed that the nanoemulsion CBD NE absorbed much faster than the regular CBD oil. CBD NE took two and a half hours to reach maximum concentration, whereas regular CBD oil took 8 hours. The scientists examined why the absorption rate was so much faster, and they found that CBD oil relied on bile production - a process the liver takes to assist in digesting fats. They found that CBD NE was not relying on this process, with most of the CBD being absorbed directly through the intestinal tract, and they believe this is why the absorption was more efficient.

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Because of the efficiency of absorption in CBD NE, the researchers were able to confidently judge that nanoemulsion increased the bioavailability of CBD in the rats. From the data, they calculated that CBD NE had a staggering 94% bioavailability, whereas the CBD oil came in at 73%. It is important to note that rats can absorb and metabolise CBD at a much more efficient rate than humans. Still, the increase that was present within the use of nanoemulsion was significant nevertheless.

Although this research is promising, there needs to be more research into how this could affect humans, as rats could have better capabilities with metabolising nanoemulsion CBD. There is hope in the future that clinical trials on humans could prove nanoemulsion to be more effective within humans. But research needs to be peer-reviewed to confirm the hypothesis - something which takes a long time to produce. 


The best way to administer CBD capsules

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It is suggested that a consumer should place the capsule on their tongue and swallow with at least 200ml water. You can also take CBD with food or on an empty stomach, and it will not affect the absorption or bioavailability of CBD, making it an incredibly convenient supplement. It is recommended that you take your required dose daily - this ensures that the body and endocannabinoid system enters a routine and takes advantage of the reported health benefits associated with CBD. 

Taking cannabinoids regularly helps promote the growth of cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are responsible for binding CBD to the cells in your body, meaning that the more cannabinoid receptors, the better the body will react to the CBD. If you consistently use CBD, the body's endocannabinoid system will become more sensitive to the stimulation of cannabinoids, which ultimately improves and regulates the cells within your body, helping promote homeostasis. This is achieved by controlling bodily functions such as sleep, appetite,  pain receptors and mood.

The importance of COA (Certificate of Analysis)

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Like many other medicines and supplements, it is vital for the consumer to check the legitimacy of the CBD product and brand which they choose. Some CBD brands on the market are making statements about their products which are not true, and while it is rare, a few brands egregiously add harmful substances that could have short-term or long-term effects on the body. 

The only way for a consumer to know for sure that a product contains the various cannabinoids that are advertised by the manufacturer is to check the accredited lab report, which is named 'Certificate of analysis' or COA for short. 

If this report is missing, then a customer should look for an alternative brand that upholds the ethics and standards that are crucial when taking any supplement, medication or herbal remedy. 

A customer should also stay clear of any products that have not been analysed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While it is rare a few brands will use a lab report from an unlicensed testing facility, or claim 'in-house' testing. Even worse, a brand could fabricate a lab report using the FDA's name fraudulently.

A COA can sometimes be challenging to get hold of, and you may need to reach out to a brand to obtain the report. Fortunately, today, a lot of the products on the market have QR code on its label which can be scanned by your smartphone which will link you to the company's webpage that contains the COA. QR scanner apps are readily available on both Android and iOS, with a variety of free options to choose from.

What to look for in a Certificate of Analysis 

When you get your Certificate of Analysis, there are a few red flags to look out for. If any of the following arise, you should immediately look for alternatives on the market.

Illegal levels of THC

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Firstly, we will go into what THC is and how manufacturers remove THC from their products, as it is useful to understand the legislation and processes used to create the CBD products. This will help you understand the Certificate of Analysis in greater depth when you come to interrogate THC levels. 

THC is a cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant that is responsible for its psychoactive properties - informally known as 'getting high'. Many people endorse the use of THC, but it is widely prohibited in many countries, including the UK, where it has been named a class B drug. The most popular method for absorbing THC is through the method of smoking. Still, it can be administered in many other ways, such as oral consumption and sublingual consumption. 

In the production of CBD products, manufacturers must use a strict Carbon Dioxide extraction method (sometimes named Supercritical Fluid Extraction) that extracts the bulk of CBD from the plant. This is the most efficient way to separate CBD from THC, with data from one report finding up to a 92% concentration. 

There are other methods used to isolate CBD, such as steam distillation and solvent extraction. It is widely recommended to avoid these alternatives as they are less efficient while using solvents have been seen to produce a harmful toxic residue. If these methods are used within the COA, be extra cautious over the results of THC levels. 

Although the hemp plant variety of cannabis has a small amount THC, there are strict laws in the UK which prohibit the use of any CBD product that has a THC level above 0.2%. Other countries and states vary, so if you are somewhere different to the UK, be sure to check your legislation on THC before interrogating the COA. 

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When examining the COA, make sure the level of CBD is within the legal threshold set out by your government. If the concentration of THC is above the threshold, avoid the product. It would also be advised to report the company due to the inherent illegalities. The more illegal products that are exposed and taken off the market, the more CBD manufacturers will improve their extraction methods, resulting in better quality CBD that the community can enjoy.    

Finally, if a brand advertises that there is zero THC contained in its product, then be wary. This is because it is widely reported that it is challenging to extract all the THC from the hemp plant, and usually there is a slight amount that will remain in the product. But don't worry if there is a small amount that is abiding by government legislation, as this level won't be enough to create a psychoactive effect and it will not cause any adverse effects to the body.  

CBD Isolate, Broad Spectrum and Full spectrum 

CBD products come in a variety of different forms to suit a customers needs. In the following sections, there will be an explanation of what these options are and what to look out in the Certificate of Analysis.

CBD Isolate

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An isolate contains one cannabinoid, which in this instance is CBD. It is popular among consumers that want a product that is entirely free of THC and is currently the only alternative on the market offering this. An isolate, in theory, should be 99% pure CBD and should not contain any other associated cannabinoids. 

If the Certificate of Analysis exhibits the presence of any other cannabinoid, the company is false advertising its product and should be avoided. This is simple to check compared to other products on the market - just look at the cannabinoid list, which should only contain CBD. Also make if a product states it is 'Pure CBD', then it should contain 99% CBD. Anything less means the product does not meet the standards of a pure CBD isolate.  

Broad Spectrum 

Broad spectrum CBD is a product that contains all the various types of cannabinoids and terpenes but excludes the psychoactive effects of THC by extracting it from the hemp plant. 

Broad spectrum has been reported to be more effective than CBD isolate due to the entourage effect. This is because the other cannabinoids found in the hemp plant are also associated with several different health benefits. When these cannabinoids are used in combination, it enhances the health benefits of CBD and is regarded in the industry as more potent than CBD isolate.   

Many brands use the broad spectrum in the advertisement to entice customers to purchase the product instead of a CBD isolate. If you want proof of broad spectrum, then you must check the Certificate of Analysis to see if it contains the different cannabinoids. It should include a listing that has a small amount of CBC, CBN, CBG and CBDa, in addition to CBD. If any of these cannabinoids are missing from the COA, it is not a broad spectrum CBD product, and you will not receive the entourage effect upon consumption.

Full spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids in the hemp plant, as well as a full range of terpenes, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and phytonutrients. This is widely regarded in the CBD industry as the most effective way to consume CBD due to the complete entourage effect.

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The significant difference between a broad spectrum and a full spectrum is the supplement of a small amount THC in the finished product. Although THC is reported to cause adverse side effects in large quantities, research has suggested it can have added health benefits, especially for the treatment of epilepsy. Note that the amount of THC included in a full spectrum product will not be enough to create psychoactive effects, meaning that you will still avoid the 'high'.

A study on the effects of CBD isolate compared to full spectrum CBD for the treatment of epilepsy found that full spectrum oil was more effective. This is because all the cannabinoids and compounds work together synergistically, which can improve absorption and the anticonvulsant effect of cannabis. This is incredibly promising for the scientific advocacy of cannabis treatments, and as we learn more, there is hope that this can be provided as a treatment all over the world.

Many full spectrum products will be illegal in the UK due to the 0.2% restriction on CBD products. Although this restricts consumers, there are still full spectrum oils available with the 0.2% THC, but it is unsure if this has a negative consequence on the entourage effect.

Much like the broad spectrum products, a consumer should look for various cannabinoids in the COA. The only added thing to look out for is the inclusion of THC. A full spectrum oil should have at least 0.1% THC for the UK approved product.

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False advertisement of CBD strength

Perhaps the most apparent discrepancy to check for in a COA is the false advertisement of CBD strength. Whatever product you are using, whether that be an oil, topical, vape or edible, must reflect the strength they have advertised against the COA.  

How to read a lab test 

COAs can be difficult to read unless you have a scientific background. The following section will explain the different ways in which scientists will report their findings to help you understand the report.

COAs will typically will report data in the three following formats:

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Milligrams (mg) of CBD in the whole product

Milligrams (mg) of CBD per gram (g)

Milligrams (mg) of CBD per millilitre (ml)

Scientists will report data for all cannabinoids, not just CBD, and if it is stated differently, it is likely it’s not an accredited lab report.

If the report shows milligrams (mg) of CBD in the whole product, you will not need to make any calculations, as the scientists have done the work for you. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and you will need to know something from the product in order to make a calculation. For both milligram (mg) per gram and millilitre (ml) per gram, this will be the case.

Millegram (mg) per gram (g)

For this calculation, you will need to know the total weight of the product in grams. Usually, you will be able to find this information on the label of the product, but if it does not, then you may have to investigate the COA for that information. If this measurement is absent in both the label and the COA, contact the brand, and they should hopefully pass on the information to you.

You will need to divide the total amount of CBD in milligrams (mg) by the total weight of the product in grams (g). For example, a product weighing 30g with a reported amount of CBD of 600mg will contain 20mg of CBD per gram.

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Milligram (mg) per Millilitre (ml) 

You will only find this type of report with liquids (oils and vape liquid), for obvious reasons. It is a bit more straightforward than grams, as a tincture will always tell you the millilitre (ml).

If the results show the amount of CBD per millilitre instead of the total amount in the product, then you simply multiply the amount of CBD per ml by the total amount of product (ml). For example, a tincture containing a total of 30ml with a reported amount of CBD per ml as 20mg, you simply multiply 30ml by 20mg, which gives a total amount of CBD in the product as 600mg. This is why CBD is reported to help treat conditions such as insomnia, mental disorders, chronic pain, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease, just to name a few.

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Verified by a Healthcare Professional

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko

Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.