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CBD Oil vs CBD Capsules: Which is Best for Your Needs?

Updated May 5, 2020

Table of contents
  • Comparison Chart
  • What Is CBD?
  • Why Take CBD Supplements?
  • CBD Oil
  • CBD Capsules
  • Conclusion
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Even if you aren’t new to CBD use, you might be a bit confused as to the many products available that contain CBD and how it can be used. You might even wonder what is best for you and your reasons for considering the supplement. Short of buying up a plethora of products, which can get quite pricey, you can always discuss your options with a healthcare provider or begin a bit of research on your own.

This article helps explain the use of CBD, why you might consider it, and the difference between CBD oil vs capsule form. Although the effects are not different, how you take the supplement can be interchangeable based on certain preferences.

Comparison Chart

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabinoid and is an active ingredient in the cannabis family. Found in high amounts in both marijuana and hemp, CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical, and thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill- is legal in all 50 United States. CBD is different than its THC chemical cousin which creates the psychoactive ‘high’ and altered state of mind that is still federally illegal.

Despite the fact that both chemicals are used for medicinal purposes, CBD is a very active ingredient on its own and is used to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from severe epileptic disorders to anxiety and insomnia. Found in a wide variety of products, it can be used topically, internally, or even inhaled – and is sold as a supplement. Care should be taken, however, to buy quality products that are the third party checked to ensure the label matches the product.

Why Take CBD Supplements?

As mentioned, CBD can work as a supplemental aid for a wide variety of needs. The benefits it provides are still growing as further studies continue to take place, but its most popular use surrounds pain and sleeps support, with anxiety, stress, and depression-related issues a common use as well.

These aren’t the only reasons to begin using it on a regular basis though, especially since it has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Studies into improved focus and concentration are also being reflected upon, as is the support of asthma relief.

CBD Oil

CBD oil is the extracted oil from the hemp and marijuana plants. It is separated from THC when taken from a marijuana plant to make it a legal, consumable substance. This oil is then suspended in a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut or hempseed oil, and sometimes blended with essential oil for both taste and added benefits. Most oils are sold in a dropper or as a spray.

Bioavailability

Bioavailability is defined as the active portion of the product that is available for circulation into the bloodstream of the body. How you use CBD determines how much of it you may be getting. Although you can mix oils with foodstuffs, it is suggested that you take it under your tongue in order to take advantage of the sublingual gland.

This gland is located on the floor of your mouth and quickly absorbs into the bloodstream the available ingredients it comes into contact with. This allows you to immediately get a decent percentage of the oil into your system for quicker results, with the rest made available through the digestive process.

Taste

CBD has an earthy flavor and the oil is a bit ‘slick’ overall. This may be an issue for some people who are not used to taking oil directly into their mouths, especially if they are holding it for the required 30 to 60 seconds that is suggested for maximum body absorption.

Since it is mixed with coconut oil, and often essential oils, this flavor can be masked somewhat due to the strong scents and subtle flavors of the EO’s being used. Popular flavors include orange, peppermint, and lime. Some companies flavor the oil more strongly and may add a sweetener to make the experience more pleasant.

You may want to read: Top CBD Oil Companies

Conveniences

Taking oil is very convenient. Since they are often sold as a spray or in a dropper bottle it only takes seconds to administer. Of course, you should hold it for 30 to 60 seconds, but that is not considered problematic for too many people.

Downside

If you have a sensitive gag reflex or find you cannot handle the taste of the oil blend, this might not be the best option for you. Of course, you also can easily mix it into foodstuffs as well, but you won’t get as much into your bloodstream initially without holding it against the sublingual glands.

Oil can also spill, which might not make it the best option for travel, or if you like to carry it around with you in a purse or bag. It also isn’t incredibly discreet if you are in public and want to administer a dose.

CBD Capsules

Just like the CBD oil products described above, the capsule is the CBD extract suspended in a capsule, usually in gel form. The only true obvious difference between the two is what they look like and how you take them. There are some more important differences to consider that you cannot see, however, as explained below.

Bioavailability

Just like oil, you take a capsule orally, but the difference in your body response is a bit more specific. With the oil, you are taking advantage of the sublingual gland that allows your body to more quickly process the CBD into your bloodstream.

With the capsule, it has to make its way through your digestive system to be broken down before it can make its way into your bloodstream. This process also makes it not quite as available overall. The potency of the oil is reflected in both the gland and digestive system processes, whereas the capsule only has the chance to release through digestion. This makes an oil a favorable choice when you want to take advantage of as much of the CBD benefits as possible.

Taste

Obviously, there is no flavor to a capsule that you swallow. For anyone who struggles with taking oil directly, this is a great option to consider.

Conveniences

A capsule is very easy to travel with, you don’t have to worry about spilling and waste, plus it is very discreet overall. They also are very specific with their dosage, and you don’t have to measure out a dropper to ensure you are getting the proper amount.

Downside

The biggest downside of a capsule is simply the fact that you may not be taking advantage of its full potential due to any loss that might occur through the digestive system. It also does not enter into your bloodstream as quickly as oil, making it less readily available.

You may want to read: Best CBD Oils

Conclusion

Obviously, how you choose to ingest your CBD is entirely personal and dependent upon your own preferences. CBD oil is more readily available, enters into your bloodstream more quickly, and does allow your body to uptake more of its full potency than a capsule. However, it may have a flavor or texture that is not preferred by the consumer, making the capsule a better option.

This article helps explain the use of CBD, why you might consider it, and the difference between CBD oil vs capsule form.

Best CBD Pills and Capsules

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a hemp-derived compound that shows promise for relieving pain, inflammation, and anxiety. Compared with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-impairing, meaning it won’t get you “high.”

CBD oil is one of the most common types of CBD products, but it isn’t the only one. You can also take CBD in a pill or capsule. Pills and capsules are easy to use and can provide more consistent dosing than oils, as each dose is premeasured.

However, unlike CBD oils, CBD capsules and pills are subject to additional breakdown in your digestive tract via the first pass effect , which may decrease the potency.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products. However, in order to protect public health, they can take action against CBD companies that make unfounded health claims.

Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs or dietary supplements, companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products. That means it’s especially important to do your own research and find a quality product.

We’re here to help with our top seven picks of some of the best CBD pills and capsules on the market today. We’ll also go over how to choose a product, as well as cover safety and side effect information.

Where available, we’ve included special discount codes for our readers.

CBD Glossary

  • Cannabinoids: Cannabis-derived compound, such as THC and CBD.
  • Terpenes: Aromatic compounds produced by plants. The terpenes in cannabis are partially responsible for its distinct effects.
  • Full-spectrum: Contains all compounds (i.e., cannabinoids and terpenes) found in cannabis.
  • Broad-spectrum: Contains all compounds found in cannabis except for THC.
  • CBD isolate: Pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids or terpenes.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

As a part of our selection process, we also considered:

  • certifications and manufacturing processes
  • whether the ingredients are certified organic
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company has been subject to an FDA warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Additionally, most of the products on this list contain full-spectrum CBD. Full-spectrum CBD, also known as whole plant extract, has some advantages over isolate — namely, the entourage effect, a theory that states cannabinoids work better together than they do alone.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$75
  • $$$ = over $75

Medterra CBD Gel Capsules

Use code “health15” for 15% off

The hemp used in Medterra’s CBD Gel Capsules is non-GMO and organically grown. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re new to CBD and not sure if it’ll work for you, this is another product that may be a good one to try.

Medterra is U.S. Hemp Authority certified, and all of their suppliers follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Batch-specific COAs are available online.

CBD type Isolate
CBD potency 25 or 50 mg per capsule
Count 30 capsules per bottle
COA Available online

CBDistillery CBD Softgels

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide.

The hemp used to make these softgels from CBDistillery is non-GMO and farmed using natural practices.

This product has been third-party lab tested and has passed for heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, molds, and even water activity. Water can create mold in hemp flowers. One important thing to note is that though the COA states “pass” for heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, and molds, it doesn’t specify exactly which contaminants were tested.

COAs can be found online or by scanning the QR code on your bottle. The company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, making them a good choice for first-timers.

CBD type Broad-spectrum (THC-free)
CBD potency 30 mg per softgel
COA Available on product page

Joy Organics CBD Softgels with Curcumin

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

One marker of a very high-quality product is having test results available for every batch of the product, rather than just a sample COA. Joy Organics is one such brand. You can view batch-specific testing results here.

These CBD softgels have added curcumin, the active substance in turmeric. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties. The product uses nanoemulsion, which could help improve bioavailability.

CBD type Broad-spectrum (THC-free)
CBD potency 25 mg per softgel
COA Available on product page

Lazarus Naturals Energy Blend CBD Isolate Capsules

Lazarus Naturals’ Energy Blend CBD capsules combine CBD isolate with a few other key ingredients to provide a quick energy boost. What’s nice about this blend is that although it includes caffeine, that’s not the only energy-boosting ingredient. It also includes B vitamins and L-theanine, an amino acid that can produce a calming feeling.

Batch-specific test results can be found on the product page. Though this is an isolate product, some batches show very small amounts of THC. If you’re concerned about THC, be sure to check the results for your specific batch.

The company offers an assistance program for veterans, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.

CBD type Isolate (THC-free)
CBD potency 25 mg per capsule
COA Available on product page

Fabuleaf Full-Spectrum Hemp Flower CBD Oil Softgels

This capsule from Fabuleaf is unique in that it contains a large amount of terpenes, including beta-caryophyllene, limonene, pinene, and myrcene, according to the COA on the product page. This may be because Fabuleaf uses only hemp flower in their products, rather than using seeds, stalks, stems, or leaves.

Fabuleaf’s hemp is organically grown, and their products are cruelty-free. Each product comes with a QR code that, when scanned, takes you directly to the COA.

CBD type Full-spectrum (less than 0.3 percent THC)
CBD potency 10 mg per softgel
COA Available online

Bluebird Botanicals Concentrated CBD Capsules

These concentrated CBD capsules combine full-spectrum hemp extract with organic hempseed oil.

Similar to Joy Organics, Bluebird Botanicals has dated test results available for every batch of each product they sell. The company is certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority and, according to their website, they received a 100 percent score in a third-party GMP audit in 2019.

This is the one product on our list that isn’t made from U.S.-grown hemp. Though Bluebird Botanicals uses U.S.-grown hemp in many of their products, they use Canadian hemp in their Classic and Signature products.

Bluebird offers an assistance program for people with low incomes.

CBD type Full-spectrum
CBD potency 15 mg per softgel
Count 30 capsules per bottle
COA Available online

Royal CBD Capsules

Royal CBD’s softgel capsules are made from non-GMO hemp with added beta-caryophyllene. Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene found in cannabis and black peppercorns that has anti-inflammatory properties , making these capsules another great pick for those seeking the maximum therapeutic benefit from CBD.

While products are third-party tested, as of publication, lab results aren’t available online. However, the company is currently in the process of adding scannable COAs to all products. Until then, they’re available by emailing the company.

CBD type Full-spectrum (less than 0.3 percent THC)
CBD potency 25 mg per capsule
COA Available by email

Navigating the CBD world of can be overwhelming, even for more experienced users. Here’s what to look for when evaluating a product.

Comprehensive, up-to-date COA

Look for a product that has a certificate of analysis, or COA, from a third-party lab. At a minimum, most brands will include the cannabinoid profile and potency. Check to make sure this matches what’s on the product label.

Some companies also test for contaminants like:

  • heavy metals
  • molds
  • pesticides
  • residual chemicals or solvents

Products that provide this information (and pass) are your best bet safety-wise.

If the company doesn’t provide a COA or provides one that’s incomplete or old, it probably isn’t the most quality company.

CBD source and type

Look for products made with U.S.-grown hemp, which is subject to agricultural regulations.

Also consider the type of hemp. If you’re looking for a product that’s federally legal, look for a full-spectrum product with less than 0.3 percent THC, or an isolate or broad-spectrum product.

Red flags

Watch out for red flags when shopping. These include:

  • Exaggerated health claims. Although CBD may help with certain conditions, it’s not a cure-all. Avoid companies that claim their product can treat or cure any disease.
  • Misleading ingredients. Some brands may try to sell hempseed oil masquerading as CBD. If a product only lists hemp seeds, hempseed oil, or Cannabis sativa seed oil, but doesn’t list cannabidiol, CBD, or hemp extract, it doesn’t contain CBD.
  • Many poor reviews, customer complaints, lawsuits, or FDA warning letters. As with any product, do your research before making a purchase. You can look at sites like Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and you can also do some research to see whether the company has had any legal trouble in the past.

You can learn more about how to read a CBD product label here.

Find what’s right for you

When looking for a pill or capsule to suit your specific needs, consider the cannabinoid and terpene profile, potency, type of CBD, and additional ingredients.

For example, if you want something you can use before bedtime, look for a product that contains high levels of linalool, a terpene found in lavender and cannabis. Linalool has been shown to help with relaxation and anxiety, which may aid in sleep.

Consider other factors that may be important to you. For example, if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll want to read ingredient lists closely and look for a product that doesn’t contain gelatin — as many of these products do. Depending on how easy it is for you to swallow pills, you may also want to consider capsule size and shape.

Dosing CBD can be tricky. There’s no one-size-fits-all dose because everyone’s body responds differently to CBD. The clinical evidence we have for dosing CBD in humans is limited, and more research is needed before we can determine ideal safe doses.

With that in mind, the golden rule of dosing is “go low and slow.” Start at a low dose, see how it makes you feel, and adjust as needed. Some people find starting with 10 or 20 mg of CBD works, while others may need 40.

Adjusting by 5 to 10 mg at a time is a safe bet. It may take a few weeks of experimenting before you find your ideal dose. You’ll know a dose is just right if you begin to experience a reduction in symptoms.

Keep in mind that full- or broad-spectrum products can feel more potent than an isolate.

Studies show that CBD is considered to be safe and generally well-tolerated in humans at doses of up to 1,500 mg per day . However, CBD users may still experience some side effects. These can include:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

Talk to your physician before using CBD, especially if you’re taking any medications. CBD can have significant drug interactions.

Some research suggests that consuming CBD products along with high fat meals can drastically increase CBD concentrations. This may increase the risk of side effects.

CBD pills are easy to use and offer reliable dosing. However, they may experience breakdown in the digestive tract, making them feel less potent.

You’ll need to experiment until you find your “just right” CBD dose. Be sure to consult a doctor before trying CBD.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Find out about some of the best CBD pills and capsules on the market, and learn how to choose a quality product.