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Guide to medical cannabis capsules

Guide to medical cannabis capsules
May 08, 2024
6 min read

Medical cannabis capsules are a relatively new dosage form, designed for ease of use and consistency compared to cannabis oil. Cannabis capsules can vary in the cannabinoids and carrier oils they contain, as well as the ingredients used to make the capsule coating. This guide aims to answer common questions about medical cannabis capsules and explain its advantages and disadvantages compared to oil.

Guide to medical cannabis capsules

Types of medical cannabis capsules

Various types of medical cannabis capsules exist to suit different types of patients. Generally, capsules are for patients who dislike the taste of cannabis oil, or appreciate the convenience that capsules provide.

Capsules of various types may be found, such as:

  • Isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum
  • THC and/or CBD
  • MCT, sesame, hemp, olive, or other carrier oils
  • Gelatine or vegan coating

Please note that not all combinations of types may be available through the medical market, although more are being made available as time goes on.

Capsules vs Oil

Capsules and oil are very similar. Capsules are oil contained in a solid coating. Designed for consistent dosing and ease of swallowing, capsules also allow patients to bypass the taste of cannabis oil, which some find unpleasant. 

Some patients report that the capsule dosage form results in more consistent & predictable effects versus oil. Certainly, capsules are a more consistent formulation than oil, as dosing a precise amount of oil is difficult.

Capsules and oil also differ in terms of their absorption. Capsules are absorbed in the stomach, and have a delayed onset compared to oil (an extra 10-20 minutes). Cannabis oil however is often prescribed sublingually, as the large amount of capillaries or blood vessels in the mouth allow for THC and CBD to be more easily absorbed this way.

What are enzymes?

In order to understand how capsules are different from oil, it’s a good idea to understand enzymes and what they do.

Enzymes are proteins found in the body that help to break down drugs and other molecules. These microscopic molecules are present everywhere in nature and found throughout the body. They are essential for normal bodily functioning. Enzymes dictate crucial physiological processes like metabolism, affecting how your body processes drugs and other medications. 

Enzymes vary significantly between people. Our genetics dictate the enzymes we have, resulting in a great deal of individual variation when it comes to certain drugs like cannabinoids. This is also the reason why some people are lactose intolerant. Lactase, an enzyme in the body, is required to break down lactose, a sugar in milk. If the body doesn’t produce enough lactase, it cannot break down lactose, which causes an upset stomach.

Just like lactase, some populations have different levels of enzymes that help the body break down cannabinoids. Because stomach enzymes determine this process, some patients may react more strongly to oil than others. One person might find a dose to have little to no effect, whereas another might find it far too strong.

Cannabis Consumption: Sublingual vs Oral

Due to stomach enzymes, THC and CBD have different mechanics depending on how they are taken. THC is said to be better absorbed by the stomach. This is because stomach enzymes convert D9-THC to 11-Hydroxy-THC, a related, but different drug. It is said to have different effects than THC itself. This is the suggested reason for the difference between oral vs inhaled THC. Patients often report that capsules and oil feel stronger, are more sedating, and can be quite mental and intense.

CBD however, seems to be absorbed best when it bypasses those stomach enzymes. This is why it is commonly prescribed for sublingual use. It is more effective when taken under the tongue than when it is swallowed. 

When THC or CBD is consumed sublingually, it takes less time to take effect, but the total duration may be shorter. This is good to keep in mind for patients switching from oils to capsules.

Capsules offer some advantages to oil. Although most patients find cannabis oil to taste inoffensive, some find it disgusting and difficult to tolerate. Since capsules are swallowed whole, they have no taste, offering a solution for these patients. Another advantage is the discreet nature of capsules. They do not smell strongly like flower, and they have the advantage of appearing more like traditional medication, which helps with the stigma around plant-based medicine.

How much do medical cannabis capsules cost?

Medical cannabis capsules generally cost more than oil as they require additional processing. They are generally around $125-150 for a bottle of 30 capsules, although this can vary. Milligram for milligram, cannabis oil is more cost-effective, however some patients with issues around the taste of oil may find capsules to be worth the extra cost.

We hope this guide to medical cannabis capsules has been useful and informative. If you have any more questions about cannabis capsules or the contents of your prescription, be sure to ask your prescriber.

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Disclaimer

Please note that this blog was not written by a licensed medical practitioner and therefore is not providing medical advice. We do not endorse the use of cannabis or any other illicit drugs. Like any medication, cannabis has potential negative side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. For the latest information on cannabis prescription and use, please visit the TGA website. If you are considering cannabis as a treatment option, we encourage you to consult with a licensed healthcare professional.

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