A pill-sized, dissolvable cylinder used as a vehicle to administer medication through ingestion. Capsule shells, of which there are many variants, can contain any form of cannabis, even decarboxylated flower. Capsules range from single cannabinoid to full-spectrum or strain-specific oil, providing consumers with a myriad of choices to suit their exact needs. These often function as safer alternatives to combusting or vaping bud.
“Try this capsule; it works just like an edible, only tasteless and easier to consume.”
More about Cannabis Capsules
What are capsules and why are they preferred by some users?
Patients often opt for capsules instead of combustible flower or vaporizable products because capsules offer an easier and more convenient method of ingesting medication compared with combustion. Capsules also provide patients with exact dosing information, which allows them to plan for consistent effects. Typically, capsules containing cannabis are not cultivar- or strain-specific and are labeled per their cannabinoid contents, e.g. THC and CBD capsules.
How do capsules work?
Immediate-release capsules work identically to edibles. They enter the body through the mouth and are absorbed through the stomach. The absorbed compounds are then metabolized in the liver. This is where THC is metabolized into a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is more potent than THC, has a longer half-life (which refers to the drug’s elimination from the bloodstream), and can have more of a sedative effect than THC alone. The liver’s metabolizing mechanism is unique to each individual, which is why edibles and capsules can convey different effects for different people. This entire process can take between 45 to 180 minutes, or up to 3 hours.
Timed-release capsules follow the identical path of digestion, but the delivery of their contents can be delayed or drawn out over a period of time depending upon the capsule shell’s constituent ingredients. Those engineered with liposomes and drug-polymer conjugates, such as hydrogels, allow for the timed release of their contents. Timed-release capsules use these protective and inert ingredients to neutralize stomach acid for slower methods of release.
As a rule of thumb, the cannabis genus contains two types of plants: hemp plants and cannabinoid-rich plants commonly called marijuana. Hemp, which lacks robust terpenoid and cannabinoid spectrums, is grown for fiber and seed oil while cannabinoid-rich plants are grown for their full range of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, THCA, etc.) and other medicinally beneficial compounds. Both industrial hemp and marijuana are used in cannabis capsules, but harvesting industrially grown hemp as a source of CBD is far from optimal.
Ground decarboxylated flower
Some capsules contain ground-up decarboxylated flower for oral ingestion. Cannabis flower requires decarboxylation for its THCA to become active allowing for patients to exactingly reap cannabis’ benefits in a non-combusting way.
Crystalline is a powdered substance visually reminiscent of table salt or sugar. Crystalline capsules contain nearly 100% pure powdered cannabinoids, often in THCA or CBD-A-only formulas that allow patients to ingest their cannabis medication without the intoxicating effects associated with THC. The extraction process used to create crystalline strips cannabis of excess molecules (terpenes and other plant chemicals) to leave only the desired molecule behind. Crystalline cannabis capsules allow the ingestion of precisely dosed amounts of the desired molecule without potentially extraneous additives.
Distillate is a runny liquid similar to crystalline in that a distillation process is used to produce it, but its purity can run anywhere from 85% to 95% as the cannabis plant’s terpenes are often reintroduced into the final product. Distillate’s cannabinoids are decarboxylated and are capable of providing users with some of the intoxicating effects associated with smoking flower or ingesting edibles containing THC. Typically, distillate is devoid of a plant’s fats and waxes, providing patients with refined THC or CBD to ingest precisely dosed capsules without worrying about potential additives.
Some cannabis capsules contain one variety of cannabinoid, in which case patients can find them labeled as “CBD,” or “THC.” These varieties do not contain any of the other medicinally beneficial cannabinoids or terpenes.
Capsules that contain a mix of CBD and THC work to enhance the medicinal effects and modulate the psychoactive effects to meet patients’ individual needs. Capsules that include CBD can reduce users’ blood pressure response to stress, among a bevy of other beneficial effects. CBD-infused capsules deliver relief to patients while mitigating THC’s intoxicating effects, making the medication more tolerable to new users.
Cannabis capsules labeled as “full spectrum” include all of the cannabis plant’s available biomolecules — terpenes, cannabinoids and everything in between. Full spectrum capsules can contain decarboxylated flower or infused-oil bases and allow patients to experience the gamut of cannabis’ effects without any additives.
Additional nutraceuticals are often added to capsules to tailor their effects. Natural additives like gingko root, astragalus, or maca root generate energy; spirulina, chlorella, or turmeric add nutritional value; and powdered valerian root, skullcap, lemon balm, or hop flower deliver sedative effects.
Timed Release vs. Immediate Release
Capsules are widely utilized across medical disciplines. Regardless of their intended use, there are two types of capsules: timed-release and immediate-release. Capsules that release their contents slowly, after a period of time, or in any other predetermined way are timed-release capsules. Those that release their contents within minutes of ingestion are immediate-release capsules.
Timed-release capsules offer a more convenient method of dosing, improved regular use by patients, and less fluctuation in patients’ cannabinoid levels throughout the day. Some timed-release capsules may be incompletely absorbed, which particularly plagues patients afflicted by intestinal disorders such as gastroenteritis or irritable bowel syndrome.
Most capsule shells fall into one of three categories: gelatin, hypromellose, and pullulan. Gelatin capsules are made from animal byproducts derived from beef, while vegetarian options hypromellose and pullulan are made from non-toxic plant derivatives and fungal fermentation, respectively.
Where can you find cannabis capsules?
Depending on location, patients can get cannabis capsules in local dispensaries or pharmacies. Wherever medical marijuana is legally dispensed, patients can typically find cannabis capsules. Patients who seek a particular brand of capsule, be they cannabinoid specific or multi-cannabinoid, can find them on Weedmaps. If patients seek empty capsules made of gelatin, pullulan, or hypromellose, they can be purchased at local pharmacies or online retailers.
How to make cannabis capsules at home
(Disclaimer: Much of the information provided within this page has been transcribed directly from credible sources. Again, methods described and ingredients listed may be illegal in your area. Any action you take upon the information provided here is strictly at your own risk, and Weedmaps and its affiliates will not be liable or responsible for any action taken based on the information and content provided in this site.)
Capsules made at home start with infused oil or decarboxylated dry cannabis flower. Those with sensitive stomachs should stick to oil. Otherwise cannabis capsules containing raw flower are faster, easier to make and just as effective as infused oil.
When creating infused-oil capsules, the first step is to create homemade oil with coconut oil or olive oil.
If you aim to use raw flower, begin by preheating your oven to 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104 degrees Celsius). While the oven heats up, finely grind your cannabis. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread your finely ground cannabis on top. Bake for 60 minutes, but do not let the oven’s temperature rise above 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius).
Once the oil has been infused, or the raw flower has been decarboxylated, you may then fill your capsules. A capsule machine greatly speeds up this process, but capsules can be filled one at a time by hand, too.
If you have a capsule-filling machine and will be using dry flower: Separate the top and bottom capsules halves (the bottoms are longer) and place the bottom halves into the base of the capsule machine. Pour the herbal mixture into the pill maker and, using a card, evenly spread the cannabis across the capsule openings. Then use the tamper tool included with the kit to gently press the cannabis down. Refill the machine with more flower as needed. Once the bottom halves are full, fill the machine’s lid with the capsules’ top halves and then press them down onto the machine until the capsules are joined together.
If you have a capsule-filling machine and will be using an infused oil base: separate the capsules and load up the machine with the bottom halves. Use a syringe or dropper to carefully fill each bottom half. (Note: coconut oil-based infusions should be warmed to remain viscous and to ease the filling process, but avoid overheating as hot oil can melt the capsule shells.) Once each bottom half has been filled, place the top halves into the machine’s lid and press them down until the capsules are joined together.
If you don’t have a capsule-filling machine, this process can easily be done by hand.
Additionally, advanced users can include herbs such as skullcap, hops, turmeric, and maca root to their cannabis capsules.