Everyone has undoubtedly taken a pill or a capsule at one point in their lives. Did you know that you can consume marijuana this way, too?
Cannabis in capsule form is administered to the body via ingestion. It works precisely like weed-infused edibles, but without the hassle of preparing a meal. Instead, all you need to do is pop a pill into the mouth, down it with water, and wait for the cannabinoids to work their magic.
Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Unsurprisingly, more and more people are trading joints and baked goods for marijuana capsules. In particular, it is a crowd-favorite among medical cannabis patients seeking relief from various debilitating symptoms and conditions.
There are, however, downsides too. Knowing them can help you decide if this administration method suits your needs and preferences. And if this is the case, you can then strategize on the best way to take the pill to minimize the side effects while maximizing the benefits.
- What Are Marijuana Capsules?
- The Advantages of Using Marijuana Capsule
- The Disadvantages of Using Marijuana Capsule
What Are Marijuana Capsules?
Marijuana capsules assume many names. Sometimes, they’re called cannacaps – short for cannabis capsules. Alternatively, they can be referred to as THC pills or CBD capsules, depending on the cannabinoid content. They can contain a single cannabinoid, two or more, or the entire bud and its constituents.
These ingestible pills or capsules contain cannabis extracts, often in oil or liquid concentrate forms. But, ground-up flowers are also an option. The plant material is housed in soft gels or gelatin capsules, which are taken like traditional medications.
Once ingested, the active compounds are processed in the gut and the liver before being absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, they travel to the rest of the body to exert their effects.
Commercial cannacaps can be purchased online and in dispensaries. These come in varying doses and THC to CBD ratios. But, keep in mind that these are not FDA-approved, which means that they’re largely unregulated. Make sure to buy only from trusted brands to ensure quality and potency. As an alternative, you can also make DIY marijuana capsules at home.
Pharmaceutical-grade THC pills also exist, notably dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®). These FDA-approved drugs are only available with a prescription. Dronabinol is indicated as safe and effective for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting syndrome. On the other hand, Nabilone is used to reduce nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemo.
It is important to note that these two contain synthetic – not plant-derived – THC. Meaning, you won’t be able to channel the medicinal properties and synergistic effects associated with other phytocompounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The Advantages of Using Marijuana Capsule
Cannacaps have emerged as a more appealing alternative to smoking and vaping. Smoked weed, after all, may contain hazardous compounds that could increase the risk of pulmonary complications. And while vaping appears to be safer than smoking, it still poses some risks. Vaping products bought from illicit sources, for example, could cause lung injury.
With marijuana capsules, you don’t have to worry about respiratory dangers. But, that’s just icing on the cake. This consumption method also offers other benefits that are turning many users and patients into advocates.
Both CBD and THC are full of medicinal properties. But, not everyone wants to experience psychoactive effects. If so, consider CBD capsules, which use premium CBD or hemp oil containing less than 0.3 THC. These allow you to harness the plant’s therapeutic benefits – but without the high.
But if you plan to recreationally take marijuana capsules – or if you don’t mind getting high – then feel free to opt for THC-enriched ones.
Easy, Precise, and Consistent Dosing
Each marijuana pill already contains a specific dose – no need to measure oils or tinctures beforehand. There’s also no more guesswork involved. In homemade pot brownies, for example, the compounds are often distributed unevenly across the batch. Meaning, one slice may be more potent or weaker than another.
With capsules, you know exactly how much THC or CBD you’re getting. Even better, it’s the same dose every single time, guaranteeing consistency.
Orally ingested weed – including cannabis capsules – is known for being long-lasting. Once consumed, the medicinal benefits could last anywhere between 4-12 hours. That does away with the need for frequent dosing.
Marijuana capsules, which resemble regular medications, are as discreet as can be. No one would ever suspect that you’re taking weed. This is a far cry from smoking and vaping, which could attract unwanted attention. Being inconspicuous also means that you’re not limited to home use.
No other consumption method can be more convenient than taking capsules. It doesn’t require any preparations, helping you save precious time and effort. This is a stark contrast to homemade edibles, which entail whipping up a meal and cleaning up afterward.
Capsules are also mess-free. Spills, crumbs, or product residue on the skin are, for example, no longer a concern. These often go hand in hand with edibles, oils, tinctures, suppositories, and topicals.
Being convenient and discreet to use, it is ideal for those always on the go. Simply keep the pills in a box or a container. You can take it out virtually anytime, anywhere. Missing a dose, you could assume, is out of the question.
Easy to Make at Home
Marijuana pills can be bought pre-made – either online or in local dispensaries. But, not everyone has access to such stores. As for online sources, they’re almost always illegal, making it hard to guarantee the quality, potency, and safety of the product. Remember, the cannabis market is still unregulated.
And if you do find a reliable seller, then you have to consider the costs. Over time, it will inevitably accumulate, especially if you’re a regular user.
Fortunately, you can prepare marijuana capsules in the comfort of the home. This can help you save precious bucks in the long run. You’ll have more control over the ingredients and the formulation as well.
Making it is straightforward. It’s just a matter of decarboxylating the raw flowers, infusing the herb into the vegetable oil of choice, and filling empty gel capsules with the resulting blend.
Aside from the buds, oil is another key ingredient in cannacaps. The cannabinoids – being lipophilic or fat-loving – are insoluble in water. They will need fats to get absorbed into the bloodstream.
In this case, the oil – which contains plant-derived fats – can serve as a carrier, delivering the active compounds into the body. In doing so, it increases the plant’s bioavailability, potency, efficiency.
No Filler Ingredients
Commercial weed-infused edibles may contain unhealthy amounts of sugars and calories. With cannacaps, this is no longer an issue. Rest assured that each pill contains only the good stuff – the cannabinoids and the carrier oil. Nothing else.
Little to No Taste
Cannabis tinctures and oils tend to have an intense earthy flavor and a bitter aftertaste, which can be off-putting for some. And, depending on the dish, edibles may also retain the lingering dank taste.
If you have a sensitive palate, cannabinoid pills are right up your alley. Remember, the flavor is contained within the capsule. When you swallow, the taste buds will only touch the soft gel exterior, which is practically tasteless.
The Disadvantages of Using Marijuana Capsule
Like any other drug, marijuana capsules also have some drawbacks. Mostly, it comes down to the administration route and the form of the product itself.
Difficult to Adjust the Dosage
The nice thing about edibles is that you can consume it incrementally. If you’re new to marijuana, for instance, you can simply cut a cookie or a brownie to take 1/4 of the recommended dose. After a few more trials, you can gradually increase the strength.
Unfortunately, with cannacaps, this isn’t possible. Since the pills are made of soft gelatin, you can’t cut it in half. A workaround is to make a small batch of capsules with weaker potency. Meanwhile, if you’re buying pre-made ones, then go for those with fewer mg of THC or CBD per piece first.
After taking the capsule, the cannabinoids first pass through the digestive tract. From there, it is transported to the liver via the portal vein, where it is metabolized before being released to the bloodstream. Finally, the compounds head to the brain and the rest of the body.
Due to the long path to the blood-brain barrier, the oral route has a delayed onset of action. Put simply, it takes a while before the effects become apparent, which can be an issue for patients seeking instant symptom relief. In general, the effects of cannacaps kick in about 30 minutes to 2 hours after intake, reaching its peak within 2-5 hours.
To make the most out of the capsules, timing is critical. Let’s say you’re suffering from chronic pain, making it hard for you to sleep at night. In this case, consider swallowing the pills a couple of hours before bedtime.
Bioavailability is the degree and rate at which substances – such as cannabinoids – get absorbed into the bloodstream and access the targeted site.
The oral administration has a low bioavailability of about 4-12%. In other words, only a small percentage of the THC and CBD in the capsule can reach the bloodstream to exert their medicinal benefits.
Primarily, it is due to the first-pass effect occurring in the liver. In this process, hepatic enzymes – most notably the CYP450 enzyme – metabolize the cannabinoids, significantly lowering the amount that can enter the systemic circulation.
Also, note that the dose and your unique body chemistry and composition, among other factors, can also affect the bioavailability of cannabis.
Intense, Unpredictable Highs
Due to the low bioavailability, the absorption rates of cannabinoids can be extremely erratic. As a result, the effects can be hit-and-miss, varying immensely from person to person.
In one study, participants complained about the unexpected and unpredictable highs of ingested weed.
This has many implications. One user, for example, may only feel mild psychotropic effects after taking a capsule. But, in another, the same dose may already trigger an incapacitating high. Or, the effects are barely there at first – only to turn full-blown a few hours later. Quite simply, it’s near impossible to know when the high will strike, as well as how powerful it will be.
To complicate matters, the mind-altering effects also tend to be intense – even more so than what inhalation methods could induce. That is because the oral route produces more 11-hydroxy-THC.
The liver metabolizes THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, which can readily cross the blood-brain barrier. This psychoactive metabolite, however, also happens to be more potent than THC. Having more of it in the brain, therefore, can only mean a harder-hitting high. Again, make sure to start slowly to avoid being overwhelmed.