CBD capsules vs. CBD oil

by Tom Russell October 13, 2020

CBD capsules vs CBD oil

CBD oil and CBD capsules are both popular ways to take CBD, but which is the best?

Many people assume that CBD oil is the clear winner. It’s more versatile, can be quickly absorbed under your tongue and there are often more concentrations to choose from.

However, that’s not the entire story.

CBD capsules vs CBD oil

Woman taking a CBD capsule

CBD capsules deliver a precisely measured amount of hemp extract ideal to be swallowed with a mouthful of water. The extract is usually suspended in a carrier oil, but occasionally it’s present as a finely milled powder. Most often, they’re stored in a plastic or glass bottle but occasionally they come in a handy blister pack.

CBD oil is known for its versatility and comes in a variety of different strengths and flavours. It’s recommended that you take it by holding a few drops under your tongue, but it can also be swallowed, added to food or mixed into a drink. Most oils come in a bottle with a simple dropper, but some have a spray which lets you direct a jet of oil straight under your tongue.


sublingual CBD aplication

When you use CBD oil, the directions for use are likely to recommend that you hold a few drops under your tongue for 60 to 120 seconds. This allows the lingual lipase in your saliva to break down the cannabinoids and transport them across the thin membrane into your bloodstream. The result is that around 35% of the CBD will make it to your blood for use around your body.

CBD capsules are designed to be swallowed, which means that to reach your blood, they must pass through your digestive system. Once the capsule shell dissolves, the oil or powder also needs to be broken down to pass across your gut wall into your blood. The longer the CBD is exposed to acids and enzymes during this time, the more is completely destroyed.

Once some of the CBD reaches your bloodstream, it must then pass through your liver where it is again subjected to powerful enzymes that are present to break down toxins in your blood. By the time the CBD is ready to be transported around your body, it’s likely that only 4% to 20% will remain. However, it’s not always as straightforward because CBD oils can also be swallowed and some capsules can be broken open to let the oil absorb under your tongue.

This head to head isn’t simple, but when it comes to bioavailability CBD oil is the clear winner.

How long will the effect last?

hemp clock

Once the CBD is in your bloodstream, you may start noticing some effects. How long CBD takes to reach your blood and how long you feel the effects for can vary dramatically based on your body composition and internal chemistry. However, CBD oil held under your tongue will take effect in 15 to 20 minutes and it could last anywhere from 1 to 10 hours depending on the concentration.

When swallowing CBD capsules, it could take as long as 2 hours for you to notice any effects. The effects are likely to be noticeable for between 4 to 6 hours.

Both capsules and oil are fairly evenly matched. High-strength products last longer, but like for like, this one is a draw.

How convenient are they?

Convenience is where CBD capsules really come into their own. Each one contains a precisely measured amount of hemp extract, making it easy to take the same amount daily. Also, the design of the capsules means that they’re unlikely to leak and can be taken discreetly without drawing any unwanted attention. The only drawback is that you can’t make small adjustments to the serving size but can only add another capsule.

Benefits of CBD capsules

With CBD drops, the serving can be easily adjusted one drop at a time. In most oils, each drop only contains between 1mg and 5mg of CBD so you can be much more specific with how much you take. However, drops are less precise than capsules and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get exactly the same amount each time.

They can also be tricky to place under your tongue and it’s almost impossible to place a drop under your tongue in public without drawing attention to yourself. CBD oil bottles can also be prone to leaks; the liquid is so viscous it can get into the thread of the bottle and stop it from sealing properly. This can make it unsuitable to take with you in a pocket or a bag because it may leak.

The most convenient option is CBD capsules.


CBD oil comes in a range of flavours, but most often it has a taste of natural hemp. This can range from a mild, pleasant grassy flavour to being intensely bitter. Some people get accustomed to this really quickly, but for others, it puts them off and may be why they don’t use CBD oil.

Commonly, CBD capsules have virtually no flavour. Because the hemp itself is sealed inside, you only taste the shell itself. Sometimes they have a mild, slightly musty flavour, but in most cases, they taste of nothing.

In this, head to head, capsules are the winner.

Vegan / Veggie credentials

Animal products don’t have any part in the production of CBD oil, so all of them should be suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Capsules, on the other hand, include a shell which is sometimes made from gelatine. This means that if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you need to look for those with shells or soft gels made from gelatine alternatives. The most common options are vegetable cellulose or starch.

There are lots of vegan CBD capsules available, but the winner on this one has got to be CBD oil.

How much do they cost?

Holding hemp plant

Whether CBD oil costs more than capsules or not depends on the brand. Some price their oil slightly higher. For example, with Cibdol’s 20% capsules, you get a total of 1920mg of CBD for £95.90, which works out as about 5p per mg. The Cibdol 20% oil, provides 1840mg CBD for £99.99, which is the equivalent of 5.4p per mg.

On the other hand, with Love Hemp the capsules are the more expensive option; their bottle of 25mg capsules has a total of 750mg CBD for £69.99 and their 10% oil contains 1000mg for £49.99. They work out at 9p and 5p per mg of CBD, respectively.

This one is a draw and can vary significantly based on the brand or the amount of CBD in the product.

CBD oil pros and cons & CBD capsules pros and cons

CBD Oil - key characteristics

CBD Capsules - key characteristics

·       Comes in a range of different concentrations.

·       Usually available in a bottle with a dropper or a spray.

·       Can be placed under your tongue, swallowed or added to food and drink.

·       Often range in strengths between 5mg per capsule to 50mg per capsule

·       Can contain oil or finely milled hemp powder

·       Can come in a bottle, jar or blister pack

CBD oil pros and cons

CBD capsules pros and cons


·       35% bioavailability

·       The effects can last for 2 to 10 hours.

·       You can make small adjustments to a serving.

·       All oils should be suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

·       Depending on the brand, you may get more CBD for your money.


·       They provide a precisely measured amount of CBD.

·       The effects can be noticeable for 4 to 6 hours.

·       They’re unlikely to leak

·       They can be taken discreetly.

·       They don’t have the bitter hemp taste

·       Depending on the brand, you may get more CBD for your money. The stronger ones tend to be better value for money.


·       It’s hard to deliver precise, regular amounts.

·       The bottles can leak, making them unsuitable for use on the go.

·       It’s hard to take oil discreetly.

·       Some oils have a strong bitter taste.


·       Only 4% to 20% bioavailability

·       It’s difficult to make small adjustments to the amount you take.

·       Some may contain gelatine so aren’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans.



Taking CBD capsules

Overall, CBD oil and capsules draw; however, it’s clear that the winner is the one whose strengths best match your needs. If you want versatility, then oil is the one for you, if you’re after something convenient to take with you to work, then you should choose CBD capsules.

Both are best suited to certain situations. If you just want to buy one product, then CBD oil is going to give you the most options. If you’re happy to get two, choose capsules and oil together. They work excellently side by side and give you the best choice of ways to take CBD at home and on the go.

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Tom Russell
Tom Russell


Tom Russell writes extensively about CBD oil and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.

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