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The Science of CBD: How Capsules Work in the Body?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has surged in popularity over the past few years thanks to its potential health benefits ranging from pain relief to reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality. Among the various forms of CBD consumption, capsules stand out for their convenience, discretion, and precise dosing. But how exactly do these capsules work in the body? This blog delves into the science behind CBD capsules and their interaction with the human body.

Understanding CBD

CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It has the unique ability to interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Unlike its more famous counterpart, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce a “high” or psychoactive effect. Instead, it influences the body to use its own endocannabinoids more effectively.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The ECS plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis and regulating various functions, including mood, appetite, sleep, pain sensation, and immune response. It consists of three main components:

  • Endocannabinoids (molecules produced by the body that are similar to cannabinoids).
  • Cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) found throughout the body.
  • Enzymes that help break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids.

CBD interacts with the ECS not by binding directly to the cannabinoid receptors but by influencing the body to produce more of its own endocannabinoids. It may also bind to other receptors in the body, such as the serotonin (5-HT1A) receptor, which can explain its potential effects on conditions like anxiety and depression.

How CBD Capsules Work in the Body

Absorption and Digestion

When you ingest a CBD capsule, it passes through your digestive system and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the stomach and intestines. This process is slower compared to other methods of CBD consumption, such as tinctures or vaping, meaning it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for the effects to be felt.

Metabolism in the Liver

Once absorbed, CBD is metabolized in the liver. Here, enzymes break down the compound, reducing its concentration before it circulates throughout the bloodstream. This phenomenon, known as the “first-pass effect,” can decrease the overall amount of CBD that becomes active in the body. However, precisely dosing capsules can help manage and mitigate this effect.

Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System

After metabolism, the CBD that remains active in the bloodstream interacts with the ECS. CBD can enhance or influence the ECS’s regulatory functions by inhibiting the breakdown of endocannabinoids and binding to non-cannabinoid receptors. This interaction allows CBD to have various effects on the body.

Potential Health Benefits

The interaction of CBD with the ECS and other receptors in the body can have several potential health benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Pain Relief: CBD may reduce chronic pain by affecting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters.


  • Reduced Anxiety and Depression: By acting on the brain’s serotonin receptors, CBD has shown promise in animal studies as a treatment for anxiety and depression.
  • Improved Sleep: CBD may help improve sleep by addressing the root causes of insomnia, such as anxiety, pain, and stress.

Considerations and Dosage

Choosing the right dosage of CBD capsules can be challenging, as it varies widely depending on factors such as body weight, the condition being treated, and individual body chemistry. It is generally recommended to start with a low dose and gradually increase it while monitoring the effects.

Bioavailability and the Importance of Carrier Oils in CBD Capsules

One crucial aspect of how CBD capsules work in the body is their bioavailability, which refers to the rate and extent to which a substance is absorbed into the bloodstream and made available at the site of physiological activity. The bioavailability of CBD, when ingested in capsule form, is generally lower compared to other methods like sublingual administration or inhalation. This is due to the first-pass metabolism in the liver, which can significantly reduce the concentration of CBD before it reaches systemic circulation.

Manufacturers often incorporate carrier oils into their formulations to combat this issue and enhance the bioavailability of CBD capsules. Carrier oils, such as MCT oil (derived from coconut oil), hemp seed oil, or olive oil, can increase CBD’s solubility and facilitate its absorption in the digestive tract. These oils can also aid in transporting CBD through the body, ensuring that a higher percentage of the active compound reaches the bloodstream and exerts its therapeutic effects.

The Role of Lipophilicity

CBD is a lipophilic (fat-soluble) compound, meaning it dissolves better in fats than in water. This characteristic underscores the importance of carrier oils in CBD capsules, as they can significantly enhance the body’s absorption of CBD. By binding to lipids in the carrier oil, CBD can more easily traverse the cell membranes in the human body, leading to improved bioavailability.

Optimizing CBD Capsule Formulations

In addition to selecting the right carrier oil, manufacturers are continually exploring other methods to optimize the formulation of CBD capsules for better absorption and efficacy. These include:

  • Nanoemulsions and Micelles: These are advanced formulation techniques that break down CBD oil into tiny particles, making it easier for the body to absorb. Nanoemulsions, in particular, can significantly increase the bioavailability of CBD.
  • Liposomal Delivery: This method encapsulates CBD molecules within liposomes, tiny spherical structures made from cholesterol and naturally occurring phospholipids.


This encapsulation can protect CBD from the harsh environment of the gastrointestinal tract, enhancing its delivery to the bloodstream.

Personal Factors Affecting CBD Absorption

It’s also important to note that individual factors can affect the absorption and metabolism of CBD, including:

  • Metabolic Rate: Individuals with a faster metabolism may process CBD more quickly, potentially reducing its effects.
  • Body Composition: Body fat percentage can influence the distribution of CBD in the body, as it tends to accumulate in fatty tissues.
  • Age and Gender: Age-related changes in metabolism and differences in body composition between genders can affect how CBD is processed.


CBD capsules offer a convenient, discreet, and precise method to consume CBD, making them an attractive option for many users. By interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD capsules can offer relief from various conditions, contributing to overall health and well-being. However, as with any supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting CBD, especially if you are taking other medications or have underlying health conditions.