Hemp leaves, CBD capsules and bottles of CBD oil are scattered on a burlap cloth.

CBD Capsules vs CBD Oil: What's the Difference?

With all of the new advancements in the CBD industry, it can get difficult trying to figure out which product is best for you. There are so many different ways to use CBD — from gummies, to oil, soft gels, capsules, topicals, salves, and more — that the choices can feel downright overwhelming. Certainly, you have to take different factors into consideration like lifestyle, wellness goals, needs, and time, before deciding on the product that best suits you. Our guide will give you a brief explanation of what CBD capsules and CBD oil are, as well as give you some pointers to help you pick the best type of product for your needs. 

The Differences between CBD Capsules and CBD Oil

The main difference between CBD capsules and CBD oil is the way they are ingested. Clearly, a capsule is swallowed whereas the oil is dropped under the tongue and allowed to absorb for a while before swallowing the carrier oil.

Because capsules are pre-dosed, your serving size is more rigid. You're either taking one capsule or two, but it's hard to take half of a soft gel. CBD oil, because it's just in liquid form, is easier to adjust whenever you want to increase or decrease the amount you're taking. But when it comes to the actual CBD, is there a difference?

The CBD in a capsule or soft gel is usually the same as the CBD in an oil suspension. Sourced from the same hemp, extracted with the same method, and then just placed into a different container.


A bottle of citrus CBD oil sits atop a yellow box on a yellow background, with lemons and limes arranged around it.

CBD oils are made from the cannabidiol that’s been extracted from the cannabis plant. Once the cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients have been extracted from the cannabis plant through a specialized method, they are next blended into a carrier oil like coconut oil, hemp oil, or olive oil. While there are quite a few ways to obtain hemp or marijuana extracts, currently the carbon dioxide process, or CO2 process, is preferred within the CBD industry because it yields clean and potent extracts. There are three main varieties of CBD oil: full-spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate. Full- and broad spectrum CBD oils contain all of the components of the hemp plant, however, all of the THC has been removed from broad spectrum products. Remember that per federal law, all hemp-based CBD products are legal to buy and sell throughout the United States, providing they contain 0.3% or less THC. Lastly, CBD isolate oils contain only 99% pure CBD, as the rest of the hemp plant’s parts have been carefully filtered out using a special process. 

Advantages of CBD Oil

  • Dosing is more flexible with oils
  • Oils are easier to swallow
  • CBD oils are more bioavailable, meaning they are easier broken down and absorbed into the body because they are held under the tongue before swallowing

Disadvantages of CBD Oil

  • Can come with a earthy flavor that some people dislike
  • They are not very portable

CBD Capsules

A close-up of CBD capsules next to a hemp leaf

CBD capsules were invented to make taking CBD oil easier and more convenient. The process that it takes to make capsules is completely different from the one used to make CBD oils. CBD capsules can come in two different forms: a CBD isolate powder that’s loaded into a softgel capsule, or a softgel capsule that’s filled with CBD oil. These two types of capsule varieties are created using different extraction methods. In making CBD softgel capsules, the hemp plant is extracted in the same way as when oils are made. However, instead of blending the extract with an oil and then filling a dark brown glass bottle, a softgel capsule is filled with the extract/oil mixture. And when CBD isolate capsules are made, the isolate — which looks like a delicate, white crystalline powder, because it’s been extracted using a highly specialized process, is mixed with an oil, like coconut or MCT oil, and then loaded into the capsule. 

Advantages of CBD Capsules

  • There’s no guesswork needed to figure out the dosage
  • Capsules are not as messy as oils
  • It’s more discreet to take a capsule
  • There’s no texture or flavor to worry about
  • They are portable and travel well when you’re on the go

Disadvantages of CBD Capsules

  • Because capsules must be digested and broken down, the bioavailability is decrease and you may not feel the effects right away
  • Some people may have issues swallowing capsules in general

    CBD Oil or CBD Capsules: Which is Better?

    A man holds a book open on his lap with a bottle of CBD oil resting inside

    If you’re finding that you’re having a hard time choosing between oil and capsules, the good news is that you aren’t the only one. Both products have their pluses and minuses attached to them. At the end of the day, it’s really all about personal preference. Remember, because you take CBD oils under your tongue, it won’t take that long for you to feel its effects. Conversely, it will take you a little longer to feel the effects of the CBD capsules because they have to be broken down and digested by your body. 

    If, however, you’re looking for ease of use, convenience, and portability, then CBD capsules are your best option. But before you begin shopping for oils or capsules, you should pause to take some time to research products and brands before jumping to buy the first one that you see. The best way to avoid cheap products made by sub-par brands is to read and understand all of the product’s ingredients, carefully review the product’s independent lab report, and try to decide how much CBD you want with each capsule or how potent you’ll want your CBD oil to be. Lastly, if you don’t have to pick one product over the other, then you may want to consider keeping a bottle of CBD oil at home and then taking a bottle of CBD capsules with you while you’re out and about.

    Useful Tips for Choosing CBD Oil and CBD Capsules

    Once you figure out which product is right for you, you’ll next need to know some things to look for as you’re shopping. For example these pointers will help you check the quality of the CBD product that you’re interested in: 

    1. Opt for full-spectrum or broad spectrum products. This way, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the good stuff that the hemp plant has to offer. 
    2. Full-spectrum and broad spectrum products also contain terpenes. Terpenes are what give plants their unique colors and scents. They also work in conjunction with cannabinoids to evoke the entourage effect. In this phenomenon, the terpenes and cannabinoids boost up each other’s positive aspects while dampening their negative ones. 
    3. Go with brands that use an independent third-party lab to test its products for potency and purity. Reputable brands care deeply about how clean and effective their products are and about the quality of the ingredients that goes into making them. Respected and trusted brands make these lab reports easily accessible for all customers. 
    4. Know where a brand gets its hemp from. Reputable brands source their hemp from organic, licensed farms within the United States. Any brand that uses organic hemp sources will ultimately end up with clean, pure, and potent products. Moreover, hemp that’s grown overseas is not held to the same standards as hemp that’s been grown and harvested within the United States.

    Key Takeaways on CBD Capsules and CBD Oils

    The main thing to keep in mind when comparing CBD capsules vs oil is that they will both interact with your endocannabinoid system, eventually, in similar ways. The timing will differ between the two, with CBD oil affecting the body faster, but with capsules potentially lasting a little bit longer.

    • It's up to you if the earthy taste of CBD oil is ok or if you prefer a taste-free CBD experience in a capsule of soft gel.
    • It can be easier and less messy to travel with capsules than oil, in case of leaks.
    • Both have similar shelf life, and both should be kept in cool, dark place out of extreme temperature changes or direct sunlight.
    • If you like to have more control over your dosage, then oil is the way to go. If you like the ease of taking pre-dosed servings, then capsules will be great.

    There may be times in your life when one is more appealing than the other, and you can also take both as part of your regular wellness regimen. While we often get focused on doing one OR the other, remember that you can take CBD in multiple ways in the same day and that's ok too!