Historically, one of the biggest drawbacks of cannabis as a medicine has been the limited ways to obtain the benefits of the plant. However, this certainly appears to be changing, with non-psychoactive products dominating the medical marijuana conversation at present. As the description suggests, taking non-psychoactive products – which are made up mostly of cannabidiol (CBD) – will not cause the user to get “high” or feel intoxicated in any way.

This development has introduced the benefits of cannabis to those who would never otherwise have considered them. Although, in addition to not just getting high, many of these CBD users are also opposed to medicating by smoking, with some even holding reservations against vaping. Hence, companies have been hard at work to make products that closely resemble more common forms of treatment, bringing us CBD oil, CBD creams and also CBD capsules.

In this article, we will delve into the science behind CBD, explore which ailments can be best managed with CBD capsules, and discover the most effective ways to use these products.

Why CBD works

Anybody that has been keeping up with medical cannabis and CBD stories in the news will probably know that the herb and its extracts have been touted as solutions for a range of illnesses. But this does not mean that CBD is too good to be true – far from it. In fact, the reason why CBD is able to have such an extraordinary therapeutic effect on the body is because it can interact with an ancient network of neurotransmitters, receptors and enzymes, which we now know as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Revealing the ECS has been critical for the recent progress in medical cannabis science, as experts now have an improved idea of the mechanisms and neurological pathways that cannabinoids operate in. Not all of these mechanisms are understood as yet, but CBD is a popular product to experiment with, thanks to its low toxicity and limited side effects. While cannabis has been repeatedly linked to mental health issues due to exhibiting psychoactive effects, these are reserved to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid which influences the ECS much differently to CBD. Research has even shown that CBD reduces the potency of THC’s psychoactive properties, enhancing the medicinal value of all the compounds, which is why scientists such as Dr Ethan Russo advocate whole-plant treatments.

The next few years will surely uncover much more about the ECS, but the studies already available indicate that CBD is a powerful compound in its own right and is even preferable for some conditions – such as anxiety – to a treatment which also includes THC.

Which conditions can be managed with CBD capsules?

Essentially, CBD capsules are just CBD oil infused in a soft-gel capsule, but these work more like an edible, than when taking oil under the tongue (sublingual absorption). The capsule must be digested before the CBD becomes active in the bloodstream, meaning there can be a delay from anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes before the effects are noticed. However, the upside to this is that the treatment is effective for around twice as long than if sublingually absorbing oil or vaping e-liquid.

Therefore, capsules are more suited to some conditions than others.

Insomnia, sleep apnea and a general lack of sleep

Our lives seem to be getting faster and faster, and more people than ever are feeling overworked, from the demands of work and home life. According to the Centers for Disease of Control and Prevention, 35 percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep per night, the recommended amount for good overall health. For some people, this is due to conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea. The former makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep, while the latter causes interrupted sleep due to breathing issues.

One would imagine that those with busy schedules can simply get to sleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, but this isn’t always the case. While the body may be able to relax, this is often the time when the mind starts whirring, giving all kinds of worries, doubts and anxieties the chance to manifest, thereby preventing sleep.

Fatigue is perhaps the best-known symptom of missing out on sleep, and this can inhibit both cognitive and physical functioning. Constant tiredness and low energy may even lead to depression. However, perhaps more concerningly than all, reduced sleep has been found to have significant ramifications for neurological health, as deep sleep is necessary to remove the neurotoxins which build up in the brain during the day – amyloid plaques which accumulate in the brain, if not removed, are thought to speed up degradation of neurons, and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

That’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry – CBD capsules can help to improve sleep, and also provide much-needed neuroprotection. CBD manages this by correcting off-balance circadian rhythms (or the sleep-wake cycle), and promote the deeper sleep required to flush out these neurotoxins. More recently, research has shown that CBD can repair damage in the brain, by stimulating a process called neurogenesis – the creation of neurons from neuronal stem cells.

Any form of CBD can help with neuroprotection, but the long-lasting effects of capsules are perfect for a full night’s sleep, without disturbance. Taking a dose with food around an hour before bed will increase the bioavailability and therefore the potency of the CBD, while encouraging a relaxed state. The compound’s anti-anxiety properties help to reduce overstimulation in the brain which causes excessive thoughts.

Inflammation

Inflammation remains one of the most problematic conditions for researchers, due to the notorious volatility of the immune system, and traditionally limited medical resources to control it. Many existing drugs can be unpredictable and cause side effects. But scientists studying the ECS have located a new link to immune system response, through cannabinoid receptor (CB2), which seems to allow much better regulation of inflammation.

The mechanism in which CBD controls inflammation is complex. The cannabinoid is an antagonist of the CB2 receptor but helps to increase levels of endocannabinoids that can bind with the receptor, such as anandamide. The anti-inflammatory properties of anandamide have been proven repeatedly in studies. CBD boosts anandamide by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for degrading it, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).

CBD creams and other infused topical products are popular for managing acne, psoriasis and other skin complaints, however the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD capsules are reserved for inside of the body. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which could be relieved through CBD treatment, and the gradual, extended alleviation provided by capsules may be the best way to manage symptoms.

Depression

The root cause of depression has never been fully understood, and the initial belief that the mental health disorder comes from chemical imbalance is now being challenged by theories of brain inflammation, which have been partially proven with brain scans. The concept that depression is a physical illness, typified by damage to the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and other sections of the brain suggests new treatment ideas are necessary. There is some evidence that the main class of depression drugs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) facilitate some neurogenesis, but the anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant qualities of multiple non-psychoactive cannabinoids are of great interest to researchers.

CBD appears to be active in the serotonin system as an agonist of the serotonin 1A receptor, a g-protein coupled receptor which bears similarities to receptors in the ECS. Furthermore, anandamide, which is promoted by CBD, has antidepressant effects which are realized by its interactions with the CB1 receptor.

CBD capsules may take an hour or so to kick in, but the benefits are apparent much more quickly than with SSRIs, which sometimes take a month or more to show any significant effects. Taking CBD capsules in the midst of a depressive slump may administer a mood boost that improves day-to-day functioning, while sustained medicating may repair damaged parts of the brain.

Types of CBD capsules

CBD capsules are normally made from the hemp plant, because the extract contains little to no THC and is therefore non-psychoactive. However, some capsules are made using CBD which has been isolated from the rest of the extract, while others are made with the full extract – these are described as “full-spectrum.” These full-spectrum products are still non-intoxicating but consist of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis that can interact together and support extra relief.

Capsules are sold in tubs and are ideal for patients who want precise doses – the cannabinoid profile of the capsule will be clearly stated on the product’s label. Reputable CBD manufacturers can also provide consumers with a lab-test report to confirm the authenticity of their products.

Final thoughts

Depending on the ailment, CBD capsules are suitable for use both day and night. Whether it’s to sort out a poor sleep pattern, manage inflammation or even reduce stress at work, this cannabis compound can help.