Cannabis for thousands of years as a natural medicinal herb, but only in recent decades have scientists been able to isolate and study its active compounds like THC and CBD. One fascinating innovation that combines cannabis and science is the THC capsule – pills that provide precise, controlled doses of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, producing a range of effects from euphoria and relaxation to enhanced senses and changed perceptions of time. Studies show THC also has potential medical benefits as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, antioxidant and more.
How do THC capsules work?
- thc capsules function much like any other pill or supplement. The main active ingredient – concentrated THC extract – is encapsulated in a dissolvable shell usually made of gelatin or vegetable cellulose. This allows for standardized, precise THC doses in a convenient, tasteless format.
- THC capsules are created by extracting and isolating THC oils from cannabis plants using advanced extraction methods. The purified THC is then encapsulated and sold in controlled doses such as 5mg, 10mg or 25mg per capsule. When swallowed, the capsules dissolve in the stomach, releasing the THC to be absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.
- Onset time is usually 30 minutes to 2 hours with THC capsules, slower than smoking or vaping cannabis but faster than traditional edibles. Effects typically last 4 to 6 hours or longer. Capsules provide a very consistent experience since absorption through the GI tract bypasses first-pass liver metabolism, resulting in higher, more predictable THC blood levels.
Science of THC absorption and metabolism
When cannabis is smoked or vaped, THC quickly enters the bloodstream through absorption in the lungs. This results in rapid onset of effects within minutes. However, ingestion through edibles and capsules means the THC must pass through the digestive system first.
Once in the stomach, THC begins to break down from its acidic form, THCA, into its active neutral form, THC. Some THC is absorbed directly through the stomach lining. However, most of the THC is metabolized by the liver as it passes through, converting THC into a more potent metabolite called 11-hydroxy-THC before entering the bloodstream.
11-hydroxy-THC is responsible for the stronger, longer-lasting effects of edibles/capsules compared to smoking. While first-pass liver metabolism reduces the amount of THC reaching the blood, the conversion to 11-hydroxy-THC leads to much higher blood THC levels overall. It also prolongs the effects as 11-hydroxy-THC has higher fat solubility and longer-lasting activity on CB1 receptors in the brain.
Future of Science-Backed Cannabis Medicine
THC capsules represent an important milestone in cannabis technology, providing a means to deliver consistent, measurable doses of the plant’s primary active compound. However, THC is just one of over 100 different cannabinoids produced by cannabis, many of which also have therapeutic potential.
The future of cannabis likely lies in highly customized combinations of isolated cannabinoids, terpenes and herbal extracts tailored to individual health goals. New startup biotech companies are using advanced bioengineering to produce rare cannabinoids that are difficult to extract from the plant.