- Gelatin capsules are easier for the body to absorb than hard tablets.softgel capsule image by ivp from Fotolia.com
One impressive development in the medical field over the last century is the multitude of ways we can take our medicine. From pills to shots to fruit-flavored drinks, there are options to suit everyone. Gelatin capsules are one of the most popular ways of administering medication because of their unique features.
Outer Shell Classification
- There are two kinds of gelatin capsules. Softgels consist of a flexible outer shell, while hardgels are more rigid and tend to be thinner than softgels.
- Besides the medication being administered, gelatin capsules are composed of water, gelatin, and a "plasticizer." Plasticizers are substances that become part of the gelatin capsule wall and provide structural integrity to the gelatin so the capsule can maintain its shape.
Specific Characteristics of the Medication
- The medication inside the gelatin capsule also affects the characteristics of the gelcap. Medication can be either hydrophilic ("water-loving") or hydrophobic ("water-fearing"); the first mixes with water, and the second doesn't. For example, oil-based medication or medicines dissolved in oil-based liquids are hydrophobic. Gel caps can be further classified according to whether the medication is a suspension (large particles floating in a liquid and not mixing) or a solution (the ingredients mix together completely).
Advantages of Gelatin Capsules
- Gelatin capsules are beneficial for several reasons. They are much softer than standard pills, making them easier to swallow. The gelatin also makes absorption of the medication easier for the body, since gelatin is a protein that can be broken down by the digestive system. Gelatin tablets are airtight, which protects their contents from being exposed to oxygen---important for substances like fish oil, which would go bad if exposed to air. Finally, this type of airtight seal keeps most unpleasant tastes and odors from the product at bay when swallowing the gel cap, unlike hard tablets the person can taste on the way down.