What Materials Used in a Pill Casing?

Medical supplies are somewhat essential for human survival. There are different types of capsules and medicines which are recommended to the patients depending on how serious a particular problem is. In the middle of all of this, have you ever thought about how is a pill made or what the capsule is made out of? 

Don’t worry! We don’t mean to scare you, but this is something that everyone taking their pills should know. In the field of medicine, a major ethical principle is to let the patients know all the necessary information. Although safe, there are still some facts about Pill Casings you might not know. 

The Types of Capsule Shells

If we talk about the materials of the pill casings, there are several different ones. Each type of capsule shell has its own unique properties, and the difference is kept due to the content inside the capsule. 

Hard Gelatin Capsule

The most commonly used capsule is the Hard Gelatin one. Let’s clear a misconception first. They are not made out of any type of plastic material. The hard gelatin capsules are made from collagen. Collagen is a protein found in animal skin and bones. Before you get disgusted, they are scientifically considered edible, degradable, and completely harmless to the human body. 

The color of these pill casings is due to titanium dioxide. These capsules are approved by the concerned authorities including the United States Food and Drugs Administration. For more than 100 years, these capsules have been in the market and proven to be successful for infusing different types of drugs into the human body. 

Soft Gelatin Capsule

The Soft Gelatin Capsules are not much different from the hard gelatin ones but the two have a difference in terms of moisture proportion. These capsules have elasticity and stability with the help of plasticizers that are added to them. While the hard gelatin capsules are usually having a powdered content, the soft gelatin capsules may have a liquid content as well. 

Glycerol and Sorbitol are two of the most important elements found in the Soft Gelatin Capsules. 

These hard starch capsules may vary in size depending upon the requirements

The Vegetable Capsules

In 1989, vegetable-based capsules were also introduced which were made out of cellulose instead of gelatin. Cellulose is usually found out in the plant structure. Pharmaceutical companies usually prefer to make capsules out of these because they can be produced way cheaper than the case of Gelatin. 

They are also called the HPMC Capsules because the main ingredient they are made out of includes Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has not mentioned any particular limitation to the daily intake of these capsules. However, we always recommend consulting an expert physician rather because the case may vary from person to person. 

The Pullulan Capsule

The Pullulan Capsule is among the top growing ones in the pharmaceutical industry. As the name says, this capsule is made out of Pullulan which is a mucopolysaccharide that works as a food additive. Approved by The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, this capsule works in the most suitable manner for most patients leaving no side effects and performing a quick action relief in most cases. 

Due to the high-quality film-forming mechanism, this type of capsule completely eliminates the usage of gelatin from animals for the production of capsules. The fermentation process is done with the help of Tapioca. An even better aspect about these capsules is that they have a low moisture content along with toughness. As a result, these can be filled with all kinds of water sensitive medication as well because there is no chance water will pass through any of them.

The Advil Liqui gels are one of the most widely consumed capsules in the world.

The Enteric Coated Capsules

This pill casing can be quite unique when compared with the different types of other capsules. Coming with an Enteric Coating, these are highly specialized forms of capsules made to devise a suitable release of the medication in the human body. They can meet the medication needs of the intestine in one of the most appropriate manners. 

Since some medication has strong stimulation, the stomach acid may end up destroying it which is why these highly secure capsules are used. How is an Enteric Capsule the ideal solution? For one, the enteric coating can only be dissolved with the alkaline liquid in the intestines allowing for the release of medication at the required moment not before or after that. 

Enteric Coating Capsules are not used unless the problem is usually a very serious one. If you are wondering what the enteric coating comprises, it has fatty acids, plastics, plant fibers, waxes, and shellac as well. This may come as a shock to you because some of these materials are not completely safe if the capsules are taken in a high quantity. As a result, there are several legal complications for this type of capsule. 

The contradiction has been seen in the case of legal issues compared with the customers’ demand. Nonetheless, the use of these capsules has been restricted in many states. Even many doctors have stopped recommending these capsules to patients. 

Liquid gels like these can be used for a range of purposes such as a laxative

Why do some Capsules have Liquid Content and others have Powder?

Some capsules have a liquid content because the liquid can break down in the human body way faster than a powdered capsule. The liquid gels are usually comprising of liquid that contains small particles so that they can be easily broken down.

However, a drawback of taking the liquid gel capsules compared with the powder base capsules is that there is a shorter lasting effect of the ingredients because they are almost immediately broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, you might require a high intake of these capsules depending upon the problem. Moreover, comparing this to other tablets and capsules, they are perhaps the more expensive option for the users. 

On the other hand, the powdered content breaks down into the body slowly which is required when a slow action is recommended. The powdered content is also sometimes more effective for the human body compared to the liquid content. You may not require a lot of capsules and even a few will do the job. 

One should always be consulting their doctor to find out which one is going to be more effective and useful for them. Moreover, not all companies manufacture a drug in different types of casing and usually have a standard for them. 

Soft gel capsules that are completely transparent

Difference between a Capsule and a Tablet

Before we highlight the difference, it is important to know that a capsule and a tablet both have the capability to infuse the drug action in your body. The key differences come in the form of shelf life and speed of action. The tablets have a longer shelf life while the capsules may expire right away. Moreover, the tablets do not have any particular size restrictions which is why a higher drug content can be added in a tablet compared to a capsule. 

A tablet does not react as quickly as a capsule does. In some cases, this tends to be beneficial while in others, it seems like a problem. For highly reactive bodies, experts often recommend a slow disintegration of contents in the body which is why tablets are used while the capsules may perform a more rapid action in case of emergencies. 

A capsule costs more than a tablet mainly due to the powdered or liquid-gel content along with the material that it is made out of while a tablet costs cheaper because it is carrying a lighter dose of a particular drug. 

On a personal note, some people prefer tablets because they can be broken down into pieces while a capsule cannot. On the other hand, some people don’t take a tablet because they believe they might end up having a bitter taste of the tablets. They prefer a capsule for being completely tasteless.

A tablet or A Capsule- Both can do the job they are intended for with certain benefits and drawbacks of each.

Which Material is Right for me?

It all depends upon the medical problem and medical history that you have. One should consider the fact that whether it is any particular capsule or any coated or uncoated tablet, there are certain drawbacks and benefits which is why the advice of a medical expert is what should be essentially followed. 


Regardless of what we say, we know that no one wants to eat pills or tablets. However, now you do know regarding the different types. If you feel that a certain type of pill is easier for you to swallow, you can always ask your physician to diagnose you a particular one based on your health conditions. However, except for the Enteric Coated Capsules, the other ones are usually safe for consumption with no major drawbacks. 

If you are a parent, you should really know some of the important factors about Diarrhea among children and how you can overcome them. – Diarrhea in Children: 5 Prevention and Treatment Best Practices

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