When you take a supplement in a capsule or a tablet, you may not be thinking about the mechanics of that capsule: what holds it all together? What provides the texture that makes it easy (or not so easy) to swallow?
Then again, if you’re someone who cares about what goes into your body, you might be interested in all of the inactive ingredients found in the supplements you use. There’s a name for these inactive ingredients. They are called excipients.
What are excipients?
Excipients are an important part of drugs and supplements. They are not medicinal themselves; rather their purpose is “to streamline the manufacture of the drug product and ultimately facilitate physiological absorption of the drug. Excipients might aid in lubricity, flowability, disintegration, taste and may confer some form of antimicrobial function.”
An excipient acts as a carrier. The term carrier is often used in conjunction with essential oils. W with an essential oil, a very small amount of the actual essential oil (the liquid botanical itself) is added to a carrier oil, like coconut or grapeseed oil. The carrier oil is the inactive ingredient helping to facilitate or deliver the active ingredient.
Types of excipients
The first type of excipient is known as a filler. The most common fillers are magnesium stearate and cellulose.
Magnesium stearate, a widely used food additive, is an extremely safe and cost effective lubricant for supplements. Besides its use in drugs and supplements, it is also used in spices and baking ingredients.
Cellulose is an organic compound that is a structural component for supplements. It is an important part of a drug delivery system. Cellulose is biodegradable, bio-based, and biocompatible, and because of this, it is used as part of drug delivery systems to aid in things like sustained drug release.
A binder is simply an excipient that helps hold tablets together. They “act as an adhesive to literally ‘bind together’ powders, granules and other dry ingredients to impart to the product the necessary mechanical strength.” Binders are not necessary to form a capsule.
Primarily used in powders and capsules so that the supplement doesn’t become hard, flow agents are a practical excipient that ensures that capsules do not stick to the machinery during processing. Flow agents aren’t always necessary, but the fact that they make the manufacturing process easier means that they keep costs down.
Coatings and Glazes
Excipients used for coating serve two purposes: they help keep the tablet together, and they make it easier for the tablet to slide down your throat. Some coatings, like gelatin, are primarily to help you swallow, while some, like enteric coating, allows the tablet to reach the small intestine safely by protecting it from stomach acid.
Coloring and Flavoring
While there are some vitamin and supplement companies that use artificial colorings, this is an example of an excipient that may not be necessary. Not only does it not support your overall health, but some people are allergic to colorings. Still, anyone who has ever tried to give a toddler medicine knows that flavorings can be helpful for kids products. In that case, try for a natural flavor like vanilla or lemon.
Artificial preservatives are rarely used in natural products. Natural preservatives should always be used, and there are many available. Vitamins and amino acids are examples of natural preservatives. Rosemary or oregano extract act as a preservative for fish oil, for example.
Chemical preservatives, like parabens, benzoates, sorbates, and sulfites should be avoided.
Are Excipients Bad?
Some excipients, such as artificial colorings and sweeteners, are unnecessary and do not support health.
However, some excipients are necessary to help you take a supplement. Not only that, but the amounts used are so minuscule that they “pose little to no health risk to those who take them.”
Natural Healthy Concepts is committed to working with trusted manufacturers. And while there is a minimal risk with the majority of these inactive ingredients, Natural Healthy Concepts does provide supplements that contain absolutely no excipients.