Find out the truth about tablets and capsules—and see which one is right for you.
Capsules, tablets, pills—it all seems the same, right? Well, there are many key differences between capsules and tablets, from absorption to friability. And when it comes to taking supplements in the form of tablets or capsules, you want to make sure that you are taking the best one for you. That’s why it is important to understand the differences and benefits of each. Read on to find out more about capsules and tablets.
What Is a Capsule?
Simply put, capsules are a way to orally take medicine or supplements. They are like the vessel that contains the active ingredients that you need. Capsules work by delivering the supplement via your digestive tract for quick absorption.
There are two types of capsules: hard and soft. Both feature a gelatin coating, but hard capsules are made up of a rigid, two-piece casing that fits together to encase the drug or supplement. On the other hand, soft capsules are formed in a single piece and are better suited for liquid substances, such as fish oil or other supplements that should be absorbed
as a liquid. In both types of capsules, the outer shell dissolves to reveal the supplement it is carrying so that your body can digest it.
Pros of Capsules:
- Fast-Acting. Due to their gel casing, capsules tend to break down quicker than tablets, making them a viable option for fast relief.
- Higher Absorption. Capsules have higher bioavailability—this means that the supplement/drug they contain is more likely to enter your bloodstream, making it potentially more effective than tablets.
- Tasteless. Their casing means that they are less likely than tablets to have an unpleasant odor or taste.
- Low Friability. They cannot be cut in half or crushed easily, making them more likely to be taken as intended.
Cons of Capsules:
- Low Durability. They are less stable than tablets, making them susceptible to environmental conditions like humidity.
- Shorter Shelf Life. Capsules expire quicker than tablets.
- Costlier. Liquid-containing capsules are generally more expensive to manufacture than tablets, so they could cost more.
- May Contain Animal Products. Capsules contain a gel coating that is typically sourced from pigs, fish, or cows, making them an unsuitable option for vegans and vegetarians.
- Low Dosage. Capsules cannot contain as much medication as tablets, which are compressed to fit more. This means you might need to take more capsules to get the same dosage as one tablet.
What Is a Tablet?
Tablets are a common type of pill, similar to capsules except they do not contain a casing. Tablets are made by compressing the powdered supplement or drug together to form a hard, solid pill that can be broke down in the digestive tract. Sometimes, they’ll contain a thin coating to make them easier to swallow or to help prevent them from breaking down in the stomach so that they can make it to the small intestine. They can come in a chewable variety or can be orally dissolved by saliva, making them helpful for those who have trouble swallowing.
Pros of Tablets:
- Inexpensive. Tablets are usually cheaper to manufacture than capsules, making them more affordable to consumers.
- Long-Lasting. Compared to capsules, tablets last longer and are more stable.
- Adjustable Dosage. Since they can be easily split, they can be halved for a smaller dose if need be.
- Chewable. Tablets can be chewable, making them a good option for those with swallowing problems.
- Varied Delivery. Tablets come in many forms: quick-release, delayed-release, or extended-release. This means that you can pick a form that best suits your needs.
- More Concentrated. Since each tablet typically has more substance than a capsule, tablets can deliver higher doses easier.
Cons of Tablets:
- More Likely to Cause Irritation. They can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract and cause the user to become itchy.
- Slower Acting. They are absorbed by the body slower than capsules, which means they could take longer to work.
- Inconsistent Absorption. Tablets tend to break disintegrate unevenly, causing them to have decreased effectiveness and overall absorption.
- Less Palatable. Depending on their coating, they can leave a bad aftertaste.
What Are Capsules and Tablets Used For?
Both capsules and tablets are used to take medication or supplements. For example, we may use ibuprofen capsules to relieve headaches or take some iron tablets to help supplement an iron deficiency. Overall, they are used to help our health, boost our immune systems, or treat a condition.
How to Know Which Is Right for You
When it comes to capsules and tablets, about 74% of consumers preferred capsules over tablets in regards to herbal supplements. For vitamins, 54% of consumers preferred capsules. Although the general majority prefers capsules, tablets are still essential to consumers because of their varied forms, lower price point, and higher dosage.
Ultimately, deciding which is right for you lies in what you need a capsule or tablet for. If using them to help with a painful medical complication, then fast-acting capsules might be your answer. If looking to get the most out of a supplement, then perhaps opt for a concentrated tablet.
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