Capsules or Powders?

Herbs can taste nasty. But do capsules really help your health?
Herbs can taste nasty. But do capsules really help your health?

At Eagle Herbs, we offer Chinese herbal formulas in both capsules and extract powders (also called “granules”). The herbal material inside of the capsules is identical to the extract powder. We actually start out with the powder, then optionally put it into capsules.

I believe that the powders work more quickly. They’re also cheaper because there is no labor cost associated with putting the powder into capsules.

However, if you are traveling or just need to take them to work, capsules will do the same work.

But just to give you an example of the difference between how they work is this: a middle aged man with low-grade pain and stiffness in his low back gets a Chinese herbal formula in capsules. Four days later, he reports that the pain has gone away.

About a year later, his low-grade pain and stiffness in his low back returns. This time, he chooses not to have the extract powder put into capsules. He reports relief from the low back pain in four hours.

In this case, the difference was four days for the capsules, and four hours for the extract powder. Obviously your results may vary, but if you’re not especially sensitive to funky tastes, I would encourage the use of the powders alone because of the example provided above.

However, if you ARE sensitive to funky tastes, if you think that you will not take the herbs if you have to taste them, I would encourage the use of the capsules.

Or perhaps you plan on traveling, working with the powders can be messy. When they get on the floor and interact with humidity in the air, they can get stuck in carpeting. They can be messy whereas capsules can fall on the floor, but be easily seen and cleaned up.

There is another reason that I prefer the use of powders, and that is dosage. It has been said by many of the more experienced practitioners of Chinese medicine that the most common reason for an herbal formula not doing what it needs to do is under-dosage. We’re simply not giving people enough of a dose to get the job done.

The reason that I bring this up in the issue of herbs vs. capsules is that I can tell a patient to take 1.5 teaspoons of a powder 3 times daily. It goes down okay, it is doable. However, that much powder translates to about 12 capsules, three times a day.

This means that one will need to take 36 capsules per day, and this number is simply too high for most people to accept, not that I blame them, I don’t like the feeling of capsules sitting in my stomach either. But 1.5 teaspoons of an herb extract powder is not a problem.

So these are the differences between capsules and extract powders. If you’re not sure whether or not you can handle the taste of a given formula, order it in capsule form. When you get your herbs, just twist open the capsule and put the powder into some hot water or directly on to your tongue.

Try it a few times actually. Many of these formulas have a tendency to grow on you. They’re acquired tastes, but once you’re enjoying the taste, you’re on your way.

Be well, be VERY well.

written by Al Stone and Doug Eisenstark