Gelatin capsules are small shells made from gelatin that are used to enclose various medications and nutritional supplements. Their main goal is to make it easier for people to swallow pills, particularly those that are large or might otherwise be dry and difficult to get down the throat. Gelatin is typically very smooth and also resists reacting or mixing with other substances, so it’s a safe and usually quite inexpensive addition to many pills. It can also help manufacturers get an accurate and uniform dose into each pill. Fluid-filled capsules are usually made of just one piece of continuous gelatin covering, though solids may include two interlocking pieces. In either case, most capsules are made from “natural” gelatin, which often has its origins in pig, horse, and other animals’ bones and hooves. Synthetic and vegetable-based options are available in some areas, but not always — and not always inexpensively, either.
As it is refined from animal products, strict processing guidelines are observed to ensure the purity and quality of the finished product. Numerous tests examine the gelatin for the presence of pathogens, contaminants, and other impurities.
Manufacturers use food grade capsules, usually made of gelatin. For vegans, there are other products available without this animal based ingredient.