One of the more mainstream ways to ingest herbs, herbal capsules have fans and those who wouldn't dream of them for herbal healing. Truthfully, there is much more to the bottle of herbal capsules on your grocery store shelf.
When To Choose Herb Capsules
Herbal capsules are usually a powdered herb (they can contain other things, like woody parts, clay or tincture infused powders) that has been placed into a capsule. This capsule is usually made of animal derived gelatin, however there are vegetarian capsules available. The bottle will make note of the difference. If nothing is mentioned, consider them non-vegetarian.
The good thing about capsules are many:
1. Some herbs taste horrible, and capsules allow you to ingest them without an issue.
2. Herbal capsules are handy to administer, the dosage is pretty consistent, they are acceptable in society (much more than a tincture for instance), and can easily be taken over a long period of time.
3. Capsules are also more widely available to the general public, especially when a natural practitioner is not available.
Why Not To Choose Herb Capsules
Capsules are not always the best choice for administering herbs. Some reasons that they may not be the best choice are:
1. Many times herbs in capsules that you find at a grocery store are of questionable age and purity. Once an herb is broken down, it loses it's potency, so a capsule is the fastest way for an herb to expire. If that herb at your local store has sat on that shelf for months, how would you know?
2. Encapsulated herbs have a very short shelf life. Again, they are generally powdered or almost powdered herbs, and this means that time is limited before the powder loses it's potency.
3. You can not taste the herb. Yes, this is both good and bad and belongs on both the lists. Some herbs are meant to be tasted (bitter herbs), and hiding that taste negates the benefit of taking it. Also, some people believe that the scent and sight of herbs as remedies, is part of the healing process. I believe that a cup of tea or the sting of an herbal remedy is much more meaningful than being able to pop a few capsules. There are exceptions (see #1), so don't rule out using capsules, but consider alternatives if possible.
How To Find The Best Herb Capsules
Sometimes the best way to administer herbs is through capsules. There are ways to choose the best capsules for your money. Here are a few ways:
1. Have them made to order. This means finding an alternative health practitioner who has the ability to make capsules as needed. Many herbalists will naturally do this as part of their treatment.
2. Buy from reputable herbal companies, and always look for the expiration date. No date? Do not buy.
3. Fill your own capsules. Not as difficult as it seems, filling your own capsules can be a relaxing experience. It also gives you more control from garden to remedy. When I am using herbal capsules, I fill 1 week at a time, and it takes me just minutes to do. I use an encapsulator, that holds 50 capsules upright at a time for filling, but I used to do it one at a time, out of a bowl of loose herbs. You can also buy the type of capsules and size that you want. I buy veggie caps and generally buy size 00. They come in bags of 1000, so I don't buy them very often.