Thursday, November 28, 2013

Formulate Your Own Supplements


Generally, I don’t take supplements.  But when I do, I buy them in their pure, powdered form and encapsulate them myself. 

A supplement company does the same thing, only on a larger scale.  It acquires pure, powdered supplements from one of the few supplement manufacturers and packages them into dosage units (e.g. capsules or tablets).  Then, it bottles those dosage units into containers that bear the name of its company, before selling them, at a premium, to wholesalers and retailers.

Not only is doing it on your own cheaper, but it also allows you, the user, to decide on the type of dilutant[*] to use, as well as to avoid certain excipients that may be necessary on a large production scale, but unnecessary (and possibly allergenic) for making supplements at home for your own use.  You also get to create your own unique mixtures of supplements, and to vary the proportions of the supplements in those mixtures – handy for self-experimentation purposes.[†] And, lest the requirement for comprehensiveness be disregarded, some powdered supplements taste awful, so encapsulating them automatically gets around this taste factor.

Here I’ll show you how to make your own supplement capsules, without a capsule-making machine.  You’ll need a digital scale that is sensitive enough to weigh in 100 mg increments; [‡] empty gelatin capsules; and, of course, the powdered supplement (and possibly a dilutant) you wish to encapsulate.


STEPS

1. Determine the number of capsules you wish to fill and the total amount of powdered supplement needed.

As an example, I will formulate 30 capsules, each containing 10 mg of vitamin B6.  Therefore, in total, I will need 300 mg of (pure) vitamin B6 powder (30 x 10).


2. Choose the right capsule size.

There are eight sizes of gelatin capsules available for human use, from 5 (the smallest) to 000 (the largest), with each capsule size providing a range of volume capacity that is dependent on the characteristics (e.g. density) of the powdered supplement.  The smallest possible capsule size should be selected because larger capsules are harder to swallow and require more dilutant.

There are two methods available in the literature to determine the appropriate capsule.  I’ll only describe one of them here: the rule of 6.  The rule of 6 is simple.  It entails subtracting the capsule size (column 2) from 6 (column 1), which yields the fill weight of the capsule in grains (column 3).  Column 4 represents column 3 in milligrams (1 grain = 65 mg).

Sixes
Capsule size
Fill weight (grains)
Fill weight (mg)
6
0
6
390
6
1
5
325
6
2
4
260
6
3
3
195
6
4
2
130
6
5
1
65


3. Calculate the amount of dilutant needed.

Since each of my vitamin B6 capsules contains 10 mg, the smallest possible capsule size is 5, whose total fill weight is 65 milligrams.  Thus, each capsule requires 55 mg of dilutant to fill out the rest of the capsule’s volume.  In total, 1,650 mg of dilutant is needed (55 x 30) for the entire ‘recipe.’


4. Using your digital scale, weigh out the total amounts of the powdered supplement and the dilutant.

For my vitamin B6 capsules, I will weigh out 300 mg of (pure) vitamin B6 powder and 1,650 mg of dilutant.  The dilutant I typically use is powdered sugar.  However, you could use any other dilutant, as long as it is extremely fine in texture. (You’ll see why in the last step.) 

 


5. Mix the powdered supplement and the dilutant together thoroughly. (I use a mortar and pestle.) 



6. Fill the capsules.

First, place the thoroughly mixed powder in a heap onto a clean flat surface.  Then, after separating the body of the capsule from the cap, take the body and tap it, open side down, on the deepest part of the heap until the body of the capsule is packed as much as possible with the powdered mixture. (If the supplement and dilutant are not powdered finely into nearly dust, they won’t pack into the body of the capsule.)  Finally, place the cap back onto the body and repeat the process with the remaining empty capsules.[§]



REFERENCE

Zatz, J.L., & Teixeira, M. G. (2005). Pharmaceutical Calculations (4th ed., pp. 441-445). New Jersey: John Wiley  & Sons, Inc.




[*] An inert powder (I use powdered sugar) that is added if there is not enough encapsulated material to fill the full volume of a capsule.  Also, if the dosage for the entire recipe is so small, such that it falls below the minimal weighable ability of your digital scale, then a dilutant can be employed to perform a trituration, an elegant process in which a powdered supplement is intimately dispersed with a dilutant.  I won’t describe triturations in this post.

[†] In my opinion, this is one of the greatest advantages of formulating on your own.  Supplement companies almost always stuff excessive amounts of supplements into each dosage unit and create the most nonsensical blends of those supplements.

[‡] You can get one cheaply on eBay, for instance.

[§] It's important to point out that only the body of the capsule should be filled so as to comply with the calculation for the amount of dilutant needed; the cap is used only to retain the powder in the body.