Guide to Different Pharmaceutical Capsule Sizes: Types, Uses and Differences from Tablets

Pharmaceutical capsules represent one of the most common forms of drug and supplement administration. Available in various formats and materials, these capsules offer multiple benefits to both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. In this article, we will explore the different capsule formats, the types of materials used, their uses in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical fields, and the significant differences compared to classic tablets.


Capsule Formats

Pharmaceutical capsules are available in different formats that determine their size and filling capacity. The most common formats include:

  1. 00 capsules: These are among the largest capsules and may contain a larger amount of active ingredient or supplement. They are often used when higher doses or mixtures of substances need to be administered.
  2. 0 capsules: Slightly smaller than the 00 capsules, they are suitable for medium doses or for substances in moderate quantities.
  3. 1-capsules: Even smaller, these capsules are ideal for smaller doses or highly concentrated substances.
  4. 2-capsules: 2-capsules are among the smallest and contain minimal amounts of active substance. They are often used for supplements in small doses.

Types of Materials

Capsules can be made from various materials, each with its own specific characteristics:

  1. Food Gelatin: Gelatin is the most traditional and widely used material for capsule production. It is of animal origin and dissolves easily in the stomach, allowing rapid absorption of the active ingredient. However, it is not suitable for vegetarians or those on a kosher or halal diet.
  2. Cellulose: Cellulose capsules are an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans as they are made from plant materials. They are highly biocompatible and dissolve similarly to gelatin.
  3. Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (HPMC): This material is a variant of cellulose and is used for vegetarian capsules. It offers greater stability than standard cellulose.

Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Uses

Capsules are widely used in both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sectors:

  • Pharmaceutical: Pharmaceutical capsules are often used to administer drugs in specific doses and to improve the solubility of active substances. They provide a precise dosage option and avoid the unpleasant taste of liquid drugs.
  • Nutraceuticals: In nutraceuticals, capsules are commonly used for the administration of dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals, herbs and other health-beneficial compounds. They allow accurate dosing and protection against oxidation and degradation of active ingredients.

Differences Compared to Tablets

Capsules differ from tablets in several ways:

  • Absorption: Capsules dissolve more quickly than tablets, allowing faster absorption of the active ingredients.
  • Dissolution: Tablets take slightly longer to dissolve in the stomach, which may affect absorption.
  • Precise dosing: Capsules allow more precise dosing than tablets, especially when specific amounts of active ingredient need to be administered.
  • Materials: While capsules may be made of various materials, tablets are often compressed by pressure and may contain added binders or excipients.


Pharmaceutical capsules are a versatile and widely used form of drug and supplement delivery. With various formats and materials to choose from, they offer a solution for different needs and preferences. In both the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical fields, these capsules provide an effective way to administer active ingredients with precise dosages and optimal absorption times.

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