Supplements come in many forms. Do not buy ones that have some form of sugar included. Sugar suppresses the immune system and depletes nutrients. The following lists some of the most common forms.
- Caplets elongated tablets, easier to swallow, but may take longer to dissolve
- Capsules a two-piece gelatin (or vegetarian) form that holds powders; easy to swallow and usually have fewer additives than tablets; can be pulled apart and contents sprinkled into other foods; readily dissolve, but more difficult to absorb
- Chelated a process by which a mineral is bonded to another substance (chelator usually an amino acid [protein]) to enhance the absorption of the mineral; most minerals in their natural (salt) state cannot be absorbed but, if chelated, absorbability increases by more than 50%
- Chewables flavored and sweetened; therefore, not a highly recommended source for nutrients; unfortunately, many children’s supplements are chewable thus defeating their purpose
- Creams oil-and-water mixtures that are partially absorbed into the skin, allowing it to breathe while keeping in moisture; often used to cleanse and relieve rashes, insect bites, or sunburns
- Essential Oils extractions from herbs, then distilled to form potent concentrations that are placed in a neutral carrier oil before use on the skin; although not recommened for internal use, the one exception is peppermint oil; a drop or two on the tongue helps alleviate bad breath, indigestion, excessive gas, and bloating
- Gels and Ointments fats or oils that contain aromatic herbs which can be used topically for such things as rashes, wounds, sprains, or bruises
- Liquids flavored and sweetened for oral use; easier to absorb than other forms; topical liquids include eyedrops or ear drops
- Lozenges tablets that are designed to dissolve gradually in the mouth; examples include those for sore throats, vitamin supplements, homeopathic medicines, and sleep aids
- Oils extractions from seeds; cold-pressed oils are nutritionally superior and are higher in the essential omega fatty acids; other forms of processing leave few nutrients; (For more information, see here.)
- Orthomolecular forms individually formulated to offer the appropriate biochemical nutrient to a preferred location at the right time
- Powders are for those who have difficulty swallowing pills; can be stirred into a liquid or food; usually cheaper than pills
- Softgels filled with liquid substances; easier to swallow and absorb; the favoured form for fat-soluble vitamins
- Standardized Extracts a term used by herbalists to describe the precise dosage or consistency (standardized) of an herbal product.
- Sublingual tablets are designed to dissolve under the tongue for quick absorption directly into the bloodstream without interference from stomach acids and digestive enzymes; vitamin B12 is the most common one that uses this form
- Tablets compressed substances that are handy, easy to store, and generally keep longer than other forms, but they are more difficult to swallow; often contain additives used to bind, preserve, or give bulk to the supplement
- Teas, Infusions, and Decoctions are mild forms of herbal medicines; made by brewing fresh or dried parts of an herb; all of these liquid remedies must be used as soon as possible, otherwise they start to lose their potency when exposed to air; to retain some of their strength, they can be stored in tightly sealed glass jars for up to three days. (For more information see here.)
- Teas are made by steeping an herb in boiling water.
- Infusions steep an herb in very hot water (this preserves valuable oils that can be lost in the steam of boiled water); containers must be kept tightly closed during the process to avoid releasing the valuable oils into the air).
- Decoctions are reserved for tougher parts of an herb (roots or stems) and must be simmered for at least half an hour.
- Timed- or Sustained-release gelatin capsules containing microcapsules that gradually break down for release into the bloodstream over a 2 to 10-hour time-span: HOWEVER, the gel-like substance that acts to delay the release actually interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins; AND, they are associated with liver problems and toxicity as they often do not break down in all people as intended
- Tinctures concentrated liquids made by soaking the whole herb or its parts in a medium (water, glycerine, apple cider vinegar, ethyl alcohol, or diluted vodka) concentrating the herb’s active components. Tinctures are taken in small doses, using a dropper.
Pam Duff, RN, CSNC