Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to make Herbal capsule

Choosing and buying herbs

Any kind of dried herb's leaves, flowers and thin stems can be used. Consult your herbalist about your own needs and follow his instructions regarding the appropriate dose. He will determine if encapsulated herbs are the best way to treat your symptoms and will prescribe the correct dose. Buy only fresh herbs and, if possible, try to know if they were grown without the use of pesticides.

Contrary to what happens when buying herbs for flavoring oils, where it is possible to intuitively estimate how much fresh herbs will be needed, it is difficult to guess the amount dried powder that will result from a bunch of fresh herbs. The volume reduction is quite big and varies from herb to herb. In the case here described, encapsulating the powder of Ginkgo Biloba dried leaves, the decrease in volume is about tenfold: one dry volume unit of Ginkgo leaves will yield ten times less dried powder. Only experience will tell how much fresh herbs are needed. Considering that dried herbal powders can be stored for long times and that most common herbs are not expensive, buying more is a safe bet to make the desired number of capsules.


The herbs should be thoroughly washed and the excess water removed with kitchen tissue paper or a salad centrifuge. After carefully selecting the stems having more leaves and removing those with any kind of strange spots or deposited matter, they should be tied up in bunches with a piece of string or something that will not react with the plant. Enough space should be left between leaves and branches so that air circulation is not prevented. Tight or bulky bunches will not allow good aeration and will stimulate mould and rot formation in the early stages of the drying process.

In a dry corner of the house, place a string or thin rope from wall to wall the higher you can (it is warmer). Hang up the bunches from the string , leaves down, and let them until they are fully dry. The drying time will depend on the thickness of the stems and leaves and on the room's temperature and aeration. It is not difficult to judge when drying is complete. Simply break a small piece of the thicker part of a stem. It should break with ease. The color will also have changed loosing most of its fresh green tones.

Prepare and grind

Dispose the dried stems over a clean table and make a final selection of the material to be ground. In the example described, only the leaves of Ginkgo Biloba were used. The stems were cut out with a with a pair of scissors.

The next step is reduce the leaves to a fine powder. One may use any grinding device that can do this kind of operation. One of the most practical and less expensive is the small electric coffee grinder used to reduce roasted coffee beans to powder. The procedure described uses this familiar kitchenware.

As mentioned before, a great volume of Ginko dried leaves has to be reduced to a small amount of powder. This means that the big pile of leaves will have to be ground in small portions. Start by loading as many leaves as possible in the grinder, without overloading or pressing them in. The leaves should not form a compact mass that may hinder the free rotation of the grinding blade. If this happens the electric motor may be damaged.

Grinder's bowl full of leaves

Grind the first load until it is reduced to a coarse texture and load a new charge of leaves on top of it. After the coarse mixture reaches two thirds of the grinder's bowl, stop loading new leaves and grind the coarse mixture until it is reduced to powder. Discharge the powder into a glass container and continue to repeat the operations until all dried leaves are reduced to powder. The powder can be stored if one does not want to encapsulate the herb immediately.

Coarse ground Ginkgo leaves


Gelatine capsules where used to hold the Ginkgo powder. They come in several capacities, usually expressed in milligrams of dry material contained. Jelly capsules are easy to swallow and do not require any additional hardware to be filled up. The snag with this kind of enclosure is that they are usually sold only in big quantities like a thousand units. However, they are very cheap and one may get a smaller number from a friendly health store that makes use of them for several purposes.

Gelatine capsules


When filling gel capsules for the first time, you may find this operation quite difficult but once you learn the trick, it will be easily done. Gelatine capsules consist of two parts, a cap and a base. They both have a thin inside rim on the portion that stays in contact when they are closed. The rims slide one over the other and lock both parts together. Start by separating all caps from bodies in two different piles. Wear thin surgical gloves that you may get for free from your dentist or buy a box for a few dollars. Gel capsules will stick to anything wet, so be sure that the glove's outside surface is dry.

Pour a good quantity of powder into a cylindrical plastic or glass bowl about 2.5 inches in diameter and 3.0 inches deep. Pick up a capsule's base (the larger part) and immerse its open end into the powder. Repeat the operation but now move it inside the powder towards the bow's wall. Press it firmly against the powder between the capsule's tip and the wall. Take it out with its open end up in order to avoid loosing the powder inside. Pick up a capsule's cap and slide it over the filled base. One may feel when both parts lock together. To ensure the even distribution of the powder inside the capsule, gently tap over its surface until the powder fills evenly both sides. If you fail to have a fully and evenly filled capsule, apply more pressure when you are filling the base with powder. It is the expansion on the pressed powder inside the base that will fill its cap.

Glass bowl with powder


Capsules that will be consumed immediately after preparation do not require special precautions other than being kept in a bottle that can be tightly closed. One may use empty vitamin bottles for this purpose. On the other end, powders do require some extra care. Preference should be given to amber glass bottles tight closing caps. Again, certain vitamin brands do have these kind of bottles. Store them in a dry and dark place. Do not forget to label the capsule and powder bottles in order to avoid any mistakes. Clearly identify the container's content and the powder's production date.