“What is an excipient?” It’s one of the most common questions we receive in hard capsule manufacturing, and luckily, it’s also one of the easiest to answer.
An excipient is a filler agent used to increase the volume of a drug that a patient consumes when taking a medicine. Cannabis manufacturers looking to create professional quality capsules can use a brief lesson on the roles of excipients in drug development, and channel this information towards producing safe, well-branded cannabis capsules. Essentially, an excipient in a cannabis capsule can serve three purposes.
1. Creating a professional capsule product
One of the smallest capsule used for cannabis is a size 5, which can hold 100uL, or roughly 80 to 100 milligrams of material depending on a formulation’s density. If you want to produce a 5-milligram cannabis capsule with no excipient filler, which means you’re filling the smallest possible capsule with less than a drop of oil.
If the capsule is clear, patients might feel like they are being cheated out of the full dosage. To avoid the consumer stigma against a seemingly empty capsule, excipients are added to a formulation to achieve a full capsule, without altering its efficacy.
2. Using excipients to create synergistic effects
An excipient can be used to enhance the synergistic effects of a medicine. In a cannabis capsule, an indica strain of cannabis might be encapsulated with chamomile or melatonin powders as excipients in order to increase the synergistic effects of sleepiness.
The same synergistic effects can be formulated for sativa and CBD-based formulas as well. Just like the nutraceutical world, the compounding of cannabis with other ingredients to create synergistic effects has an endless amount of combinations and possibilities. Because of cannabidiol’s effectiveness, it is often compounded with other vitamins and minerals to create a super-blend capsule.
3. Achieving accurate dosages
Lastly, active ingredients found in medications are typically very concentrated. Since humans cannot consume a standard dose in nanoparticles, the active ingredient can be dissolved into a consumable and dissolvable excipient. Drugs are sometimes even better off dissolved into an excipient, as is the case with cannabis, where we want the active THC molecules to attach themselves to the chain of fatty acids found in many excipient oils.
The excipient also brings much-needed standardization and scalability to cannabis capsule manufacturing by introducing specific formulations based on purity concentration. For example, when a cannabis concentrate is dissolved into an excipient oil, it can easily be dosed into even and accurate amounts. Because capsules have set volume capacities per size, it is easy to create a formulation with the exact amount of desired active ingredient per capsule.
A size 4 capsule has a total volume capacity of .2mL or 200uL. Based on this capsule size, we can decide how much excipient oil is needed to divide the total active ingredient into the proper amount of capsules. For example, one gram of cannabis concentrate with a THC purity of 80 percent will give us 800mg of THC for every weighted gram of concentrate.
If we dissolve the active THC into an excipient oil, we can now do the calculations to divide the total mixture evenly to dose each capsule with the proper concentration of THC.
Accurate dosages will drastically increase the overall acceptance and credibility of the cannabis industry.
Excipients are a necessary part of proper cannabis encapsulation. Not only do they add a professional look to a capsule, they can be used to increase desired active effects, creating a superior capsule product for you and your customers.