Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tutorial: How to cap your own herbal pills

Today I'm going to show you how to cap your own herbal pills. I decided to do this because of the very good cost savings and because I'm a do-it-yourself control freak. It's a bit fussy and took several hours, mostly because I had to 'grind to a powder' one of the ingredients (Bitter Melon, in the photo above) before I could pill everything up.

My coffee grinder was not exactly up to the task. It ground up the Bitter Melon well enough but got overheated and pooped out before I could do it all. I got enough to do my blend though...

First, buy your herbs! The photo above is dried Bitter Melon. I use the wonderful Internet site Mountain Rose Herbs. They've been in business since 1987 and have a large selection of loose herbs, teas, oils, tinctures, extracts, spices, and hydrosols, as well as containers, tools and utensils and assorted other yummies. Their prices are very competitive and the web site is a breeze to use.

The vast majority of their herbs are either organic or wildcrafted and are of a very high quality. My sister and her husband have been using them for years and are very pleased with their service. I got my first shipment from them several days ago and am very happy with my purchase.

I decided to make a herbal concoction to help me balance my blood sugar and curb my food cravings. My research led me to a combination of herbs and trace minerals that I hope will do the trick for me.

Here's the list of ingredients:

Banaba leaf extract 
I take these two separately. They're not going into my blend but they're a part of my daily blood stabilizer combination.

Next, the recipe!

Based on some of the herbal concoctions I have been researching, I came up with this proportionate recipe for the herbs I intend to cap. I bought both the Chromium Picolinate and the Policosanol at my local Health food store already capped. Both of these require very small amounts to be consumed every day and I couldn't cap them accurately myself.

  • 1 part Banaba leaf 
  • 5 parts Gymnema
  • 5 parts Cinnamon
  • 5 parts Fenugreek
  • 10 parts Bitter Melon

26 parts total in each pill and to make up my batch. I decided to use 1 quarter cup as my 1 part measure.

I decided to use size "0" vegetarian capsules (again from Mountain Rose Herbs) which hold approximately 680 mgs of material. Using this number as the basis of my math, I figured that if I have a total of 26 parts of herbs in my concoction, that each part will weigh 26.15 mgs (26 divided into 680 mgs)

This means that in each pill there will be:

  • 26.15 mgs of Banaba Leaf Extract........25.3 grams per 1/4th cup
  • 130.75 mgs of Gymnema Sylvestre.......24.9 grams per 1/4th cup
  • 130.75 mgs of Cinnamon...................24.3 grams per 1/4th cup
  • 130.75 mgs of Fenugreek...................26.9 grams per 1/4th cup
  • 261.5 mgs of Bitter Melon..................18.8 grams per 1/4th cup

These amounts are approximate, but reasonably accurate.

I also weighed each herb as I measured it out by the quarter cup. The weights are also listed above.

My annoying little coffee grinder and the bag of powdered Bitter Melon. 

Weighing the herbs. I'm lucky enough to have a very nice scale that weighs in grams, so this part was easy. Accurate weights are important if you need to be careful with your proportions. For this blend it's not essential, but I like to keep track of what I did in detail.

My Bitter Melon is done, so now it's on to assembling my blend of herbs. As you can see, I have my scale, a notebook for recording all the weights and stuff, measuring cups, the herbs and my trusty cup of coffee which will soon be off limits. Boo-hoo....

I used a 2 lb. sugar container to hold my herbal blend and it fit very well. Full to the brim, in fact. I spent a few minutes shaking the container to mix all the herbs well. I also wrote the recipe of the herb blend on a post-it and taped it to the container. So, when I need to remake it, I won't have to go dig up the recipe. The total amounts of each herb in my blend was as follows;

  • 1/4th C. Banaba Leaf
  • 1 1/4th C. Gymnema Sylvestre
  • 1 1/4th C.Cinnamon
  • 1 1/4th C.Fenugreek
  • 2 1/2 C. Biller Melon
6 and 1/2 cups total.

I didn't compute the amounts correctly on the label and had to change it later, so the amounts listed in the photograph are wrong. I did catch my mistake though. The amounts listed above are correct.

Time to cap the pills!

The assembly of the Cap-M-quik tray was beyond simple. You just put the little end pieces on the outer pegs, turn the higher side towards the inside of the tray and lower the holder piece with all the holes in it onto the 4 inner pegs.

Following the instructions on the back of the Cap-M-quik box, I pulled each cap apart and put the longer one into each of the holes in the tray. 50 holes in all. I put the short end in a little bowl for safe keeping.

Then I took about 1/4 cup of my herb mixture and spread it across the top of the tray. I used the little card scraper to move the herbs into all the little holes. There's no need to use any force to cram the herb in, it drops in nicely.

This is what happens when you don't read the simple instructions carefully enough. I pulled the tray off all the pills instead of turning the little end pieces and lowering the tray completely. I did it right the second time around.

Then just put the little ends back on the top of each pill and pull it out of the tray. I usually pushed the cap completely on once I got it out of the tray. They seem to click into place when on well. 

This Italian herb bottle was perfect to hold 300 of my newly capped herb pills. It took 1.5 cups of my herb blend to fill these 300 pills, and since each batch makes 6.5 cups, I end up getting about 1300 pills per batch. All told I spent 3 or 4 hours doing the whole thing, but I was computing, grinding and photographing too, so it will take you less time to finish without all these extra tasks.

I spent almost $80.00, including shipping, for all the herbs and the capsules (NOT including the chromium, $5.49 or the policosanol, $16.99). I bought a pound of each of the herbs except the banaba which was 3.3 oz. (The Cap-M-quik was $12.35, but as one time purchase I didn't include it as a part of the herb price.)

Since I get 3 and a half batches of herb blend from the amounts that I bought and I get 1300 pills from each batch I make, I end up getting about 4550 pills. ( I only get 2.5 batches from the Bitter melon, so add $10.00 to the cost.) The extra cost of 4000 more empty caps is $96.00. Since most pills come in 60-90 count bottles, at 90 pills per bottle I end up getting 50.5 bottles of herb blend for $186.00. That's $3.68 a bottle. Not bad, huh?

Happy capping!

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