Pills vs. Liquid vs. Capsules: What else is in there?

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Difference between Pills, Liquid and Capsules

Medicine can be administered in various ways. It may be injected, taken orally as pills, liquids or capsules or be applied on the affected area. This depends on the doctor’s prescription and also upon the preferences of the patients. If a medicine is more effective if it is injected directly into the affected area, then the doctor will specify this. On the other hand, if a patient cannot swallow pills, the doctor can advise liquid alternatives such as syrups which have the same curing effect.

It is important to not try self medication and always consult a doctor before taking medicine.


Pills are solid pharmacological oral types of medicine of various shapes and sizes. They were the alternative to injections before tablets and capsules appeared on the market.

Pills contain an active ingredient often mixed with glucose syrup and coated with sugar to mask the bitter taste.

Liquid medicine is a pharmacological oral type of medicine sold under the form of syrups, solutions and mixtures. It can be easily swallowed by children, older people and people having difficulty in swallowing pills. The bitter taste is covered up by ingredients making it sweet and flavored.

Capsules are solid and liquid pharmacological oral types of medicine characterized by the fact that the outer shell protects the mixture of active ingredients until it reaches its intended medium where the content is released. Hard-shelled capsules can store powdery medicine, while soft shells can store oils.


As many studies have shown, liquid medicine is absorbed faster than pills and capsules which have a delayed release time. The nutrients in pills and capsules are not fully absorbed, but only 10% to 20% of the active ingredients actually reaches its intended target.

As a general rule, synthetic chemical nutrients require a longer time to be absorbed even if they are part of pills, liquid medicine or capsules. Some capsules use the delayed release time to reach the proper organ and then release the content designed to cure it.

Expiration Date

Liquid medicine has a shorter shelf life than pills and capsules. This is due to the fact that solids tend to preserve their characteristics for a longer period of time. Liquid medicine, on the other hand, may lose its potency through interaction with the environment. For instance, cough syrup can lose its effect through repeated uncapping of the bottle.

Pills are protected by plastic foliage, while capsules are protected by their shells. In any case, it is very important to throw away all expired medication.

Similarities and Differences

  • Pills are solid oral types of medicine. Liquid medicine is a liquid oral type of medicine. Capsules can be solid or liquid types of oral medicine.
  • Liquids are absorbed faster than pills and capsules which have delayed released time.
  • Liquids have a shorter shelf life than pills and capsules.
  • Throw away expired medicines.

Which form of pain reliever is easiest to swallow?
  • Pills
  • Liquid
  • Capsules

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