Hypromellose Capsules for Supplements. Is it Safe?

Hypromellose. It is a self-hardening hydrogel[i]. It is not a highly regulated nor studied compound[ii]. Also known as HPMC, it has several side effects. There are several different types of vegetable cellulose that make up vegetable capsules, one of which is Hypromellose, that comes from softwood trees, such as pine, spruce and fir trees.[iii], i.e. wood pulp. It is an ingredient used in a wide variety of medications, and according to WebMD® it is a medicine and it may be harmful if swallowed if taken in liquid form[iv]. Hypromellose is the propylene glycol ether of methylcellulose[v]. Long-term exposure to the glycol ethers in humans may result in neurological and blood effects, including fatigue, nausea, tremor, and anemia[vi].

It also acts as a thickening agent, coating polymer, bioadhesive, solubility enhancer in solid dispersions, and binder in the process of granulation and in modified release formulations[vii].

Studies suggest that HPMC may seep into the skin and can cause mild to moderate skin allergies. Is includes rashes, hives, and scaly skin[viii]. May cause irritation of the digestive tract. The toxicological properties of this substance have not been fully investigated[ix].

George A. Burdock, Ph.D. President of the safety and regulatory consulting firm of Burdock Group, and leading authority on food ingredients, has some words of warning concerning microcrystalline cellulose;  “Our cells cannot stop the micro-nanoparticles from entering them, and once there, these particles, especially from cellulose from wood…” he would further go on and state that cells “are not able to be absorbed, but float in and out of the cell membranes, and basically clog up tiny places in our bodies, bio-accumulating as we ingest more, and cause background inflammation to rise.” He would also warn to “Steer clear of any and all products that use Microcrystalline Cellulose whose source is not indicated[x].

[i] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/hypromellos
[ii] https://naturalpedia.com/hydroxypropyl-methylcellulose-sources-health-risks.html
[iii] https://smpnutra.com/everything-to-know-about-vegetable-capsules-explained
[iv] https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-32846/artificial-tears-hypromellose/details
[v] https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/51654
[vi] Chronic (long-term) exposure to the glycol ethers in humans may result in neurological and blood effects, including fatigue, nausea, tremor, and anemia.
[vii] Al-Tabakha MM: HPMC capsules: current status and future prospects. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2010;13(3):428-42.
[viii] https://naturalpedia.com/hydroxypropyl-methylcellulose-sources-health-risks.html
[ix] https://www.kimacellulose.com/uploads/file/msds-hydroxypropyl-methylcellulose-phthalate.pdf
[x] https://www.integrativeholistichealth.org/information/dangers-of-microcrystalline-cellulose-filler-in-pharmaceuticals/