Buying supplements as a powder (or as a bottled oil) can be much less expensive than buying pills. It can also be more convenient if you have trouble swallowing pills or if you need to adjust the dose. But some supplements have a tendency to accumulate water and there are some risks to consider -- as well as remedies to these risks.
Sugars have a tendency to accumulate water, so supplements like D-Ribose will be prone to clumping. Similarly, supplement ingredients like herbal extracts that have been spray dried with maltodextrin (a sugar) during processing will also have a tendency to accumulate water and clump.
Generally speaking, clumping is not a concern; the real concern is when a supplement begins to liquefy (become liquid). This indicates a moisture level of 10% or higher, which can support mold and bacterial growth. If your powder supplement begins to liquefy, you should dispose of it.
Tableting and capsulation can help protect the physical stability and extend the shelf life of powders. However, if you prefer the powder form of your supplement there are some options to help prevent clumping and liquefying.
1. Store in smaller containers
Consider buying or storing your powder in smaller containers rather than one large one. Each time a container is opened more moisture is introduced (particularly if the container has been refrigerated, as water may condense on the bottle), so small containers allow for less of the powder to be exposed to moisture each time you need to get some of the powder.
2. Use a silica gel packet
Consider purchasing a supply of silica gel packets, which can be bought on large online retail websites for around $6.00/20 packets. Secure one to the inside on the cap of your powder container when you first open it. The silica gel packet will help absorb any moisture that makes its way into the container. Of course, as these packets warn, never eat these packets or the contents of the packet!
3. Encapsulate powders
If swallowing capsules is not an issue, you can buy your supplement in powder form and encapsulate it yourself with an at-home encapsulation machine. Do not be intimated by the name -- this simple device is easy to use, and requires no electricity or technology know-how. It consists of a small box with holes that hold one half of an empty capsule in an upright position. You pour the powder over the holes, and then place the other half of the capsule on top to close. Home encapsulation machines and capsules to fill can be found online for around $20.00.
ConsumerLab.com has tested and compared many types of supplements sold in powdered form, including the following: