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Cellulosic Polymers

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 20, 2023.

Excipient (pharmacologically inactive substance)

What is it?

Cellulose is one of many polymers found in nature. Microcrystalline cellulose (C6H10O5)n is refined wood pulp. It is a white, free-flowing powder. Chemically, it is an inert substance, is not degraded during digestion and has no appreciable absorption. In large quantities it provides dietary bulk and may lead to a laxative effect.

Microcrystalline cellulose is a commonly used excipient in the pharmaceutical industry. It has excellent compressibility properties and is used in solid dose forms, such as tablets. Tablets can be formed that are hard, but dissolve quickly. Microcrystalline cellulose is the same as cellulose, except that it meets USP standards.[1]

It is also found in many processed food products, and may be used as an anti-caking agent, stabilizer, texture modifier, or suspending agent among other uses. According to the Select Committee on GRAS Substances, microcrystalline cellulose is generally regarded as safe when used in normal quantities. [2][3][4]


  1. [1]Dave RH. Overview of pharmaceutical excipients used in tablets and capsules. Drug Topics (online). Advanstar. 10/24/2008 Accessed 08/19/2011
  2. FDA’s SCOGS database; Microcrystalline cellulose, Report No. 25, 1979.; ID Code: 9004-57-3; Accessed July 28, 2011.
  3. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Corporate Document Repository. Compendium of Food Additive Specifications, Addendum 5. Microcrystalline cellulose. Accessed July 28, 2011
  4. US Dept of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service. Cellulose processing. Executive Summary. Accessed 7/28/2011.

Further information

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