Important Facts About Grapefruit Seed Extract

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sliced grapefruit

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  • Nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants are abundant in organic grapefruit seed extract. It also contains sterols, vitamin C, citric acid, tocopherols, limonoids and trace minerals, which may all have profound effects on your health
  • GSE is used in agriculture for eliminating fungi and bacteria, preventing mold growth, killing parasites in animal feeds and helping preserve food and disinfect water

Have you ever accidentally bitten into a grapefruit seed and have its bitter taste explode in your mouth? You'll be surprised to find out that the small seed actually contains a number of nutrients — some of which may be potentially useful for your health.

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is touted by many health experts to have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.1,2 But as with any supplement, you must educate yourself about it before adding it to your health routine. Here are some facts about GSE you should know about.

What Is Grapefruit Seed Extract?

Made from the seeds, pulp and white membranes of grapefruits (Citrus paradisi), GSE is a liquid extract produced by grinding the grapefruit its juiceless pulp.3 There's medical literature behind it showing that it, indeed, does have potent antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties.4,5,6,7 It's also called citrus seed extract, and may be available in powder form as well.

The grapefruit itself was first discovered in Barbados during the 17th century. It was named as such due to the fruit growing in clusters or bunches — like grapes. It was only in 1823 when grapefruit reached American shores — in Florida, to be exact — that it began to be commercially cultivated.

The discovery of grapefruit seed extract was credited to Dr. Jacob Harich, a Yugoslavian-born physician who received his education in nuclear physics in Germany. After World War II, Harich devoted his life to making improvements in human health, delving into immunology and gynecology. He moved to Florida in 1963, where grapefruit was growing in abundance.8

There are conflicting stories on how Harich became greatly interested in grapefruit seeds, with some saying that the doctor noticed that the seeds do not decompose in plant fertilizer,9 while others claiming that he bit into a seed accidentally and noticed its bitterness.10 Whatever the method, it was Harich who processed grapefruit seeds and pulp into a highly acidic yet bitter-tasting liquid that was found to deactivate parasites, fungi and yeast, and viruses.11

Does Grapefruit Seed Extract Possess Any Health Benefits?

Nutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants are abundant in organic grapefruit seed extract. It also contains sterols, vitamin C, citric acid, tocopherols, limonoids and trace minerals, which may all have profound effects on your health.12,13

One example of a nutrient it contains is hesperidin, a bioflavonoid with natural immune-boosting properties.14 This is probably why this extract has been found to be effective against potentially harmful external and internal organisms.15 Grapefruit seed extract may be used against Candida, which causes thrush. One study published in 2001 found that using a 33 percent grapefruit seed extract was potent enough to work against this yeast.16

Another condition that grapefruit seed extract may be useful for is eczema,17 as well as other skin conditions. One study, published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, found that there is a strong association between eczema and recurring bacterial and fungal infections, and that using grapefruit seed extract helped inhibit Staphylococcus aureus growth. As a result, symptoms such as itchy skin were improved.18

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Commercial Uses of Grapefruit Seed Extract

GSE is used in agriculture for eliminating fungi and bacteria, preventing mold growth, killing parasites in animal feeds, and helping preserve food and disinfect water.19 Many disinfectants use GSE as an ingredient, and it's also used as a natural preservative in products to help eliminate bacteria and mold contaminants.

A 2014 study found that a composite film made from carrageenan and GSE can be used for active food packaging due to the combination's antibacterial activity against food-borne pathogens.20 In a 1998 study, it was found that spraying chicken skin with GSE helped reduce salmonella contamination.21 GSE was also found to be potentially effective in controlling foulbrood, a dangerous disease in bees (particularly honeybees), thanks to its antibacterial properties.22

Cosmetics have also used GSE as an ingredient. Grapefruit seed extract has been used in skin cleansers, dental rinses and mouthwash (for eliminating bad breath and gingivitis), and in ear and nasal rinses (for helping clear sinus infections).23

Studies Show Commercial Grapefruit Seed Extract May Contain Harmful Additives

There is one controversy surrounding grapefruit seed extract supplements, particularly their potential to contain synthetic ingredients. In fact, studies found that there are commercially marketed GSEs that harbor harmful ingredients like benzethonium chloride and triclosan.24

One study published in the journal Die Pharmazie in 1999 found that of six commercially available GSEs tested, all of them were found to have the preservative benzethonium chloride, as well as triclosan and methyl parabene.25 These synthetic chemicals may be hazardous to your health.
Triclosan, in particular, has been linked to an increased risk of antibiotic resistance.26

Hence, make sure that you verify the source before using any grapefruit seed extract product — make sure to only buy from a trustworthy manufacturer.

Grapefruit Seed Extract Side Effects

Children are not advised to take grapefruit seed extract. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also consult their doctor before using this extract. For safety reasons, always check with your physician before taking any supplement.27

GSE may have certain unfavorable effects on hypersensitive people, and may lead to symptoms such as nausea, gastralgia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sore throat and headache. Should any swelling or itching occur, rashes appear on your throat, face or tongue, or if you have trouble breathing and experience dizziness, seek medical attention immediately — these could be signs of a rare but severe allergic reaction.

Grapefruit seed extract should not be taken with any prescription medication as well, as it may have dangerous interactions with these medications. They are particularly dangerous with certain heart medications and estrogen supplements. They also interfere with sedatives sildenafil (Viagra).28 To be on the safe side, check with your doctor first before taking any form of this supplement.

The healthy "good" bacteria in your gut may become depleted if you take grapefruit extract on a long-term basis. If you plan to take it for three days or more, make sure you take a probiotic supplement two hours before taking the extract.29

Do Your Research Before Taking Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract may be one of the most impressive natural remedies out there, especially if you consider its antiviral, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. But be smart when buying this supplement — some manufacturers add synthetic chemicals to their GSE products, so make sure to read the label carefully.

Finally, make sure to watch out for any potential side effects. Should they manifest, contact your doctor and stop taking the product immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Grapefruit Seed Extract

Q: What is grapefruit seed extract good for?

A. Grapefruit seed extract is said to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it effective for deactivating parasites, fungi and yeast, and viruses.

Q: Where to buy grapefruit seed extract?

A. Grapefruit seed extract can be bought online or from local health stores. Make sure you buy from a trustworthy manufacturer who does not add synthetic chemicals into the extract.

Q: How to use grapefruit seed extract?

A. Grapefruit seed extract is available in supplement form as a liquid concentrate, tablet or capsule. The extract can be diluted in a glass of water to make its bitter flavor tolerable.

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