What Is Grape Seed Extract and Why Do People Take It?

grape seed extract

Did your parents tell you to spit out the seeds from grapes when you were a kid? If they did, they might have been wrong. Scientists are finding out that grape seed extract can actually benefit many features of our health.

From acne to high blood pressure and even Alzheimer’s, in this article we break down the best uses for this dietary supplement.

 

What is Grape Seed Extract (GSE)?

Grape seed extract was developed in the 1970’s but GSE or vitis vinifera has been used in raw form since ancient Greece to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions.

This bitter tasting supplement is made from the powdered seeds of red wine grapes. Not to be confused with similar products such as resveratrol (also from grapes) or Pycnogenol® (same molecule, different source), this natural extract offers a wide variety of benefits.

We’ll answer all your questions, including “Is grapeseed oil good for you?” Careful though: if you’re allergic to grapes, grape seeds won’t process any easier.

 

How It Works

Grape seed extracts are full of antioxidants, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavonoids and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). But what do all these big words in little grapes do in a body?

For starters, the antioxidant capacity alone is 20 times greater than vitamin E and 50 times greater than vitamin C. This combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may be the key to unlocking healing for many health issues.

 

Health Benefits of Grape Seed Extract

1. Supports Heart Health

High Blood Pressure

A post examination of 16 studies including 810 people with high blood pressure treated with grape seed extract revealed significant results. A lower dose of 100-800 milligrams per day yielded the best results with a notable reduction of both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

Patients who were either obese, under 50 years old, or had a metabolic syndrome exhibited the most measurable improvement. (1)

Sometimes, you just need help getting your numbers down even if you don’t have full-blown high blood pressure, but are getting closer to the top of the healthy range. Grape seed extract has been found to be a safe, easy addition for people with prehypertension. (2)

There is good news for people with prehypertension who want an active lifestyle. A single 300-milligram dose of grape seed extract reduces blood pressure, peripheral vasoconstriction, work of the heart, and enhances O2 delivery during exercise. GSE could minimize the risk of cardiovascular events during exercise by helping the heart work more efficiently. (3)

Heart Rate and Blood Flow

Heart disease is no joke and many people find themselves with a family history that puts them in the “at risk” status automatically. This can be scary and feel as though there is no escaping a fate chosen for you.

Grape seed extract can prove to be a great preventative measure for people not experiencing issues yet. Products flush with flavonols like wine or grape seed extract show potential in supporting vascular function with cardio-protective changes in the body. (45)

Blood vessels need to move and sitting in an office all day doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing from 9 to 5.

A group of healthy young women who received a single 400-milligram dose of grape seed extract and then spent the next 6 hours sitting found that leg volume distension, extracellular fluid, and leg water were decreased. With the increase in blood flow, they showed a marked difference to those who received a placebo. (6)

These studies show hope for those dealing with chronic venous insufficiency. However, they were small and prompt a need for larger, more conclusive results.

High Cholesterol

Higher levels of LDL cholesterol put people at risk for cardiovascular disease. Some studies show that grape seed extract can have a slightly positive influence on these numbers. They might reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol and the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. (7)

But we really should stress the “slight.” Grape seed benefits in studies are minimal at best and other studies even show no significant influence. (8)

 

2. Speeds Up Wound Healing

Would you like superpowers? What if I told you GSE gave you the power of speed and levitation?

Well, that is actually the combination required for flight…and I would be lying. But, grape seed extract might actually speed up wound healing by almost half, which is still a pretty cool power.

Studies done in animals and humans show that grape seed extract can be applied in a topical cream to repair wounds more efficiently. Wounds on people were completely repaired in an average of 8 days compared to the untreated 14 days.

“Proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract trigger the release of vascular endothelial growth factor and its topical application causes wound contraction and closure.” Sounds like lab-developed super healing to me! (91011)

These studies also observed additional anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties that are effective in wound healing.

A GSE cream could also be a safe and effective treatment for several skin conditions. One study showed an effect of grape seed extract on melanin, elasticity, and sebum (oil that keeps skin and hair moisturized). It is hypothesized that a GSE cream could be a safe and effective treatment for skin damage or conditions like hyperpigmentation, acne, or premature aging. (12)

Grape seed extract health benefits for skin are new and exciting and should spur further research.

 

3. Reduces Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Lipotoxicity

High-fat diets can be good for the right situation. But the consumption of lots of carbs and fatty acids together for long periods of time make for big inseams and unhealthy bodies.

In one animal study, grape seed extract rebuffed all the damaging effects of a high-fat diet on pancreatic function, lipotoxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammation. It didn’t, however, stop the rats from becoming fat. (13)

But another study did. Grape seed extract had a “significant preventative effect against high-fat diet induced obesity.” It also provided proof to be a potential method against damages in lung tissue. (14)

For those at risk for fat-induced liver lipotoxicity, GSE might one day be a preventative agent for that and other nonalcoholic liver diseases. (15)

The bottom line is that even though the promises are abundant, these studies for grapeseed oil uses are still mostly in animals and need to be confirmed through larger, double-blind human trials.

 

4. Supports Bone Health

You take your vitamins and consume quantities of calcium… your bones are plenty strong, right? They could be even stronger.

Animal studies show that grape seed extract can improve bone formation, bone density, bone strength, and collagen synthesis, whether given to subjects with low- or high-calcium diets. (1617)

Rheumatoid arthritis causes severe inflammation of the joints and is even associated with bone destruction. Studies in animals demonstrated that grape seed extract may be beneficial for the treatment of inflammation-associated bone destruction. (1819)

One animal study showed even more promise. Scientists injected grape seed proanthocyanidin extract into mice with collagen-induced arthritis and found that similar injections could help humans with rheumatoid arthritis. (20)

Although scientists have seen a significant reduction of pain, spurs, and damage in mice, studies are still needed to verify the grapeseed oil benefits in humans.

 

5. Protects Cognitive Function

Consistent consumption of flavonoids (contained in GSE) has been linked to a decline in the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Not only do flavonoids have a powerful antioxidant value, they also provide neuroprotective properties by interacting with cell signaling paths, records, and adaptations that deal with cell function. (21)

Gallic acid (part of GSE) has been tested in animals and inhibits the formations of amyloid groups. These molecules group together and form plaques that may indicate Alzheimer’s disease. (22)

Grape seed extract, again in animal studies, touts capabilities of improving brain cognition and antioxidants, preventing memory loss, reducing lesions on the brain and amyloid clusters. But it isn’t close to being proven scientifically for humans. As a potentially effective Alzheimer’s treatment, there must be many more definitive studies. (23242526)

Because of the promise of these early studies, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH; part of the NIH) is sponsoring human trials for grape seed extract and Alzheimer’s.

One human study of 111 mature adults showed that taking 150 mg of grape seed extract each day enhanced memory, language, and attention. (27)

 

6. May Be New Form of Cancer Treatment

Cancer has become a prevalent part of the discussion on disease and the 2nd leading cause of death around the world. (28)

Abnormal cells grow and invade the body originating from complex situations inside and out of our control. DNA damage is a hallmark of cancer. But high antioxidant absorption, including proanthocyanidins and flavonoids (both found in GSE), provide a diminished risk of assorted cancers. (2930)

One promising study said, “GSE intervention may serve as a multitargeted colorectal cancer therapeutics, capable of inducing selective cancer cell death.” Colorectal cancer sits at the number 3 spot for cancer-related deaths. (3132)

In labs, we have seen the beginning stages of using grape seed extract to inhibit breast cancer, gastric, lung, oral, prostate, liver, and pancreatic cancers. (333435)

In animal studies, chemotherapy effects have been bolstered with the use of grape seed extract. In one study, GSE even surpassed standard chemotherapy as an anticancer treatment. (363738)

Interestingly, grape seed extracts selectively protected against free radical damage and liver toxicity and concurrently targeted chemotherapy affecting cancer cells. (394041)

But human studies are still needed to confirm the same efficacy as in test tubes and animals. Right now, the National Cancer Institute is funding research to do just that.

 

7. Improves Kidney Function

Oxidative damage is particularly harmful in kidneys and is seldom reversible. Some studies completed in animals found that grape seed extract can combat oxidative stress, damage, and inflammation in kidneys. (424344)

23 people suffering from kidney failure were administered 2 grams of grape seed extract every day for 6 months. Their urinary protein went down three percent, while kidney filtration increased by nine percent. (45)

 

8. Fights Infection

Traditional medicine is great, but you may not want to run to the doctor for every tiny problem. Grape seed extract might be a solution for people infected with Candida albicans.

Candida is thought to be “the most common causative agent in human fungal infections.” (46)

This infection can present itself as several things including genital yeast, skin fungal, and oral thrush infections, which can have a negative impact on the immune system.

Good news for alternative medicine: In an animal study, subjects infected with vaginal candidiasis were treated with a grape seed extract cleansing agent. After five days, the infection growth was stunted and practically cured after eight days. (47)

Infections like these are common and can spread and reoccur without warning. Human studies are needed to determine the effects and benefits of grapeseed oil.

 

9. May Treat a Genetic Iron Condition

In addition to their research on grape seed extract and Alzheimer’s, the NCCIH is conducting studies on the ability of grape seed to treat hereditary hemochromatosis. This genetic disease causes your body to absorb too much iron, and grape seed extract may inhibit some of this absorption. (48)

 

grapeseed close-up

Grape Seed Extract Side Effects and Precautions

Certain sources list side effects like headache, itchy scalp, dizziness, or nausea that may occur when you take grape seed extract for a long period of time. But in human studies, grape seed extract powder is generally considered safe and well tolerated. A group of 29 healthy Japanese subjects received up to 2500 mg orally each day with no side effects and no one dropped out of the study. (49)

Anyone allergic to grapes should not take grape seed extract. Because it might interact with iron absorption, it’s probably best to avoid grape seed extract if you have an iron deficiency.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking grape seed extract because of insufficient data for this population.

A word of caution to people on blood thinners or blood pressure medication: Grape seed extract could thin your blood, increase blood flow, and reduce your blood pressure.

As always, consult your doctor for medical advice and any drug interactions before adding new supplements to your daily regimen.

Another important precaution to note for grape seed extract is the number of conditions this supplement is said to reverse or treat, without scientific proof. Many articles state you can use GSE for the following conditions, but we were unable to find any supporting research to back up those claims:

  • Edema (swelling) caused by radiation for breast cancer
  • Weight loss
  • Insulin sensitivity

 

How to Take

300-800 milligrams daily seems to be the sweet spot for regular grape seed extract dosage. Single doses of 400 milligrams can be effective to reduce leg swelling from prolonged periods of sitting.

GSE ointment can be applied to wounds or skin conditions until healed.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Grape seed extract vs Pycnogenol: what’s the difference?
A: Both seem to be equally effective, but GSE tends to be more cost-effective.

 

Q: Can you use grape seed extract for dogs?
A: Yes, it has been successfully administered to dogs to prevent blood clots. (50)

 

Q: Can grape seed extract cause digestive problems?
A: If you are allergic to grapes, GSE will cause a reaction. Taking GSE doesn’t seem to cause diarrhea like eating too many grapes would. However, grape seed extract oil might cause diarrhea and upset stomach.

 

Q: Do grape seed extract benefits include hair growth?
A: Yes, in animals it has been shown to increase the number of hair follicle cells. (51)

 

Q: Is there a grape seed extract testosterone effect?
A: Kind of: An increase has not yet been observed, but animal studies have shown to reduce the amount of testosterone lost. (52)

 

Q: What is the difference between grapeseed extract and oil?
A: Grape seed oil benefits are the same as comparable doses of GSE. The major difference is how each product is processed.

Summary

  • Grape seed extract shows solid evidence for aiding cardiovascular health.
  • There is promising research for its impact on skin conditions, inflammation, and infection fighting.
  • Many more human studies need to be done before grape seed extract can be touted as a supplement staple.

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