The many uses of grapeseed extract
Grapeseed extract is exactly what it sounds like: an extract from grape seeds. The seeds are typically from red grapes, which are high in compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), such as catechins and epicatechins. These OPCs are also found in a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers, certain herbs, pine bark and green tea. OPCs have numerous beneficial actions within your body.
An explorer’s saviour
The history of OPC use dates back to the winter of 1534–35 when French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew were trapped in ice when exploring the St Lawrence River in North America. They were forced to survive on salted meat and stale biscuits and consequently suffered from scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.
Cartier saved his crew, thanks to the advice from a Native American, by brewing a tea from pine bark and needles. More than 400 years later, in 1950, the French Professor Jacques Masquelier of the University of Bordeaux read Cartier’s book on his experiences and reasoned that the pine needles had not contained enough vitamin C to completely account for the recovery of Cartier’s crew and the effectiveness of the vitamin C must therefore have been enhanced by certain properties in the pine bark.
Masquelier and his colleagues investigated the properties of pine bark and identified a class of bioflavonoids which he named proanthocyanidins, or oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). Professor Masquelier extracted OPCs from pine bark and, years later, from grape seeds, now considered a superior source of OPCs.
A potent antioxidant
The OPCs in grapeseed extract protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation, which produces oxygen free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can damage cell function and increase the risk of degenerative diseases. OPCs work in a number of ways, such as lessening oxidation, inactivating oxygen free radicals and helping to restore at least some normal functioning to damaged tissues.
The free radical scavenging activity of grapeseed extract has been well documented. Studies have shown grapeseed extract is a better inhibitor of oxidative tissue damage than vitamin C, vitamin E and betacarotene.
Grapeseed extract is used for cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poor circulation. Proanthocyanidins protect blood vessels and the cardiovascular system from damage by free radicals, oxidised cholesterol and other harmful components of metabolism, thereby reducing the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
Grapeseed extract also affects enzymes that influence blood-fluid balances and so may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. Research has also shown that grapeseed extract lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol).
Blood vessel strengthener
In some conditions, such as inflammatory diseases or diabetes, vascular permeability can be abnormally increased. Grapeseed extract helps to stabilise capillary walls and prevents increases in capillary permeability. Connective tissue, blood vessels and capillary walls are all supported structurally by a collagen matrix. Grapeseed extract helps to prevent destruction of collagen by promoting the reinforcement of the natural cross-linking of collagen fibres.
Grapeseed extract also plays a role in the maintenance of elastin, another critical protein in connective tissue that supports organs, joints, blood vessels and muscle. This strengthening action on blood vessels may also help to prevent the formation of varicose veins.
A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that the catechins and epicatechins in grapeseed extract may be beneficial in reducing the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s, amyloid beta accumulates to form toxic plaques that disrupt normal brain function. Grapeseed extract was shown to prevent amyloid beta accumulation in cells, suggesting it may block the formation of plaques.
A range of actions
- Studies have shown grapeseed extract is able to help suppress tumour growth and has cytotoxic activity against a range of cancer cells including breast, lung, prostate and gastric cancer cells.
- The catechins in grapeseed extract help reduce allergic res/ponses by inhibiting enzymes involved in the formation of histamine.
- Other conditions for which grapeseed extract may be useful include arthritis, diabetic retinopathy, vision problems such as macular degeneration, eye strain and swelling after an injury or surgery. It is also good for wound healing (topically) and anti-ulcer activity on gastric mucosal lesions, and as a blood thinner.
How do you take it?
The dose for therapeutic purposes is 12000mg of grapeseed extract taken two to three times daily standardised to provide 150–300mg a day of OPCs. Grapeseed extract can decrease iron absorption, so separate doses by two hours.
Grapeseed extract is extremely well tolerated. However, if you are taking anticoagulant medication talk to your healthcare professional before taking grapeseed extract since some proanthocyanidins have been found to possess anti-platelet activity comparable to that of aspirin. Those preparing for surgery should also refrain from consuming grapeseed extract for at least one week before the procedure.
Grapeseed at a glance
- Super antioxidant
- Heart protector
- Blood vessel protector
- Reduces Alzheimer’s risk
- Reduces cancer risk
- Eases allergies