Rich in antioxidants
Grape seeds in particular are often extracted as these provide one of the most potent antioxidants found in nature. Antioxidants are believed to prevent and control numerous ailments by safeguarding cells against the ravages of unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. Grape seed extract contains a special class of water-soluble bioflavonoids called proanthocyanidins (PCOs). Studies have shown the antioxidant activity of these specific bioflavonoids is 20 to 50 times greater than Beta-Carotene or Vitamins C and E.
European doctors prescribe PCO-containing drugs for various vascular (vessel) disorders that are likely to benefit from increased blood flow, such as diabetes, leg cramps, varicose veins, arm and leg numbness or tingling and even impotence.
Grape seed has also been used as a dietary source of phenols (tocopherols), which inhibit fungal infections, and certain steroids such as campesterol, which can be beneficial in lowering LDLs and cholesterol.
The proanthocyanidins found in grape seed extract have also been shown to help promote the structural strength of blood vessels, help stabilise collagen, and maintain elastin. Collagen and elastin are two proteins found in connective tissue that support organs, joints, and muscles. By nourishing blood vessel walls and performing other renewing functions, grape seed extract helps promote healthy blood pressure levels, heart health, and a proper inflammation response.
For example, results from human case reports and some laboratory and animal studies appear to show that grape seed extract may help to prevent and treat heart diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Substances in grape seed extract may also block the effects of enzymes that process fats, including cholesterol, from the diet. Less fat may be absorbed and more may be eliminated from the body. Other research shows that grape seed extract may help to prevent or control damage to body cells that is caused by drugs, pollution, tobacco, and other toxins. While all of these studies appear promising, much more research, including long-term studies in humans, is needed to confirm initial findings.
It may be effective for slowing retinopathy, the gradual break down of the retinas in the eyes, usually due to blood vessel damage. Individuals with arteriosclerosis (a build up of fatty deposits in the arteries), diabetes, or other conditions that increase the likelihood for damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes are more likely to have serious vision problems as a result of that damage.
Grape seed extract may also reduce eye stress caused by bright lights, slow progression of macular degeneration and cataracts. Grape seed extract improves blood flow in the eye's tiny vessels, where certain eye diseases can cause blockages and impairments that result in vision damage. Cataracts are an example. The extract's antioxidant powers are of particular value in warding off the free-radical damage so frequently cited as the leading cause of macular degeneration.
This blood vessel strengthening effect of grape seed extract may also may also help to prevent and treat hemorrhoids and treat a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency, which occurs when valves in the veins that carry blood back to the heart are weak or damaged. The blood that collects in the veins of the legs can lead to varicose veins, spider veins, or sores on the legs.
A recent study of 38 smokers indicates that PCOs may function as effectively as aspirin in keeping blood cells from sticking together and forming blood clots (called an anticoagulant effect). And the PCOs posed no risk of the gastrointestinal irritation or bleeding generally associated with aspirin. Interestingly, another preliminary study using grape seed oil (which is related to grape seed extract) indicates that using 2 tablespoons a day to replace other oils in cooking could increase HDL ("good") cholesterol by 14% and reduce triglycerides by 15% in just four weeks.
One of the polyphenols contained in grape seed extract is called resveratrol. In laboratory and animal studies, resveratrol from grape seeds has appeared to interfere with cancer cell growth and division, as well as causing some cancer cells to disintegrate faster than they would ordinarily. In addition, it may also block enzymes that prolong the survival of several cancer cell types. As a result, tumours may either stop growing or actually shrink because higher than usual numbers of cancer cells die. Therefore, resveratrol may have direct anti-cancer activity. The antioxidants in grape seed extract work hard at helping to control cellular damage, routinely hunting down and neutralising mutations within the genetic material of cells that could lead to tumour formation. The development and progression of cancers of the lung, breast, stomach, prostate, colon, skin and other body parts may be stalled as a result.
It may also increase the effectiveness and/or lower the side effects of drugs currently used for cancer chemotherapy. One possible result is that taking resveratrol during chemotherapy may allow lower doses of cancer drugs to be effective, thereby limiting the potential for debilitating side effects. A similar effect was seen in laboratory studies of grape seed extract against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Although the exact ways that grape seed extract may fight HIV and other viruses are not known, it is thought that grape seed extract interferes with viral multiplication, possibly by preventing viral attachment to host cells. How high doses of resveratrol and other chemicals in grape seed extract may affect normal human cells is not yet known.
Fibromyalgia is an elusive disorder associated with chronic muscle pain and stiffness. The antioxidant power of grape seed extract can help minimize fibromylagia damage by protecting besieged muscle cells.
Disorders such as endometriosis, which are affected by the release of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, may benefit from the extract's ability to block the release of this pain and inflammation-causing chemical. Grape seed extract effectively penetrates cell membranes throughout the body with its antioxidant properties. It can even cross into the brain (traversing the blood-brain barrier) to protect brain cells from free-radical damage.
Skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema
Certain components within the skin--collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid--participate in keeping it healthy. PCOs help keep these substances in good shape by blocking enzymes that might disrupt their chemical structure. In this way, grape seed extract may be useful in treating inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis. Its flavonoids also inhibit allergic reactions that can generate such skin problems as eczema.
Lessen allergy symptoms
As a natural antihistamine, grape seed extract may help to control the sneezing, congestion and other hallmarks of an allergic reaction. The extract also inhibits the release of chemicals called prostaglandins that can generate inflammation during an allergic response. Working in concert, the nutrient's antihistamine and anti-inflammatory actions can help to keep at bay such allergic responses as hives, hay fever and eczema.
Researchers have discovered that Grape Seed Extract can help defeat the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which stops the hair follicle growth cycle. Grape Seed Extract can help stimulate healthy hair growth.
How to Use
To realize a consistent benefit from grape seed extract, you need to take it regularly. Only about 30% of its PCOs remain in your body 24 hours after taking the supplement.
Do not take grape seed without first talking to your doctor if you:
- have a bleeding or blood clotting disorder
- are taking a medicine to prevent blood clots or that affects blood-clotting such as warfarin and asparin.
- are taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
- are taking other medications, herbs, antioxidants, or health supplements that may affect blood clotting.
- are pregnant, breast-feeding or planning a pregnancy. It is not known whether grape seed will harm an unborn baby or a nursing infant.
There is no information available regarding the use of grape seed by children. Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without first talking to the child's doctor.