Grape seed extract has the potential to increase the speed that wounds heal. A study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, applied proanthocyanidin extract onto wounds on the backs of mice. They found that the mice treated with this solution had quicker healing times.
Grape seeds contain proanthocyanidins which might prevent the development of cancer. A study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, found that grape seeds have properties that can reduce the severity of skin cancer.
Preventing hair loss by consuming grape seed extract has been theorized. Some nutritionists believe that proanthocyanidins inhibit dihydrotestosterone (DHT), one of the hormones thought to be involved in hair loss but, evidence for its effectiveness is scant.
Grape seed extract might also act as an anticoagulant, or blood-thinner. It could increase the risk of bleeding if taken with other blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
Some note that while the procyadins can be powerful in lab experiments, grape seed extract appears to have poor bioavailability, which means the body may not absorb it efficiently enough to make it worth using.
Grapes (Vitis vinifera) have been heralded for their medicinal and nutritional value for thousands of years. Egyptians ate grapes at least 6,000 years ago, and several ancient Greek philosophers praised the healing power of grapes, usually in the form of wine. European folk healers made an ointment from the sap of grapevines to treat skin and eye diseases. Grape leaves were used to stop bleeding, inflammation, and pain, such as the kind brought on by hemorrhoids. Unripe grapes were used to treat sore throats, and dried grapes (raisins) were used for constipation and thirst. Round, ripe, sweet grapes were used to treat a range of health problems including cancer, cholera, smallpox, nausea, eye infections, and skin, kidney, and liver diseases.
But grapes, or the chemicals within them, especially oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), have been touted as powerful antioxidants. Some people believe they could help treat a number of conditions, from heart disease to cancer to aging skin, although scientific evidence is mostly lacking for those conditions. However, there is good evidence that grape seed extract can help treat chronic venous insufficiency and edema.
A study of healthy volunteers found that taking grape seed extract substantially increased blood levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that destroy free radicals, which are harmful compounds in the body that damage DNA (genetic material) and even cause cell death. Scientists believe free radicals contribute to aging, as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer.
Grapes are native to Asia near the Caspian Sea, but they were brought to North America and Europe. This plant's climbing vine has large, jagged leaves, and its stem bark tends to peel. The grapes may be green, red, or purple.
Vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid, and OPCs are highly concentrated in grape seeds. Lower concentrations of these compounds are also available in the skin of the grape, as well as grape juice and wine. Resveratrol is another compoud in grapes and grape skins that is related to OPCs. Resveratrol has become very popular as an antioxidant and is being studied in connection with a variety of diseases.
Today, standardized extracts of grape seed may be used to treat a range of health problems related to free radical damage, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Grape seed extract has also been shown to protect against bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus. Some studies, mostly in animals, support these uses.
Flavonoids found in red wine may help to protect the heart by lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The so called "French paradox" is the belief that drinking wine protects people living in France from developing heart disease at the high rates seen in people living in the United States. So far, however, there is no clear evidence that taking grape seed extract helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Some researchers speculate that the alcohol in the wine, not the flavonoids, could be responsible for any healthful effects. Others think it could be the combination of alcohol and flavonoids.
In chronic venous insufficiency, blood pools in the legs, causing pain, swelling, fatigue, and visible veins. A number of high quality studies have shown that OPCs from grape seed can reduce symptoms.
Edema, swelling caused by surgery or an injury, seems to go away faster when people take grape seed extract. Edema is common after breast cancer surgery, and one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that breast cancer patients who took 600 mg of grape seed extract daily after surgery for 6 months had less edema and pain than those who took placebo. Another study found that people who took grape seed extract after experiencing a sports injury had less swelling than those who took placebo.
There is not enough evidence to say whether taking grape seed extract can lower cholesterol, although preliminary studies show promising results. A study of 40 people with high cholesterol looked at whether taking grape seed extract, chromium, a combination of both, or placebo for 2 months would lower cholesterol. The combination of grape seed extract and chromium was more effective than either grape seed alone or placebo in lowering total and LDL cholesterol.
Another study looked at the effects of a proprietary grape seed extract on lipid peroxidation (the breakdown of fats in the blood) in a group of heavy smokers. In the study, 24 healthy male smokers (aged 50 years or older) took either placebo or 2 capsules (75 mg of a grape procyanidin extracts and soy phosphatidalcholine), twice daily for 4 weeks. LDL cholesterol levels were lower in those taking the grape seed supplement than those taking placebo.
Theoretically, grape seed extract might help treat hypertension or high blood pressure. Antioxidants, like the ones found in grape seed, help protect blood vessels from damage. Damaged blood vessels can lead to higher blood pressure. In several animal studies, grape seed extract substantially reduced blood pressure. More research is needed to determine whether grape seed extract helps people with high blood pressure.
Studies have found that grape seed extracts may prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and lung cancer cells in test tubes. However, there is no clear evidence whether it works in humans. Antioxidants, such as those found in grape seed extract, may help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Grape seed extract may also help prevent damage to human liver cells caused by chemotherapy medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before combining antioxidants with any chemotherapy drugs to make sure they interact safely together, and that they do not interfere with effects of the chemotherapy medications.
Grape seed is available as a dietary supplement in capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts. Look for products that are standardized to 40 to 80% proanthocyanidins or an OPC content of not less than 95%.
Grape seed extract can potentially affect medications broken down by the liver. Numerous medications are broken down by the liver, so check with your physician. Also, OPCs in grape seed extract may interact with the following:
Anticoagulants (blood thinners): Grape seed extract may act as a blood thinner, and could increase the risk of bleeding if taken with other blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. If you are taking blood-thinning medications, or have bleeding disorders, ask your doctor before taking grape seed extract.
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Wang YJ, Thomas P, Zhong JH, Bi FF, Kosaraju S, Pollard A, Fenech M, Zhou XF. Consumption of grape seed extract prevents amyloid-beta deposition and attenuates inflammation in the brain of an Alzheimer's disease mouse. Neurotox Res. 2009;15(1):3-14. 041b061a72