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Quercetin

Benefits of Quercetin

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Updated March 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What Is Quercetin?

Quercetin is a chemical found naturally in a number of foods (including apples, onions, teas, berries, and red wine) and in some herbs (such as ginkgo biloba and St. John's wort.

Quercetin acts as an antioxidant, which means it scavenges free radicals (chemical by-products known to harm cell membranes and damage DNA). Available as a dietary supplement, quercetin also possesses antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.

Uses for Quercetin

Health claims for quercetin include treatment and/or prevention of the following health problems:

Benefits of Quercetin

Here's a look at the science behind quercetin health's effects.

1) Allergy Relief

Quercetin is thought to prevent the release of histamine from certain immune cells. (An inflammatory chemical, histamine is involved in allergic symptoms such as sneezing and itching.)

Although lab experiments suggest that quercetin may help fight allergies, a 2002 report cautions that "there are no good clinical research data on the use of quercetin" for patients with allergic rhinitis.

2) High Blood Pressure

In a 2007 study of 41 adults, researchers found that taking 730 mg of quercetin daily for 28 days reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, blood pressure was not altered in study members with prehypertension (a condition marked by slightly elevated blood pressure).

3) Athletic Endurance

Quercetin may be no better than a placebo when it comes to enhancing athletic performance, according to a 2009 study of 30 healthy men. For the study, some participants consumed a sports drink containing 250 mg of quercetin four times a day for up to 16 days, while a placebo group drank the same beverage without quercetin. Results showed that the short-term quercetin supplementation failed to improve cycling performance and the ability of muscles to synthesize energy.

4) Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome

Findings from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial indicate that use of quercetin supplements may improve symptoms in most men with chronic pelvic pain syndrome. The study involved 30 men with prostatitis, a condition that involves inflammation of the prostate gland.

Quercetin and Cancer

Studies on cell cultures have shown that quercetin may help slow the growth of some types of cancer cells. What's more, some animal-based research indicates that quercetin may protect against certain types of cancer (such as colon cancer). However, since there is currently a lack of human studies on quercetin's cancer-fighting effects, it's too soon to tell whether quercetin might play a significant role in cancer prevention.

For now, the American Cancer Society states that it is "reasonable to include foods that contain quercetin as part of a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains."

Quercetin and Bromelain

When taking quercetin in supplement form, it may be beneficial to choose a product that also contains papain and/or bromelain (plant-derived enzymes shown to increase the intestine's absorption of quercetin).

Sources:

Cureton KJ, Tomporowski PD, Singhal A, Pasley JD, Bigelman KA, Lambourne K, Trilk JL, McCully KK, Arnaud MJ, Zhao Q. "Dietary quercetin supplementation is not ergogenic in untrained men." J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1095-104.

Edwards RL, Lyon T, Litwin SE, Rabovsky A, Symons JD, Jalili T. "Quercetin reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects." J Nutr. 2007 137(11):2405-11.

Jaber R. "Respiratory and allergic diseases: from upper respiratory tract infections to asthma." Prim Care. 2002 29(2):231-61.

Lee E, Choi EJ, Cheong H, Kim YR, Ryu SY, Kim KM. "Anti-allergic actions of the leaves of Castanea crenata and isolation of an active component responsible for the inhibition of mast cell degranulation." Arch Pharm Res. 1999 22(3):320-3.

Shoskes DA, Zeitlin SI, Shahed A, Rajfer J. "Quercetin in men with category III chronic prostatitis: a preliminary prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." Urology. 1999 54(6):960-3.

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