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Grapefruit Seed Extract


Updated September 26, 2012

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

Grapefruit seed extract is touted as a natural remedy for a number of health problems, including skin disorders. Also known as "GSE," grapefruit seed extract is often used as an ingredient in personal-care products. Grapefruit seed extract is also available in dietary supplement form.

Grapefruit seed extract contains naringenin, a substance known to possess antioxidant properties.

Uses for Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit seed extract is said to act as an antimicrobial (a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi). Proponents claim that grapefruit seed extract can help with the following conditions:

Grapefruit Seed Extract and Benzethonium Chloride

In a report published in 2012, American Botanical Council investigators found that many grapefruit seed extract products on the market today contain synthetic chemicals (including preservatives and disinfectants) that aren't listed on their labels. Those chemicals include benzethonium chloride, a compound found in many cosmetics, ointments, and first-aid antiseptics. According to the report's authors, any antimicrobial activity in grapefruit seed extract products is likely due to synthetic additives, and not the grapefruit seed extract itself.

The Science Behind Grapefruit Seed Extract

Research on the health effects of grapefruit seed extract is fairly limited. What's more, given the American Botanical Council's findings, it's possible that some grapefruit seed extract products tested in the available studies may contain undisclosed ingredients (and that those ingredients may be partly responsible for the products' health effects).

Here's a look at several findings from studies on the use of grapefruit seed extract:

1) Grapefruit Seed Extract As An Antibacterial Agent

Grapefruit seed extract appears to be effective against a wide range of bacteria, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The study tested grapefruit seed extract's effects on human skin cells.

2) Grapefruit Seed Extract and Pancreatitis

In a preliminary study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology in 2004, grapefruit seed extract was found to protect against pancreatitis. In tests on rats, the study's authors observed that grapefruit seed extract helped protect pancreatic tissue by offering antioxidant effects and improving pancreatic blood flow.

Is Grapefruit Seed Extract Safe?

Given the evidence that many grapefruit seed extract products contain synthetic chemicals not listed on their labels, it's important to take caution when using any type of grapefruit seed extract (especially grapefruit seed extract delivered in dietary supplement form).

Should You Use Grapefruit Seed Extract for Health Purposes?

Given the lack of scientific support for the use of grapefruit seed extract, it's too soon to recommend this product for any condition. However, there's some evidence that dietary intake of naringenin (one of the key antioxidants found in grapefruit seed extract) may help enhance your overall health by reducing inflammation, and possibly protecting against diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

If you're considering the use of grapefruit seed extract in treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician.


Dembinski A, Warzecha Z, Konturek SJ, Ceranowicz P, Dembinski M, Pawlik WW, Kusnierz-Cabala B, Naskalski JW. "Extract of grapefruit-seed reduces acute pancreatitis induced by ischemia/reperfusion in rats: possible implication of tissue antioxidants." J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Dec;55(4):811-21.

Heggers JP, Cottingham J, Gusman J, Reagor L, McCoy L, Carino E, Cox R, Zhao JG. "The effectiveness of processed grapefruit-seed extract as an antibacterial agent: II. Mechanism of action and in vitro toxicity." J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):333-40.

Landberg R, Sun Q, Rimm EB, Cassidy A, Scalbert A, Mantzoros CS, Hu FB, van Dam RM. "Selected dietary flavonoids are associated with markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in U.S. women." J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):618-25.

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