Strong nutritional tools like grape seed extract have become more popular in recent years, but before you can derive the benefits of these concentrated substances, it is best to understand where they come from, what potential benefits they hold, and whether there are any side effects for people who use them.
What is Grape Seed Extract?
Grape seed extract is a substance that is derived from the seeds of grapes. Scientifically belonging to the Vitis genus, most grape seed extract is made from Vitis vinifera, as are many types of wine, but there are a handful of other species from which this extract can be made. Grape seed extract is produced by grinding up the seeds found at the center of grapes and then using a steam distillation or cold-pressing method to extract the pure compounds of the seeds. Some of the most important compounds found in grape seed extract are tannins, oligomeric procyanidins, catechins and epicatechins, as well as vitamin E and linoleic acid.
Grape seed extract is most commonly taken in supplement form, and the recommended amount is between 100-300 milligrams per day. Given that the only food source for this extract is grape seeds, supplements are the most logical form. Some people who have a cold press or grinder at home can also make this extract themselves, particularly if they work at a vineyard and have an excess of grapes to work with. In most cases, you will find grape seed extract in tablet, capsule or pill form, all of which will be able to deliver some of the following health benefits.
Health Benefits of Grape Seed Extract
The many health benefits of grape seed extract include improving the appearance of the skin, lowering cholesterol, aiding in weight loss, increasing cognitive function, regulating blood pressure, optimizing fluid balance, speeding the healing of wounds, reduce swelling after injury and preventing muscle damage.
Some research has shown the active ingredients within grape seed extract to inhibit fat deposition within the body, and even lower the level of fat absorption from our diet. Combined with a negligible amount of calories, this extract can give you an energetic boost and speed up the metabolism, which can further aid your weight loss efforts.
The presence of numerous antioxidants and flavonoid compounds in grape seed extract have been linked to improved skin appearance. These compounds are able to seek out and neutralize the free radicals in the skin that threaten the elasticity and durability of the skin. By eliminating oxidative stress and improving elasticity, this extract can help to reduce the presence of wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes, while also promoting the growth of new, healthy cells that keep you looking young.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
The flavonoids that can be found in such high quantities within grape seed extract are responsible for lowering overall cholesterol levels and improving the balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol. This can reduce the dangers of plaque deposition in the arteries and blood vessels, which will lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular issues.
Controls Blood Pressure
Research has found that the oligomeric procyanidins in this extract are able to protect blood vessels and arteries from damage, which can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, the compounds in grape seed extract are able to stimulate the activity of vitamin C in the body, which will boost collagen production and speed up the repair process on damaged blood vessels.
Lowers Oxidative Stress
Widely known as an anti-aging secret, the regular consumption of this extract can help flood the body with antioxidants, which will counter the effects of oxidative stress in your organs as well as your skin and hair. These compounds will also reduce your risk of chronic disease, which becomes much more of a threat as we age.
Boosts Immune System
As mentioned, the flavonoids in this extract stimulate the vitamin C already present in the body, but there is also a moderate amount of vitamin E in this extract, which can help boost the function of the immune system to defend against bacterial and viral pathogens. Furthermore, the antioxidants in this extract are considered 30-50 times more potent than vitamin C in terms of protecting the body from pathogens.
Anecdotal evidence has argued that the regular use of grape seed extract is able to prevent edema from occurring in the body. This excess storing of fluid in the body can be painful and unsightly, but it can easily be remedied with a supplement that regulates fluid transfer and balance between the cells and tissues.
Stimulates Brain Function
Oligomeric procyanidins have been researched extensively and it has been found that the compounds can stimulate cognitive function, which can help with things like concentration, retention, memory formation and mood. This is also important for people who are suffering from or are at high risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
With a notable amount of carotenoids and antioxidants, this extract has long been known as a means to improve vision. Antioxidants are able to counter oxidative stress in the retina and lower your chances of developing macular degeneration.
Delays Cancer Growth
Research has found that grape seed extract is able to minimize the severity of skin cancer, and even slow the growth of skin tumor formation, allowing the body’s immune system to control the disease much more effectively.
Speeds Healing Process
The procyanidins in this extract have a direct stimulating effect on a certain endothelial growth factor, which is crucial to the wound-healing process. Consumption of this extract will speed blood clotting and increase your chances of the wound to heal without a scar.
Thanks to the presence of resveratrol, one of the highly praised compounds in wine, grape seed extract can also minimize the impact of allergic reactions, due to its anti-inflammatory nature. This is also good for aches and pains, either from acute injuries or from more chronic issues, such as arthritis or gout.
Treats Fungal Infections
Grape seed extract has proven itself to be very effective against a variety of fungal infections, particularly those of the Candida genus. This can help people who regularly suffer from yeast infections, oral thrush, Athlete’s foot and other common fungal infections.
Uses of Grape Seed Extract
There are a limited number of forms for grape seed extract, as such small quantities are needed for the effects to be felt. The most common form of this extract is as a supplement, with the average amount being between 100 and 300 milligrams per day. These supplements are widely available at health food stores and will come in either liquid, tablet or capsule form.
Other people choose to get their grape seed extract by purchasing the grape seeds in the whole form and eating them directly. The taste of this can be quite bitter, but some people choose this over a processed supplement. Eating grapes and not spitting out the seeds is not recommended, as you would need to eat a very large amount of grapes, which have high levels of fructose.
Side Effects of Grape Seed Extract
While the benefits of using this extract are clear, there are some possible side effects of which you should be aware, including bleeding disorders, drug interactions, complications with pregnancy, allergic reactions, stomach upset and dizziness.
- Drug Interactions – Depending on what medications you are taking, grape seed extract could cause some unwanted side effects, including medications for blood clotting or cholesterol. For example, this extract can slow down blood clotting, and lower cholesterol, so it may complicate the use of anticoagulant drugs and cholesterol-suppressing medication.
- Pregnancy – As an herbal remedy, rather than a formal pharmaceutical one, there can be some unexpected hormonal fluctuations when using this powerful substance. For pregnant women, this can stimulate menstruation, or be dangerous for your unborn child. Speak with your doctor before using this or any other herbal remedy if you are pregnant.
- Bleeding Disorders – As mentioned, the anticoagulant nature of grape seed extract can cause internal and external bleeding, so do not consume this extract within 1-2 weeks of any major surgery.
- Allergic Reactions – The concentration of organic compounds in this extract can cause allergic reactions in certain people, even if they aren’t allergic to grapes. The symptoms include upset stomach and diarrhea, as well as skin inflammation, rashes or hives. Consuming an excessive amount of grape seed extract may also cause abdominal pain and discomfort.
- Dizziness – Some people have reported dizziness, cognitive confusion and lightheadedness when using this extract, particularly when more than 1 supplement is taken. As with any herbal medicine, only use this extract in moderation, and speak with your doctor or a trained herbalist about any specific risk factors for you.