With antioxidant properties many times more powerful than those of vitamin C or vitamin E, grape seed extract is a heart-smart and cancer-smart botanical. It also has the power to improve vascular health and increase your well-being in myriad ways.
What it is?
This extract from the tiny seeds of red grapes of the species Vitis vinifera is a flavonoids, and is one of the Europe's leading natural treatments. Plant substances with potent antioxidant potential, flavonoids protect body cells from damage by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. Grape seed extract contains procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), also called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). PCO are believed to play an important role in preventing heart disease and cancer. 'Pycnogenol' with a capital P is the trade name for a specific PCO derived from maritime pine bark or grape seed.
What it does?
Grape seed extract exerts a powerful positive influence on blood vessels. Not coincidentally, the active substances in this extract, PCOs, are key ingredients in one of the drugs most frequently prescribed for blood vessel (vascular) disorders in Western Europe.
Because it is soluble in both oil and water, grape seed extract can penetrate all types of cell membranes, delivering antioxidant protection throughout the body. moreover, it is one of the few substances that can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means that it may protect brain cells from free-radical damage.
With its powerful ability to enhance the health of blood vessels, grape seed extract may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as strengthening fragile or weak capillaries and increasing blood flow, particularly to the extremities. For this reason, many experts find it a beneficial supplement for almost any type of vascular insufficiency, as well as for conditions that are associated with poor vascular function, including diabetes, varicose veins, some cases of impotence, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, and even painful leg cramps. Because it can have an impact on even the tiniest blood vessels, grape seed extract also benefits circulation in the eye. It is frequently recommended as a supplement to combat macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the most common causes of blindness in older people. And if you use computers regularly, grape seed extract may also be for you. At least one study showed that 300 mg daily for just 60 days reduced the eyestrain associated with working at a computer monitor and improved contrast vision.
Many experts now endorse grape seed extract for its cancer-fighting properties. Working as antioxidants, PCOs correct damage to the genetic material of cells that could possibly cause tumours to form.
Helping to preserve and reinforce the collagen in the skin, grape seed extract is often used in the treatment of connective tissue disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In Europe, it is often included in cosmetic creams to improve skin elasticity.
For allergy sufferers, grape seed extract offers relief by inhibiting the release of symptom-causing compounds such as histamine which, in turn, helps to control a variety of allergic reactions, from hives to hay fever. Grape seed also blocks the release of inflammatory prostaglandins, chemicals involved n allergic reactions and in pain and inflammation, particularly that of the menstrual disorder called endometriosis.
- Treats blood vessel disorders.
- Protects against eye damage.
- Lessens the risk of heart disease and cancer.
- Reduces the rate of collagen breakdown in the skin.
- Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
How to take it?
For antioxidant protection: Take 100 mg daily.
For therapeutic benefits: The usual dose is 200 mg daily. Choose supplements standardized to contain 3% catechin polymers.
Guidelines for use:
After 24 hours, only about 28% of grape seed extract's active components remain in the body. so it's important to take supplements at the same time every day, particularly when they're being used to combat disease.
Possible side effects
No side effects from taking grape seed extract have been reported, and no toxic reactions have been noted.
- Grape seed oil (not to be confused with grape seed extract) may offer other health benefits, too. A preliminary study at the University Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York, found that adding about 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil to the daily diet increased HDL ('good') cholesterol by 14% and reduced triglycerides by 15% in just four weeks. Use it in place of other oils in salads or cooking.
- A preliminary study from the University of Arizona at Tucson suggests that pine bark extract, which contains active ingredients similar to those of grape seed extract, may be as effective an anticoagulant as aspirin, and so may help to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers asked 38 smokers – who are more likely to develop the type of blood clots that cause heart attacks – to take either pine bark extract or aspirin. Blood tests revealed that both remedies were equally effective, but pine bark didn't have aspirin's side effects – such as stomach irritation and increased risk of internal bleeding.