For over 6,000 years, healers have used grapes and grape seed oil to create plant-based remedies for everything from eye problems to hemorrhoids. The ancient Egyptians wrote about the benefit of grapes, and encouraged physicians to prescribe grapes, wine and grape seeds to heal a variety of ills. In nearly every culture where grapes are grown, evidence of using grapes and their byproducts for health and healing may be found. Celebrated in text, song and art, grapes are indeed a wonderful healing food, and their oils are now studied for their health benefits. Today, this herbal extract is useful for many conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart health.
Good for You Grapes
Grapes (Vitus vinifera) are vining fruits that grow in temperate climates from the Mediterranean to Europe and North America. Cultivated for thousands of years, humankind eats grapes, juices grapes, and ferments grapes to make wine. While today's consumer tends to prefer seedless grapes for snacking, which contain many wonderful health properties, the grape seed and its oils are also powerful health boosters.
From the skin to the seed, grapes contain powerful substances called antioxidants. Oxidation is defined as the interaction of oxygen molecules with the molecules of other substances they touch. If you cut open an apple, for example, and leave it on the counter top for an hour, you'll notice it turns brown. This is oxidation in process. The oxygen in the air is reacting with the molecules of the apples, and the apple is transformed by the exchange of electrons with the electrons in the oxygen molecule. Oxidation happens all the time in nature, from the apple turning brown when exposed to the air to iron rusting when it's left in water.
Within the body, daily metabolic activity also causes some oxidation. This is normal and unavoidable. When such oxidation occurs, however, it creates what are called free radicals. These are atoms with an extra electron. The unpaired electron looks for the opportunity to pair with another electron. Free radicals bounce around seeking something to pair with, and when they find it, they may 'steal' an electron from another atom. When they steal the electron from something like a cell in the human body, they can damage the DNA. Trouble starts when the DNA of a cell becomes damaged; it replicates, doubling the damaged part, and so on until unchecked free radical damage causes multiple malfunctions in the cell or unchecked growth. Unchecked cell growth is what we call cancer.
To combat free radical damage, nature provides antioxidants. These are chemical compounds found mostly in the pigments of fruits and vegetables that mop up the extra electrons safely, thus keeping them from damaging the master controls of the cell, the DNA.While it's important to get plenty of antioxidants, it's not something you need to stress over. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of variety ensures a good supply of antioxidants. Supplementing with herbs and natural extracts, such as grape seed oil, also helps mop up the onslaught of free radicals.
Grape Seed Oil
Like olives and sunflower seeds, grape seeds can be pressed and the oils contained within the seeds extracted. The seed of a plant is highly nutritious, since it must contain both the germ of life and enough sustenance to nurture the new seedling along until such time as it can establish itself as a new plant. Many seeds are high in nutritious fats and oils. Almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds, for example, contain heart-healthy vitamin E, antioxidants, trace minerals, and other fatty acids that are recommended for cardiovascular health and anti-inflammatory properties.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, grape seed oil is proving itself as a powerful healer. In addition to its superior antioxidants contents, grape seed oil's health benefits include:
- Improved blood sugar regulation for diabetics: In laboratory studies, a combination of grape seed oil and selected minerals demonstrated improved blood sugar regulation among diabetics participating in the study.
- Cholesterol improvements: A combination of grape seed extract and chromium taken by 40 participants in a research study demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol). The combination of both the oils and the mineral proved more powerful than grape seed extract alone.
- High blood pressure: Because of the strong antioxidant power of grapes and their oils, doctors believe the extract can also help with high blood pressure and circulatory problems. Animal studies demonstrate improved blood pressure when the animals are given grape seed extract, but no human studies have been conducted yet.
Grape seed extract and oils are available as a standardized extract. Adults can take 25 to 150 milligrams of a standardized extract once a day. Extracts have not been studied for use with children, so most doctors recommend that children not take this herbal remedy. Grapes, however, are a healthy snack for children as soon as they are able to safely chew and swallow the fruit.
Safety and Cautions
Grape seed remedies are considered very safe, even by modern medical experts who are always cautious about taking herbal extracts. There are no known side effects. Always tell your doctor about any herbs and supplements you're taking, however, just to be on the safe side. Because it's unknown how the extract may affect unborn children and infants, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking the supplement unless advised by their physician.