Grapefruit seed extract (or GSE as some call it) is touted as an antimicrobial, antifungal type of cure-all, but it is actually very controversial. The beloved grapefruit seed extract may not be as awesome as we think, it may have some help from modern-day chemicals…not making it a holistic alternative therapy at all!!
What does GSE do?
Grapefruit seed extract is a liquid formed from the seeds, pulp, and white matter in the grapefruit, grinding it down to create a liquid and adding glycerine to create the extraction. In theory, this extract is touted by alternative medicine practitioners as having antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal effects. And many practitioners suggest GSE to treat earaches, sore throats, diarrhea, and some oral infections like thrush. It was first utilized as an antimicrobial in the 1700’s and in the 1960’s it was supposedly studied and was found to have all of these amazing properties, thus the GSE obsession took off! It can be taken as a food supplement, and it is also added to many products for the antimicrobial properties.
Where is the controversy?
So, since so many people were suing GSE as an alternative therapy, and just as many holistic and or alternative therapies are now being researched more and more, because people want to know what is the basis and the science behind the effects of these treatments. I think that many people will be bummed about the results of the studies on GSE, unfortunately. It was thought that the GSE had its antimicrobial properties from the ethanol formed within the GSE, when a few of the commercial brand GSEs commonly sold in health food stores were tested, they were found to have antimicrobial properties but from added synthetic antimicrobials! Most commonly, benzethonium chloride was found as an additive to GSE. Benzethonium chloride is an antimicrobial that is present in many over the counter first aid creams, sprays, etc as well as cosmetics, anti-itch treatments, some mouth washes, and it is used as a cleanser/disinfectant in some cleaning products. The rub is that it is approved in neither the US or the EU as an additive to food, and it has even been classified as a poison in some countries, but when added to GSE, that is exactly what it is being used as; an additive. Many of the studies found that pure GSE was ineffective as an antimicrobial and the only ones that had antimicrobial effects were commercial GSE samples that were found to have pretty high levels of benzethonium chloride. Yikes.
What’s the bottom line?
Basically, I really do hate to break the hype, but I don’t buy it that GSE is as strong an antimicrobial as people think, without the additives. Benzethonium chloride has never been approved as safe for oral ingestion, and I really do not think it is safe to ingest an additive that has been only approved for topical treatment and for commercial cleaning products. The choice is up to you, but the true side effects of ingesting benzethonium chloride is unknown, and taking unregulated supplements run the risk of making you sick, or interacting with other medications. So you do what you feel is best for your health, but please disclose these supplements to your HCP so they can assess you and make sure there are no ill effects on your long-term health.
Yours in Good Health