The Health Benefits of Grapefruit Seed Extract

Some Say GSE Improves Acne and Athlete's Foot

halved grapefruit with seeds on a white surface

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Grapefruit seed extract is made from the seeds of the grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi). This popular product is touted as a natural remedy for a number of health problems, including infections and other skin disorders. Also known as "GSE," grapefruit seed extract is often used as an ingredient in personal-care products. The extract is also available in dietary supplement form.

Health Benefits

In various settings, grapefruit seed extract is said to act as an antimicrobial—a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi. In fact, research has supported the use of grapefruit seed extract as a functional curing agent ingredient in meat products.

Grapefruit seed extract also contains naringenin, a substance known to possess antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Proponents claim that grapefruit seed extract can help with the following conditions:

Research on the health effects of grapefruit seed extract is limited. What's more, the American Botanical Council published a report stating that some grapefruit seed extract products tested in available studies may contain undisclosed ingredients. In some cases, those ingredients may be responsible for the tested products' health effects.

In the 2012 report, 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 report's findings should be kept in mind when evaluating findings from studies on the use of grapefruit seed extract.

Antibacterial Agent

Grapefruit seed extract may be effective against a wide range of bacteria, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. The study tested grapefruit seed extract's effects on human skin cells. Researchers concluded that GSE disrupts bacterial strains within 15 minutes after contact even at more dilute concentrations.


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. More rigorous testing is needed to see if this benefit is applicable in humans.

Possible Side Effects

Grapefruit seed extract is possibly safe when used orally and appropriately for medicinal purposes. However, 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.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that these products are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the label.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements has not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications.

What to Look For

Grapefruit seed extract is available online and in some health food stores. Not all products are meant for human consumption. Supplements designed for human use come in the extract, capsule, and pill form.

To stay on the safe side, it's best to look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Lastly, remember that your supplement should not contain claims about curing an illness. It is not legal to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment for a specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease.

A Word from Verywell

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, make sure to consult your physician. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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