What Is Grapefruit Seed Extract?

Grapefruit seed extract, capsules, and tincture

Verywell / Anastasiia Tretiak​ 

Grapefruit seed extract is made from the seeds of grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi). This popular product is used as a natural remedy for a number of health problems, including infections and other skin concerns. Also known as GSE, grapefruit seed extract is often used as an ingredient in personal-care products. It is sold as a liquid and in dietary supplement (tablet or capsule) forms.

What Is Grapefruit Seed Extract Used For?

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 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.

Because of the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of grapefruit seed extract, it has been used in the following conditions:

However, research on the health effects of grapefruit seed extract is limited. In addition, the American Botanical Council published a report in 2012 stating that any antimicrobial activity in grapefruit seed extract may be owed to synthetic additives in products—not the extract itself.

Furthermore, these additives may not always be disclosed. The investigators found that many grapefruit seed extract products on the market today contain chemicals—including preservatives and disinfectants—that aren't listed on their labels. This includes benzethonium chloride, a compound found in many cosmetics, ointments, and first-aid antiseptics.

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

Bacterial Skin Infections

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 it disrupts bacterial strains within 15 minutes after contact, even at diluted 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 dietary supplements.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and, due to the fact that these products are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, their content 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.

Grapefruit seed extract

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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 extract, capsule, and pill form.

To stay on the safe side, it's best to look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, U.S. Pharmacopia, or NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee a product's safety or effectiveness, but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Lastly, remember that a supplement label should not contain claims about curing an illness. It is illegal 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—the primary antioxidant in grapefruit—may help enhance your overall health by reducing inflammation and possibly protecting against diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. You can get naringenin from grapefruit, of course, but also from grapes, oranges, tomatoes, and other fruits and herbs.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where can you buy grapefruit seed extract?

    You can buy the liquid extract, capsules, or tablets online or in stores that sell supplements.

  • What are the side effects of grapefruit seed extract?

    Grapefruit juice, and possibly other grapefruit products, may interact with certain drugs, leading to serious adverse reactions. Always ask your doctor before taking grapefruit seed extract and let them know what other medications you're taking.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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