Grapefruit Seed Extract – is it really healthy?

GrapefruitGrapefruit seed extract (GSE) is derived from the seeds, pulp and membranes of grapefruits.  It can be self-made by grinding the seeds and pulp and mixing with glycerine (1).  Commercial versions are made via an industrial chemical process and preservatives are added (3).

The extract is believed to have natural antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties (1).  It is also promoted as a treatment for candidiasis and even as a general domestic surface cleaner (4).

However, several studies have found that the antimicrobial properties of commercially prepared GSE are due to added preservatives such as benzethonium chloride, triclosan and methyl parabene (2, 3).


Furthermore, no antimicrobial activity has been detected in the self-made extracts (3).

Therefore it is likely that GSE does not have any naturally occurring antimicrobial properties of its own.

Additionally, Todd Caldecott, has stated concerns in his article from the Spring 2005 issue of “Medical Herbalism,” about the long-term safety of ingesting the preservatives found in commercial varieties of GSE (2).  According to Caldecott, one of the compounds, benzethonium chloride, which is commonly used as a disinfectant in cosmetic products, has been found to be a potentially harmful compound, and is not approved for internal use in the United States (2).


  2. “Medical Herbalism:  A Journal for the Clinical Practitioner”; Grapefruit Seed Extract; Todd Caldecott; Spring 2005
  3. “Terressentials:  The Truth About Grapefruit Seed Extract”
  4. “Total Health, Volume 24 (1)”; Natural Antibiotics:  Grapefruit Seed Extract; Tina Wellman.


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