Grape seed oil is a vegetable oils that, although it is commonly known for its culinary use, its beneficial qualities in terms of health and skin care, are not so well known.
In this article, we will delve into everything we need to know to obtain the benefits offered by this wonderful vegetable carrier oil.
What is Grape Seed Oil?
Grape seed oil is a yellow substance with fine texture that possesses several benefits to human health, both internally and externally. It has a great importance to pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food industries, due to its powerful antioxidant properties.
Its thin viscosity allows it to easily absorb into the skin without leaving greasy residue. It is ideal to use as a carrier for essential oils in massage and facial serum.
The aroma of grape seed oil is mild and pleasant, somehow sweet and balsamic reminiscent of aged wine. Its taste, on the other hand, has a light, sweet and delicate nutty flavor.
Grape seed oil can be applied in all skin types, since its comedogenic grade is 1, which means that the chance of clogging pores is very low.
The oil of grape seed is widely used as an edible oil, especially due to its pleasant sensory characteristics.
Interest in grape seed oil as a functional food product has increased, mostly because of its high levels of hydrophilic constituents, such as phenolic compounds, and lipophilic constituents, which include vitamin E, unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs), and phytosterols.
In addition, grape seed extract (aqueous or alcoholic) has a high antioxidant potential; its beneficial effects include the modulation of antioxidant enzyme expression, protection against oxidative damage in cells, anti-atherosclerotic and anti-inflammatory effects, and protection against some cancer types, in both humans and animal models.
Grape seed contains 8% to 20% of oil (dry basis) and the oil yield depends on the extraction technique, type of solvent and operating conditions employed, the variety of cultivars, and the environmental factors during harvesting year.
The seeds of grape are by-products of winemaking process, and the oil content is traditionally extracted using either an organic solvent, or mechanical techniques. However, oil extracted by cold pressing method is the best for therapeutic purposes.
Cold-pressing is a method of oil extraction that involves no heat or chemical treatment and hence may retain more health beneficial components.
Although the yield is usually lower than that with conventional solvent extraction, in cold-pressing, there is no concern about solvent residues in the oil, resulting in a safer and more consumer-desired product.
About Vitis vinifera Linnaeus
Vitis vinifera L., known as the grapevine, belongs to the Vitaceae family, and is thought to be native to the area near the Caspian Sea in southwestern Asia. Today, it is cultivated largely throughout the world.
The berries of Vitis vinifera L. ssp. sativa grapes have been of great interest worldwide due to the nutritional properties of the natural product (raw and dried fruit) and wine, and the pharmaceutical benefits of its derivatives, such as peel and seed extracts.
It is said that the Phoenicians carried wine cultivars to Greece, Rome and southern France, and the Romans spread the grape throughout Europe.
Spanish missionaries introduced Vinifera grapes to California in the 1700s and found that they grew very well there.
The medicinal and nutritional value of grapes has been known for thousands of years. Egyptians, for example, consumed grapes at least 6000 years ago, and several ancient Greek philosophers praised their healing power.
On the other hand, European folk used an ointment from the sap of grapevines to cure skin and eye diseases. Likewise, grape leaves were used to stop bleeding, inflammation and pain.
Unripe grapes were used to treat sore throats and dried grapes were used to heal consumption, constipation, and thirst. The round, ripe, sweet grapes were used to treat a range of health problems including cancer, cholera, smallpox, nausea, eye infections, and skin, kidney and liver diseases.
Chemical Components of Grape Seed Oil
The composition of grape seed oil is related to grape vine variety environmental factors and maturation degree of the seeds.
Grape seed oil contains a large amount of phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, carotenoids, phenolic acids, tannins, and stilbenes (resveratrol). It has also 59–360 mg of gallic acid equivalent/kg of phenols, which have been reported to be involved in a wide range of biological activities but are mostly known for their antioxidant properties.
The main polyphenols identified in grape seed oil are catechins, epicatechins, trans-resveratrol, and procyanidin B1.
Regarding the fatty acid (FA) composition, linoleic acid is the most abundant FA in cold-pressed grape seed oils, contributing to between 46% and 74% of the total, followed by oleic acid (14-44%), palmitic acid (7-10%), and stearic acid (4-6%).
Other lipophilic constituents largely found in grape seed oil are phytosterols, which may prevent the release of pro-inflammatory mediators by oxidized low-density lipoprotein-stimulated macrophage during oxidative stress and eicosanoid synthesis.
Polyphenols are the most important phytochemicals in grape because they possess many biological activities and health-promoting benefits.
The phenolic compounds mainly include anthocyanins, flavanols, flavonols, stilbenes (resveratrol) and phenolic acids.
Anthocyanins are pigments, and mainly exist in grape skins. Flavonoids, on the other hand, are widely distributed in grapes, especially in seeds and stems, and principally contain (+)-catechins, (−)-epicatechin and procyanidin polymers.
Anthocyanins, are the main polyphenolics in red grapes, while flavanols are more abundant in white varieties.
Vitamin E in Grape Seed Oil
Each type of oil has a characteristic tocopherol and tocotrienol content. In addition to exhibiting vitamin E activity, tocopherols occur in seed oils, such as α-, β-, γ-, and δ-tocopherol, with γ-tocopherol as one of the most potent antioxidants.
Grape seed oils are richer in tocotrienols (unsaturated forms of vitamin E) than tocopherols though, among which γ-tocotrienol is the most abundant, followed by α-tocotrienol. α-tocopherol and γ-tocotrienol have been reported to show the highest variability between grape varieties.
Grape seed oil has a great content of vitamin E, ranging from 1 to 53 mg per 100 g of oil, and 148–358 α-tocopherol equivalents, which is higher than that of soybean oil and olive oil.
In addition to the type of grape, vitamin E content in grape seed oil also depends on environmental cultivation conditions.
Vitamin E contributes to the beneficial effects of grape seed oil, because of its high antioxidant activity and neuroprotective and antitumoral properties. For this reason, the use of grape seed oils has been suggested to delay the aging process and prevent the occurrence of some chronic diseases.
Properties of Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil has important health benefits, which have been detected by in vitro and in vivo studies.
These benefits are mainly due to their natural therapeutic properties, which include: antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, antiaging, astringent (mild), emollient, cicatrisant, cardioprotective, anti-atherosclerotic, antimicrobial, antitumoral, and anticancer properties, and may interact with cellular and molecular pathways.
Uses of Grape Seed Oil
The organoleptic properties of grape seed oil, including its aroma and pleasant flavor, are some of the main reasons of the growing interest to include it in culinary preparations.
It is ideal for everyday cooking and salad oil. Grape seed oil has a moderately-high smoke point, which means that it is perfect for sautéing, grilling, frying, and baking.
In Europe, for example, the product has been manufactured in Germany, France, and Italy since 1930, and has gained popularity used as culinary oil.
Grape seed oil is used as a dietary supplement for several health conditions, included venous insufficiency (when veins have problems sending blood from the legs back to the heart), to promote wound healing, and to reduce inflammation.
However, by consuming the oil constantly, many other properties can be acquired through intake.
Skin and hair care
Topically, grape seed oil helps to tighten and tone the skin, due to its mildly astringent properties.
In addition, it is a great moisturizing, nourishing and powerful anti-aging that can be used as a natural face serum to diminished and delay fine lines and wrinkles.
Grape seed oil also softens and repairs the tissue. It stimulates and shortens wound healing process while reducing the appearance of scars and blemishes.
On the other hand, when using as a massage oil, it boosts circulation and reduces the appearance of varicose veins, spider veins, and cellulite.
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To recap, the benefits of grape seed oil for skin and hair include:
- Nourishes and improves the texture of the skin.
- Protects skin against free radicals and harmful environmental elements.
- Massage oil.
- After shave.
- Tightens and tones the skin.
- Provides moisturizing to skin and hair while preventing water loss.
- Natural makeup remover.
- Reduce the appearance of age spots, wrinkles, saggy skin, and stretch marks.
- Treats scalp dryness and itchiness.
- Eliminates dandruff.
- Facilitates wound healing.
- Soothes acne and reduces chances of future outbreaks.
- Helps maintain the softness, suppleness, and radiance on skin and hair.
- Stimulates the growth of thicker, longer, and stronger hair, while preventing hair loss.
- Helps reduce redness in conditions such as acne, eczema and rosacea.
- Prevents joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain, thus calming symptoms of diseases such as arthritis rheumatoid.
- Helps purge dirt, sweat, and excess sebum from hair and skin.
- Stimulates the growth and healthy-looking of nails.
- Enhance skin elasticity to prevent symptoms of premature aging.
- Helps even out skin tone.
- Improves the symptoms of melasma (also called chloasma), a hyper-pigmentation of the skin.
- Repairs scarred and blemished skin.
- Restores collagen.
- Softens and firms the skin.
- Relieves skin that has been burned.
- Cleanses and tightens pores and balance sebum production.
Grape seed oil is used to help increase immunity and also, to prevent some disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, hereditary hemochromatosis, chronic venous insufficiency, cardiovascular conditions, edema, to lowering systolic blood pressure and heart rate, to promote wound healing, and to reduce inflammation.
In addition, grape seed oil can help prevent prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancer.
Benefits of Grape Seed Oil
This property has been widely studied in grape seed extracts whose compounds are capable of scavenging reactive oxygen species and inhibiting lipid oxidation.
Xia et al compared the antioxidant capacity of grape and its by-products, including leaves, skin, wine, and seeds. As a result, the highest antioxidant effect, was found in grape seeds.
The great antioxidant capacity of grape seed oil has relation with the high content of gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, procyanidins, and proanthocyanidins, and may be a result of the synergistic combination of these phenolic compounds.
The basic biological mechanism of the antioxidant effect is the elimination of free radicals, mainly hydroxyl radicals, and the chelation of metals, which influence cell signaling and the functioning of the immune system.
This fact becomes especially important when we think about the ability of grape seed extract to attenuate oxidative stress and reduce low-density lipoprotein levels, and thus decrease the inflammatory process related to some diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases, and degenerative illnesses.
Chronic diseases, which may be associated with increased mortality and morbidity rates worldwide, are generally accompanied by inflammation processes, which are often difficult to control with available therapies and interventions. In this context, the consumption of nutrients with anti-inflammatory capabilities would be beneficial in the treatment of chronic diseases.
Grape and its by-products, contain different phenolic compounds such as resveratrol, quercetin, procyanidins, and others, with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities.
Olas et al. observed that grape seed oil decreased platelet adhesion in vitro, showing more effectiveness than pure resveratrol.
This result, along with that reported by Sano et al, showing a reducing effect of grape seed extract on oxidized LDL in 61 healthy subjects, suggests a cardioprotective potential of grape seed oil.
In addition, the polyphenols present in grape seed oil are able to inhibit the release of arachidonic acid, responsible for the production of leukotrienes and prostaglandins, which in turn activates the inflammatory response.
Grape and products from grape have been consumed for a long time. The studies have demonstrated an inverse association between intake of grape and products from grape and mortality from age-related diseases such as coronary heart diseases.
In addition, accumulated evidence suggests that grape extracts and purified grape polyphenols possess a diverse array of biological actions and may be beneficial in the prevention of some inflammatory-mediated illness including cardiovascular disease, and lowering systolic blood pressure and heart rate.
Active components from grape extracts, which include the grape seed, grape skin, and grape juice, that have been identified thus far include polyphenols such as resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. All possess potent antioxidant properties and have been shown to decrease low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol oxidation and platelet aggregation.
These compounds also possess a range of additional cardioprotective and vasoprotective properties including antiatherosclerotic, antiarrhythmic, and vasorelaxation actions.
Anticancer and antitumor activity
Many evidences have shown that the extracts from grapes and its by-products had anticancer activity for preventing some types of cancer.
The National Cancer Institute is supporting preliminary studies on grape seed extract for preventing prostate, lung, and colon cancer.
For example, Hudson et al. reported that grape skin extract induced prostate tumor cell lines apoptosis with high rates. In addition, extract from pomace remaining after wine production, inhibited activities of matrix metalloproteinases, and expressed a significant antiproliferative effect on human colon adenocarcinoma cells, which implied by-product of wine would help to fight against carcinogenesis.
Besides, Phenolics of grape juice also significantly inhibited carcinogen-induced DNA adduct formation in rat model, and inhibited DNA synthesis in breast cancer cells.
But, what about grape seed oil?
Some phenolic compounds of grape seed oil have anticancer activities and act in cell cycle modulation, being cytotoxic to tumor cells without compromising healthy cells.
Cheah et al, showed that the low molecular weight procyanidins, present in ripe grape seeds, increased the toxicity of the chemotherapeutic agent 5-fluorouracil on these cells, suggesting that these components may be used as a supplement in the treatment of colon cancer.
Still experimentally, in cancer, grape seed oil has been evaluated as a nanocarrier, since the development of nano-dosage forms of phytochemicals may represent a significant progress in the field of biomedical research.
The effectiveness of lipid nanocarriers based on natural oils (grape seed oil and laurel leaf oil) in counteracting free radicals and combating certain tumor cells was evaluated.
In this study, nanocarriers based on a combination of grape seed and laurel leaf oils showed a capacity to scavenge about 98% of oxygen free radicals.
A drastic decrease in tumor cell proliferation was detected with a dose of nanocarriers of 5 mg/mL even in the absence of an antitumor drug.
Comparing the survival profile of normal and tumor cells exposed to a 2.5 mg/mL dose of lipid nanocarriers, a death rate of 20% was shown for normal cells, while tumor cells exhibited a 40% death rate.
Thus, lipid nanocarriers based on grape seed oil in association with laurel leaf oil could be a candidate to reduce the delivery system toxicity and may significantly improve the therapeutic efficacy of antitumor drugs in clinical applications.
Grape seed oil has also a toxicity effect on some pathogens, suggesting an antimicrobial feature. In fact, the oil extracted from grape seeds had an inhibitory effect on the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
The antimicrobial activity displayed by phenolic compounds, such as resveratrol, involves the induction of oxidative damage to bacterial membrane, especially E. coli, without affecting the host cells. These findings suggest that the use of resveratrol would aid traditional therapies in which antibiotics are ineffective.
Although the process of oil extraction from grape seeds may reduce to half its antioxidant capacity, other grape products, such as grape juice, wine, seed, and seed extract could be used as dietary supplements for their antioxidant properties.
It was found that polyphenolics presented in grape extract might be beneficial in reversing the course of neuronal and behavioral aging.
Due to their notable antioxidant activity, such as scavenging free radical, they could prevent organs and tissues from oxidative damage, and modify the body negative mechanism of redox status.
The evidences were obtained by observing the behaviors of rats, from age 19 to 21 months. After drinking the 10% grape juice, improvements were detected on release of dopamine from striatal slices, as well as cognitive performance in the Morris water maze, while the 50% grape juice improved action capacity.
Further research, discovered that supplement with phenolic compounds from grape seed extracts such as grape seed oil, at a dose of 100 mg/kg b.wt. for 30 days, inhibited the accumulation of age-related oxidative DNA damages in neural tissue.
Also, Balu et al. reported the decreased incidence of free radical-induced lipid peroxidation in the central nervous system of aged rats.
Warnings and Contraindication when Using Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is generally safe when taken in moderate doses (max. 3 tablespoons per day). Although it is very unlikely, side effects may include headache, itchy scalp, dizziness, and nausea.
It has been tested safely for up to 14 weeks in studies of people. However, grape seed oil can be contraindicated for people with bleeding disorder or under treatment with anticoagulants (blood thinners), such as warfarin or aspirin.
Likewise, patients who suffer from hypertension and are under medical treatment, should not consume this oil without specialized supervision. The same goes for certain heart medicines and cancer treatments.
Also, it is advisable to discontinue consumption at least two weeks before having surgery.
Due to the lack of evidence about its safety, continued consumption of grape seed oil is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In case of topical application, avoid its use if there is a previous allergic reaction to any product related to grapes.
For added security, it is preferable to perform a patch test to avoid unwanted effects.
Where to Buy Grape Seed Oil?
Grape seed oil is a relatively easy oil to find, however, if we want to obtain the therapeutic properties described in this article, we must ensure that it is cold pressed, organic, therapeutic and food grade and from a reliable supplier.
Generally, grape seed oils that are easily accessible in the traditional hypermarket are not indicated for what we are looking for, since these have gone through different manufacturing processes than cold pressing, which affects the purity of their biological activities.
Below you will find some oils that meet the requirements we need:
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