Grapefruit seed extract explained

A lot of people use grapefruit seed extract thinking it is a “natural” product. While it may be effective, it is not a natural product in the sense that it is something a plant produced on its own.

This is how it is made:

1. Grapefruit pulp and seed is dried and ground to a powder. I imagine this is an inexpensive by-product of the juice industry. No problem so far.

2. The powder is dissolved in purified water and distilled to remove the fiber and pectin. Fine so far; it is not used as a source of fiber.

3. The distilled slurry is spray died at low temperatures forming a concentrated flavonoid powder. This is good, we need flavonoids and grapefruit is a fine place to get them.

4. This concentrated powder is dissolved in vegetable glycerine and heated. Fine, glycerin is benign.

5. Food grade ammonium chloride and ascorbic acid are added, this mixture is heated under pressure. The amount of ammonium chloride remaining in finished Citricidal(r) (a commonly used grapefruit seed extract) is 15-19%; the amount of ascorbic acid is 2.5-3%. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C, a fine additive. Ammonium chloride?? It is a synthetic chemical that is harmful if swallowed in larger amounts. It is a skin irritant.

6. The ammoniated mixture undergoes catalytic conversion using “natural” catalysts, including hydrochloric acid and natural enzymes. There is no residue of hydrochloric acid after the reaction. Thank goodness. Hydrochloric acid has its place in the stomach but is not something to be taken lightly.

7. The slurry is cooled, filtered, and treated with UV light. Ok.

The result: The main active components in the finished product are a group of quarternary ammonium chlorides including benzethonium chloride that make up 8-17% of the product.

Benzethonium chloride is not a substance that occurs naturally in grapefruit seeds. It is a manufactured chemical that is lacking in safety data but may be an endocrine and skin toxicant. Endocrine toxicants are chemicals that have the ability to disrupt our hormones. Commonly encountered endocrine toxicants include PCBs and DDT. “Not to worry,” assures the manufacturer of Citricidal: “Benzethonium chloride is a well-known synthetic antiseptic agent; it is not added to the grapefruit extract, but if formed from the orginal grapefruit flavonoids during the ammoniation process.”

Using grapefruit seed extract is about the same as going to a pharmacy and buying triclosan or any other synthetic antimicrobial chemical. They may work. They may be safe. Or they may not be safe.

My advice: Use whole plants the way they have been used traditionally. Do not adopt new uses for them based on what chemical manufacturers are able to do in their labs. And avoid grapefruit seed extract.

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