This is news that I thought had got out among the natural health community a while ago, but lately I keep seeing more and more people completely unaware of this very important fact;
Grapefruit Seed Extract is not natural, and it is not safe!
It sure does have a lovely innocuous sounding name, doesn't it? And it smells so nice too! But underneath that sweet refreshing exterior, lies a very nasty little chemical, called;
The Swiss Toxicological Information Centre of Basle, Switzerland reports that "Benzethonium chloride is a disinfectant (quaternary ammonium compound, cationic detergent)... Cationic detergents are more toxic than other detergents. Toxicity of concentrated solutions (more than 5-10%) is based upon their caustic action and upon their systemic toxic effects. Symptoms after dermal application of a concentrated solution are irritation, dermatitis, and bullous lesions. Contamination of the eye may lead from mild discomfort to corneal lesions depending on the concentration. Oral application of concentrated solutions leads to caustic burns of the oral and esophageal mucosa, nausea, emesis, abdominal pain, diarrhea, pulmonary edema, hypotension, metabolic acidosis, and depression of the central nervous system (sleepiness to coma), seizures, and death. Grapefruit seed extracts containing benzethonium chloride in concentrations of 7-11% represent a major health risk if larger amounts of a concentrated solution are ingested (i.e. by mouthful). Exposure of the skin or the eye may cause toxic symptoms. The Swiss Toxicological Information Centre discourages consumers from administration of these extracts unless it is known which of them are containing benzethonium chloride and what the concentrations are."
I don't know about you, but I don't want that on my face.
Photo Credit; Belovodchenko Anton on sxc.hu
The Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products (SCCNFP) agrees. In their final report for the European Union on Benzethonium chloride, dated February 27th 2002, they stated that;
"The data provided in the submitted dossier does not support the requested use of Benzethonium chloride as a preservative in leave-on (body care) products."
Testing has also found other nasty chemicals such as triclosan & methylparaben. If you want to read more, I highly recommend this article. It is very well written with solid peer reviewed science.
So how did it get into our lovely grapefruits? Well it turns out that "grapefruit seed extract" isn't a natural product. Sure, it comes from a grapefruit, but like a lot of things that originate from natural sources it has gone through a very unnatural process involving a lot of chemicals that you don't want in or on your body.
The tricky thing about labeling, especially in America, is that we can put all kinds of pretty sounding names on a product that don't accurately describe what is really in it. For example, "yeast extract" means Monosodium Glutamate. Chances are, if you see the word "extract" you don't want it anywhere near you.
Grapefruit "seed" extract is actually made by;
- Grinding the pulp and seeds (the by-product of expeller extracted grapefruit juice) into a fine powder.
- Dissolving the powder into water, then distilled in order to remove the fiber and other unwanted parts.
- Spray drying the mixture to remove the water - you now have grapefruit seed extract powder, and it is sometimes added to products in this form.
- In order to sell it in the liquid form you are probably familiar with, it is mixed with vegetable glycerin, ammonium chloride and ascorbic acid and heated under pressure.
- It then goes through a process called "catalytic conversion" using a bunch of catalysts, including hydrochloric acid and enzymes.
- The mixture is then cooled, filtered and treated with UV light to make it shelf stable.
It contains no antimicrobial properties on it's own.
None. Nada. Zilch. So what can we use instead? Sometimes we need to make sure some germs are really really dead. Does that mean we have to go back to using toxic chemicals? Thankfully, no! We have much better options for keeping things germ free than a chemical concoction masquerading as a tasty fruit;
Alcohol - the main ingredient in hand sanitizers
Hydrodgen Peroxide - a non chlorine bleach
Boiling Water - how bottle sanitizers and the sanitize setting on your dishwasher work
Four Thieves Essential Oil blend - tested and proven effective!
Silver or Manuka Honey - wonderful wound dressings
If you are looking to preserve a personal care or beauty product, it is worth your while to learn about making products without water, as these do not need preservatives - post coming soon on this!
I'm sure there are many more, what do you use?
So go ahead and enjoy that grapefruit... but please, just eat it!