Self-Care Thrive

GSE Grapefruit Seed Extract – Exposed

Written by Jessika Firmage

What is it?

Grapefruit Seed Extract or GSE is a synthetic combination of grapefruit pulp and chemicals.  Yes, you read that correctly — chemicals.  It is not all natural, much to my dismay.

How is it made?

GSE is made by taking the pulp, not necessarily seeds, from grapefruit juice production and in a multi-step industrial chemical process change the natural phenolic compounds into synthetic quaternary ammonium compounds.  Added chemicals and heat are used in this process, chemicals you would never knowingly sign up to put into your body, especially if you are of the type to be searching out a natural, alternative remedy.

Some of the chemicals used in this process are:

ammonium chloride

benzethonium chloride


methyl paraben

According to a report from the Institute of Pharmacy, Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, Germany:

“The antimicrobial efficacy as well as the content of preservative agents of six commercial grapefruit seed extracts were examined. Five of the six extracts showed a high growth-inhibiting activity against the test germs. In all of the antimicrobial active grapefruit seed extracts, the preservative benzethonium chloride was detected by thin layer chromatography. Additionally, three extracts contained the preserving substances triclosan and methyl paraben. In only one of the grapefruit seed extracts tested no preservative agent was found. However, with this extract as well as with several self-made extracts from seed and juiceless pulp of grapefruits (Citrus paradisi), no antimicrobial activity could be detected. Thus, it is concluded that the potent as well as nearly universal antimicrobial activity being attributed to grapefruit seed extract is merely due to the synthetic preservative agents contained within. Natural products with antimicrobial activity do not appear to be present.”

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) did a study following up that of the one mentioned above out of Germany and found:

“Confirming an earlier study by researchers in Germany we found that some commercial grapefruit seed extracts contain benzethonium chloride, a synthetic antimicrobial agent commonly used in cosmetics and only approved for topical use, at relatively high levels of 8%.”

Many of you may have expected an article about how wonderful GSE is, and the myriad of ailments it has been known to treat.  Knowing what I do now, after researching, I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone use GSE.  Unfortunately the word “natural” is not regulated by any agency, and thus can be used on any product.   Lead is all natural, so is tar, but you wouldn’t spray them in your mouth to treat a sore throat.  It’s unfortunate in many ways that what we as consumers are led to believe is truly a natural product is made by synthetic means, in a laboratory, using synthetic harmful chemicals, and this process is not being regulated.

The patent for making Grapefruit Seed Extract clearly states that triclosan is added.

About the author

Jessika Firmage