Monday, May 7, 2012

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. Posted in Grapefruit seed extract, Uncategorized, manipulated plants, whole plants | 5 Comments » Taking drugs that do not work December 3rd, 2006 I was going to write a light hearted blog about TV ads that have caught my attention. Like the one that asks if I am hindered by my mobility. Apparently, if I am getting around too much, I might want a wheelchair. Or the ad where mom plunks down a bucket of fried chicken on the table and the kids run and get in the car. “It will take a while for them to get used to dinner at home,” she says. Yes, there is nothing quite as unexpected as dinner at home, even if not home cooked. But then I started exploring one of my favorite ads for a new antidepressant and got side tracked into more serious issues. The ad begins by citing a government study showing that 70% of the people taking prescription anti-depressants remain depressed. That is amazing. Why are so many people ignoring cost and side effects and taking these ineffective drugs? Probably patients and their doctors simply assume that the drugs are working “a bit” and that life would be worse off without them. This is a false assumption as people either respond or do not respond to a medication. In fact, close to 90% of prescription medicines only work in 30-50% of those who are prescribed them. It follows that, leaving aside the placebo effect of doing something about one’s state of mind and having someone (the doctor) identify it as a biochemical problem, one’s attitude toward life would remain the same with or without these antidepressants. Another reason may be that it can be difficult to quit the drugs. Most of the antidepressants in question are SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and one of their benefits is supposedly that they are not addictive. However, it turns out that they may make you feel absolutely miserable when you stop them, especially if you do so abruptly. One site claims that about 1/3 of those who stop taking SSRIs experience some or all of these effects: Stomach upsets, flu like symptoms, anxiety, dizziness, disturbingly vivid dreams (basically a euphemism for nightmares), and sensations in the body that feel like electric shocks. This is referred to as the SSRI discontinuation syndrome. It is said to be different from drug addiction although the distinction somewhat escapes me. And those who have the hardest time quitting are apparently newborns and young infants. They are exposed to the drugs in utero and through breast milk, and can suffer very serious withdrawal symptoms when either their mom, or they at birth, quit taking the drugs. So, for many (actually the majority), SSRIs are going to be expensive, ineffective, have numerous side effects, and be difficult and painful to quit. Nonetheless, the medical establishment favors SSRIs over St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). The latter is often helpful in depression, has few side effects aside from changing the metabolism of other pharmaceutical drugs the patient may not be taking, and there is no “St. John’s wort discontinuation syndrome” for those cases where it is not the right choice for the patient. Go figure. For more information on SSRI discontinuation syndrome see The statistics on how often prescription medicines may not work are from Posted in SSRIs, St. John's wort, antidepressants, prescription medicines | 1 Comment » Beta blockers and dementia November 27th, 2006 I was watching 60 minutes last night. They had a segment about the use of a beta blocker propanolol for traumatic stress syndrome lauding its ability to block the formation of traumatic memories. It was pretty interesting. Many of the elderly I interact with are on beta blockers to control their hypertension. Often, their hypertension remains poorly controlled which fits with the studies that indicate that beta blockers are not a good prescription choice for the elderly hypertensive. Moreover, “no trial has shown that lowering blood pressure with a beta blocker reduces the risk of a heart attack or cardiovascular event in patients with essential hypertension compared with placebo.” Thus, even where the beta blocker reduces blood pressure it does not accomplish the ultimate goal of preventing heart attack, stroke, and all-cause morbidity and mortality. “This indicates that, at present, millions of elderly hypertensive patients are needlessly exposed to the cost, inconvenience, and adverse effects of beta blockers even though they will never harvest any real benefit.” The do seem to harvest the side effects, however. Fatigue and nightmares are fairly common side effects of beta-blockers. Other side effects that are more rare are “confusion (especially in elderly patients)” and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there). My mother was recently put on a beta blocker while in the hospital. When I left her one evening, she was doing fine. When I got back to the hospital the next morning, she informed me that “something was wrong with her mind.” And indeed she was disoriented and seemed to have lost her mind & memory. Both her nurse and her doctor insisted that this mental state was common in people her age subjected to the stress of being in a hospital. At our insistence they discontinued the beta blocker (toprol) and within hours her mind was clear as a bell. Her blood pressure was not affected, that is, it did not go up when the meds were discontinued. I often think that if she had not had family there, she would have deteriorated further and they probably would have diagnosed her with dementia and have started her on a bunch of other drugs. In many elderly, short term memory is fragile and they are at risk for dementia in all its various forms. Beta blockers appear to work in traumatic stress by interfering with the person’s ability to lay down such a memory. It seems reasonable to me that taking such a drug on a continuous basis may be creating dementia in many of our elderly. There was no discussion of this potential on 60 minutes and I am not aware of any studies on the topic. But, if you know an elderly person who “seems to be losing it,” perhaps you should check and see if they are on a beta blocker. It may be the drugs and not the mind that is at fault. Right now we are managing mom’s hypertension reasonable well with herbs (Rauwolfia being the main component for that) and she seems to be doing well. For the study on beta blockers quoted above see: Messwerli FH. Antihypertensive therapy: beta-blockers and diuretics — why do most physicians not always follow guidelines? Full text available at Posted in beta-blockers, dementia, elderly, hypertension | No Comments » Mandatory Flu Vaccinations Planned November 23rd, 2006 I was recently asked to write an article about why I choose not to get a flu shot. I had not given a great deal of thought to my decision so it was interesting to read the research on the effectiveness of flu vaccinations. I learned that the flu shot does not really provide much protection against influenza, even where there is a good match between the circulating flu strain and the strain used for the vaccine. A recent example on point: 49 residents in an Australian nursing home and 7 staff members just came down with the flu, 6 of them died. More than 90% of the residents and about 55% of the staff were vaccinated. You can read my article on why I do not get a flu shot on page 12 of the Vashon Loop: A few days later I read an article a friend sent me about a panel discussion on world affairs held at Stanford University and moderated by Ted Koppel. The panelists concluded that the threat of pandemic influenza was the most troubling crisis facing the world. I was immediately struck by a comment made by the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, Jean-Pierre Garnier: “The solution is not to stockpile vaccines. The solution is to nip it in the bud. Our best shot is to draw a circle around the infected area and vaccinate everyone.” ( Is the government planning mandatory vaccination using a vaccine that may be entirely ineffective? Is that part of our preparedness plan? It indeed appears to be. Most state preparedness plans grant the government authority to make flu vaccination mandatory. Those who cannot (or will not) take the shot will be quarantined. I found little information on how the quarantine will be implemented. Will people be forced to stay home or will they be sent to “quarantine camps”? In any case, how many of us can survive being quarantined for an extended period of time? Our bills will continue to pile up even if we are not allowed to work and earn a living. It would be easier to stomach the thought of mandatory vaccinations if the drug manufacturers had any faith in the safety of their products. Instead, they have convinced Congress to shield them from any and all liability for damage done by their drugs and vaccines during an “emergency.” I believe they know their vaccines will be ineffective — the better planned seasonal flu shots are — and they know they will cause damage to many. I think it is time for the public to wake up and look at this issue. It is bad enough that tax dollars are being wasted on stockpiles of largely ineffective antiviral drugs and vaccines. There is no reason to guarantee vaccine manufacturers a market for their products as well as freedom from liability for injury caused by their negligence. Source -

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