Grape seed extract as a treatment for asthma
Grapes have been celebrated for their medicinal and nutritional value for thousands of years. Egyptians ate grapes at least 6,000 years ago, and several ancient Greek philosophers praised the healing power of grapes. But it is the chemicals within them that some believe could help treat a number of conditions including asthma.
What happens during an asthma attack
Asthma is a common, chronic and inflammatory condition of the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. The symptoms are general intermittent and recurring, with attacks varying from mild to severe with gradual deterioration if untreated.
The epithelial tissue of the lungs responds to allergens that in turn cause an inflammatory reaction. As this inflammation develops is can cause swelling of the bronchial tubes with fluid and mucous as a way to fight off the allergen, The air passages of the lungs become more and more sensitive and vulnerable due to the swelling.
These allergens include mold, dust, dander, and pollutants, Foods include dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts and others. Food additives such as sodium bisulfate, potassium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide are common culprits.
Grape seed extract
Grape seed extract contains OPC (oligomeric proanthocyanidins) that have a wide variety of health benefits. For asthmatics it is the anti-inflammatory properties without side effects, of traditional therapy such as steroids that is most promising. In addition the long-term use of grape seed extract assists in boosting of the immune system.
Scientific studies now show that grape seed extract significantly improves lung function, increases lung capacity and reduces asthma symptoms. This is thought to be due to its ability to lower leukotriene levels in our bodies, Leukotriene is the substance that is produced in response to inflammation. Grape seed extract therefore targets the cause of the symptoms and not suppressing them.
In one study in 2011, the grape seed extract was studied for the molecular effects on airway inflammation and hyper-responsiveness in a mouse with allergic asthma. Grape seed extract was found to remarkably suppress airway resistance and reduce the total inflammatory cell and eosinophil counts. It also significantly enhanced the interferon levels and decreased interleukin levels. Further, grape seed extract reduced allergen-induced lung eosinophilic inflammation and mucus-producing goblet cells in the airway. In conclusion, grape seed extract was found to decrease airway inflammation and increase immunity.
In another study in 2012, the purpose was to explore the possibility of using grape seed extract and determine the effect on lung tissue. The physical changes in lung tissue during asthma involves alveolar (air-sac) size reduction, alveolar wall thickening, cellular infiltration and blood capillary congestion. However, grape seed extract significantly eliminated the negative pathological changes of the lungs. Therefore, the observations supported the thought that grape seed extract behaves as an effective, safe anti-inflammatory dietary supplement to attenuate the pathogenicity of asthma.
Take away message:
Some could argue that the temporary relief of the asthmatic symptoms by synthetic drugs may actually worsen asthma in the long-term due to the side effect and possible damage to the immune system. It would therefore be ideal to explore using natural products extracted from plants, which may be free of side effects. However, due to the fact that grape seed extract may act as a blood thinner it could increase the risk of bleeding if taken with other blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin. As with any supplement it would be prudent to discuss your plans with your healthcare professional before adding grape seed extract to your regime that might help curb asthma attacks.
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Zhou DY, Du Q, et al. Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract attenuates airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in a murine model of asthma by downregulating inducible nitric oxide synthase. Planta Med. 2011 Sep;77(14):1575-81, Abstract.
Mahmoud YI. Grape seed extract attenuates lung parenchyma pathology in ovalbumin-induced mouse asthma model: An ultrastructural study. Micron. 2012 May 5.