Grapefruit seed extract ( Citrus paradisi) has been touted to be useful for just about anything that ails you. The parts used for its medicinal purposes are the fruit peel, pulp and seeds, but the leaves may also be used. GSE has been shown to kill many types of microbes that cause harm to the body, but no studies have been able to prove it can affect the cell membranes of such a diverse group of microbes with no toxicity toward animals. It is classified as an antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic and more.
GSE also has been found to be an effective disinfectant in both human and veterinary hospitals. As a cleaning agent GSE can be used for disinfecting counter tops, brooders, incubators, cooking utensils, feeding instruments, perches and so forth.
GSE contains phenolic compounds, bioflavonoids, amino acids, fatty acids, tocopherols, saccarides, ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acids. The phenolic compounds are unstable but are chemically converted into more stable substances that belong to a diverse class of products called quaternary ammonium compounds. Standardized GSE has the chemical name diphenol hydroxybenzene and is used by prescription in Germany. The chemical structure of the compounds produced by GSE is not fully documented; so much more investigation of GSE is needed in this area.
In the holistic pet world the use of GSE began with cat and dog owners using it to disinfect and remove the bacteria from raw meat (i.e. poultry and fish). Shortly thereafter it became popular for bird owners to use it to keep sprouted seeds from developing bacteria and fungi. Naturally, it must be used in appropriate amounts to be effective for these purposes. GSE can also be used as an internal medicine, but must be used very carefully for the appropriate health conditions and in correct dosage.
With herbal products, at one extreme dosage matters little, and at the other it is critical. Many times herbal medicine uses foods, e.g., pineapple, papaya, ginger, parsley, thyme and sage where dosage has little matter. Other herbs, such as goldenseal, comfrey, valerian, horsetail, St. John's wort, licorice, and ephedra are in the middle to extreme end where the dosage must be carefully chosen. Too much or even too little won't have the expected effect. I consider GSE to be in the same category as the herbs I list above in the middle to extreme end.
GSE is a potent acid with the same ph as your stomach (2.0-3.0). This acidity is where its potency comes from. Any substance that has a very acidic nature can cause harm to the mucous membranes. I wouldn't recommend that such an acidic substance be used internally for a bird/animal/human with ulcers or irritation/inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. It is GSE's extreme acidity that can cause harm internally, if used unwisely.
I also would not use GSE for baby birds or very young birds (before weaning) due to their delicate intestinal tracts. Accordingly, I do not recommend any highly acidic food or product be used for very young birds. If greatly diluted it may not cause any harm, but it also probably won't do much good.
Often an herb's value is found when enough is used to beneficial, but not so much as to be toxic. So, in other words, there is a fine line between what is useful and what is harmful when using many types of herbs. If used with knowledge, caution and guidance, GSE can be very beneficial for specific types of ailments, but a complete history must be taken and lab work performed to help determine if GSE is the right substance to be used in the first place.
GSE is a VERY powerful substance that should be saved for serious illness and it can be harmful if used inappropriately. GSE acts as an antibiotic in the true sense-antibiotic means anti-life. While it is believed that GSE has no harmful effect on the beneficial bacteria, if given internally in excessive doses over a long-term period it can kill off all intestinal bacteria much as broad-spectrum antibiotics do, with the same adverse effects. NOTE: GSE should NEVER be used in the eyes. The extract can cause severe eye irritation. In humans, caution is recommended during pregnancy.
GSE comes in many forms, including capsules, tablets and liquid. In my practice, I recommend its use at a very low dose, specifically calculated for each bird. The dose must be carefully calculated for the weight of each bird, the illness being treated and the stage and length of the illness. I have effectively used it in the treatment of certain resistant strains of bacteria and also with certain viruses. It is most palatable if given with orange or grapefruit juice. Externally, I found it effective for skin infections.
I do not recommend the liquid form at all for internal use in birds. When I suggest the use of GSE in a nutritional healing program for one of my clients' birds, it is in the powder form, in a very low strength, and is combined with herbs that are soothing to the intestinal tract. This program was always a diet of fresh whole foods.
In essence, GSE is a natural broad-spectrum antimicrobial. It is non-toxic only if used properly, just like any other herbal medicine. If not diluted correctly, problems will result. GSE should only be used with the guidance of a qualified health practitioner when used internally. Just because it is a natural substance doesn't automatically mean it is safe.
The above article was published in the Winter 2001 Issue of The Grey Play Round Table® Magazine.
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