Grapes have been used in the medical field for thousands of years. Drinking wine — which is made from grapes — has long been known as a way to promote heart health. But, aside from helping the old ticker, early European folk healers used an ointment made of grapevines to treat skin and eye diseases. Today, scientific evidence shows that our ancestors were on to something: The healing properties of grape seeds — also called Vitis vinifera — can indeed improve vision and prevent eye disease. As with any new treatment, consult your doctor before starting.
Inside the Grape Seed
To understand why grape seed extract is helpful to your vision and general eye health, you must first look at its chemical makeup. The active ingredient in grape seeds is oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs. OPCs contain antioxidants and antihistamine properties. Grape seeds also contain vitamin E, flavonoids and linolenic acid.
In Susan G. Komen Foundation’s complementary therapy guide, grape seed extract is explored as an option for many ailments, including diabetic retinopathy. On a grading scale of A through F, it rates its use for retinopathy based on scientific evidence a B. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that affects the small blood vessels in the retina of the eye. The anti-inflammatory agents in the OPCs in grape seed extract help stop the disease progression. In fact, grape seed extract’s healing properties aid in other vascular-related disorders.
Night vision can be caused by extreme nearsightedness, or more serious issues such as retinal disease. The University of Maryland’s Medical Center points out that grape seed extract can be helpful with improving night vision, although, the source cites that further research is needed to make official scientific claims. A University of Colorado Denver monograph on grape seed reinforces this theory, as it also explains that grape seed extract can be used in several diabetic complications, which include macular degeneration and poor night vision.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for people over 60 years old in the United States. Risk factors, aside from age, include cardiovascular disease, cigarette smoking, light-colored eyes and high cholesterol. If you are at risk for macular degeneration, grape seed oil could contribute in the treatment or prevention. Among the many preventive measures recommended for macular degeneration, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, are omega-3 fatty acids. One of these acids is the linolenic acid found in grape seed extract. When it comes to the natural treatment of an existing condition, several vitamins and minerals are recommended, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc and copper. Grape seed extract contains vitamin E and other antioxidants.