Is Grapefruit Seed Extract Safe During Pregnancy?

Grapefruit with slices.
Grapefruit seed extract may be a good antimicrobial agent, but clinical trials are needed to establish safety and effectiveness. (Image: Valentyn Volkov/iStock/Getty Images)

Grapefruit seed extract is reputed to help with a host of issues including fungal yeast infections, bacterial infections and viruses. It also may reduce risk for cervical dysplasia, or abnormal cell growth on your cervix surface. In fact, your herbalist may advocate it as a healthier, more natural and cheaper alternative to medication for a host of conditions. Consult a doctor before using any natural remedy during pregnancy, including grapefruit seed extract.

Cervical Dysplasia

Cervical dysplasia is a condition that can advance during pregnancy. Medication is not used to treat this condition -- surgery is. Such surgery cannot be performed during pregnancy, but treatment generally can be deferred until after your baby is born, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. While grapefruit seed extract, valued for its immune system boost as well as its antibacterial and antifungal activity, may seem like a good alternative your best bet is to develop a long-term treatment plan with your doctor. Never try to self-diagnose or self-treat during pregnancy, recommends the American Pregnancy Association.

Safety Unproven

Medical professionals generally do not recommend using alternative remedies such as grapefruit seed extract during pregnancy because safety hasn’t been established via extensive research, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Scientific studies on grapefruit seed extract are scarce, so most evidence backing this extract is anectdotal, according to “Earl Mindell’s Supplement Bible.” Also, herbal remedies don’t undergo an extensive evaluation process and are not subject to the same regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as medications. That means strength and quality of grapefruit seed extract may vary between manufacturers and even between batches made by the same manufacturer.

Expert Insight

While grapefruit as a food is generally recognized as safe during pregnancy, safety during pregnancy for dosages above what would be consumed as food, including extract form of the fruit or seed, has not been proven during pregnancy, according to Drugs.com. Grapefruit seed extract is toxic to human skin fibroblast cells.

Toxicity

Grapefruit seed extract is toxic at some, but not all, concentrations, according to a June 2002 “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine” study. This extract is still useful for combating bacteria when diluted into nontoxic doses, according to lead study author J.P. Heggers. Grapefruit seed extract is effective against 800 bacterial and viral strains as well as 100 fungal strains and many parasites, Heggers notes.

Drug Interactions

Grapefruit seed extract may slow metabolism of some drugs, notes “Integrative Medicine,” by David Rakel. It contains naringin/naringenin, substances suspected in the grapefruit-juice drug interaction in which concentrations for numerous drugs can increase to potentially dangerous levels in your body. If you take any medicines consult your doctor before combining them with grapefruit seed extract, especially if you are pregnant.

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