Grapes have been used for centuries to treat numerous conditions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The leaves of the vine were used to treat inflammation and pain, and the unripened grapes were used to soothe sore throats. The grape seeds are even beneficial, as they are the source of grape seed extract, which offers several of its own medicinal benefits. Grape seed extract is available in the form of liquid, capsules or tablets. For benefits to the skin, it can be taken internally or applied topically.
Antioxidants protect cells from unstable molecules that can cause damage to healthy cells on the skin and in the body, according to the National Cancer Institute. Two of the most famous antioxidants are vitamins E and C. Grape seed extract contains several plant compounds, including oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs. OPCs are powerful antioxidants, and according to a report from the Food Research Center in Guelph, Canada, OPCs in grape seed extract contain 20 times the antioxidant power of vitamin E and 50 times the antioxidant power of vitamin C. The report, published in the Winter 2003 issue of “Journal of Medicinal Food,” states that grape seed extract can protect the body from sun damage. The sun can damage skin by causing wrinkles, pigment changes and skin cancer.
Protecting the skin from sun damage will maintain, or improve, the overall appearance of the skin. Researchers in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” claim that grape seed extract benefits the skin’s appearance by bonding with collagen, which is the building block of healthy skin, to maintain skin cell health in addition to the skin’s elasticity. The antioxidant power of the OPCs in grape seed extract is credited for these benefits as well.
A paper from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee explains the process by which antioxidants, or OPCs, protect and improve skin appearance. Free radicals, which are molecules that damage healthy cells, have an unpaired electron. To make up for this empty slot, the free radical will try to steal an electron from healthy protein in the skin. When this happens it sets off a chain reaction because the healthy cell that was stolen from is now a damaged cell and looks to steal an electron from another cell. What this leaves behind is a chain of damaged molecules, and the skin’s cellular structure is now weakened. The antioxidant power of grape seed extract fights the free radicals and protects the skin from damage. Free radicals can develop as a result of sun damage, pollution, cigarette smoke and even stress.