Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Grapefruit Seed Extract and Thrush: Evidence

So I have this persistent kind-of-awful thrush and mastitis, right?  (Note: Please do not suggest anything else.  If it involves sugar, or anything available at a pharmacy, I have already tried it.  My immune system is screwed up, and is not playing nicely.)

I started wondering about grapefruit seed extract.  (One of my favorite blogs had an excellent piece on "How to judge good science."  Anyone?)  I was willing to believe that it had a topical effect - lots of things are bacteria-preventing; for example, a salt-and-vinegar solution will not grow bacteria easily, but drinking it won't help you with your infection - but skeptical of the take-a-capsule claims.  So, I looked it up on Pubmed.

The main 'active ingredient' in a lot of GSEs is 'Citricidal', which is produced by proprietary reaction of actual GSE with ammonium chloride.  A large number of studies have found that benzalkonium chloride and similar compounds, including triclosan, are the active ingredient.  This makes sense: phenolic (aromatic-ring-containing) substances in the seeds are reacting with the ammonium chloride. 

One of those linked studies shows that the only GSE product that didn't have benzalkonium chloride also didn't have any antimicrobial activity.  In other words, natural extract of grapefruit seeds doesn't do anything.

Additionally, GSE taken internally can have serious side effects - largely due to the benzalkonium chloride.

(Benzalkonium chloride is a topical irritant as well.)

(Here is an excellent example of a crap article on the subject. Pro tip: "Natural products" papers out of Africa, Asia, and China - and especially out of India- purporting to show that TURMERIC!  will prevent DIABETES!!  are almost always crap.)

So am I going to apply this to my nipples?  Oh, hell, no. On the other hand, I am seriously considering begging for some APNO.

[Note to the reader: Comments on how GSE cured your thrush (great, but not the point here) or how natural products papers from India are totally awesome (also great, for you, but I have literally read over a hundred of them) will be deleted.]


  1. There has to be at least one compounding pharmacist in nearby metropolis. I love how the APNO article begins with a lecture on latching. Even if said ointment doesn't cure what's going on internally, I'm sure it would help with the external irritations.
    Digression to my least favorite part of nursing; Getting thrush, not getting a correct diagnosis for a month or two, curing thrush, then using lanolin after every nursing session combined with air-drying (akward/embarrasing) or cloth nursing pads (visible through most undergarments). At least I didn't have an older male child wandering around asking a lot of questions during that process.
    Most favorite part ofnursing; Sleeping baby (Child #1), or sleeping baby whose fingers are gripping my earlobe, because I was his lovey (Child #2).

    1. There is one. It seems to specialize in WOOOOO but... maybe they'll let me watch them mix it together. Must still extract a prescription from someone. Urgh.

      Air-drying! I remember lots of that. I can just imagine the questions your Child #1 would ask. :)

  2. Have you tried grapefruit seed extract?

    Sorry. You're probably not in the mood for humor. I'm sorry GSE isn't going to be a magic cure. I spend a lot of time wondering why we haven't yet genetically engineered infants to have antibacterial/antifungal saliva. I mean, what the hell do you scientists do all day that you haven't gotten around to this one yet?

    1. TRUE that it's not available at a pharmacy!!

      Sadly, genetic engineering on human embryos is still prohibited by law. But hey! Bring on the Democrats, right? Frankenbaby all the way.

  3. I did the whole gencin violet thing, biggest impact seemed to be turning my babies mouth a freaky color.

    What worked in the end was a topical cream from the dr, I think it had some kind of steroid in it. It kind of freaked me out at the time, but on the other hand I thikn I checked and it was ok and damn did it work.

  4. Anonymous1:57 PM

    Does your area have a La Leche League chapter? Perhaps they could point you to an MD/PA/NP to write you a script AND could point you to a reputable pharmacy?

    1. One of the local LLL leaders is, in fact, a MD! I could ask her. Have gotten back in touch with my local specialist to weep and gnash teeth. Surely someone knows of a compounding pharmacy around here. Or, I have access to an analytical balance; I could mix it myself IF ONLY someone would give me the ingredients! (Hear that? That's the sound of 100 pharmacists shuddering simultaneously.)

  5. Bah. I known nothing about breastfeeding, but having medical issues that nobody quite understands, let alone is able to fix just sucks...


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