- Oral Health
Can Grapefruit Seed Extract Cure Toothaches?
Some plant or herbal supplements provide seemingly miraculous cures
People have been treating illnesses with plant products for at least two thousand years. Tablets - or pills, if you will - were recently found in a Roman shipwreck (per an article in the May 2011 issue of Smithsonian ). Comprised of plant matter stuck together with clay, these tablets may have been diluted in water, wine or vinegar and then ingested. They could have been used to cure stomach ailments, from which sailors of that time often suffered.
In modern times, grapefruit seed extract (GSE) has been purported to provide numerous health benefits, perhaps the most impressive of which would be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Labeled as “Pure Liquid Gold” by some marketers, GSE seems a kind of wonder drug.
The purpose of this article is to explore the use of GSE in dental care. If GSE really does have antibacterial properties, perhaps it could cure toothaches. Some people claim it does. Are they right or wrong?
An early proponent of GSE was Yugoslav physicist Dr. Jacob Harich, who, after World War Two, expanded his academic specialty to include medicine. In 1957, Harich came to the U.S. and studied at Long Island University in New York. He was interested in discovering the natural antibiotic properties in plants.
Harich eventually moved to Florida where he began studying GSE. In 1995, Harich was invited to the Pasteur Institute of France, a leading center in the fight against AIDS. Scientists at the Institute had been studying the effectiveness of GSE in the treatment of HIV. Harich later developed a powdered form of GSE used in fish and poultry feed to control salmonella and Escherichia coli.
The fact that the eminent Dr. Harich spent such a large amount of time studying the efficacy of GSE seems to make you think the stuff really works, doesn’t it?
Whether GSE has any medicinal properties seems to be a matter of interpretation or opinion. Scientific studies seem to indicate that if GSE has any antibiotic effects it may be due to the presence of benzethonium chloride (BC) or ammonium chloride (AC), both synthetic preservatives which have been found in commercial brands of GSE. Both BC and AC have proven antimicrobial properties.
Opponents of these studies claim that BC and AC were contaminants in the process to produce commercial GSE.
Be that as it may, independent studies conducted in 2007 and 2008, using only naturally produced GSE, have shown that GSE possesses no antibacterial properties.
Pro and Con
In 2005, in the article entitled “Grapefruit Seed Antibiotic Activity Is Due to Preservative Compounds,” Todd Caldecott wrote:
GSE is marketed as an all-natural and perfectly safe health food product, when it is neither. Various Citrus species have been used as a food and medicine in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. While they have many benefits, neither Chinese nor Ayurvedic medicine has ever advocated the use of Grapefruit seed or any other Citrus seed in acute infectious disease: this alone should provide some clue as to its effects or lack thereof.
In counterpoint, Allan Sachs, author of the book, The Authoritative Guide to Grapefruit Seed Extract, lists the criteria for the ideal antibiotic:
It must have broad spectrum application, be powerful and effective, non-toxic, have minimal impact on beneficial bacteria, be well researched, derived from natural sources, hypo-allergenic, biodegradable, compatible with other natural remedies and affordable.
Sachs suggests that GSE definitely qualifies as the ideal antibiotic. Since he’s written an entire book about GSE, perhaps he knows what he’s talking about!
GSE as Dental Wash
GSE has been advertised for dental applications, specifically as a dental wash. For oral infections, you can gargle with a solution GSE and water two times per day.
GSE and Gingivitis
Hoping to cure a case of gingivitis, the author took 60 capsules of 250-milligram GSE over a period of 30 days. Although the gingivitis still persists, it has been reduced somewhat. So GSE does seem to have mild antibiotic properties, though when dealing with severe trouble with teeth or gums, taking a conventional antibiotic such as amoxicillin is recommended.
Toothaches happen when bacteria attacks the root or pulp of a tooth, often causing acute pain. This infection is usually treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin or tetracycline. Ask your dentist which one is right for you. (Of course, taking a painkiller such as acetaminophen or Vicodin would be advisable as well.)
But it you want to try a so-called natural alternative such as GSE, go ahead, but be advised there appears to be no scientific proof it will work. Also keep in mind that once necrosis gets to the root of a tooth, sooner or later you’ll almost certainly need to have a root canal – or the tooth extracted.
Regardless of what medicine you take for toothaches, you have to appreciate those people who, like the Romans 2,000 years ago, choose to ingest plant products to cure their infections and diseases. If that way isn’t the best way, it certainly is the oldest!
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© 2011 Kelley