The other day, reading through my ‘Inbox,’ I came across an e-mail about an all-natural grape seed treatment for leukemia. The gist of the article claimed that grape seeds could kill 76 percent of diseased cells overnight. Being the skeptic that I am, I thought this sounded way too good to be true.

Where did these results come from, I wondered? It had to be a fluke, concocted by some backward scientist in Slovakia. How could an all-natural remedy really kill 76 percent of leukemia cells overnight?

However, after checking into the research myself, I found that the study was conducted at the University of Kentucky. (No, it wasn’t Harvard, but a big university laboratory nevertheless.) I also found that the results got published in the highly-respected, peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Cancer Research.

Okay, these little grape seeds had my attention. Now what? How do they destroy leukemia cells so quickly?

First, let’s back up. I probably should explain a little bit about leukemia so you can truly appreciate how promising this study could be in the years to come for any family touched by this brutal disease.

It’s the goliath of cancer
Leukemia is a vicious type of cancer that attacks the lifeline of your body: your blood. Normally, blood cells start out as stem cells made in the bone marrow. Then they mature into:

  • White blood cells (which help fight infection)
  • Red blood cells (deliver oxygen to vital organs and tissues in your body)
  • Platelets (help form blood clots when you get a cut or injury)

In healthy individuals, blood cells have a life cycle. When this happens, the old cells get replaced by new, healthy cells that are made in the bone marrow. It’s this natural turnover that helps keep you free from disease.

But in leukemia patients, this natural system has gone awry. The bone marrow begins to produce abnormal white blood cells that don’t die. Over time, the abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells.

As a result, diseased cells take over the blood stream. Leukemia patients can become prone to infection, grow tired easily, and become anemic.

Plus, sometimes the treatment’s worse than the disease
Treatment depends on the type of leukemia (there are four main types). Most mainstream routes involve some type of rigorous chemotherapy regimen, steroids, radiation, or even bone marrow transplants.

The road is far from easy for a leukemia patient. That’s why a proven and effective non-toxic treatment like grape seed extract is such welcome news.

What led scientists to test grape seeds?
The majority of research into grape seed extract has focused on promoting heart health. But recent studies have shown that grape seeds also seem to protect you against cancer.

Grape seeds contain loads of proanthocyanidin, an antioxidant thought to be 20 times more powerful than vitamin C. These antioxidants seem to neutralize roaming free radicals in your body that can cause cancer and disease.

In recent lab tests, grape seed extract has been shown to work against cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate. As recently as 2006, a very promising study funded by the US National Cancer Institute showed that grape seed extract could control the spread of colon cancer in mice.

Up until now, however, scientists dared not even dream that the natural extract could touch a disease as complex as leukemia.

A quick end for abnormal cells
In a new in vitro experiment (which means the work was conducted in test tubes with human cells, not animal cells), grape seed extract caused 76 percent of leukemia cells to literally ‘commit cell suicide.’

And, this mass drop-off (a process known as apoptosis) occurred within 24 hours. Plus, unlike chemotherapy, which kills all replicating cells (even hair cells), the grape seed extract left healthy cells alone.

Send those leukemia cells packing
Researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered that grape seed extract activates JNK, a protein that regulates the apoptosis pathway. So the extract literally sends the leukemia cells packing, never to be seen again.

According to the study’s lead author Xianglin Shi, PhD, Professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky: "These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers."

While this treatment has only been proven in the lab, not on human patients, the results are extremely promising.

Check out your local health food store
Grape seed extract is actually pretty easy to come by. And it’s cheap too. For preventative measures, I would recommend 200 mg per day (under the care of a naturopath, of course).

If you’ve got leukemia and would like to add grape seed extract to your regimen, check with your doctor or hematologist first. There hasn’t been a lot of research into how grape seed interacts with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. I’d use caution and probably stick pretty close to 200 mg a day. (As a side note: In a 12-month study, rats were given 100 mg of grape seed extract and they safely tolerated that dosage. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume 200 mg is a safe dosage for humans.)

Also, buyers beware that grape seed extract is sometimes shortened to "GSE.” But that acronym is also sometimes used as an acronym for grapefruit seed extract.

As research into this promising, non-toxic leukemia treatment continues, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.