Vitis vinifera

Grapes, and wine made from them, have been part of human culture for a remarkably long time. Archaeologists working at a site in the country of Georgia recently uncovered several pottery jars inside Neolithic ruins dating from around 6000 B.C. The jars contained a reddish residue—the remains of wine. This prehistoric wine was most likely made from wild grapes, as the domestication of grapevines didn’t begin until around 5000 B.C. Sumerian texts from 3000 B.C. contain some of the first written accounts of both grapes and wine.

Colorful scenes of grape harvesting and wine making decorate the walls of many Egyptian tombs, revealing the importance of Vitis vinifera in ancient Egypt—and in the afterlife—by at least 2700 B.C. Seven hundred years later, Phoenician sailors were transporting grapevines across the Mediterranean to Greece. From there, grapes and grape growing spread to Europe and the rest of the world.

Therapeutic Uses

Heart health
Scientists have looked at the juice, seed, and skin of grapes collectively and separately. While there are multiple health-enhancing compounds in grapes, it is the flavonoids, particularly resveratrol, that have gained international attention as powerhouse antioxidants. Resveratrol is concentrated in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes and is an ingredient in dark purple grape juice and red wine that may help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce bad cholesterol and inflammation, and prevent blood clots. In general, purple and other dark-colored grapes contain greater concentrations of flavonoid compounds than light-colored grapes do.

So is red wine better than white wine for your heart? Some studies do indeed show that red wine is superior to other types of alcohol, but others show that red wine isn’t any better than beer, white wine, or liquor for heart health. Thus, it is good news that researchers at Georgetown University have shown hat grape juice, similar to red wine, lowers the risk of developing blood clots that may lead to heart attacks. Further, grape juice is a good alternative for people who do not drink alcohol or want to limit their consumption. Another benefit to drinking grape juice is the antioxidant advantage. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that catechin, another key antioxidant in grapes, remains in the blood for more than 4 hours after grape juice is drunk, compared with only 3.2 hours for full-strength cabernet, suggesting that alcohol likely hastens the breakdown of catechin.

A growing body of research is showing that extracts from grape seeds are beneficial for our health. Grape seeds contain powerful antioxidants known as proanthocyanidins, which may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cataracts. Studies in humans have shown that grape-seed extract can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce inflammation.

How to Use

Wine: 1 serving a day for women, 1 to 2 for men.
Grape juice: 4 to 6 ounces of dark purple grape juice per day.
Grape-seed extract: 300 to 600 mg per day.


Grapes are one of the more pesticide-ridden fruits, so it may be advisable to purchase organic grapes when possible. Women should limit alcohol intake to one serving per day, as higher amounts can increase the risk of breast cancer. Alcohol should not be consumed during pregnancy.

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