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Does Grapefruit Seed Extract Really Work?

grapefruit-seed-extract-freshgrapesLiving in Ecuador has given us a variety and quality of food that we literally couldn’t imagine enjoying back in Canada.

The fruit is cheap, fresh and delicious. $1.00 pineapples are huge and extremely sweet. Mangoes are sweet and messy (er, juicy) and cost $0.55 per kg! Grapes, papaya, oranges, limes, and bananas are all amazing.

Does Grapefruit Seed Extract Really Work?

In Canada, we always (tried to) washed our produce well to try to clean it of pesticides and general dirt. But frequently we would by some fruit and eat it unwashed. And we never got sick.
Of course, pesticides are used here in Ecuador, but there is a bigger concern for foreigners. Because of our delicate constitution, we extranjeros must be careful about uncooked fruits and vegetables.

Amoebas and parasites can be given a new home (you) if you aren’t careful about the food you eat.

We had friends living in the Dominican Republic and they used chlorine bleach to soak their food. I’m sure it would do the job, but there is another option.

Before we moved here, we had read about Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and so we decided to buy 4 bottles to bring with us. 2 oz. cost $16.99 ea (x 4 bottles).

The most common brand in Canada and the States is called The Original GSE – see the picture of the white bottle with red cap.  Because we didn’t know if we could find it, we stocked up. Those 4 bottles lasted more than one year. Its super-concentrated – 10 (or 15) drops into a liter or two of water does the trick.grapefruit-seed-extract-star-bac
When it began to run low, we started looking for a replacement here in Cuenca.

We didn’t want to switch to chlorine, so we were happy to find a few options. Both the Supermaxi and Coral Hipermercados sell grapefruit seed extract. It is less concentrated, but also significantly less expensive.

You’ll find it in the produce sections of both stores. One is called Kilol and the other Star-Bac.

Fresh food needs to be soaked in a disinfectant – for anywhere from 5-15 minutes – depending on the strength of the extract and how strong it is mixed with water.

Like eating? Then you’ll love our guide to Ecuadorian food

We still use the GSE from the US – we just order Nutribiotic – GSE Liquid Concentrate online. We’ve found that because it is more concentrated, it lasts much longer and it justifies the higher price. It takes just 10-15 drops instead of a full cap full of the stuff we buy here.

Read more about how to filter your water while traveling.

4 Travel Tips: Do’s and Don’ts When Traveling – CultureSponge

Tuesday 14th of October 2014

[…] it a Third World County) never drink the tap water and never eat the fruit without soaking it in grapefruit seed extract. You could get very […]

What We Would Have Done Differently in Our Move – GringosAbroad

Thursday 7th of August 2014

[…] in Bulk. We brought 4 bottles of GSE liquid at $16.99 ea (x 4 bottles). Imagine how happy we were to find the same thing for just $1.75 at the […]


Sunday 6th of April 2014

I'm not advocating GSE but I'm not convinced by the wikipedia article. for one thing, these articles are submitted by anyone with an opinion. footnotes help, if you really want to delve into the whole article (quotes out of context are often misleading.) perhaps the reason for its effects on microbes is simply changing the pH in the water. my understanding is that amoebas and other water parasites cannot live above 7.2 to 7.4 pH.

John Walker

Saturday 15th of March 2014

At the risk of pouring cold water (pun intended) on the idea of Grapefruit Seed Extract I would suggest that you read the following Wikipedia article - - that indicates that pure GSE has no antimicrobial effect and it is only the ADDED SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS that give it any antimicrobial effect. In short, the great food-supplement marketing machine has invented this overpriced outlet for GSE. Similarly, the magic life-giving water of differing pHs is phony. Pure water has no minerals and pure water has a pH of 7.0 and 7.0 only; a fact upon which all life depends. Beware the charlatans, they are far more pervasive than we would like to believe. John


Tuesday 14th of October 2014

so tell me, John. where do you find pure water in it's natural state? there is no such thing in nature. even rain has already taken some minerals from the air and immediately absorbs more once it hits the soil. the only 7.0 water is distilled and I'm pretty sure our ancestors survived drinking non-distilled water.


Friday 1st of February 2013

Bryan, I lived in Ambato for two years and in Ibarra for ten years. For health reasons (I got old) I moved back to the States in November 2011. For all my years in Ecuador, the fruits and vegetables that I couldn't easily wash in soap and water (such as blackberries, grapes, cauliflower, etc.)I soaked in Kilol and tap water. And, occasionally, if my stomach felt a bit "rumbley",I put some Kilol in water (bottled)and drank it. My stomach always felt fine later. I never had a problem with parasites. I always drank bottled water or water I had boiled. If at the house of an Ecuadorian, I always explained that, as a foreigner, my stomach was weaker than their stomach, so I had to drink only bottled water. No one ever, ever took offense at that. They seemed a bit pleased that I didn't think that I was better than they were (you know, the "ugly American" type). I found that many Ecuadorians realized that we foreigners needed to be careful with our stomachs. But, I'd like to know, do you know of any way I can buy Kilol in the States? I've searched for it on the internet and couldn't find a source for it. This website is a great service for those who are contemplating moving to Ecuador. It would have been a great help to me when I moved there. BTW, Ibarra is a great city to live in!! Susana (formerly of Ibarra)

Bryan Haines

Saturday 2nd of February 2013

If you search for Nutribiotic - GSE Liquid Concentrate you can find it on Amazon. We've ordered it online and and it shipped here. The GSE by Nutribiotic is a concentrated oil, when the GSE sold in Ecuador is much more diluted - or less concentrated.


Friday 1st of February 2013

I forgot to mention one point, it is definitely possible to buy grapefruit seed extract in Ecuador! See Bryan's comment on Kilol.