Grapefruit peels are often discarded as waste, but they actually contain a variety of health-promoting compounds. Boiling grapefruit peels can help extract some of these beneficial plant chemicals, which may provide several advantages when consumed as a tea or infusion. Here’s an in-depth look at some of the top evidence-based benefits of drinking boiled grapefruit peels.
Grapefruit peels are high in certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including:
- Vitamin C: Supports immune function and collagen production.
- Calcium: Important for bone health.
- Potassium: May help control blood pressure.
- Quercetin: Antioxidant that may reduce inflammation.
- Naringin: Flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Although grapefruit pulp contains the highest concentration of nutrients, the peel also provides a good amount of vitamin C, calcium, potassium and antioxidants.
Contains Beneficial Plant Compounds
Grapefruit peels are especially high in polyphenols, which are micronutrients with antioxidant effects. The main polyphenols in grapefruit peel include:
- Naringin: Belongs to a class of flavonoids called flavanones. Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Naringenin: Flavanone formed when naringin is broken down. Also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Quercetin: Flavonol with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Kaempferol: Flavonol and antioxidant linked to health benefits like reduced inflammation.
These plant compounds act as antioxidants within your body by neutralizing unstable free radicals that can damage cells. Polyphenols like these have been linked to health benefits, including decreased inflammation and reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
May Support Heart Health
Some research indicates that consuming grapefruit peel may improve several risk factors for heart disease.
In one study in 85 people with high cholesterol, taking a grapefruit peel extract increased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Other studies have found grapefruit peel extract may reduce levels of apolipoprotein B, a protein needed to transport LDL cholesterol through your bloodstream. High levels of this protein are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
What’s more, animal studies show that grapefruit peel extract may reduce blood pressure by decreasing activity of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).
Overall, the beneficial plant compounds found in grapefruit peel — including naringin, naringenin and quercetin — are thought to play a central role in its heart-protective effects.
Could Help Control Blood Sugar
Some research indicates that grapefruit peel may also benefit blood sugar control, which is crucial for maintaining normal blood sugar levels.
In one 30-day study, giving rats grapefruit peel extract decreased fasting blood sugar levels by up to 54%, compared to a control group.
Other animal studies suggest grapefruit peel extract may increase insulin sensitivity and prevent complications associated with diabetes as well.
Although current human-based research is limited, the findings from test-tube and animal studies are promising. The beneficial plant compounds in grapefruit peel, including naringin and naringenin, may play a key role in its effects on blood sugar regulation.
May Have Anticancer Properties
Limited test-tube studies indicate that grapefruit peel may have protective effects against certain types of cancer cells.
In one test-tube study, grapefruit peel extract blocked the growth and spread of human stomach cancer cells. However, human studies are needed.
Additionally, specific plant compounds found in grapefruit peel — including quercetin, kaempferol and naringenin — have been shown to inhibit tumor growth and induce cancer cell death in some test-tube studies.
More research is needed on the anticancer effects of grapefruit peel and its compounds.
Other Potential Benefits
Here are a few other potential health benefits of grapefruit peel:
- Antibacterial effects: Test-tube studies indicate grapefruit peel extracts may inhibit the growth of certain strains of bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Improved digestion: Compounds like naringin and naringenin have been shown to stimulate digestive enzymes and help optimize the absorption of nutrients.
- Increased weight loss: Animal and human studies link grapefruit peel compounds to reductions in weight and body fat percentage.
However, these potential benefits are based solely on results from animal and test-tube studies. Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
How to Make Boiled Grapefruit Peel Tea
Here is a simple recipe for making a tea from grapefruit peels:
- Peels from 1–2 grapefruits
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) honey or sugar (optional)
- Wash grapefruit thoroughly and peel off the rind.
- Chop peels into small pieces.
- Boil peels in 2 cups of water for 10–15 minutes.
- Strain the liquid into a cup.
- Stir in honey or sugar, if desired.
- Enjoy the grapefruit peel tea hot or chilled.
For maximum nutrition, minimal processing is best. Therefore, try to avoid overcooking the peels. You can also add other herbs or spices for flavor, such as cinnamon, ginger or mint.
Safety and Side Effects
Drinking small amounts of boiled grapefruit peel tea is likely safe for most people.
However, consuming large amounts may cause side effects, including headaches, skin irritation and digestive issues like nausea or diarrhea.
Additionally, grapefruit peel contains the compound bergapten, which can increase skin’s sensitivity to UV light. This could potentially increase your risk of sunburn.
It’s also important to note that grapefruit and its components may interact with some medications. If you’re taking any medications, check with your healthcare provider before adding grapefruit peel to your diet.
Some people may also need to avoid it, including:
- Pregnant women: Compounds found in grapefruit may stimulate uterine contractions, increasing risk of miscarriage.
- People taking blood thinners: Grapefruit can enhance effects of blood-thinning medications like warfarin.
- Those with kidney issues: Large amounts of potassium in grapefruit peel may be harmful for those with impaired kidney function.
In general, moderate consumption of grapefruit peel tea is unlikely to cause side effects in most people. However, it’s best to keep intake in moderation and consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
The Bottom Line
Grapefruit peel is high in nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, potassium and antioxidants. Drinking boiled grapefruit peels in tea or infusion form may provide several health benefits, including:
- Heart health: Helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Blood sugar control: May improve insulin sensitivity.
- Anticancer effects: Test-tube studies show tumor-fighting abilities.
- Antibacterial effects: May protect against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
- Improved digestion: Stimulates digestive enzymes.
- Increased weight loss: Linked to reductions in weight and body fat.
However, human research is limited and studies have used very high doses. More studies are needed to determine how beneficial moderate intake may be.
Boiling grapefruit peels can help extract their beneficial plant compounds. While generally safe in moderation, grapefruit peel may interact with certain medications and is unsuitable for some people.
At the end of the day, grapefruit peel is nutritious and may provide some impressive health benefits when consumed as a tea or infusion — just make sure to enjoy it in moderation and consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.