Brandt Grape Cure

Brandt Grape Cure

Purple grapes, with their seeds and skin, contain more than a dozen nutrients known to kill cancer cells. They are especially effective when used in conjunction with a 12 hour fast. The Johanna Brandt Grape Cure should not be combined with any other alternative cancer treatment without carefully considering whether it will neutralize the grape cure.


The recent discovery that a compound present in the skin of grapes may help prevent cancer just proves the old adage, "What goes around, comes around." Way back in 1927, a South African naturopath named Johanna Brandt came to the United States to promote her so-called grape cure for cancer. Details of her regimen were first published in 1928 in a 220-page paperback entitled The Grape Cure.

In my numerous visits to secondhand bookstores over the years, I had often seen dusty copies of this volume on the shelves in the folk-medicine sections. But I must admit that I had never purchased one because the subject seemed too far out. However, the recent publicity on the anticancer properties of grapes prompted me to invest $2 in a copy.

The grape diet

Basically, the treatment involved initial fasting for 2 or 3 days followed by an exclusive diet of grapes eaten every 2 hours beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. Any variety of grapes could be used--purple, green, white, or blue--and somewhere between 1 and 4 pounds were to be consumed each day. The whole grapes, including both skin and seeds, were to be chewed thoroughly prior to swallowing. One can't help wondering just how many people actually followed this drastic regimen. Not many, I hope. No scientific studies have ever proved a diet of grapes can cure cancer. And if you followed such a restricted diet for more than a few days, you'd be on the road to malnutrition.
After about a month or so, Dr. Brandt allowed other raw foods, but grapes--and later grape juice--remained an integral part of the 6-month cure.

Without any scientific evidence, Dr. Brandt simply believed that "elements in the grape break down malignant growths." But we had to wait 50 years for research to reveal a compound that supports her hunch.

A new cancer fighter

The anticancer element appears to be resveratrol, a simple compound found in grapes that was initially touted for a role in preventing heart disease. Animal studies have shown that resveratrol lowers cholesterol, inhibits platelet aggregation (thereby making blood more slippery), and prevents blood clots.

Resveratrol has been detected in 72 different plant species, including mulberries and peanuts, as well as in grape juice and red wine. The relatively high quantities in the grape skins are thought to help the plant resist fungal infections.

Anticancer action

In January of this year, a group of scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago, led by John M. Pezzuto, PhD, described how resveratrol prevents cancer in test tubes and in animals. Their preliminary tests showed that resveratrol may interfere with the development of cancer in three different ways: by blocking the action of cancer-causing agents, by inhibiting the development and growth of tumors, and by causing precancerous cells to revert to normal.

Before hailing grapes as the miracle food/drug of this century, we first need more studies. At the moment, we do not know if results will be similar in humans or how much resveratrol is needed to produce beneficial effects.

My best advice at this point, if you want to take advantage of the potential benefits, would be to add a glass of grape juice or some grapes to your diet. Grape jams, purees, and raisins may also provide small amounts of this possible anticancer compound. Although resveratrol occurs in red wine, and with lesser amounts in white and rose wines as well, the long-term consumption of large amounts of alcohol may produce adverse health effects.

In view of the aggressive nature of the American dietary-supplement industry, I suspect that in a relatively short time products containing specific amounts of resveratrol will be appearing in stores (with the resveratrol obtained either from grape skins or produced synthetically). It may even be combined with other suspected disease-preventing compounds in grapes. (See "Another Grape Product," p. 82.) When that occurs, remember that the studies are still preliminary.
The whole 1927 grape cure/1997 resveratrol scenario causes me to wonder how many other examples of folk medicine are out there waiting to be validated--or possibly, invalidated--by modern scientific and clinical methodologies.

The Herb At A Glance

Common name: grapes (grape seeds, grape skins)

Scientific name: species of Vitis. The Old World or wine grape is Vitis vinifera; the purple Concord and similar varieties are Vitis labrusca.

Potential beneficial uses: maintain capillary integrity, improve peripheral circulation, act as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals, prevent and treat cancer.

Possible side effects: none known

Herbal oddity: The roots of wine grapes are subject to attack and ultimate destruction by an insect pest known as phylloxera. To prevent this, the shoots of Old World grapes are grafted on resistant Native American rootstocks. Grapes so grown are characteristic of the species of the shoot, not the root.
By Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD

VARRO E. TYLER, PHD, SCD, is America's foremost expert on herbs and plant-derived medicine. He is Dean Emeritus of the Purdue University School of Pharmarcy and Pharmacal Sciences, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pharmacognosy. He is also the author of over 270 scientific articles and 18 books, including The Honest Herbal (Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993).


Resveratrol isn't the only grape component that may have disease-fighting capabilities. Grape-seed extract, which contains no resveratrol, has been marketed in the United States for several years as an herbal remedy. It contains a mixture of complex phenolic compounds, the names of which are incomprehensible to all but organic chemists and are even confusing to them.

European studies have shown a potential value of one group of grape-seed compounds--procyanidins--in treating vascular disorders such as fragile capillaries and inadequate circulation in the veins. The compounds are thought to bind to the elastic fibers of the capillaries, making them less likely to break down with aging. (This has never been proved in the United States to the satisfaction of the Food and Drug Administration.) In addition, procyanidins act as antioxidants, or free-radical scavengers, and thus are believed to help prevent some types of cancer and atherosclerosis that tend to occur with aging. But this activity alone was not enough to account for the purported anticancer activity of grapes as touted in such folkloric treatments as the grape cure. The cancer-fighting chore is where resveratrol appears to come in.
PHOTO (COLOR): Bunch of grapes; Varro E. Tyler, PhD, ScD

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