The aim of this study was to develop a cost-effective process to produce a grape seed extract of high quality using only non-toxic extractants. When this study was started no grape seed extract was produced in South Africa. Large quantities were imported to supply the local demand in the human and animal herbal medicine industry. Grape seed extract is mainly used to boost the immune system of humans and animals based on its antioxidant activity.
Initial work with different extractants established the polarity of the compounds with antioxidant activity. Antioxidant related activity was determined with five analysis techniques. Parameters such as the type, preparation and pre-treatment of grape seed, ratio of extractant to grape seed, composition of extractant, extraction time, extraction temperature, the interaction between temperature and time, drying temperature and subsequent treatment of extracts to remove compounds without antioxidant activity were evaluated. In all cases the cost implications of different methods used were kept in mind.
Not only the quality but also the quantity extracted is important in establishing a viable extraction plant. According to the patent literature most techniques used to date produce yields of 0.5 to 2.5 %. The laboratory product went through five stages of development. The percentage extracted for our five laboratory products decreased from 12.0, 10.1, 6.0, 5.9 to 5.5 % whereas antioxidant activity for our product increased from 30, 55, 67 78 to 172 % compared to the best available commercial product.
An important reason for the success of the procedure developed, is that we analyzed the different products developed with sophisticated procedures that gave information about the chemical composition of the extract. From this information procedures could be developed to increase the yield and activity.
The procedure has been licensed to a private company that is in the process of establishing a factory for the large-scale production of grape seed extract. The detail regarding the procedure is confidential to protect the intellectual property and industrial exploitation of the process.