Vitis vinifera (Vitaceae)

  • The plant

It is a liana growing to 35 m tall, with flaky bark. The leaves are alternate, palmately lobed, 5–20 cm long and broad. The fruit is a berry, known as a grape and in cultivated plants can be green, red, or purple.

  • The myth

The first written accounts of grapes and wine can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and ancient Sumerian text from the third millennium BC. There are also numerous hieroglyphic references from ancient Egypt, according to which wine was reserved exclusively for priests, state functionaries and the pharaoh.

  • Ethnopharmacology

The ancient Greeks introduced grape growing and wine making to Europe in the Minoan age. Greek philosophers praised the healing powers of grapes both as fruits and in the form of wine.
European folk healers sought to cure skin and eye diseases. Other historical uses include the leaves being used to stop bleeding, pain and inflammation of hemorrhoids. Unripe grapes were used for treating sore throats, and raisins were given as treatments for consumption (tuberculosis), constipation and thirst. Ripe grapes were used for the treatment of cancer, cholera, smallpox, nausea, skin and eye infections as well as kidney and liver diseases.

  • Active constituents, pharmacological properties and traditional medicine

From the different parts of this plant, in particular from the fruits, several preparations used in folk medicine have been derived. Among the most interesting constituents responsible for the therapeutical properties of the plant, procyanidins received particular attention and are used for the treatment of microcirculatory disorders. More recently, procyanidins have been proven to be among the most interesting antioxidants of the Plant Kingdom, and are considered for as preventive therapy of chronic degenerative diseases and the modulation of skin unattractiveness linked to the aging.
Seedless grape varieties were developed to be appealing to consumers, but researchers are now discovering that many of the healthful properties of grapes may actually reside in the bioactive compounds found in the seeds.

Seeds have a high content of oligomeric proanthocyanidins such as resveratrol, a polyphenolic substance, which is one of the most potent known antioxidants, whereas leaves responding to infestation or external aggression produce phytoalexines such as viniferins, stilbene derivatives of resveratrol possessing the same beneficial properties.


                Procyanidine                        Resveratrol                                     Viniferine

Presently a number of preparations and Vitis vinifera products are found in the nutraceuticals or cosmetics market.