OPC (oligomers proantocianidolici) for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

OPCs (also known as proanthocyanidol oligomers, proanthocyanidins, procyanidins or oligomeric proanthocyanidins ) belong to the broader class of bioflavonoids ; they are formed by subunits, hence the term oligomers, of catechins and epicatechins linked together.

OPCs are extracted from the seeds of red grapes and have important antioxidant and blood vessel protective properties . Let’s find out better. 

Where are

OPCs were first discovered in maritime pine bark extracts by a French researcher. Subsequently, further studies led to the determination of these molecules also in the seeds of Vitis vinifera L., in particular of the rubra variety.

The vine is, among the Mediterranean medicinal plants, one of the most important and known since ancient times. Famous is the so-called French paradox, which, were it not for being studied in France, could easily be applied to Italians.

This paradox establishes that the French, although great consumers of cheeses, are more protected from cardiovascular risks, than other populations with a similar diet, thanks to the consumption of red wine; this is true up to a certain limit (corresponding to approximately one glass of wine per day), beyond which the negative effects of alcohol prevail.

The vine has been present in the Mediterranean regions since ancient times: grapes were found in archaeological finds dating back to the Bronze Age. Domesticated in Mesopotamia in 4000 BC, it then spread to the Middle East and from there to Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

Today, it is grown in many places around the world, especially in the regions of Southern Europe, California, Australia and South Africa, as well as South America and the Middle East. Almost all of the cultivated vines belong to the Vitis vinifera L.

Ownership of OPCs

OPCs, as mentioned above, are extracted from grape seeds, although they are present in other plants such as: the bark of the maritime pine; horse chestnut seeds; the berries of Bilberry and American Cranberry; Cypress berries and others.

Numerous researches have highlighted important properties for these extracts. OPCs are immediately bioavailable, already 10 minutes after administration they are present in the blood, with a peak at 45 minutes. OPCs are able to protect tissues from the degradation of collagen and elastin (important connective tissue proteins) and to promote the formation of collagen microfibrils.

Collagen is the main extracellular protein found in connective tissues and bones; it gives shape and resistance to the fabrics in which it is present, allowing it to withstand even considerable tensile stresses.

Collagen is made up of many linked subunits which, under certain conditions or in certain pathologies, can break more easily; moreover, the collagen fibers are immersed in a gelatinous matrix composed mostly of molecules known as glycosaminoglycans. OPCs show an elective affinity for tissues rich in glycosaminogliacans, such as cartilage, arterial and venous walls, where they act by blocking the phenomena of depolymerization of the same and favoring the formation of new collagen.

In addition, OPCs protect against free radical damage; they have an antioxidant, immunostimulating and antimutagenic action ; they are useful in case of edema and inflammation.

Their use is mainly aimed at protecting blood vessels and strengthening microcirculation , for this reason OPC extracts are administered to people suffering from chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, haemorrhoidal syndrome and problems related to circulatory disorders in general.

Furthermore, by reducing inflammation, OPCs are used in cases of inflammation and edema. Finally, they are used in corneal diseases and to stimulate the immune system (they protect the cells of the immune system from oxidative damage).

The recommended doses in chronic and important cases are high, up to 95% titration in OPC in 100-300 mg of dry extract of grape seeds.

In conclusion, one cannot fail to mention another plant rich in OPC, the American cranberry or cranberry. The OPCs contained in this plant are type A and have different properties than those of the red vine.

In fact, the cranberry is used in case of cystitis and this is because the type A OPCs inhibit the adhesion of the bacteria responsible for inflammation to the walls of the bladder, avoiding annoying relapses.


OPCs show no toxicity. As they are water-soluble, the excess dose, not assimilated, is eliminated in the urine.

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