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The ORAC Scale on Antioxidant Capacity from the USDA and Tufts University

A measure of the oxygen radical absorption capacity in foods

Free radicals, and the damage they can do at the cellular level, have received a lot of attention in the last few years.  The oxidative stress caused by free radicals — which are produced during normal metabolism and cell function, as well as from stress and pollutants in our air, water and food — is implicated in everything from aging and wrinkling of skin to DNA damage, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

This is clearly an issue for anyone concerned about their health, or just looking and feeling younger, and is especially important for those engaged in strenuous physical training.

Antioxidants to the rescue

The good news is that you're not left to the ravages of these free radicals.  Antioxidants offer powerful, effective protection for your body and cells against their oxidative stress, by blunting the damaging effects of free radicals.

But, how are you to tell which foods or other natural substances offer you the best protection from the damaging effects of free radicals?

The ORAC Scale on antioxidant capacity

USDA researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, have developed a laboratory test to measure the oxygen radical absorption capacity of different foods and natural substances.  Known as the ORAC scale, it is one of the most sensitive and reliable methods for measuring antioxidant capacity.

The first test of its kind, the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale measures both the time and degree of free-radical inhibition.

All antioxidant capacity measures are estimated by Ferric Reducing Power, and are expressed as micromole Trolox equivalent (TE) per 100 grams (µTE/100 g).  The ORAC test is accurate to +/- 5%.

Comparison of different foods and natural substances on the ORAC scale

Essential Oil Antioxidant Capacity

Foods Antioxidant Capacity

Clove 1,078,700 Vitamin E oil 3,309
Myrrh 379,800 Pomegranates 3,037
Citronella 312,000 Blueberries 2,400
Coriander 298,300 Kale 1,770
Fennel 238,400 XanGo juice 1,644
Clary sage 221,000 Strawberries 1,540
German chamomile 218,600 Tahitian Noni 1,506
Cedarwood 169,000 Spinach 1,260
Rose 160,400 Raspberries 1,220
Nutmeg 158,100 Brussels sprouts 980
Melissa 134,300 Plums 949
Marjoram 130,900 Broccoli florets 890
Ylang ylang 130,000 Beets 840
Palmarosa 127,800 Oranges 750
Rosewood 113,200 Red grapes 739
Manuka 106,200 Red bell peppers 710
Wintergreen 101,800 Cherries 670
Geranium 101,000 Yellow corn 400
Ginger 99,300 Eggplant 390
Bay laurel 98,900 Limu juice 305
Eucalyptus citriodora 83,000 Carrots 210
Cumin 82,400
Black pepper 79,700 Essential Oils Antioxidant Capacity
Vetiver 74,300 Grapefruit 22,600
Petitgrain 73,600 Hyssop 20,900
Blue cypress 73,100 Balsam fir 20,500
Citrus hystrix (limette) 69,200 Niaouli 18,600
Douglas fir 69,000 Thyme 15,960
Blue tansy 68,800 Oregano 15,300
Goldenrod 61,900 Cassia 14,800
Melaleuca ericifolia 61,100 Sage 11,300
Blue yarrow 55,900 Mountain savory 10,340
Spikenard 54,800 Cinnamon bark 7,100
Basil 54,000 Tsuga 6,200
Patchouli 49,400 Valerian 3,860
White fir 47,900 Cistus 3,860
Tarragon 37,900 Eucalyptus globulus 2,410
Cajeput 37,600 Orange 1,890
Peppermint 37,300 Lemongrass 1,780
Cardamom 36,500 Helichrysum 1,740
Dill 35,600 Ravensara 890
Celery seed 30,300 Lemon 660
Canadian Fleabane 26,700 Frankincense 630
Mandarin 26,500 Spearmint 540
Lime 26,200 Lavender 360
Galbanum 26,200 Rosemary 330
Myrtle 25,400 Juniper 250
Cypress 24,300 Roman chamomile 240

A word of qualification about these ORAC scores

While it's possibly true that "numbers don't lie", they can be misread.  Therefore, a word of qualification about the scores listed here needs to be made.

A word on marketing:

I was recently introduced to an antioxidant juice made with açia, MonaVie™.  While I will admit — not knowing any better, at this point — that, ounce-for-ounce, açaia is the most potent antioxidant fruit anywhere, the claims made about this juice were off-the-wall.


Because the marketers missed the point that the ORAC scale measures 100 grams of the juice, not one ounce.1  So, when you hear claims about the antioxidant capacity of the many drinks on the market today, do your homework. 

When you look at a number like 1,078,700 µTE, you must remember that we're talking about that level of Ferric Reducing Power in 100 grams, not per serving.  I don't have any idea how many grams 3-6 drops of clove oil might be, but it would be a lot less than 100 grams; so there is no way you would get 1,078,700 µTE in a normal "serving".  On the other hand, a serving of blueberries might be around 128 grams, giving you an ORAC score of roughly 3,072 µTE.

But, the point remains: Essential oils are still one of the richest sources of antioxidants on the earth.

A final word about ORAC

StemEnhance™: The yin to antioxidant's yang.

StemEnhance: stem cell enhancer from STEMTech HealthSciences

As important as it is to protect yourself from the damage caused by oxidative stress, to maximumize your efforts to stay younger and healthier, you also need to support your body's innate renewal system.

The system your body has to rebuild and repair itself from the stresses of ordinary life — as well as from accidents or disease — is built on adult stem cells.  For example, research has shown that those who have the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease also have the highest levels of circulating stem cells.  Stem cells move toward stressed or damaged tissues, following a chemical pathway — a cry for help, of sorts — and then migrate into those tissues, replacing dysfunctional cells with healthy cells.

StemEnhance™ is the only stem cell enhancer proven to facilitate this natural process of renewal. 

ORAC is indeed scientific.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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