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Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)

ORAC is a standardised test adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to measure the Total Antioxidant Potency of foods and nutritional supplements. This standardised test was developed by Dr. Guohua Cao, a physician and chemist at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore, Maryland. It provides a very precise way of establishing the Free Radical destroying or neutralising power of a particular food, supplement or compound. The ORAC unit has become one accepted industry standard for measuring antioxidants. The antioxidant test combines a measure of both the time an antioxidant took to react and also its antioxidant capacity in a given sample. The ORAC unit then combines them into one measure, making it the first in vitro assay method for measuring total antioxidant potential. It is easily expressed as per 100 grams of sample.



The recommended daily antioxidant dose should add up to 5000 ORAC units each day. Looking at Table 1 below, it is clear that one has to be quite selective in the foods chosen so as to easily achieve this. If you at bananas alone, you would need to eat 2.4 kilograms of bananas to get your daily ORAC dose! You would however, only need to eat 87 grams of prunes. In a study of 36 older people, boosting fruit and vegetable intake to reach 3,200 ORAC units a day increased the antioxidant potential of the blood by 10 to 15%; enough to have an impact on disease prevention (Holly, 2003).

AIM Barleylife is as effective as the Chinese wolfberries as an antioxidant, with an ORAC value of 25,500! For anybody who could handle the smell, a drop of clove oil would give the required ORAC dose. There are however doubts as to whether ingesting clove oil (Syzigium aromaticum) is safe. Wolfberries (Lyceum barbarum) is a fruit from the Ningxia Province, China, where some people have lived to over 120 years.


Other products like ORAC Super 7 (above) claim that a Serving Size of 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) delivers 6,000 ORAC Units Per Serving. Good quality cocoa powder requires only 20 grams to deliver your 5000 ORAC units, so a kilogram should last 50 days.

ORAC is not the ultimate unit, however, as different antioxidants have different effects. Lycopene protects against prostate cancer and is found in tomatoes, strawberries and pink grapefruit. Lycopene is the predominate carotenoid in plasma, and various tissues including the prostate gland (Lucich, 2001). Research (ref.) has shown spinach to be more effective than strawberries (which score higher in the ORAC assay) when measured as blood antioxidant scores. The researchers conjecture that it may be due to specific compounds or a specific combination of them in the greens. Spinach caused the biggest change in a test between spinach, strawberries, and red wine (all high-ORAC foods) and 1,250 milligrams of vitamin C.

 Table 1. ORAC (Antioxidant) Units of Selected Fruits and Vegetables




 Food Source ORAC units of Ámol TE/100 grams (3.5 oz)




 Health Supplements

 ORAC Units

 Grams to supply RDA

Barley grass



Clove oil (Syzigium aromaticum)



Ground cloves



 Thyme oil (Thymus vulgaris)



 Oregano oil (Origanum compactum)



 Aspalathox (rooibos tea extract, 20%)



 Vit C



 Vit E






 Dark Chocolate



 Milk Chocolate



Cocoa powder



 Rooibos tea (200ml)



Blackstrap molasses (TE/100 g dry solids)



See more on spices and herbs




Acai berry

26,000 plus


 Chinese Wolfberries



 Prunes (Dried plums)
























 Black Raspberries



 Red Raspberries












 Red grapes



 Pink grapefruit



 White grapefruit
























 Steamed spinach



 Yellow squash



 Brussels sprouts



 Alfalfa sprouts






 Broccoli flowers









 Red bell pepper



 Baked beans









 Peas, Frozen









 Sweet Potato


















Other essential oils are also strong antioxidants with a high ORAC value:

Sandalwood (Santalum Album)


Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)


Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)


Spearmint (Mentha spicata)


Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum)


Lemongrass (Cymbopogen flexuosus)


Orange (Citrus aurantium)


Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)


Rose of Sharon (Cistus ladanifer)


Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamamum verum)


Mountain Savory (Satureja montana)


Oregano (Origanum compactum)


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)


Clove (Syzigium aromaticum)


Essential oils really potent antioxidants. A drop of Clove oil contains  400 times more antioxidant per unit volume than wolfberries, the most powerful of all know fruits.

For any ORAC score per 100 grams, calculate the ORAC score per gram, e.g. Clove oil is 10,786,875/100. Working on 5000 ORACs per day you then need 5000/107868 = 0.046 grams to deliver 5000 units! It is not advised to ingest clove oil; rather include cloves in tean and cooking. Also a mix of different ORAC delivering products is clearly better.

Other antioxidant measurement units

Three assays metnods for the determination of total antioxidant capacity are found in published literature: the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay, the Randox Trolox-equivalent antioxidant capacity (Randox-TEAC) assay, and the ferric reducing ability (FRAP) assay (Cao & Pior, 2002). The FRAP assay is simple and inexpensive but does not measure the SH-group-containing antioxidants. The ORAC assay has high specificity and responds to numerous antioxidants. The ORAC method is chemically more relevant to chain-breaking antioxidants activity, while the FRAP has some drawbacks such as interference, reaction kinetics, and quantitation methods. On the basis of the ORAC results, green pepper, spinach, purple onion, broccoli, beet, and cauliflower are the leading sources of antioxidant activities against the peroxyl radicals (Ou et al, 2002).

This information has not  been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products  are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. (Refer to Disclaimer)
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