Feature photo: Pomegranate fruit Photo: Sudhir Ahluwalia

Punica granatum, or pomegranate, is a small tree. Pomegranate finds mention in the Bible indicating the importance given to this plant since ancient times.

The fruit contains acids, sugars, vitamins, polysaccharides, polyphenols, and minerals. Phenols (flavonoids and tannins) have been isolated from the pericarp, leaf, and flower. Complex polysaccharides have been detected in the peel. The seeds contain triacylglycerols with high levels of punicic acid. Seeds contain lignin, sterols, steroids, and cerebroside in very small amounts.

The seed, which is a byproduct of fruit juice processing, yields pomegranate oil, which is rich in punicic acid.

All parts of the fruit and plant are useful from a medicinal viewpoint. A decoction made from the seed is used to treat syphilis, and the juice is used to treat jaundice, diarrhea, nosebleeds, sore throats, coughs, urinary infections, digestive disorders, skin disorders, and arthritis. The fruit pulp and the seed are stomachic. Dried, pulverized flower buds relieve bronchitis. In Ayurvedic medicine, pomegranate is an antiparasitic, blood tonic, and remedy for aphthae, diarrhea, and ulcers. In Unani, pomegranate is a remedy for diabetes (Julie, 2008).

Studies indicate pomegranates could be useful in treating cancer, osteoarthritis, and other diseases. Studies also show that pomegranate seeds might help rid the digestive system of fats, a property that could have its application in weight loss therapy.

Clinical research indicates that pomegranates, when part of a healthy diet, might help prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Pomegranates have the potential to thin the blood, increase blood flow to the heart, lower blood pressure, reduce plaque in the arteries, and bring down bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol. Julie (2008) revealed that pomegranate juice could be used as a therapy in prostate cancer, particularly recurrent types. Other studies appear to validate these findings.

The juice helps in hyperlipidemia, because it decreases absorption and increases fecal excretion of cholesterol by affecting the enzymes that aid cholesterol metabolism. Pomegranate juice is also reported to be effective in reducing hypertension by decreasing angiotensin-converting enzyme activity, reducing myocardial ischemia, and improving myocardial perfusion.

Pomegranate juice could help treat diabetes and atherogenesis, through reduced oxidative stress. Other studies indicate a role of the fruit in treating periodontal disease and denture stomatitis. Other benefits may include combating bacterial infections, erectile dysfunction, male infertility, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity.

To know more about the medicinal properties, botany and historical references on pomegranate you can read the chapter on pomegranates in Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants

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