The Fruit of Life
Iran, Northern India
Officially classed as a berry, Pomegranate has been revered for millennia for its myriad of health benefits and beautifying properties. Also known as the “Fruit of Life”, the ancients believed it sprang from the Garden of Eden and it has even been speculated that Pomegranate was the original “forbidden fruit”!
Whether it was the forbidden fruit or not, people from the Ancient Greeks to the Romans found its properties to be invigorating and live-giving, representing fertility and abundance. The Egyptians and Greeks used Pomegranate to enhance fertility, Hippocrates professed that it would aid with the digestion process, and in India it was used for heart problems.
Research shows that Pomegranate provides powerful support for cardiovascular health. In one study done by Israeli scientists it was found to have dramatic effects on patients suffering from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In the study, patients were given daily Pomegranate juice supplements for one year and the results at the end of the study were that atherosclerotic lesions in the common carotid artery decreased by 35% in size in the Pomegranate group, whilst actually growing by 9% in a control group.
It was also found that the participants’ systolic blood pressure fell by 21% after one year of pomegranate juice supplementation. Upon further investigation, the scientists discovered that the blood pressure reduction was due to decreased activity of “angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)”. This is an extremely important finding, since pharmaceuticals that inhibit ACE activity are commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), it could be that Pomegranate can offer a natural alternative.
Finally, a study from the California-based "Preventive Medicine Research Institute" examined the effects of Pomegranate juice in patients with established coronary heart disease. This is also known as ischemic heart disease and means that patients have narrow arteries which reduces the supply of blood, and therefore the oxygen, it carries to the heart muscle. Forty-five patients with this disease were randomly assigned to drink 8 ounces of Pomegranate juice or a placebo daily. The participants’ blood flow to the heart muscle, both at rest and during stress, was measured at the beginning and the end of the study. At the onset of the study both groups showed the same amount of stress-induced ischemia. At the end of three months, the Pomegranate group showed a significant improvement in stress-related ischemia, indicating better blood flow to the heart muscle. The control group experienced an increase in stress-related ischemia. Because these effects could not be attributed to changes in the patients’ weight, blood sugar, or cardiac medications, it appears that daily consumption of Pomegranate juice alone improved blood flow to the heart in the Pomegranate group.
It is thought that many of the benefits of Pomegranates can be attributed to the unique and potent antioxidants they contain - punicalagins and punicic acid. These master antioxidants have been shown to be at least three times more powerful than those found in red wine and green tea. Punicalagins from Pomegranates have been found to reverse oxidative DNA damage, up-regulate cell signalling proteins, protect collagen while inhibiting collagenase (responsible for its anti-aging effects), and exert antioxidant effects via a number of different, biologically relevant mechanisms, such as inhibition of lipid peroxidation that reduces cell membrane integrity.
Whilst inflammation in a valid response by the body to protect itself from illnesses and infection, chronic low level inflammation can be attributed as the underlying cause of many ailments and debilitating diseases. Pomegranates are rich in ellagic acid, another antioxidant which may be responsible for anti-inflammatory activities in the gut.
A study conducted with type II diabetics showed Pomegranate juice’s ability to lower inflammation. Researchers found that just 250 mls of Pomegranate juice per day for 12 weeks lowered the inflammatory markers in the diabetic patients. Specifically, the intake of juice lowered high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels by 32% and interleukin-6 by 30%.
Furthermore, research scientists from the Jordon University of Science and Technology found that a specific dose of Pomegranate juice at 1.5 ml per kg of body weight was associated with a reduction in fasting glucose levels in type II diabetics.
Pomegranate’s anti-inflammatory action may also help with the symptoms of arthritis such as joint swelling, pain, stiffness and a decreased range of motion in the affected joints. Studies have shown that Pomegranate fruit extract may inhibit cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis, and that it can be beneficial for maintaining the integrity and function of the joints.
Pomegranate Fruit Powder can be added to smoothies, used in raw desserts or mixed with a little water or juice.
Perhaps one of the most famous myths associated with the Pomegranate comes out of Greek mythology and the tale of Persephone (daughter of Zeus), and Hades the god of the underworld. So taken with Persephone was Hades that he kidnapped her and took her to the underworld to be his wife. Persephone's mother, Demeter - goddess of fertility - thought her daughter was lost and went into mourning, causing all the plants of the earth to cease to grow. Meanwhile, Hades had tricked Persephone into eating six Pomegranate seeds and the rule of the Fates dictated that anyone who had eaten in the underworld must remain there for eternity. Since she had only eaten six Pomegranate seeds, Persephone was allowed to exit the underworld for six months of the year to be reunited with her mother.
When Persephone was with her mother, the earth flourished and the crops grew (Spring and Summer); when she returned to Hades, Demeter mourned and the earth was infertile (Autumn and Winter). This was how the Ancient Greeks explained the seasons and as a consequence, Pomegranates were often offered to the goddess Demeter in prayer for fertile land.
Arils contain 85% water, 10% total sugars, mainly fructose and glucose, and 1.5% pectin, organic acid, such as ascorbic acid, citric acid, and malic acid, and bioactive compounds such as phenolics and flavonoids, punicalagins and punicic acid and anthocyanins.
Pomegranates are rich in Vitamins C, E, K, B1, B6, Pantothenic Acid and Folate. Minerals include; Copper and Manganese.
Please consult with your healthcare provider if you have blood pressure issues. If you are taking prescription medications – especially blood thinners – please consult your healthcare provider.