The pomegranate or Punica granatum originates from Persia. It was cultivated over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times and became naturalized. It is extensively cultivated throughout India and the dry regions of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa.
Many of the plant’s components are used medicinally. For instance, pomegranate juice is rich in anthocyanins; the seed oil is rich in punicic acid; the peel or rind has phenolic punicaligans and gallic acid, the leaves have tannins, the flower has gallic acid, the roots and bark have ellagitannins.
Pomegranate extract is popularly standardized to 40% ellagic acid but synergistic effects of all pomegranate constituents are more powerful. According to Lansky “The pomegranate needs no such tricks or enhancements. It is rather an extraordinary…fruit with a complete medicinal power contained within its juice, peel, and seeds,” (Lansky).
You may or may not know this but the pomegranate’s benefits are profound. It can help almost every bodily system (cardiovascular, endocrine, nerve, skeletal and blood system) as well as benefit oral health. One of the first steps in building arterial plaque is damage of macrophages. Pomegranate’s flavonoids can prevent this damage (Aviram et al). “Pomegranate polyphenols were shown to reduce the capacity of macrophages to oxidatively modify LDL, due to their interaction with LDL to inhibit its oxidation by scavenging reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species and also due to accumulation of polyphenols in arterial macrophages; hence, the inhibition of macrophage lipid peroxidation and the formation of lipid peroxide-rich macrophages,” (Aviram et al.) Studies used extract from whole fruit minus the juice and found a 195 decrease in oxidative stress in mouse peritoneal macrophages and a 42% decrease in cellular lipid peroxide content (Jurenka).
A powerful anti-inflammatory, pomegranate was found to increase plasma anitoxidant capacity from 1.33mmol to 1.46 mmol when subjects consumed 250ml pomegranate pulp juice every day for 4 weeks. Subjects also exhibited a dramatic decrease in plasma carbonyl content. Plasma carbonyl is a biomarker for oxidant/antioxidant barrier impairment in many inflammatory diseases.
Pomegranate is also known to help lower blood pressure. It does this by lowering angiotensin converting enzyme activity. In a study where subjects drank 50 ml or 1.5mmol of total polyphenols every day for 2 weeks, researchers found a 36% decrease in serum ACE activity and a 5% reduction in systolic blood pressure (Aviram, Dornfeld). In another study, they found a statistically significant increase in urinary free cortisone and a decrease in free cortisol/cortisone ratio after one week of pomegranate juice consumption (Tsang et al). This also helps lower blood pressure.
It is found other constituents of pomegranate are better at suppressing prostate cancer than ellagic acid alone. In animal studies, apoptosis of prostate cancer cell lines is observed in vivo (Jurenka). In in vivo human studies, they found a decrease in PSA and in vitro they found a decrease in cancer germ line cell proliferation as well as apoptosis.
And because of its chondroprotective effects in mice, pomegranate can theoretically help with osteoarthritis in humans (Mahsa, Reza). In another study where they aimed to measure whether pomegranate and carvacrol (a phenol found in oregano and other herbs) could alleviate oxidative stress on the sciatic nerve, they found the combination decreased the pro-inflammatory response (Celik et al).
In yet another study they found pomegranate’s ability to protect teeth from degeneration. Hydro-alcoholic extract (HAE) from pomegranate decreased the CFU/ml by 84% (Silvna el al). It can also help gingival health by reducing the risk of gingivitis (DiSilvestro et al).
Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Kaplan M, Coleman R, Gaitini D, Nitecki S, Hofman A, Rosenblat M, Volkova N, Presser D, Attias J, Hayek T, Fuhrman B. Pomegranate juice flavonoids inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation and cardiovascular diseases: studies in atherosclerotic mice and in humans. Drugs Under Experimental and Clinical Research [2002, 28(2-3):49-62]
Michael Aviram, Leslie Dornfeld. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis. September 2001 Volume 158, Issue 1, Pages 195–198
Mahsa Hadipour-Jahromy, Reza Mozaffari-Kermani. Chondroprotective effects of pomegranate juice on monoiodoacetate-induced osteoarthritis of the knee joint of mice. Phytotherapy Research. Volume 24, Issue 2, pages 182–185, February 2010
Celik, C. Gocmez, M. Bozkurt, I. Kaplan, K. Kamasak, E. Akil, E. Dogan, A. Guzel, E. Uzar. Neuroprotective effects of carvacrol and pomegranate against methotrexate-induced toxicity in rats. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2013; 17:2998-299
Silvana M. S. Menezes, Luciana Nunes Cordeiro, and Glauce S. B. Viana. Punica granatum (Pomegranate) Extract Is Active Against Dental Plaque. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy. 2006, Vol. 6, No. 2 , Pages 79-92
Robert A. DiSilvestro, Daniel J. DiSilvestro, and David J. DiSilvestro. Pomegranate extract mouth rinsing effects on saliva measures relevant to gingivitis risk. Phytotherapy Research. Volume 23, Issue 8, pages 1123–1127, August 2009