The pomegranate has been used and revered by humans for thousands of years. It is mentioned in Greek mythology. The pomegranate is a symbol of wisdom or righteousness in the Torah. It is mentioned in the Bible as a fruit to be treasured and is described in the Holy Quran. (Hussein et al, 2018) The blossom end of the fruit may look like a crown because an important ancient crown may have been designed to look like a pomegranate. It is said that King Solomon designed his coronet to resemble the noble fruit. (israelstudies.umd.edu)
The ancient people were correct to treasure the pomegranate as a noble fruit. The seeds of the pomegranate are a good source of essential fatty acids, phospholipids and fiber, and the juice surrounding the seeds is a source of vitamin C and other antioxidants including phenols, flavonols, proanthocyanidins and ellagitannins (ellagic acid). The tough colorful peel and creamy white membrane surrounding the seeds are also sources of phytonutrients, providing a more concentrated source of some beneficial nutrients than available in the juice or seeds.
Powdered versions of the pomegranate juice or whole dried seed are available as specialty items or may be available as standard recipe ingredients in some cultures (India). The pomegranate peel is made into a dried powder for medicinal use in South America and for Ayurveda use, (Ayurveda supplier Pomegranate-Peel-Powder-Dadam-Chal-Powder). Pomegranate peel extract may have medicinal benefits against inflammation, oxidative stress, and cancer, and may help protect the brain and heart, (neurocognitive and cardiovascular health). Pomegranate products may help protect against infection from bacteria, virus, fungi, and other parasites and seems to promote a healthy intestinal microbiome (beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract).
Pomegranate juice and seeds also have health benefits against inflammation and may help protect the health of mitochondria, the energy producing organelles found within all cells. Damage to mitochondria may be a precursor or be involved in chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or neurocognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s dementia, autism, and Parkinson’s Disease. Eating pomegranate products may also help with appetite or weight loss.
The phytonutrients of pomegranate peel extract work together to promote health in a variety of ways rather than being due to one specific phytonutrient. Many beneficial phytonutrients and vitamins and trace minerals are found in pomegranate juice, seeds, peels, and even the flowers. (120, 122)
The antioxidant content helps protect against oxidative stress that can occur from physical or emotional stress or from chronic health conditions. Anti-inflammatory benefits could help with pain and may help prevent or repair ulcers, (43, 63), and wound healing has been found to be promoted by increased regrowth of blood vessels. (133) Diuretic effects could help reduce swelling or aid detoxification when adequate water is also consumed throughout the day. Pomegranate peel extract has been found to have antibacterial properties and protect against other parasites, (5 , 83, 202), and viral infections. (Neurath, et al, 2004) It was also found helpful against oral candidiasis (yeast). (88) Pomegranate peel extract has been found beneficial against a variety of types of cancer, (Li, et al, 2016) (Nair, et al, 2011), and beneficial for heart health, (Wang et al, 2018), liver disease (56) and autoimmune conditions.
Pomegranate extract has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation by the same mechanism as NSAIDS – inhibition of cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX1 and COX2, with more inhibition of COX2 than COX1). It also may have an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing inflammatory cytokines that signal increase in production of Nitric Oxide (NO) and Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). (1.1) Prostaglandin E2 is made from arachidonic acid and is involved in the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. (1.2) Nitric oxide can be beneficial but it can also transform into reactive oxidative species and add to the antioxidant burden of metabolism. (1.5) (1.9) (1.Ref list)
Mitochondrial health may be promoted by eating pomegranate arils or juice regularly, (UA.1), which would have anti-aging benefits. Age related damage to mitochondrial DNA can be a cause of Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic health conditions. Fibromyalgia and negative symptoms associated with autism may be due to mitochondrial problems. Mitochondria are the energy producing organelles found in all cells and their DNA is genetically only from the birth mother rather than being a combination from the birth mother and father. The benefit of pomegranate for mitochondrial health involves gut bacteria that change the egallitannins into another chemical, urolithin A. (UA.2)
Pomegranate phytonutrients have also been found to help protect the health of mitochondria by promoting the removal of defective ones. (Tan, et al, 2019) This could help protect against diseases that can be associated with aging such as Parkinson"s Disease which can be caused by defects in mitochondrial DNA that are present at birth or which occur during aging. (Park et al, 2018) Mitochondrial DNAh is different than cellular DNA, mitochondrial DNA matches the mitochondrial DNA of the mother while cellular DNA is formed from half the mother's cellular DNA and half father's cellular DNA.
Eating pomegranate seeds or drinking pomegranate juice seems to help reduce weight possibly by reducing leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that helps control appetite and levels tend to be elevated during obesity. (Long, et al, 2019) The phenol content, gallic acid and caffeic acid, (Mahmod, Ibrahim, 2013) may be involved in the weight reduction effect. (Sharma, 2016) Promoting melatonin production may also be involved as low melatonin can lead to leptin resistance and obesity. (Buonfiglio, 2018) Melatonin is present in some foods and while it was not found in pomegranate juice, it is present in fermented pomegranate wine, generated by microbes during the fermentation, (Mena, et al, 2012), which suggests beneficial gut bacteria might also be able to produce melatonin from pomegranate juice. Other studies including an animal study on obesity found pomegranate extract reduced inflammatory biomarkers and increased nitric oxide, which might make it helpful for Metabolic Syndrome. (6)
Glycemic response to other foods was reduced when pomegranate juice was used as a beverage but the effect was not seen with an extract or supplement, so the effect may involve several phytonutrients. (132) Blood sugar levels also may be reduced with the use of pomegranate peel extract, observed in an animal based study, (47) . Weight reduction effects have also been shown with an animal based study. (35)
Pomegranate is typically available as juice or seasonally as whole fruit, and is becoming more available as fresh or frozen seeds (which are called arils). Separating the arils from the surrounding white membrane and tough peel can be time consuming, and may be easier submerged in a sink or bowl of water.
If planning to use the inner membrane for soup, salad or other uses it is easiest to remove the outer red part with a vegetable peeler before sectioning the fruit and separating the seeds.
Both the red outer and white inner peel and membrane have similar phytonutrients and health benefits however in different ratios. The diuretic tannins are more prevalent in the red peel and also have more of a bitter flavor. The white inner membrane has less diuretic effect and a mild taste with less bitterness. Bitterness is associated with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. People with problems with edema, (increased amounts of extracellular fluid with swelling with pressure, common in the feet and lower legs), may appreciate the diuretic effect.
Pomegranate arils are quite crunchy due to the seed contained within the juice-filled outer membrane. The seed within the aril and the juice both have health benefits. Research teams around the world have also found that the white membrane and tough outer peel also contain beneficial nutrients. Research is even finding the pomegranate flower to have health benefits for the heart, and to help prevent metabolic syndrome. (Huang, 2005)
Fresh or thawed pomegranate arils are good served alone, or on top of salads, yogurt, granola or hot oatmeal, or mixed with other fresh berries or fruit.
Pomegranate Waldorf Salad, (yield about 10 cups, 10 servings)
Menu Ideas for use of the peel and inner membranes:
The inner white parts of the pomegranate are mild in flavor compared to the tough outer peel and also contains healthy phytonutrients as well as beneficial fiber. Trim away any bad spots and the fresh inner structure of pomegranates could be chopped to add to soups (add during the last half hour of cooking time). It would not change the flavor of a soup noticeably.
Availability of fresh pomegranate is seasonal. Juice and dried products are available all year.
Pomegranate juice is available full strength, concentrated, or as a powder. Organic or commercially grown products may be available in larger grocery markets, international markets, or ordered online. Hispanic, Asian, or Indian markets may have fresh pomegranate more months of the year while standard U.S. groceries tend to have fresh pomegranate during the U.S. harvest season of late autumn through January.
Anardana - dried seeds are available whole or powdered in markets with foods from India.
Dried arils are available in Indian grocery markets whole or as a powder and are called Anardana in the Hindi language.
The whole dried arils are crunchy with a slightly sweet tang and are good as a snack by themselves and the powder is good in soups where the crunch of the ground seeds is softened somewhat by the cooking process. Add towards the last 20-30 minutes of the cook time to preserve the health benefits. About two heaping tablespoons for a two quart batch of soup adds a tangy fruit flavor similar to adding tamarind to a soup or sauce.
Menu Ideas for dried Pomegranate Peel or Powdered Juice
Powdered juice or powdered peel may also provide health benefits and could be added to smoothies or foods or taken in a capsule form. The powdered or fresh juice is sweet and tangy and would be good in smoothies or other beverages or even in cookies and other baked goods. The powdered peel would have a stronger bitter flavor that would need a savory soup or sauce for balance, or take it in a capsule.
An unusual property of pomegranate juice powder (nuts.com/Organic Pomegranate Powder) might be useful for chefs who wanted to clarify a broth or sauce. Pomegranate powder added to liquid, and stirred, will cause protein within the liquid mixture to clump and rise to the surface shortly later, where the protein clumps could be easily skimmed out. Be aware that the sauce or broth would then have the tang and health benefits of pomegranate juice as it would become part of the liquid mixture. (Flocculant, Wang et al, 2018))
Serving Size of pomegranate that might be helpful for health benefits
Health benefits for anxiety, nerve numbness, or other inflammatory conditions may be provided with a serving size of a third to a half cup of fresh arils or 100% juice per day. Tea or a concentrated liquid can be made with the peel and smaller portions of only a spoonful or two of concentrate can provide symptom relief. A cup or two of tea per day prepared with the following method might provide some anti-inflammatory benefits and may be best taken in the morning with adequate water intake during the day as there are also diuretic properties.
Dried peel - use a home dehydrator on fruit/vegetable setting, it takes about 6-8 hours when the membrane pith and peel are sliced into thin slices, 1/8th inch or less. Or during summer conditions the peel may be sun dried for use as a powder or to be made into tea or concentrate. /51 - comparison of drying methods on phenol content.
Pomegranate peel powder is available commercially in a 10 ounce package (Esutras Organics brand), or may be available from ayurveda suppliers. The amount of the liquid concentrate from my recipe (next section) (one-two tablespoons) that I use daily for anxiety/mood stability and to reduce finger numbness would be equivalent roughly to 375-750 milligrams of powdered pomegranate peel (375 mg ~ less than a 1/8th teaspoon, a small size capsule, 750 mg - a larger size capsule). The company ad suggests using it in soups or sauces, however for optimal medicinal benefits I would suggest adding it only at the end of the cooking time. Overheating the liquid concentrate seems to reduce some of the symptom relief that it provides for me.
Liquid concentrate from fresh or dehydrated pomegranate peel - simmer with water and an oil such as coconut oil to help extract lipid based phyto-nutrients for 20-30 minutes, stir to break down softer membrane fibers, and strain out the remaining peel as it is quite bitter in flavor. Pouring an additional cup of boiling water over the pulp a couple times, stirring, and restraining, until it drains almost clear can maximize yield. Overheating the product destroys medicinal qualities, freezing the resulting liquid retains the medicinal qualities. It keeps fresh or thawed for a week or two in the refrigerator but may tend to mold at areas that collect residue, such as the rim or upper part of the container.
Preparing the pomegranate peel takes a few hours of prep and cook time and produces several cups of liquid concentrate. It is opaque from fiber content, settling to a clear pinkish or yellowish color depending on the length of cooking time (pink ~ 20 minutes, yellow ~ 30 minutes). I tend to simmer for twenty minutes when using fresh peel and 30 minutes when making concentrate with dehydrated peel. See images in the next section.
Repeat the above steps using pomegranate peel and membrane that had been prepared and diced into 1/4-1/2 inch sections and dehydrated for long term storage – planning ahead for when pomegranates are no longer in season. One pomegranate peel/membrane produced approximately 30 grams of dried peel, which measured at slightly less than a 1/2 cup of dried pieces loosely packed. Per one pomegranate amount of peel simmer with one tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 cups of water, about 20-30 minutes on low heat. After straining the heated peel I rinsed the peel with two cups of water poured over it gradually while stirring. The yield was three cups of pomegranate extract.
The ellagitannin content may cause excessive urination if taken in excess. Using smaller amounts, earlier during the day and drinking extra water can help keep the diuretic effect to daytime hours. Patients with more severe illness such as hepatic cancer who may need larger quantities for treatment may need a catheter to cope more comfortably with the diuretic effects in addition to drinking extra water.
Processes exist that could remove some of the tannin content which might help reduce the diuretic effect as the tannins are likely the main cause - but also provide antioxidant and healing benefits so removing all of the tannin content would likely reduce the medicinal benefits. See: Nutritional Composition of Detanninated and Fresh Pomegranate Peel Powder (Kushwaha, 2013) (semanticscholar/pdf)
Larger dosages may have some cardiac effects (COX 2 inhibitors may cause some cardiac effects including arrhythmia or tachycardia, Google search results - COX2 inhibitors and tachycardia) and possibly euphoria (from the phospholipid content possibly). I notice less cardiac effects when I make pomegranate peel extract with rosemary and thyme during the simmering step and add cardamom, Gumbo file, and a small amount of baking soda after the straining step (the Gumbo file emulsifies the liquid and oil components). Rosemary has phytonutrients that can affect Cannabinoid Type 2 (CB2) receptors and thyme has phytonutrients that may help promote GABA production. CB2 stimulation and GABA may have calming effects for both the brain and the body.
The cardiovascular benefits of pomegranate juice are so effective that daily use in combination with blood pressure medications may lower the blood pressure level too much. Like grapefruit juice, use of pomegranate juice on a daily basis may interfere or cause accumulation of some medications such as the anticoagulant warfarin or blood cholesterol lowering statins. Antiseizure medications may also be affected by daily use of pomegranate juice. Less research is available on human use of pomegranate peel products so similar caution would be advisable until more is learned about the use of pomegranate peel on a daily basis. (webMD.com) (healthfully.com)
People prone to plant allergies may be more likely to develop an allergy to pomegranate.
People who are prone to plant allergies may be at increased risk of becoming allergic to pomegranate if used daily. (webMD.com) People who are prone to allergies may be at less risk if they rotate their diet to include different foods on a four day cycle - which is more difficult than it might seem at first glance. Wheat bread, most pastas, and wheat based cereals or crackers, tabouli, and couscous - are all wheat - try making a menu that only uses wheat once every four days and you are going to have to get creative with other grains and starchy foods like sweet potatoes and parsnips.
What is known about the use of pomegranate juice during pregnancy suggests it may help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and promote health for the expected infant. Caution and moderation is advised with the use of anything during pregnancy. (wustl.edu)
Pomegranate extract was found helpful in a dose related increments against mammary tumorigenesis in an animal study, (0.2-5 gram/Kg body weight was used). Reducing COX2, heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) pathways, and increasing Nrf2 pathways were found to be part of the mechanism for benefit. (4) That amount could be quite a lot. Equivalent amounts for a 75 kilogram/165 pound human would be 15-375 grams per day or roughly one tablespoon (15 grams approximately)-13.4 ounces/27 tablespoons per day. (Mammary tumorigenesis means the initial onset of breast cancer tumors.)
Pomegranate, the noble fruit.
The pomegranate plant is shrub like with many stalks that continue to sprout up from the established root stock rather than a tree with one trunk. This allows the shrub to be more tolerant of harsh growing seasons and the plants can survive for as long as 200 years. In commercial orchards the shrub is typically pruned however,to have three stalks/trunks at a time in order to maximize the size of the fruit that is grown. If one of the stalks is damaged a new sprout will be allowed to grow larger rather than being pruned.
The pomegranate plant is drought tolerant and does better in climates that are not too humid and rainy. In the wild pomegranate often grew on mountains with water trickling over the roots as it flowed down the mountain so they do well with irrigation in dry climates. The antioxidant and other phytonutrient content of the fruit and peel can have a protective effect for the fruit and may be more concentrated in fruit grown with less irrigation. (Drought-Stressed Crops May Be Better For You, KQED Science) The plants may also be more salt tolerant than many crops which may make the crop viable for farmland that has become too saturated with salts from fertilizer use. (Ch. III: Soils and Fertilizers, Vegetable Resources) (Pomegranate Trials Examine Irrigation Needs of Emerging Crop, fresnostate.edu) Drought conditions may reduce the fruit harvest during drought years however the pomegranate trees are more likely than other types of orchards to survive to fruit again once irrigation or rain is available again. (Growing Pomegranates in California, ucdavis.edu)
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