Pomegranate

Exotic and a tad mysterious, pomegranates originated in tropical Asia and have been grown for over 5,000 years throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The scarlet fruit pulp envelops numerous small and crunchy white seeds. It is this abundance of seeds that gives the fruit its name, derived from the Latin pomum granatum which translates as ‘fruit with many seeds’.

History & Legend

The pomegranate has been revered as a symbol of health, fertility and rebirth throughout history. Some cultures believed it held profound and mystical healing powers.

Many scholars suggest that it was a pomegranate, and not an apple, that Eve used to tempt Adam in the biblical Garden of Eden. The religious connections continued into the Middle Ages. For example, in medieval tales of the unicorn, pomegranate seeds were said to “bleed” from the animal’s horn, symbolizing Christ’s suffering.

In Islam, the Prophet Mohammed recommended the pomegranate as a means to purge the system of envy and hatred. In Chinese, Hebrew, Greek and Roman lore it is regarded as a symbol of fertility and prosperity, and among the Javanese it was associated with certain pregnancy rites.

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and love, was said to have planted the first pomegranate tree. The fruit was used by Pluto, the lord of the underworld, Hades, in Greek mythology, to seduce the beautiful Persephone.

Traditional Uses

The pomegranate has several uses in traditional medicine, including as a gargle for persistent coughs, as an antidote for fevers, for diarrhoea and colic and to remove intestinal worms in children. This is because the rind of the fruit is as astringent and contains a certain amount of poison. The fruit is also used for treating bladder disturbances, strengthening gums and soothing mouth ulcers. In India the leaf of the pomegranate is used to treat cuts, as it contains a natural healing and soothing agent.
The somewhat astringent juice is an excellent thirst-quencher and can be made into a fine syrup. The fruit also finds a great range of applications in icings, salad dressings, soups and puddings and can be used to flavour sauces and pickles.

Powerful Antioxidants

The juice from pomegranates is one of the nature’s most powerful antioxidants. In fact, studies show that the pomegranate juice contains more potent antioxidants than any other drink. In addition to vitamin C, pomegranates contain a group of antioxidants called flavonids (also known as polyphenols). This large group of plant chemicals is known to have a wide range of beneficial actions, including as anti-inflammatories, antibacterials, and antivirals

These antioxidants guard your body against free radicals, the harmful molecules formed by natural metabolic processes in the body and by pollution and cigarette smoke. Free radicals increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and can cause premature aging.

When researchers at Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa, Israel, tested compounds from pomegranates in lab studies, they found that these flavonoids protected particles of bad LDL cholesterol against oxidation – the first step in the development of gunky plague that builds up in artery walls.

When the body is attacked by free radicals, the system is also robbed of the nutrients that are required for skin repair and renewal. If this continues, the skin becomes dull, dry and loses its elasticity, all effects that lead to premature ageing. The skin-saving benefits of pomegranates have recently been discovered by cosmetic houses, which have included the fruit in moisturizers, sunscreens and cleansers, among other products.

So pomegranates truly are nature’s very own medicine chest!

Sources:

  • Selene Yeager. The Doctors Book of Food Remedies. New York: Rodale Inc., 2007.
  • Dr Michael Sharon. Nutrients A-Z – A User Guide to Foods, Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements. Great Britain: Prion Books Ltd, 1998.
  • Charmaine Yabsley. Naturally Beautiful. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2004.
  • Ben-Erik van Wyk. Food Plants of the World – An Illustrated Guide. North America and the United Kingdom: Timber Press, Inc., 2005.
 
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