LYTHRACEAE , anciennement PUNICACEAE
This small tree, often just a bushy shrub, is native to the Mediterranean basin or the Middle East.
It was already cultivated in Babylon and probably in ancient Egypt and was later introduced to India and China .
Pomegranate, the fruit of the pomegranate tree, is one of the rare fruits from hot regions that keeps well and can be transported without rotting or being crushed.
It was the fruit that quenched the desert travelers, the caravanners of the Middle East.
The pomegranate is now widespread in most regions of the world where the climate is tropical, mild temperate or Mediterranean, both as an ornamental plant and for its fruit, the pomegranate.
The best fruits are harvested in rather dry countries, with mild winters and hot, dry summers such as North Africa but also in southern Spain and now on a large scale in California.
Pomegranates are also found in tropical or subtropical zones (for example in the Antilles, in New Caledonia), but it is a plant which does not like hot and humid zones close to the equator.
The flowers are red (the decorative double variety generally does not give fruit ).
The POMEGRANATE, more or less spherical from 5 to 10 cm in diameter, is of variable color according to the varieties (from yellow to black through to red).
It has a resistant envelope with the appearance of leather, the interior of the pomegranate is compartmentalized and contains seeds surrounded by a juicy and acidulous pulp often strongly colored in pink or red at maturity, some varieties have a white pulp
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
POMEGRANATE TREE CONTAINS A LOT OF TANNINS
All parts of the pomegranate tree contain TANNINS: root bark, leaves, twig bark, fruit husk (pericarp and mesocarp), and even the whole flower.
The tannins are particularly abundant in the fruit husk ( or pericap).
The POMEGRANATE PULP that surrounds the seeds contains water, organic acids (including vitamin C), simple sugars and anthocyanidic pigments (when the pulp is red).
POMEGRANATE SEEDS contains an edible oil dominated by punicic fatty acid, which is polyunsaturated (18: 3) chemically analogous to linolenic acid but in a different conformation (both cis and trans). Its dietary interest is not well documented.
In the ROOT BARK (and probably in the bark of twigs), we find 0.5 to 0.7% of an alkaloid (pelletierine and isopelletierine) and methylated derivatives of this alkaloid.
A decoction of root bark is effective against tapeworm (toenicide) and it seems against other intestinal parasites not included in the intestinal wall (roundworm, bothricephalus).
POMEGRANATE JUICE corresponds to approximately 60% of the fruit's weight, the residue from pressing the pomegranate contains the husk of the pomegranate as well as the seeds.
The tannin composition of pomegranate juice varies according to the mode of pressing.
Standard pomegranate juice (from which most of the tannins have been removed) contains:
- organic acids (including vitamin C)
- and simple sugars,
- as well as 0.2 to 1% of polyphenols (anthocyanosides and tannins).
The red color of pomegranate juice is due to anthocyanosides (vegetable pigments based on pelargonidol, cyanidol, delphinidol).
The tannins in pomegranate juice are hydrolysable tannins (based on gallic acid or ellagic acid among others) coming mainly from the mesocarp which separate the "grains" of pomegranate, that is to say the seeds surrounded by their pulp .
When the pomegranates are pressed for juice, a good part of the tannins are found in the pomegranate juice because they are soluble in water.
There are chemical techniques to eliminate them because they give an unpleasant flavor to pomegranate juice.
Numerous recent studies (especially from USA) show that pomegranate juice is not only a thirst quencher but also has interesting dietetic and pharmacological properties.
POMEGRANATE JUICE and FREE RADICALS
Some studies show that pomegranate juice has an antioxidant (anti-free radical) power in vitro that is several times greater than that of red wine or green tea, which are dietary references.
Pomegranate juice would protect even more from free radicals than the vitamins partly specialized in this detoxification (vitamin E, C and A).
Tannins are responsible for 90% of this anti-free radical action.
The tannins are partially absorbed at the digestive level; part of the tannins is transformed by the intestinal flora into molecules that cross the intestinal barrier.
After absorption of pomegranate juice, the ellagic acid of the tannins is found in the serum (blood) where it reaches a maximum level in about an hour, but it is fairly quickly excreted (half-life of about 45 minutes).
Metabolites of ellagic acid are also found in the blood, including UROLITHINS, which persist much longer in the blood (up to 24 hours) and which seem to have an interesting anti-inflammatory power.
These urolithins are transformation products of tannins by colon bacteria, they are then eliminated in the urine.
Some pharmacologists do not hesitate to affirm:
- that pomegranate juice is anti-inflammatory,
- delays the development of atheroma plaques (anti-arteriosclerosis),
- and more recently that it can prevent or delay cancerous degeneration.
The pulp that surrounds the seeds is refreshing, provides VITAMIN C, but it is sometimes a little astringent.
You can very easily make pomegranate juice by choosing very ripe pomegranates (heavy and red). It is necessary to remove the skin but not always the partitions of the fruit( mesocarp) which bring the medicinal tannins (therefore astringency).
To consume during the day by keeping it cold so that it keeps its vitamins intact and that polyphenols do not oxidize too much.
One can also find ready-made pomegranate juice, better when the production is recent and comes from organic cultures.
Experience with volunteers shows that one can absorb 1 liter per day of pomegranate juice without unpleasant side effects, nevertheless 250 to 300 ml per day in two doses seem sufficient to obtain an effect on health; 2 to 3 week courses spaced approximately 2 weeks apart.
People with a lazy gut may eventually see their constipation worsen (tannins constipate).
It is recommended as a supplement to a diet or a drug treatment:
- in disorders of regulation of CHOLESTEROL and blood lipids,
- in moderate arterial HYPERTENSION accompanied by cholesterol disorders,
- in type 2 DIABETES,
- to attenuate complications of OVERWEIGHT or OBESITY,
- to fight against inflammation in general including inflammatory RHEUMATISM,
- as a dietary supplement in CANCERS in particular digestive, urinary and prostate.
Remember however that clinical or epidemiological studies on the effects of pomegranate juice in humans are very limited to date, it is not a "miraculous" fruit juice.
In addition, certain epidemiologists or nutritionists question the merits of prolonged digestive absorption of tannin.
Pomegranate syrup makes it easier to store the fruit extract (but without its vitamins), unfortunately pomegranate or grenadine syrup on the market is most often only a red-colored glucose liquor.
POMEGRANATE FLOWER AND FRUIT HUSK
The flowers or the fruit husk (pericarp) in infusion or decoction (depending on the desired effect) give an antiseptic and astringent liquid (ex: 30 g of flower for 1 liter of water), it is used :
- in gargling: mouth sore, canker sore
- vaginal injection: leucorrhea
- to clean wounds, superficial burns
Orally, 1 glass 3 to 4 times a day, in case of simple diarrhea (without fever or blood flow).
The infusion-decoction of flower is of course much less concentrated in tannins.
It can also be recommended to REDUCE TYPE 2 DIABETES and its complications in combination with a low-calorie diet but it is not given to young children or pregnant women.
POMEGRANATE SEEDSIn Asia and some countries in the Middle East, pomegranate seeds ( surrounded by their pulp) are sun dried.
POMEGRANATE ROOT BARK
The use of pomegranate root as an anthelmintic dates back to ancient Egypt (1500 BC), but it is now a treatment to be discouraged because the alkaloid pelletierine sometimes crosses the intestinal barrier and causes true intoxication.
It is best to use, when possible, a less dangerous and more effective synthetic anthelmintic.
For information here is the recipe (not recommended): for an adult, 60 g of root bark in 1/2 liter of water, macerate in the cold for 24 h, then reduce by half by boiling, sweeten and drink in the morning. 3 times at ¼ h interval, purge ½ h later.
It is a "heroic" and DANGEROUS treatment but which can still be useful in certain regions (it is still used sometimes in North Africa and the Middle East)
Pomegranate tree is a very resistant and undemanding plant which can be satisfied with poor quality soil.
It tolerates drought but not soils soaked with water.
It is a shrub that gives the best fruits in regions with a Mediterranean climate, but there are varieties adapted to the tropical climate (with a dry season).
In more temperate countries with colder winters it can survive but will probably not bear fruit.
Propagation is done by seeds or better by cuttings (or layering).
Pomegranate is a particular fruit: once harvested, it does not continue to ripen. It must therefore be picked when fully ripe.
POMEGRANATE A DESALTERING AND DIETETIC FRUIT
The pulp of the pomegranate fruit is refreshing, rich in vitamin C and highly appreciated in almost desertic places where pomegranate tree can grow.
Thousands of years ago, pomegranate flower and fruit husk were already used to cure diarrhea and the root bark to eliminate intestinal worms, but this last indication is not to be advised because it is too dangerous.
Pomegranate juice is back in fashion for its ditetic virtues (anti-oxydant) and to try to prevent cancerous degeneration
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel