I love pomegranates! I drink the juice, eat the fruit and have even planted a pomegranate tree in the backyard which was a wedding anniversary present from a dear friend who knows how much my husband, Nazim, and I love them. There is something magical and mystical about this fruit. Just opening one and preparing it for someone special is a labor of love. But the eating of the pomegranate is the true delight, especially when you share it! You might even consider a romantic Valentine’s day toast with pomegranate juice instead of red wine this year while nibbling on some dark chocolate!
This fertile-looking fruit has held legendary powers for thousands of years.
Did you know that in ancient times the pomegranate was much more than just a romantic fruit, as it was used often for different healing modalities? For example, the roots of the pomegranate were often cooked and used to eliminate those pesky organisms known as tapeworms, whilst the flowers were used for dysentery and also for ulcers of the mouth.
The pomegranate probably originated in Persia but has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region for several millennia. It has been beautifully evoked by artists through the ages and often used as a metaphor for fertility.
Carbonized exocarp of the fruit has been identified in Early Bronze Age levels of Jericho, as well as Late Bronze Age levels of Hala Sultan Tekke on Cyprus and Tiryns. Mesopotamian cuneiform records mention pomegranates from the mid-third millennium BC onwards.
The Persians believed that Eve, of Garden of Eden fame, actually ate a pomegranate she plucked from a small tree in the Garden of Eden. And you always thought it was an apple! The ancient Egyptians buried their dead with pomegranates because they believed it offered the dearly departed eternal life.
Hippocrates, Soranus, Dioscorides, to name a few, prescribed the seeds and rind of the pomegranate to prevent conception. It is said that ancient writings indicate that the pomegranate was used as a pessary, (the ancient term for a vaginal suppository). One text documented the use of pomegranate seed being taken orally as a post-coital contraceptive. This particular use for the pomegranate faded by the middle ages, however it is still used in some parts of the world today, like India and East Africa. Peruse Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West by John M. Riddle for more information on this topic.