Pomegranate: Fertility & Antioxidant Superfood
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.
This oddly beautiful fruit can be found throughout mythology as a symbol of good tidings. That’s why to this day the Greeks break open a pomegranate at wedding celebrations, and the Chinese eat candied pomegranate seeds for good luck. Have you ever tried dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds? I dare you to just eat one! I have found a black tea flavored with pomegranate which I enjoy with a spot of raw milk or cream and stevia, coconut sugar, or New Zealand Manuka honey. There are both green and white teas available flavored with pomegranate, as well.
We know today, that pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants which have a number of anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Today science is discovering the pomegranate’s real powers, showing just why this exotic fruit occupies such a lofty place in cultures all over the world and throughout history. Researchers are seeing the many health benefits of pomegranates and have made some startling finds. It seems they are chock full of antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes known for keeping low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol from causing hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Organic pomegranate seeds can act like an anti-inflammatory, much like Omega-3s and aspirin, keeping blood platelets from sticking together and forming blood clots.
Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to your cells caused by oxidation, which then produces inflammation as those little culprits known as free radicals are produced within the body. Free radicals are also formed from that which is outside the body, such as radiation from the sun. However, do keep in mind that we actually do require some daily sun on our bodies to get some natural vitamin D. We know we can’t completely eliminate free radicals and oxidation, but we can keep it in check by consuming potent antioxidants from our foods and supplements which help to neutralize their ability to damage our cells.
Eating organic pomegranate seeds and drinking unpasteurized pomegranate juice can increase oxygen levels to the heart.
Slipping some organic pomegranate juice to your husband, if one might need some help in this direction, just might help combat erectile dysfunction. Here is the study illustrating this, but I can’t help but wonder who paid for it – a large juice manufacturer perhaps? I am always skeptical about studies. Pomegranates and the juice from them are also thought to reduce arthritis inflammation by slowing down the enzymes that break down cartilage. I find myself craving pomegranate juice, and I have arthritis in both hips, so perhaps my body is talking to me loudly and clearly. But much of the time finding a bottle of one that is organic and not pasteurized (Pom Wonderful is pasteurized as are so many juices today; pasteurization is hard on natural enzymes, destroying many, if not most of them) is certainly not easy today, so we often just eat the fruit. My husband is a whiz at preparing them.
As I have mentioned, the beautiful pomegranate is packed with antioxidants and its seeds and juice are said to be as good for us as green tea. Try an iced tea with half green or white tea and half pomegranate juice.
Pomegranates are packed with natural vitamin C and potassium. Pomegranates are said to help lower risk of heart disease, cancer (both prostate and breast), help with the symptoms of diarrhea, reduce LDL cholesterol, be of help in weight control (if you are worried about calories just dilute it with purified water or, as I mentioned, some green or white tea) and can help protect the integrity of our cells and fight cell damage, too.
Some experts report that the juice of the pomegranate is actually just as beneficial as eating the whole fruit, seeds and all, because the peel, which we don’t consume, contains the bulk of the benefits from the antioxidants, which get released in abundance when the fruit is juiced. Sounds good to me!
What is The Doctrine of Signatures?
I am sure in ancient times someone must have thought of the similarity that the pomegranate fruit shares with the human ovary. In Paracelsus’s ancient “doctrine of signatures” we see that mother nature often gives us clues as to what might be beneficial to us humans when we note that a particular plant or food will be of unique benefit to the very organ in the body that it resembles. This is what the “doctrine of signatures” illustrated to some of the doctors and practitioners at this time. Some of this holds true today!
The idea behind the “doctrine of signatures,” is that the shape, color, appearance, taste, smell, etc., of a plant will display signs, marks, or configurations indicating how that plant may be used in medicine. This is called the “signature.” From ancient times, the “doctrine of signatures” has been one of the principal methods by which folk doctors gained knowledge of medicinal plants. For instance, yellow plants are used to treat the liver, since the bile is yellow-orange. Red plants are medicines for the blood, blue cools fevers, purple is for septic infections, etc. The shape of a plant part can also be important. The orchid, for example has roots shaped like testicles (orchis) and so it was thought to be a medicine for these very private parts of the male anatomy. “The virtue is signed in the form, figure, corpus and substance,” wrote Paracelsus. “That through the signature the interior may be opened” and the “wisdom in the virtue” made known. A great example can be made of the walnut, which has a skull-like protective casing, enclosing the bi-hemispheric meat of its seed, which clearly resembles the human brain. It is known today that the walnuts high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other neuroprotective compounds do in fact nourish the brain.
In the case of the pomegranate fruit we can see how it resembles the human ovary in structure. Experiments have been performed revealing that the pomegranate contains estrogens structurally and functionally similar to those found in mammals, namely, Estradiol, Estrone and Estriol, and it seems to be capable of replacing the function of the ovary when removed from female animals. Isnít it interesting that the ancients thought it should be and was also used for contraception? Maybe without this notion some of us would not be here today!
In a study published in 2004 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, female rats whose ovaries were removed, developed accelerated bone loss, loss of uterine weight, and depressive symptoms which were reversed when administered pomegranate extract:
“Administration of pomegranate extract (juice and seed extract) for 2 weeks to ovariectomized mice prevented the loss of uterus weight and shortened the immobility time compared with 5% glucose-dosed mice (control). In addition, ovariectomy-induced decrease of BMD was normalized by administration of the pomegranate extract.”
Despite the powerful estrogenic properties of pomegranate, this amazing fruit does not exhibit the carcinogenic potential associated with synthetic, horse-derived (e.g. Premarin) hormones. To the contrary, pomegranate has been shown to act selectively to modulate estrogen receptors that are beneficial to the organism, while down-regulating activity at the receptors known to be associated with estrogen-sensitive cancers. This type of intelligence is unique to natural substances, and is not yet reproducible through pharmaceutical preparations.
In other words, pomegranate is not only non-carcinogenic but is said to be a powerful anti-cancer agent. The GreenMedInfo database now contains 12 studies on its experimentally-confirmed potential to suppress breast, prostate, colorectal, gastric and uterine cancers.
For more reading on just what the pomegranate has to offer to women as a back up ovary, check this out.
I donít have firsthand knowledge of this as my personal preference when it comes to natural hormone replacement therapy is The Wiley Protocol, bio-identical, bio-mimetic natural hormone regime (BHRT). Check out my Celestial Musings post on my experience with this protocol. But I still love my pomegranates and plan on including the dark chocolate covered seeds and some of this exquisite juice for our own Valentine’s dDy celebration this year!
Artwork courtesy of NazimArtist.com
Related: 7 Reasons to Love Pomegranates