Originally published May 1 2008
A Pomegranate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
by Cathy Sherman
(NaturalNews) Recent studies on a very old fruit are confirming what the ancients believed about the pomegranate. Also known as rimmon, its Hebrew name, the pomegranate has long been prized for its benefits to heart health. We now know it also can be helpful in treating diabetes, dementia, cancer and menopausal problems, and it can even prevent sunburn.
Known by Bible readers as a decoration on the Temple Priests' robes and as a metaphor for beauty in poetic writings, this unique fruit was also used in healing. It was known not only in the Middle East, but also in Egypt, Greece, Spain, China and India.
In fact, in India the 'Gulnar farsi', male abortive flowers of the Punica granatum L., or pomegranate, have been used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus in Unani medicine. Moreover, a recent study in India showed that an extract of this flower lowered blood glucose levels in diabetic rats.
As for the pomegranate's juice, it improved the ability of macrophages (immune-response cells) to absorb low-density lipids. The researchers in this study concluded that pomegranate juice consumption for three months may help diabetics by lowering the oxidative stress that often leads to vascular disease.
Those with diabetes should realize, though, that this juice is very high in sugar content. As Mike Adams warned in a previous Natural News article, "Eight oz. of pomegranate juice (one serving) can deliver over 30 grams of sugars. That's more than two servings of a sweetened breakfast cereal. It's a lot of sugar to deal with. And if you're diabetic or hypoglycemic, you should never drink these juices on an empty stomach. When you eat real pomegranate seeds, you see, the natural seed fibers slow the absorption of the pomegranate sugars. So the glycemic index of pomegranate seeds is far lower than the glycemic index of pomegranate juice."
Scientists have been studying the pomegranate to find out just what the mechanisms and characteristics are that enable it to help with so many ailments. This seedy fruit has more anti-oxidative power in its seeds than red wine, green tea and blueberry juice; the seeds contain a number of flavonoids, including isoflavones with estrogenic capabilities. In addition, its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties are becoming evident.
It is the anti-oxidant power of pomegranates that is so beneficial for health, especially heart health. If the seeds are consumed over a long period of time, it appears that hardening of the arteries can be prevented. Studies have shown that pomegranate use reduces the progression of high blood cholesterol. Heart function can improve; one study demonstrated that three months of daily juice intake by test subjects resulted in improved heart performance scores on exercise stress tests.
Consumption of seeds also may prevent and/or help combat several kinds of cancer. The reason seems to be the effect of the fruit's ellagic acid, the main polyphenol in pomegranate. Credit is also given to its powerful level of punicic acid, a compound closely related to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Drinking eight ounces of the seed-derived juice a day appears to help inhibit cancer of the prostate and inflammatory enzymes in colon cancer cells.
It has been shown that drinking the juice slows down the antigen doubling which occurs after patients receive traditional therapies, including surgery, for prostate cancer. These antigens cause a recurrence of the cancer in about a third of these patients. With the juice, it was found that the antigen growth slowed down considerably, thus putting off the cancer's recurrence until age-related death from other causes intervened.
Tests have proven the ability of pomegranate seed oil, fermented juice, and pericarp extract to cause cancer cells to self-destruct in metastatic breast cancer cells. Yet the juice and extracts are not toxic to the healthy breast cells. This means that the pomegranate could be used as a source for cancer prevention, a fact that has attracted the attention of drug companies.
"Pomegranates are unique in that the hormonal combinations inherent in the fruit seem to be helpful both for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer," explains Dr. Ephraim Lansky, who headed these studies. "Pomegranates seem to replace needed estrogen often prescribed to protect postmenopausal women against heart disease and osteoporosis, while selectively destroying estrogen-dependent cancer cells."
Anecdotal evidence substantiates such estrogenic qualities of pomegranates. Many women report relief from hot flashes and other menopausal problems during the period when they drink pomegranate juice or eat its seeds.
Several studies on mice have shown that topical application of pomegranate extract, prior to inducing skin cancer, reduced tumor incidence. Seventy percent of the treated mice did not develop skin cancer, while 100 percent of the untreated mice did.
The pomegranate joins dark berries and watermelon as natural sunburn protectors. A double-blind study over a four-week period showed that not only did the consumption of the fruit prevent sunburn, but it resulted in self-reported improvement in complexions by the subjects. This is important in that it increases a person's ability to stay in the sun long enough to get needed Vitamin D.
There is much more that pomegranates do for the skin. Oil from its seeds is commonly used in cosmetic products to add moisture, revitalize dull or mature skin, assist with wrinkles, soothe minor skin irritations, improve skin elasticity and protect the skin. Other benefits include relief from eczema, psoriasis and sunburn. The conjugated fatty acids give it strong anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce swelling and ease muscular aches and pains. Studies have shown that pomegranate seed oil stimulates keratinocyte proliferation, promoting regeneration and strengthening of the epidermis.
In a study in which mice were fed pomegranate juice for six months, it was found that scores on memory tests improved. At the same time, amyloid deposition in the brain's hippocampus, where memory is processed, declined, giving hope that the fruit will be useful in delaying dementia.
A study using in vitro methods showed that pomegranate juice had antiviral effects that may lead to
widespread use of the juice as an HIV preventative. The mechanism appears to be the inhibition of
binding by the virus, which reduces its ability to spread, at least in the lab's experimental environment.
The next step was to look at the juice's application to HIV prevention. Experiments have shown that
pomegranate juice can be effective in preventing infection. The results indicate that HIV-1 entry inhibitors from pomegranate juice adsorb onto corn starch. The resulting complex blocks virus binding and inhibits infection.
The rimmon/pomegranate is living up to its Biblical reputation as a life-giving fruit. It has been proven to prevent or heal many disorders. Unfortunately, both the fruit itself and the juice are presently expensive. Another downside is that drug companies have discovered this gem of a fruit and will be exploiting it.
If you live in the area from the southern United States to Chile and Argentina, and especially in the arid regions of California, Arizona and northern Mexico, you could successfully grow your own supply of pomegranates. The tree grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions and is well adapted as an ornamental shrub in cool coastal areas.
"Pomegranate Seed Oil Causes Breast Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct"; Technion - Israel Institute of
Technology. [email protected]
"Exotic Antioxidant Superfruits - Pomegranate: Review of current research"
2007/03/30 - By Dr. Paul Gross – (www.Berrydoctor.com)
About the authorCathy Sherman is a freelance writer with a major interest in natural health and in encouraging others to take responsibility for their health. She can be reached through www.devardoc.com.
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