(Punicaceae) or pomegranate is the traditional fruit of the central
Iranian plateau where it originates. It is also one of the most ancient
fruit trees to be domesticated and is known to have been grown in the
Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The pomegranate grows from Iran to the
Himalaya in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the
whole Mediterranean region since ancient times. The field gene bank
maintained by the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute (SPII) at Yazd in
central Iran has over 700 different types of trees, some of which going
back to antiquity. Its only related species in the wild is P.
protopunica, which is endemic to the island of Socotra (Yemen) in the
Indian Ocean. It is widely cultivated throughout India and the drier parts
of Southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. Spanish
settlers introduced the tree into California in 1769. In U.S. it is grown
for its fruits mainly in the drier parts of California and Arizona.
no other fruit crop that has high medicinal value compared to that in
pomegranate. It has some cultural significance in Iran (it signifies
immortality, fertility, or reproductive energy), where is found in the
central courtyard of every home on the Iranian plateau. The pomegranate
flower is included in Zoroastrian religious rites. During the navjote and
marriage ceremonies, a few ‘danas’ grains of the pomegranate fruit
are included in the ‘ses’. The child whose navjote is going to be
performed is asked to chew a pomegranate leaf, after the purification
bath. It is said that a dying Zoroastrian in ancient Iran was given a few
sips of the ‘haoma’ juice, but if no ‘haoma’ was available,
he was given some pomegranate juice or if already dead a few grains of the
pomegranate fruit were placed in the person’s mouth.
Pomegranate is also used during the ‘navar’ ceremony whereby a
young man is inducted in to Zoroastrian priesthood. A number of ‘mobeds’
meet at the house of the candidate one day before the initiation. They
prepare a crown and a ‘vars’. The crown is a turban wound to fit
the candidate's head. It is decorated with gold and silver chains with
hanging coins and has other ornaments that make it look like a crown. Each
twig is wrapped with colored wool to make the vars multicolored.
The twigs are made to make a circular pyramid in a plate. It is covered
with a thin net. Four mirrors, dry fruit, candies, and a pomegranate fruit
are also kept in the plate during the ceremony.
Because of its many seeds, the pomegranate has long stood as a symbol for
fertility and included in marriage ceremonies. A refreshing delicacy, it
is loved by those who dwell in hot, thirsty lands. The plant grows wild in
Syria and Iran and is cultivated in Israel, where 3,000 tons a year are
grown annually. It is a shrub or small tree that can grow as high as
fifteen feet, with a straight stem, reddish bark and plenty of spreading
branches. The dark green leaves are highly polished and the pomegranate
flowers are red. When ripe, the fruit is about the size of an orange, has
a thick maroon jacket enveloping the pulp. Syrup made from the pomegranate
seeds is known as grenadine. Grenadine is
common in Northern India not only for desserts, but also to marinate meat;
due to its content of proteolytic enzymes, it acts as a meat tenderizer.
Pomegranate juice, either fresh or in the form of grenadine, is a common
souring agent in Western Asia and may be used, e.g., in the Turkish or
Arabic salad (tabuleh) made from precooked cracked wheat (bulgur),
parsley and possibly raw vegetables. Lastly, dried pomegranate seeds make
an interesting alternative for raisins in cakes and other European sweets.
From its origins in central Iran the
pomegranate spread to West Asia and the regions bordering the
Mediterranean Sea. It reached Spain and pomegranate orchards dotted the
entire region that was termed as “Grenada”. From Spain the missionaries
took it to the New World when they landed in Mexico. Later, they traveled
northwards in to California and the tree was established in the San
Jaoquin valley. Eastwards, the pomegranate spread to India along the
marine and land-based trade routes. It spread to China through Samarqand.
The pomegranate, along with the peach and the citron, was one of China's 3
blessed fruits. To the Chinese, it was a symbol of fecundity and a
prosperous future. The many seeds represented numerous male offspring
earning fame and glory. The first
sherbet was made from snow mixed with pomegranate juice. In ancient times
pharmacists made an astringent medication for treatment of dysentery from
around 200 B.C. great camel caravans of merchants and traders traveled by
lonely and barren desert tracks and lofty mountain passes which became to
be known as the Silk Road. Exchanges of goods, seeds, religious
philosophy, and technology transformed every culture through which the
great route passed. The Silk Road stretched 5,000 miles from Xi’an, the
ancient capital of China to the very doorstep of Europe, Rome. Today, the
Silk Road remains in the imagination of journalists, historians,
anthropologists, and adventurers as a symbol of the joining of cultures of
the east and the west. Many a bag of pomegranate seeds and cuttings were
transported to new areas for cultivation.
Three pomegranates can be seen on the silver shekel of Jerusalem, the coin
mentioned in the Bible. It was in circulation from 143 to 135 BC. Hiram of
Tyre used the pomegranate in building Solomon's Temple.
In fact, the walls of Solomon’s Temple are reported as having been
literally covered with decorations, in which, this fruit appears the most
is also mentioned in regards to the ephod (part of the gorgeous ceremonial
dress of a Jewish high-priest) that was bordered at the hem with
Iranian city of Meybod there is the Narin Qal`eh, which used to be called
the castle of pomegranate (Qal`ehi Anar) that is now lying in ruin. This
six-storied castle can be seen from any angle in the city. The castle was
said to have been erected at the time of King Solomon. Another story has
it that this is the castle or white fortress (Dezhe Sefid) stipulated in
Shahnameh epic of Ferdowsi. The history of this castle is indeed
considered to be older than the Achaemanid era. From a historic and
architectural point of view this castle is of no less of significance than
that of the Persepolis to many scholars of Iranian history.
medicinal powers of the pomegranate are mentioned in Greek mythology as
well. People of the Near East and the Greeks
and Romans associated the pomegranate with fecundity. In Greece, the
pomegranate was involved in the folkloristic story of the goddess of
agriculture, Demeter, and her daughter Persephone. When Hades, the god of
the underworld, abducted Persephone, Zeus promised to retrieve her if
Persephone had not eaten anything in the underworld. When it was
discovered that she had eaten a few kernels of a pomegranate given to her
by Hades, a compromise settlement was made: Persephone was allowed to stay
with her mother nine months of the year but was required to spend the
remaining three with Hades. The story can be seen as an allegory
representing the cycle of growth, decay, and regeneration of vegetation,
the time in the underworld representing the resting period of the seed
during the winter. The story of Persephone was reenacted every year at the
temple of Demeter at Eleusis near Athens. In these rites, called the
Eleusinian mysteries, the pomegranate was considered the mystic fruit.
These ceremonies were the most important and impressive of all Greek
religious celebrations and were later adopted by the Romans. Even the
ancient Egyptians revered the pomegranate. Fragments of the pomegranate
fruit rind and seeds were found buried inside the sarcophagus of Pharaoh
Tutankhamen (1343–1325 BC).
Due to its many kernels arranged in clusters, the
pomegranate fruit has long stood as a symbol for fertility and the flower
bud, sexuality. In fact, in the book on oriental lovemaking written by
Sheik Nefzaui of Tunisia in 1500 AD, the pomegranate juice has been
described as having several beneficial effects, especially for fertile
refreshing delicacy, it is loved by those who dwell in hot, thirsty lands.
The plant grows wild in Syria and Persia and is cultivated in Israel,
where 3000 tons a year are grown annually. It is a shrub or small tree
that can grow as high as fifteen feet, with a straight stem, reddish bark
and plenty of spreading branches. The dark green leaves are highly
polished and the pomegranate flowers are red. When ripe, the fruit is
about the size of an orange, has a thick maroon jacket enveloping the
pulp. Syrup made from squeezing the pulpy pomegranate kernels with the
addition of sugar is known as grenadine. The juice
is commonly used in Northern India not only for desserts and sweets, but
also to marinate meat; due to its content of proteolytic enzymes, which
acts as a meat tenderizer. Pomegranate juice, either fresh or in the form
of grenadine, is a common souring agent in West Asia and North Africa and
may be used, e.g., in the Turkish or Arabic salad (tabuleh) made from
precooked cracked wheat (bulgur), parsley and possibly raw salad
vegetables. Lastly, dried pomegranate kernels make an interesting
alternative for raisins in cakes (muffins), ice creams and other sweets.
During the First World War, the French named
their hand-tossing explosive as a hand “grenade”, after the seed
scattering properties of the exploding pomegranate fruit at maturity. The
French military division that wielded this lethal weapon in war was
likewise called the “Grenadiers”.
dry the fruit in the sun and use it in a potpourri bowl (which is placed
in bath-rooms in America and Europe) or in the old times was hung on the
door-back with a dried bulb of garlic, some cinnamon sticks and a
horseshoe for good luck. They also used to break a pomegranate in front of
the home entrance to ask the gods for prosperity. The leaves turn yellow
in the autumn and give the tree a totally different look.
Chinese mention pomegranate juice as a longevity drug. But the
pomegranate, whose main attraction has been as a fruit, is now coming into
its own as a modern medical resource. Two separate Israeli medical
research groups, are developing a broad range of treatments and products
derived from the fruit; At the Lipid Research Laboratory of Haifa's Rambam
Medical Center, Dr. Michael Aviram, a biochemist for 20 years, has
researched ways to prevent and break down the deposits of cholesterol in
the arteries -- arteriosclerosis -- that cause strokes and heart disease.
Searching for natural antioxidants, he says he tested "many different
substances before focusing on the pomegranate". Its juice, he found,
contains a particularly powerful antioxidant, a flavonoid, more effective
at fighting heart disease than those known in tomatoes and red wine.
past year, he has tested the medicinal value of the juice by providing it
to Rambam patients suffering from carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of
those arteries that bring blood to the brain. The results, he reports,
have been rapid with improvements noticed as early as after the first
month. The potential exists, Aviram says, for high-risk patients to be
spared bypass surgery simply by drinking pomegranate juice. To make the
consumption of pomegranate more palatable, he is working on developing a
pill with the same medicinal attributes as the concentrated liquid. Dr.
Ephraim Lansky, the founder of the Rimonest Company, is even more upbeat
on the prospects for pomegranate. He suggests that research may prove the
pomegranate is a virtual cure-all. Its juice, flesh, and even its skin, he
believes, contain properties to counter not only cholesterol, but aging,
and perhaps even cancer and AIDS, as well.
primary shareholder and head researcher of Rimonest, Lansky is a
University of Pennsylvania-trained physician, with a doctorate in
psychology and biology. He is qualified as a homeopathic physician and
acupuncturist. He is currently marketing Cardiogranate; a pomegranate
juice concentrate that he says combats high cholesterol. He is also
developing a cosmetic line of anti-aging creams, massage oils, masques and
toners, using estrogen-rich extractions from pomegranate seeds and peel.
As a practicing homeopathic professional, he prescribes pomegranate juice
for fever and gives it to menopausal women for combating ‘hot flashes’.
Dr. Lansky is also about to begin tests on mice in Israel's Beilinson
Hospital and the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, in order to
confirm the efficacy of pomegranate in counteracting the proliferation of
human breast-cancer cells.
the pomegranate has been regarded as a food-medicine of great importance.
All parts of the tree, the roots, the reddish brown bark, leaves, flowers,
rind and seeds, have featured in medicine for thousands of years. The
medical authorities of ancient India have described it as a light food and
a tonic for the heart. The ancient medical writers of Arabia regarded it
as- a fruit that is good for the inflammation of the stomach and pain of
the heart. The sweet varieties of the fruit are considered a good
laxative, while those that are intermediate between sweet and sour are
regarded as valuable in the stomach inflammations and heart pain.
from the fresh fruit is an excellent cooling beverage for alleviating
thirst in cases of fevers and sickness. It acts on the liver, heart and
kidneys and tones up their functions. It supplies the required minerals
and helps the liver to preserve vitamin A from the food. It increases the
body's resistance against infections, particularly tuberculosis.
Pomegranate juice is
of great value in digestive disorders. It is an appetizer, a digestive
food item and is useful for patients suffering from colitis and mucous. It
binds the stools and tones up the intestines. A tablespoonful of the juice
mixed with equal quantity of honey can be given with beneficial results in
bilious vomiting i.e. bile containing fluid and nausea, burning in chest
due to excessive secretion of bile, flatulent colic and morning sickness.
The bark of the pomegranate tree may be used
as a very strong purgative, but it has several side effects.
Diarrhea and Dysentery
The chief value of
the pomegranate is its astringent properties that cause cells to
shrink-and it is a valuable food medicine for diarrhea and dysentery. If
the patient develops weakness on account of profuse and continuous
purging, he should be given repeatedly about 50 ml. of pomegranate juice
to drink. This will control his diarrhea. If the patient passes blood with
stools, this will also stop by the use of fresh pomegranate juice. The
flower buds are also astringent and are useful in chronic diarrhea and
dysentery, especially of children.
The bark, both of the root and the
stems of pomegranate tree, is well known for its anthelmintic properties
of destroying parasitic worms. The root-bark is, however, preferred as it
contains greater quantity of the alkaloid punicine than the stem-bark.
This alkaloid is highly toxic to tapeworms. 90 to 180 mi. of the cold
decoction of the bark, preferably fresh bark, should be given three times
at an intervals of one hour to an adult. A purgative should be given after
the last dose. The dose for children is 30 to 60 ml. The decoction is also
used for expelling tapeworms.
The juice of the
fruit with the addition of a little saffron is useful in fevers to allay
thirst. A sherbet of the ripe fruit is beneficial in the treatment of
typhus, gastric and asthmatic fevers. The root bark is also given as a
febrifuge in-i.e. to prevent fevers.
The skin of the pomegranate fruit is considered highly
beneficial in the treatment of anal or vaginal itching. This nasty
discomfort may result from unhygienic habits or from worm infection. The
skin of the fruit should be roasted till it is brittle and black. It is
then powdered. The powder is mixed with a little vegetable oil and applied
over the anus.
Kidney and Bladder Stones
The seeds of sour and sweet pomegranate are useful as a
medicine. A tablespoonful of seeds, ground into a fine paste can be given
along with a cupful of horse-ram soup to dissolve gravel in kidneys and
Teeth and Gum Disorder
Powder of the dry
rind mixed with pepper and common salt is applied as a very good
dentifrice-i.e. tooth paste or powder. Its regular application strengthens
the gum, stops bleeding, prevents pyorrhea, cleans the teeth and preserve
them for a long time.
Some folk remedies are as follows:
Boil 100 grams of
pomegranate rind in 4 cups of water. Use this infusion to brush teeth
every morning to treat gum inflammation and purulent infections.
Boil the rind of the fruit
and rinse mouth with this infusion 2 to 3 times a day to disinfect
tonsils and throat.
Boil the rind of the fruit
and rinse mouth with this infusion 2 to 3 times a day to treat canker
Take 50 grams of dry
pomegranate root bark, soak it overnight in 1 or 2 glasses of cold
water. Boil it for a few minutes the following morning, let it cool and
drink every 15 minutes until you have taken it 2 or 3 times to expel
Taenia solium, the tapeworm.
The pomegranate is used as a table-fruit. Its juice is
regarded as a delicacy and is made into excellent sherbet and drunk with
the addition of water and sugar. It is also used in preparing syrups, ice
creams, jellies and marmalades. The pomegranate has a very good keeping
quality. It can be kept well for about six months in cold storage. Its
thick rind protects its succulent seeds from much rough handling. For
culinary purposes. pomegranate seeds have an astringent smell and
sweet-sour taste. A sweet and fresh syrup, known as grenadine, is made
from the juice of pomegranate. Pomegranate syrup, used in Middle Eastern
cooking, has an intense concentrated flavor. Pomegranate seeds are used in
Indian cooking as a souring agent. Crushed seeds are sprinkled in some of
the Middle Eastern cuisines.
All parts of the tree have been utilized as
sources of tannin for curing leather. The trunk bark contains 10 to 25%
tannin and was formerly important in the production of Morocco leather.
The root bark has a 28% tannin content, the leaves, 11%, and the fruit
rind as much as 26%. The latter is a by-product of the "anardana"
industry. Both the rind and the flowers yield dyes for textiles. Seeping
the leaves in vinegar can make ink. In Japan, an insecticide is derived
from the bark. The pale-yellow wood is very hard and, while available only
in small dimensions, is used for walking sticks and in woodcrafts.
The fruit has a fairly long shelf life at room
temperature, and hence was carried on long journeys through desert
climates as a source of water and nourishment. Today, pomegranates make
nice ornaments for fruit bowls or Christmas wreaths, as the fruit are
marketed around the holiday season. A red dye is obtained from the flowers
and also from the rind of un-ripened fruits. The dye can be red or black
and it is also used as an ink. It is coppery-brown in color. No mordant is
required. A fast yellow dye is obtained from the dried rind. Plants are
grown as hedges in Mediterranean climates. The wood of the tree is very
hard, compact, close grained, and durable. Hence it is used for making
agricultural implements in Iran.
The fruit should be eaten immediately after they are cut
open as the seeds lose their color quickly. Pips should not be swallowed
whole while eating the fruit. This is said to have bad effect in the
intestines and may cause appendicitis.
The pomegranate has been one of the
oldest fruits consumed by humans. It was domesticated and brought in to
cultivation on the central plateau in Iran, around the town of Yazd, where
most of the Zoroastrians congregated after the fall of the Sasanian Empire
around 640-642 AD. As the fruit, leaves and flowers of the tree are
included in Zoroastrian religious ceremonies, the tree is grown within the
open spaces in every Zoroastrian home in Iran. It is also found in the
gardens of most Zoroastrians fire-temples and shrines. The pomegranate is
mentioned in several folkloristic stories and mythology and its medicinal
uses are legendary. In recently years, researchers are finding new
medicinal uses for this very ancient fruit.
was posted on vohuman.org on July 7, 2005. It also appeared in the
proceedings of the International Conference on the Agricultural
Heritage of Asia, held at Secunderabad, India on December 6-9, 2004.
Parts of this paper have also been published in FEZANA Journal, Spring
2005 Issue, Vol.18, No.1