What You Will Learn in This Article
- History of Pomegranates and Their Medicinal Use
- Benefits of Pomegranates
- How Pomegranates Help Hormones
- Pomegranate Effects on Estrogenic Cancers and Other Disorders
- How Pomegranates Help Heal the Skin
- How to Eat Pomegranates
- How to Get the Seeds Out
- Pomegranate Recipes
History of Pomegranates and Their Medicinal Use
I first became interested in pomegranates when my friend told me that in her native country, Iran, women used pomegranates for both fertility but also to treat and prevent breast cancer. And then, when I got to cook with it, my fascination and appreciation only grew.
Pomegranate has long been seen as a sacred fruit in most world religions as well as ancient mythologies. It’s mentioned the Jewish Torah, the Old Testament in the Bible, and even ancient Babylonian texts. Pomegranates are generally associated with fertility, health, strength, and abundance. “Pomegranate” in Spanish is “granada.” It was so highly revered that it became both namesake and symbol of the ancient city of Granada. (1)
Traditional use of pomegranate varies by the system of medicine, but in Ayurvedic medicine, it’s especially used as a blood tonic, as a digestive remedy, and to rid the body of parasites. (1) Ancient Egyptians, too, used pomegranate for parasites – particularly tapeworms. But they actually boiled the root of the pomegranate tree, making an herbal decoction out of it. (2) Unani medicine, another traditional medicine out of India and the Middle East, uses pomegranate to help people with diabetes. (1)
Modern research has uncovered the mechanism behind how pomegranates improve our health conditions. It has also found additional health benefits of pomegranates and continues to research and discover even more. The vast abilities of pomegranates have only begun to be tapped.
Benefits of Pomegranates
Pomegranates are a wonderful source of antioxidant polyphenols that can help lower inflammation. In fact, pomegranate juice is a greater source of antioxidants than red wine, blueberry juice, acai, and green tea. (3) Since inflammation is behind quite a number of health conditions, pomegranates may be a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Inflammation also impacts your hormones. Learn more by reading this article: How to Reduce Inflammation Fast (and Help Your Hormones, Too).
In fact, its anti-inflammatory action may be one reason why pomegranate is so beneficial for the cardiovascular system. In addition, the juice has been shown to lower blood pressure and the punicic acid, which is in the seed, may help prevent the build up of plaque in the arteries. It also caused a significant reduction in triglycerides. Plus, pomegranate juice was able to reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation, which is a risk factor for heart disease. (4) Cardiovascular disease is probably the best researched condition that pomegranates could help. However, there’s also good evidence that pomegranates could benefit hormones.
How Pomegranates Help Hormone Balance
In addition to lowering inflammation, pomegranates can positively impact hormone balance a few additional ways. To begin with, pomegranates are a good source of natural plant-based estrogens – “phytoestrogens.” They are a good source of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), which attach to estrogen receptors and block the entry of undesirable “dirty” estrogens into the cell. (5)
According to Robert A. Newman, Ph.D.., and Ephraim P. Lanksky, M. D. in their book, “Pomegranate: The Most Medicinal Fruit”:
“Today, most references to phytoestrogens in the popular media refer primarily to isoflavones found in soy and the lignans in flax, but the pomegranate’s phytoestrogenic properties are just as impressive, perhaps even more so. Some of the phytoestrogen compounds found in pomegranate are minute amounts of real steroid hormones, such as estriol, estrone, and even testosterone. In our own investigations, we also discovered a large store of 17-alpha-estradiol in pomegranate seed oil. This compound is a mirror-image version of the estrogen produced in the highest quantities in the female body. To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time it has ever been found in a plant source.” (6)
Since 17-alpha-estradiol is a weaker form of estrogen, taking up the receptor space helps block the stronger, more problematic estrogens. In that way, it helps address estrogen dominance, by decreasing the estrogen effect. As a result, hormone levels are brought closer to balance.
Pomegranates can also help with estrogen balance by supporting liver health, since the liver is a key organ in detoxifying and removing those dirty estrogens from the body. So far, most of the research on pomegranate and the liver has been done in animals, so more research is needed to know exactly how it would work in humans.
Learn more about how the liver impacts estrogen and overall hormone balance by reading this article: How to Optimize Liver Function to Rebalance Hormones in Women.
Pomegranate Effects on Women’s Health Challenges
We’ve seen that pomegranates have a direct and indirect effect on hormones. Let’s look at a few women’s health challenges that may be positively affected by adding pomegranate to your diet.
Estrogenic cancers are those cancers that are dependent on higher estrogen levels in the body. So, basically, estrogen is the fuel for the fire. Examples of “estrogenic,” “estrogen receptor-positive” (ER-positive) or “estrogen-responsive” cancers include breast, thyroid, ovarian, uterine, and lung cancers. All of these cancers can respond to estrogen. About 67 to 80 percent of all breast cancers are estrogen-responsive. (7)
When researchers looked at women’s hormones from blood samples taken from the Nurses Health Study, they found a strong link between hormonal imbalance and breast cancer. Eight key hormones were measured in postmenopausal women, including estrogen, androgenic hormones, DHEA, prolactin, and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). The results? When more than one hormone level was elevated, the risk of breast cancer doubled. And when several were elevated… risk of breast cancer tripled. What was the hormone that had the most impact? Estrogen. (8)
Estrogen promotes the spread of breast cancer and the growth of tumors. There’s also an enzyme called aromatase, which converts androgen hormones (traditionally male hormones like testosterone) into estrogen. This enzyme plays a major role in the development of cancer.
So, how could pomegranate help? A study of the tannins in pomegranate found that tannin-derived compounds could inhibit the activity of that enzyme aromatase. The researchers concluded that pomegranate tannins were “anti-aromatase” and could potentially help in the prevention of estrogen-responsive breast cancers. (9)
Just as pomegranates help estrogenic cancers by balancing out estrogen, they can also help estrogen dominance and the conditions associated with it. Estrogen dominance happens when you have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. (Take this Quiz to see if you’re estrogen dominant). Pomegranate may be able to help due to the phytoestrogens it provides. Examples of estrogen dominance related conditions include the following:
Fibroids–Non-threatening tumors or growths that develop in the uterus. They may be as small as a pea or grow as large as a grapefruit. Fibroids can grow within the wall of the uterus, on the inside of the uterus, or on its outer surface. Symptom-wise, they can cause intense menstrual pain and heavy bleeding. (10) They can also cause miscarriage or lead to hysterectomies. Learn more about fibroids here.
Endometriosis–This occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus or endometrium grows outside of it. For example, it often will grow in the uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, cervix, ovaries, bladder, and bowel. Endometrial tissue has a large number of estrogen receptors and having too much estrogen makes it grow. (11)
Thyroid nodules–An abnormal growth of thyroid cells that create a lump within the thyroid gland. Learn more here.
Learn more about estrogen dominance and other conditions that are related by reading this article.
How Pomegranates Help Heal the Skin
The seed oil is particularly well known as a skin rejuvenator. In animal studies, pomegranate extract improved skin healing, including increasing collagen formation. (4) Researchers have also found that pomegranate extracts can help protect against skin cancer. You can easily find pomegranate seed oil for skin care online.
Learn more about collagen and how to increase it naturally by reading these articles:
Now that you know the benefits of collagen, how on earth to you eat them? I’ll cover that next…
How to Eat Pomegranates
Pomegranates can be enjoyed in a variety of forms, from their fresh arils (the gem-like seeds), pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses (a cooked down and concentrated form of the juice), and even a tea made out of the husk. The seeds are wonderful atop a salad or adorning a pot roast. The molasses can be used as a delicious glaze for oven roasted vegetables or as a part of a tangy salad dressing.
Here are some additional ideas for using pomegranate:
- Make a pomegranate spritzer using the juice and some sparkling water (sweeten to taste)
- Add arils as a garnish to cocktails
- Blend the juice into a smoothie
- Add arils to roasted brussels sprouts or a roasted root vegetable medley
- Use the molasses with honey as a glaze for chicken
- Get an Iranian cookbook and find a recipe for lamb pomegranate stew
- Add arils to chocolate melted in molds
- Add arils to salads for bites of subtle sweetness
Of course, in order to make use of the beautiful seeds, we first have to get them out of the husk and pith. But don’t throw the husk away. It may be helpful for candida overgrowth. In research, a dried and powdered pomegranate peel had a potent effect in fighting against candida albicans. (12)
So, here’s how to get those seeds out – without the mess!
How to Get the Seeds Out
Getting the seeds out of the pomegranate may be the most overwhelming part of buying one. (“I’ve bought a pomegranate… Now, how do I eat it?”) The video below will show you exactly what to do so that you can start enjoying these nutritious gems right away.
Here are just a few recipes for enjoying this life-promoting fruit:
- Farmer’s Wife Sunday Breakfast (add pomegranate arils as a garnish)
- Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark
- Marinated Turnip Salad (with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds)
- Flavonoid Bomb (a nutrient-rich jam replacement with pomegranate juice)
- Persimmon and Pomegranate Cobbler (an antioxidant rich dessert!)
There are plenty of recipes out there, so go explore and have fun. Pomegranate can really elevate your meals to the next level – both in nutrition and in beauty.
1. Jurenka, J. Therapeutic Applications of Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.): A Review. Alternative Medicine Review. 2008.
2. Aboelsoud, N. H. Herbal medicine in ancient Egypt. Journal of MEdicinal Plants Research. 2010.
3. Seeram, N. P., Aviram, M., Zhang, Y., Henning, S. M., Feng, L., Dreher, M., and Heber, D. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2008.
4. Zarfeshany, A., Asgary, S., & Javanmard, S. H. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Advanced biomedical research. 2014.
5. Sreeja S., Santhosh Kumar T.R., Lakshmi B.S., Sreeja S. Pomegranate extract demonstrates a selective estrogen
receptor modulator profile in human tumor cell lines and in vivo models of estrogen deprivation. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2012.
6. Newman, R. A., Lanksky, E. P., Block, M. L. “Pomegranate: The Most Medicinal Fruit.” Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2007.
7. National Cancer Institute. Hormone therapy for breast cancer.
Cancer.gov website. June 2020.
8. Tworoger, S.S., Rosner, B.A., Willett, W.C. et al. The combined influence of multiple sex and growth hormones on risk of postmenopausal breast cancer: a nested case-control study. Breast Cancer Research. 2011.
9. Adams, L. S., Zhang, Y., Seeram, N. P., Heber, D., & Chen, S. Pomegranate ellagitannin-derived compounds exhibit antiproliferative and anti aromatase activity in breast cancer cells in vitro. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.). 2010.
10. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Uterine Fibroids. Women’s Health Care Physicians. December, 2018.
11. Wszelaki, Magdalena. Overcoming Estrogen Dominance. New Type Publishing. January 2021.
12. Pai, M. B., Prashant, G. M., Murlikrishna, K. S., Shivakumar, K. M., & Chandu, G. N. Antifungal efficacy of Punica granatum, Acacia nilotica, Cuminum cyminum and Foeniculum vulgare on Candida albicans: an in vitro study. Indian journal of dental research : official publication of Indian Society for Dental Research. 2010.