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10+ Health Benefits of Pomegranate for Immune Function, Cognitive Health, Skin, & More

Published on January 08, 2024


By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

https://www.holisticwritingconcepts.com
10+ Health Benefits of Pomegranate for Immune Function, Cognitive Health, Skin, & More
10+ Health Benefits of Pomegranate for Immune Function, Cognitive Health, Skin, & More

Most health-conscious people are aware of the benefits of Pomegranates and Pomegranate juice for antioxidant protection, heart function, and longevity*.

But this is only a fraction of the story!

The full health-supportive potential of this mystical fruit remains hidden in ancient texts and less-publicized research studies.

Today, we’re taking a deep look at the many traditional uses and studied benefits of Pomegranates, including their ancient history as a functional food in the Middle East and how their unique combination of nutrients may benefit brain function, cells, metabolic function, kidney function, sexual function, and more.

The Historical Significant Peaceful Pomegranate, Also Known as “The Heavenly Healer”

Most North Americans know Pomegranates as a healthful and often expensive fruit and trendy juice.

However, to Iranians and those living in the Middle East, the Pomegranate has been central to their traditional wellness practices, symbolism, and way of life.

Here, we’ll explore the historical significance of Pomegranates from a Traditional Iranian and Islamic Medicine (ITM) perspective.

Pomegranate, also known in Persian as “Anar” and by its scientific name, Punica granatum L., had a long-standing reputation as a traditional herb and nutritious food in the great Persian Empire.

Pomegranate blossoms symbolize peace, love, and kindness in Iranian culture, and some people refer to the Pomegranate as “the heavenly healer.”REF#3371

Various cultures also consider its fruit and blossoms a symbol of fertility, the cycle of life and death, power, compassion, prosperity, passion, and divinity.

Its use is documented in legends and historical and religious texts across cultures.

For example: 

  • The legend of Isfandiyar, a Persian warrior who becomes invincible by eating a Pomegranate.
  • Pomegranates’ association with Aphrodite, the goddess of love in Greek mythology.
  • Frequent mentions throughout the Old Testament

The Pomegranate tree typically grows up to 12 to 16 feet and lives over 200 years, which some traditional practitioners believe adds to its benefits for longevity.

Pomegranates are believed to be native to Iran and Afghanistan. Today, they are widely cultivated throughout Central Asia, the Himalayas, the Middle East, the Southwestern United States, and the Mediterranean.REF#3372

Traditional Uses of Pomegranate as a Food, Tonic, and Beauty Aid

Traditionally, almost all parts of the Pomegranate are used to support health, including:

  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • Peel
  • Leaves
  • Bark
  • Root
  • Flowers
  • Calyx, a supporting part of the bud and flower 
  • Stamens (Pomegranate’s crown), used medicinally in ITM

In Islamic and Iranian Traditional Medicines (ITM), Pomegranate fruit peels, juice, and flowers were primarily used by traditional physicians in various preparations and diverse applications to support many aspects of health, including: REF#3373

  • Skin health
  • Reproductive function
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Blood sugar
  • For throat comfort
  • As as heart tonic
  • Immune function
  • Respiratory function
  • To promote longevity
  • As a nutritional tonic
  • For hair loss
  • For joint support
  • For endurance support
  • Sexual function
  • For inflammatory response support

Traditional practitioners believed the most beneficial properties of the Pomegranate come from its astringent effect, which modern medicine relates to its concentrated phenolic compounds, such as tannins.

Next, we’ll explore more about what modern research has uncovered about the power of Pomegranate and ten studied benefits.

11 Health Benefits of Pomegranate

Pomegranate’s long history of traditional use in Middle-Eastern wellness practices has made it the subject of several studies.

Analysis of Pomegranates has revealed many active plant compounds believed to be responsible for its benefits. REF#3374

Some of its primary active plant compounds include:

  • Flavonoids including phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and hydrolyzable tannins—such as ellagitannins, the primary bioactive phytochemicals in Pomegranate juice
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Antioxidant compounds
  • Essential fatty acids—omega 3, 6, and 9
  • Organic acids
  • Phytoestrogens

The following are ten potential benefits of Pomegranate based on traditional use and modern research.

1: Pomegranates are Highly Nutritious

Bright, juicy, ruby red Pomegranates are truly a superfood that has sustained people for centuries.

Not only are they teeming with antioxidants, but Pomegranates are also low-calorie, very low-fat, and contain a healthy serving of fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and zinc.

Pomegranate Nutrition Facts:

One 4-inch Pomegranate contains: REF#3375

  • 234 Calories 
  • 3.3 g Fat
  • 8.4 mg Sodium
  • 29 g Carbohydrates 
  • 11.3 g Fiber
  • 4.7 g Protein
  • 666 mg Potassium
  • 33.8 mg Magnesium
  • 0.8mg Iron
  • 28.8 mg Vitamin C
  • 107.2mcg Folate
  • 46.2 mcg Vitamin K

We’ll dig deeper into the benefits of Pomegranate’s nutrients in subsequent sections.

2: Pomegranate is Rich in Cell-Supportive Antioxidants

Pomegranate’s biggest claim to fame in the West is its impressive antioxidant profile, which is believed to be stronger than wine or green tea.

Pomegranate has many types of antioxidants and antioxidant groups.REF#3376

The primary group is polyphenols, which include tannins and flavonoids such as anthocyanins (which give Pomegranates their red hue), flavan 3-ols, flavonols, phenolics, and catechins.

These antioxidants are responsible for many of Pomegranates’ benefits due to their free radical neutralizing effects and inflammatory response support.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage if left unchecked.

The antioxidant properties of Pomegranate are also believed to be responsible for most of the potential health benefits discussed in this article.

3: Pomegranate May Support Heart and Cardiovascular Function

Pomegranates' blood-red color may have tipped off traditional herbalists and practitioners to its role as a heart tonic.

Modern research has begun to validate this traditional use, with studies showing the antioxidants in Pomegranate may support various aspects of heart and cardiovascular function.

For example, clinical studies have demonstrated the presence of hydrolyzable tannins, ellagitannins, and ellagic acid, as well as other compounds like anthocyanins and flavonoids in Pomegranate juice, may provide a vasculoprotective effect by supporting normal blood pressure and artery function.REF#3377

Pomegranate has also been shown helpful for various aspects of metabolic function (which we’ll discuss more coming up), which are connected to cardiovascular function.REF#3378

Although more research is needed, several studies plus traditional use suggest Pomegranates and Pomegranate juice may be a healthy addition to a heart-healthy diet.

4: Pomegranate Seed Oil May Benefit Skin

Pomegranate seed oil is one of the oldest and best-kept secrets in the clean beauty space.

Imagine all the antioxidant and nutritional benefits of the Pomegranate aril (the seed), pressed into a precious oil and applied to the skin.

Plus, Pomegranate seed oil contains a rare omega-5 fatty acid known as Punicic Acid, which provides a wealth of skin benefits.REF#3379

Studies have shown Pomegranate seed oil contains vitamins E and C, various polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and essential fatty acids that may help: REF#3380 REF#3381 REF#3382 REF#3383

  • Reverse skin damage
  • Reduce scarring
  • Revitalize skin
  • Promote collagen production
  • Create a more youthful appearance

Skincare experts recommend Pomegranate seed oil for all skin types, including acne-prone skin, sensitive skin, and mature skin.

You can find Pomegranate seed oil in various skin care products or as a stand-alone oil to make your own face oils, serums, and other beauty care products.

5: Pomegranate May Provide Brain and Neurological Benefits

Traditional herbalists have long regarded Pomegranate as a brain tonic that can help support cognitive function and memory. 

Although more research is needed, there is literature to support this traditional practice.

Several studies suggest the polyphenols in Pomegranate support neurological function, cognitive function, memory, and healthy behavior. REF#3384 REF#3385

It is believed this is due to their antioxidant effect, which helps support normal inflammatory response, DNA expression, and serum lipid levels, resulting in a neuroprotective effect on the brain.

Pomegranate may also have beneficial effects on supporting normal blood sugar,REF#3386 which is now recognized as essential for normal cognitive function.REF#3387

6: Pomegranate May Provide Broad-Spectrum Benefits for Metabolic Function

Traditional Middle-Eastern herbalists and practitioners believed eating Pomegranates daily was key to a long and healthy life.

Part of this belief may have been due to Pomegranate’s potential effects on metabolic function, including supporting normal blood sugar and heart function.

Research has shown that Pomegranate fruit, juice, flower, and peel may support the following aspects of metabolic function: REF#3388 REF#3389

  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Normal cholesterol
  • Normal sugar metabolism
  • Weight management

More research is needed. However, several in-vivo, in-vitro, and human studies, along with thousands of years of anecdotal evidence, suggest a potential benefit.

7: Eating Pomegranate May Support Kidney Function

If you’re looking for more kidney-friendly foods to add to your diet, Pomegranate may be an excellent choice for many reasons, including: REF#3390 REF#3391

  • Its potential benefits for metabolic function, which is closely connected with kidney function
  • Its antioxidants, which studies suggest may support kidney function via their possible effects on calcium oxalate levels
  • Its nutrients, such as magnesium and fiber, which help nourish and promote normal kidney, urinary function, and metabolic function

Per the National Kidney Foundation, although Pomegranates are healthy for most people, even those with Chronic Kidney Disease, they are a high potassium food.REF#3392

Therefore, those with high potassium and chronic kidney disease, may need to limit consumption of Pomegranates.

Check with your doctor or dietician for individual recommendations.

8: Pomegranates May Benefit the Gut Microbiome

Research suggests Pomegranates may be one of the best foods to support your gut microbiome, which is interconnected with many aspects of health.

Pomegranates contain many vital nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids essential to gut function.REF#3393 REF#3394

Pomegranate consumption has also been linked to increased levels of beneficial gut microbes, which suggests its fiber may be prebiotic* in nature. REF#3395

*Prebiotics are a type of fiber that resists digestion and ferments in the gut, where it provides foods for beneficial bacteria.

9: Pomegranate May Support Joint Mobility and Function

Have you ever seen those reels and videos of people taking a shot of Pomegranate juice post-workout or first thing in the morning?

Although people take Pomegranate juice shots for different reasons, many swear by its positive effects on joint mobility.

Research suggests the same, with multiple human, animal, and lab studies showing the inflammatory response supportive antioxidants in Pomegranate may promote normal joint and cartilage structure and function and even help with minor pain management.REF#3396

As to the timing and frequency of consumption, more research is needed. 

However, if you find it helps your mobility to drink Pomegranate juice before working out, before bed, or first thing in the morning, continue doing so!

10. Pomegranates May Promote Robust Immune Function

Pomegranates aren’t typically the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about immunity.

However, when it comes to functional foods, the Pomegranate is in an immune-supportive class of its own.

For example, Pomegranate contains the following immune-supportive nutrients and plant compounds:

  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin K
  • Iron
  • Fiber, which supports your gut immune system
  • Several antioxidant compounds, such as polysaccharides and flavonoids, which promote normal inflammatory response, which aids immune function
  • Urolithin A, a metabolite product from Pomegranate, which supports the function of immune cells REF#3397

One study also showed daily consumption of Pomegranate juice for a year promoting immune function in hemodialysis patients.REF#3398

In vivo and in vitro studies suggest that Pomegranate fruit, juice, extract, peel powder, and oil may support various aspects of lung and respiratory function by promoting regulations of various signaling pathways.REF#3399 This is consistent with the use of Pomegranate for respiratory function in Traditional Iranian Medicine.

Although more research is needed, emerging studies and anecdotal evidence suggest a Pomegranate a day may help promote normal immune and respiratory function.

11. Pomegranates May Have Reproductive and Aphrodisiac Benefits

Pomegranates have long been a symbol of fertility, romance, and union. They also have a reputation as an aphrodisiac, but does science support folklore?

The evidence isn’t conclusive, but there may be something to this.

Emerging research has shown Pomegranate juice may support the quality and motility of sperm.REF#3400 More research is needed to confirm these effects.

Animal studies suggest Pomegranate juice may support sexual function by promoting normal testosterone levels.REF#3401

A small human study showed drinking Pomegranate juice supported normal erectile function in men, but more research is needed to make a recommendation.REF#3402

Given the nutrient value of Pomegranates, there is no harm in trying them out to support sexual and reproductive function.

Side Effects & Possible Contraindications of Pomegranate and Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranates and their juice have been enjoyed frequently by billions of people for centuries and are considered very safe.

However, Pomegranates and Pomegranate juice may interact with certain medications in the same way as grapefruit juice. 

Pomegranates also contain Vitamin K, which may be problematic for people on Warfarin.

Pomegranate juice contains natural sugars—although in lower amounts than most juices— which may or may not be appropriate for people with diabetes or other blood sugar issues.

Finally, as previously mentioned, Pomegranates are rich in Potassium, which may not benefit those with chronic kidney disease if potassium levels are already high.

Check with your doctor, dietician, or healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.

Where to Buy Whole Pomegranates and Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranates are available in nearly all grocery stores and are typically most affordable in winter.

Pomegranate juice is also easy to find in the refrigerated section of your produce department or on the juice aisle. Look for 100% pure Pomegranate juice for best results and the greatest nutrient content.

If you can’t find fresh Pomegranates, you may be able to find dried arils in specialty food stores.

Pomegranate molasses, a boiled-down, concentrated version of Pomegranate juice, is a tasty and tart staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s delicious in beverages, ground meat dishes, dressings, desserts, and marinades.

It can be found in Middle Eastern markets. Look for Pomegranate molasses with no added sugars or dyes for best quality.

How to Prepare Pomegranates

The only downside to eating Pomegranates is getting the arils (seeds) out without making a huge mess.

The tidiest way to de-seed a Pomegranate is to cut it in half, place the half in water, de-seed it while submerged, then drain the seeds.

You can also whack a cut Pomegranate with a wooden spoon to release the seeds, but they may not all make it to the bowl.

If you’re slow and methodical, you can quarter a Pomegranate and gently remove the seeds with your fingers without making too much mess.

You can also buy Pomegranate arils in containers. However, these only last 3-4 days without tasting fermented. They’re also expensive and come in single-use plastic containers, which is why we recommend seeding your own.

Most people buy Pomegranate juice premade, but you can make your own by running the arils through a juicer.

Finally, Pomegranates are a wonderfully fun food to give children. 

Just provide them with half or a quarter of a Pomegranate and cover them in an apron, bibs, or napkins, and they’ll be busily harvesting the jewel-like arils for quite a while (always supervise younger children to prevent choking).

Full disclosure: It will be messy! Plan ahead by making this an outdoor activity or putting a drop cloth beneath the table.

How Often To Drink Pomegranate Juice

Most studies on the benefits of Pomegranate juice employed its daily consumption. Traditional herbalists and practitioners also recommended consuming Pomegranates and/or their juice daily.

However, there is no official recommendation on how often to drink the juice for specific benefits.

General dietary guidelines recommend only one serving (1 cup) of any juice daily, although many nutrition experts may recommend more or less than that, depending on the individual.

Many experts recommend 1-4 liquid ounces daily, but check with your doctor, dietician, or healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.

What Does Pomegranate Juice Taste Like?

Pomegranate juice has a sweet yet tart flavor that’s crisp and astringent.

How To Get More Pomegranates in Your Diet

Pomegranates’ sweet-tart flavor and jewel-like appearance make them a beautiful and tasty addition to sweet and savory dishes. 

Here are ten ways to get more Pomegranates in your diet:

  1. Add Pomegranate juice to your smoothies
  2. Try Pomegranate molasses in marinades, dressings, meat dishes, beverages, and desserts
  3. Sprinkle Pomegranate arils on salads, grain bowls, guacamole, granola, cereal, chicken salad, and rice dishes
  4. Make a healthy chocolate Pomegranate bark by adding arils to melted organic fair-trade dark chocolate, let it harden, and enjoy
  5. Try dried Pomegranate arils in your favorite trail mix recipe
  6. Take a daily shot of Pomegranate juice
  7. Make Pomegranate pancakes by adding arils to the batter or drizzling Pomegranate molasses on top, with or without maple syrup
  8. Mix Pomegranate arils or molasses into your favorite yogurt
  9. Try substituting Pomegranate arils for candy the next time you have a late-night craving. The sweet and tart flavor combined with the burst of juice in the bite and the effort of extracting the seeds should satisfy your sweet tooth
  10. Try Pomegranate tea

No matter how you enjoy this ancient fruit, you’ll know you’re doing something amazing for your health.

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