Pomegranate is mentioned in the ancient literature, including Ayurvedic texts and the Ebers papyrus from 1500Bc. It has been depicted in many illustrations dating from the time of the Egyptians. 'Punica' is derived from the Latin malum punicum meaning 'apple of Carthage' or 'an apple with many seeds'. For this reason the pomegranate became a symbol of fertility and was consumed by childless women.
It is thought to have originated from Iran and grows in the Mediterranean region and North Africa, Egypt and parts of Asia including India. It is cultivated for its fruit or as an ornamental tree.
A small, dense tree or shrub, 5-10 m high, with slender branches often tipped with a spine (Plate 50). The leaves are pale green, shiny, simple, ovate or lanceolate, with an acute or marginate apex. The flowers are orange-red in colour. The fruits are large, leathery skinned, globose berries, with a yellowish-red external surface or rind, containing numerous seeds and ajuicy red pulp.
Whole fruit, rind, leaf and root.
Traditional and modern use
Pomegranate is used as a vermifuge, anodyne, astringent, bactericide, refrigerant, stimulant, stomachic, styptic, hair dye and even as a poison. It can be used in asthma, bronchitis, cough, cardiac problems, dysentery, diarrhoea, colic, dyspepsia, fever, inflammation and bleeding disorders including metrorrhagia, menorrhagia, and piles and for leucorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea.
Major chemical constituents
Anthocyanins and tlavonoids
The rind and seeds contain glycosides of malvidin and petunidin and pelargonidin 3,5-diglucoside was found to be the main pigment of the flowers. Leaf extracts have yielded apigenin-4' -O-ß-glucopyranoside, luteolin-4' -O-ß-glucopyranoside, luteolin3' -O-ß-glucopyranoside, luteolin-3' -O-ß-xylopyranoside and isoquercetin.
Punicalin, punicalagin, granatin B, gallagyldilactone, casuarinine, pedunculagin and tellimagrandin I were isolated from the peri carp. The fruits also contain punicalagin, punicalin and granatin B. The bark contains iso-pelletierine, pseudo-pelletierine, methyl iso-pelletierine and pelletierine.
Gallic acid, granatin A, corilagin and ellagic acid have been isolated from the pericarp. The fruit contains an ellagitannin and ellagic acid.
Triterpenes and phytosterols
Sitosterol, friedelin, ursolic acid, maslinic acid and asiatic acid are present.
Medicinal and pharmacological activities
Anthelmintic activity: A clinical study of natural nematodiasis in calves below 6 months of age gave a successful treatment rate of78.2%.4The ethanolic extract ofthe rind showed in vitro anthelmintic action against human Ascaris lumbricoides. An aqueous extract was more potent than piperazine citrate against roundworm6 and activity was seen in infections of pups with Taenia hydatigena and chickens naturally infected with helminths. The pelletierine alkaloids paralyse tapeworms and laxatives may be used to expel them.
Antimicrobial activity: An extract of P. granatum rind possessed strong in vitro antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Candida albicans.9 The hot water and other extracts of P. granatum fruit pericarp showed antibacterial action against organisms such as Salmonella typhi and VibriIJ cholerae.
Antiamoebic activity: Aqueous extracts of the rind and flowers of P. granatum showed encouraging in vitro activity against Entamoeba histolytica. Complete inhibition of the organism was observed when treated with rind extract at a dose of 1 g/kg body weight and flower extract at 2.5 g/kg. The root extract showed a higher inhibition of Entamoeba histolytica than E. invadens. Alkaloids from the root, at a concentration of 1 mg/ml, had no amoebicidal effect but the tannins (at a concentration of 1 0 ßglml for E. histolytica and 100 Ilg/ml for E. invadens) produced an inhibition of 100%,
Antiviral activity: Tannins from the pericarp of P. granatum were effective against genital herpes virus (HSV-2). They inhibited replication of the virus, blocked its absorption into cells and had a strong virucidal effect.
Antidiabetic activity: A rind extract administered at a dose of 2.5 g/kg body weight exhibited hypoglycaemic action in mildly diabetic albino rats.16 Oral administration of an aqueous-ethanolic extract of the male flowers at a dose of 400 mg/kg produced a significant blood glucose lowering effect in normal, glucosefed hyperglycaemic and alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
Antiimplantation activity: Aqueous and methanolic extracts of P. granatum inhibited pregnancy in 70-90% of albino rats.'s Antimutagenic activity: Aqueous extracts consisting primarily of ascorbic and citric acids of pomegranate showed varying activity against the mutagenicity of direct-acting and 5-9 dependent mutagens.
The fruits, eaten as a food, are regarded as safe. The LDso of a 50% ethanolic extract of the whole plant (excluding roots) was found to be 250 mg/kg, given IP to adult rats.2o The tannin fraction has shown hepatotoxic effects.
- Fruit powder: 4-8 g
- Flower powder: 4-5 g
- Root and bark powder: 1.5-3 g Bark decoction: 100-200 ml
- Rasa: Madhur (sweet), kashaya (astringent), amla (sour)
- Guna: Laghu (light), snigdha (unctuous) Veerya: Anushna (tepid)
- Vipaka: Madhur (sweet)
- Dosha: Pacifies tridosha