The name pomegranate derives from medieval Latin pōmum “apple” and grānātum “seeded”. This has influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages (e.g. granada in Spanish, Granatapfel or Grenadine in German, grenade in French, granatäpple in Swedish, pomogranà in Venetian). Mālum grānātus, using the classical Latin word for apple, gives rise to the Italian name melograno, or less commonly melagrana.
Secrets Revealed: The Powerful Health Benefits of the Pomegranate
One of the oldest known fruits, found in writings and artifacts of many cultures and religions, the pomegranate (punica granatum) is an original native of Persia. This nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit has been revered as a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life.The pomegranate is a nutrient dense food source rich in phytochemical compounds. Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants offering protection against heart disease and cancer. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.
Compounds found only in pomegranates called punicalagins are shown to benefit the heart and blood vessels. Punicalagins are the major component responsible for pomegranate’s antioxidant and health benefits. They not only lower cholesterol, but also lower blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) melt away.
Recent medical research studied heart patients with severe carotid artery blockages. They were given an ounce of pomegranate juice each day for a year. Not only did study participants’ blood pressure lower by over 12 percent, but there was a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque. Just as astounding, participants who did not take the pomegranate juice saw their atherosclerotic plaque increase by 9 percent.
In other studies, potent antioxidant compounds found in pomegranates have shown to reduce platelet aggregation and naturally lower blood pressure, factors that prevent both heart attacks and strokes.
Not only are pomegranates good for your heart and blood vessels but they have been shown to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, leukemia and to prevent vascular changes that promote tumor growth in lab animals. Several in vitro studies have shown this remarkable anti-cancer effect. Additional studies and clinical trials currently taking place are hopeful to reveal this fascinating effect on humans.
Also of note, pomegranate juice contains phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin and estrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and increasing bone mass in lab animals.
Features of the Pomegranate
- Most powerful anti-oxidant of all fruits
- Potent anti-cancer and immune supporting effects
- Inhibits abnormal platelet aggregation that could cause heart attacks, strokes and embolic disease
- Lowers cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors
- Lowers blood pressure
- Shown to promote reversal of atherosclerotic plaque in human studies
- May have benefits to relieve or protect against depression and osteoporosis
- Many studies show that the pomegranate is one of the most powerful, nutrient dense foods for overall good health. These clinical findings clearly show a correlation between pomegranate compounds and their positive effect on both human and animal cardiovascular, nervous, and skeletal health. This is one fruit that you can’t afford to exclude from your diet!
“People use whatever is at hand to express their religious beliefs,” says Frank A. Salamone, an authority on religious symbols and a professor at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. Centuries ago, in the Fertile Crescent, where so many religions arose, the pomegranate was at hand. By its very nature, it lent itself to religious symbolism.
“The pomegranate is red, and so is blood,” Salamone says. “It has a lot of seeds and is an obvious symbol of fertility.” It’s beautiful, strong and delicate, and its juice has healing properties, he says. “It says a lot of different things all at once. People bring meaning to it.”
Ancient Persians painted pomegranates on their shields for protection in battle. In Greek and Roman myths, it was the pomegranate that seduced Persephone, the goddess of fertility, into marrying her kidnapper, Hades, god of the underworld.
The Vedas, some of the oldest religious texts in Hinduism, consider the pomegranate, with its inner treasure of edible seeds, a symbol for fertility and prosperity. It is revered for its healthful qualities. (Modern research suggests, for example, that the pomegranate has antioxidant and antiviral properties and might play a role in some cancer treatments.) The pomegranate often found its way into the hands of Hindu gods. It was seen as an appeal to the gods and is one of nine plants traditionally offered to Durga, the 10-armed goddess of retribution and justice.
During his life on Earth, the Buddha received his share of valuable gifts from wealthy disciples. But it was, tradition says, a poor old woman’s gift of a small pomegranate that delighted him. It is said that he once offered a pomegranate to the demon Hariti, which cured her of her alarming habit of eating children. Buddhism considers the pomegranate to be one of the three blessed fruits. Others are the citrus and the peach.
In Genesis, the first book of the Torah, the fruit that prompted Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden may have been the pomegranate, some scholars say. It’s not likely, they argue, that apples flourished in that first garden. Later, the Hebrews searched for the Promised Land, looking for a list of clues to prove they had arrived. The list? Wheat and barley, vines and figs, olives and honey and pomegranates. The round red fruit with its own crown, or calyx, decorated the robes of Jewish priests and some of the pillars in the temple in Jerusalem. Tradition says that each pomegranate holds 613 seeds, or arils, one for each commandment in the Torah. Today, pomegranates are often part of Rosh Hashana celebrations, their seeds embodying the hope that the new year will be fruitful.
Pomegranates figure in many religious paintings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often in the hands of Mary or the infant Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of his suffering and resurrection. In the famous “Unicorn Tapestries,” which date from about 1500 and reside now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters, pomegranates may represent Christ and the need to look inside for the blood that redeems believers. What seems to be the blood of the unicorn is red pomegranate seeds, perhaps an illustration of the belief that from the blood of martyrs flow the seeds of faith. In Christianity, pomegranate seeds were often compared to individual believers, gathered into one community of faith.
According to the Quran, the gardens of paradise include pomegranates. It is important, tradition says, to eat every seed of a pomegranate because one can’t be sure which aril came from paradise. The prophet Mohammed is said to have encouraged his followers to eat pomegranates to ward off envy and hatred.
Additional sources: “The Anchor Bible Dictionary,” edited by David Noel Freedman; “Church Symbolism” by F.R. Webber; “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols” by Ellen Frankel and Betsy Platkin Teutsch; “A Dictionary of Life in Bible Times” by W. Corswant; “Pomegranates” by Ann Kleinberg; and “Pom,” a promotional book created by Pom Wonderful.
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