A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

Pomegranate is famed for its taste as well as being a fertility symbol

Pomegranate

Punica granatum Punicaceae

Pomegranate specifically balances an acidic digestion, nourishes the heart and balances levels of oestrogen.

Key benefits
  • Heart
  • Healthy blood flow
  • Aphrodisiac
  • How does it feel?

    The pomegranate is a deciduous shrub or small fruit bearing tree originally from Persia, which can now be found growing all over India. It grows to heights of between 5-8 metres producing the characteristic large, red and round sweet fruits known as pomegranates which can contain anywhere between 200-1400 seeds. The plant also produces multiple spines along each of its branches and its flowers match the colour of the fruit and are a bright, vibrant red. Pomegranate trees have been known to live for up to 200 years and are incredibly hardy.

  • What can I use it for?

    Pomegranate contains high levels of the constituent ellagic acid and Vitamin C, making it a strong and effective antioxidant and a good support for a weakened digestive system. The bark of the tree and a small percentage of the fruit contains constituents known as alkaloids that are particularly effective against fighting parasites within the digestive tract by inhibiting the parasites ability to grip onto the intestinal wall. The juice and the rind of the fruit contain tannins which display strong astringent properties, primarily active within the digestive tract.

  • Into the heart of Pomegranate

    The bright and vibrant red colour of this fruit gives a good indication of its usage within the body. It has an affinity for the heart and supporting a healthy blood flow and circulation around the body. The fruit was also revered in many folk traditions as being a symbol of fertility, reflecting its now known ability to stimulate the libido and act as an effective aphrodisiac. Different parts of the plant also demonstrate different medicinal actions with the bitter rind acting as an effective astringent to the digestive system, and the cooling juice as an excellent anti-inflammatory to the digestive tract but also in excessive heat and sweat production during the menopause.

    The sweet juice of the fruit is a wonderful cooling drink for soothing an inflamed stomach and intestines. It is a specific for hyperacidity and the resulting nausea. Its mild astringency helps to slow the movement of vata and alleviates any excess pitta. The rind is a fine astringent that will bind a loose bowel very quickly. It is a common folk remedy for dysentery with bleeding and mucus. It also kills parasites; it is a specific for tapeworms, pin and roundworms. The dry, roasted seeds are a great benefit to those with an excessive appetite, tikshna agni, as they help to balance the excess pitta.

    As a wonderful cordial herb it strengthens the heart. Its affinity for the blood helps to nourish rakta dhatu. Its sweet and astringent qualities are beneficial in bleeding anywhere in the circulatory system.

    Pomegranates are a well-known aphrodisiac. They benefit the semen (shukrala) via the plasma or rasa dhatu. The decoction of the rind can be used as a douche in leucorrhoea.

    Pomegranates are useful for maintaining healthy levels of oestrogen as they contain small amounts of estrone. Eat the fresh fruit, juice or seeds regularly during menopause. The sweet flavour can help to cool sensations of burning and flushing.

    The beneficial effect of the fruit on majja dhatu helps to nourish the brain and nervous system.

  • Traditional actions

  • Did you know?

    This plant has no close relatives within the plant kingdom, and so it can often be seen to be placed in different plant families. However, some authorities have also given it its own unique family, Granateae.

Additional information

  • Safety

    The bark is banned for use in the UK under the 1977 Medicines Order. Overdose can cause blindness, dizziness, fainting, gastrointesinal irritation, vomiting, respiratory failure.

  • Dosage

    0.5–5g of the rind in diarrhoea and tapeworms. Drink the juice freely. 1–3g of the roasted seeds as an appetiser.

    External Uses: Decoction of bark as gargle for throat & mouth problems. Decoction of rind as douche for infections & leucorrhoea.

pomegranate illustration
  • Recipe

    Brave heart tea

    This Brave Heart tea is a therapeutic recipe for nourishing your heart, both the physical and emotional.

    Ingredients:

    • Hawthorn berry 4g
    • Hawthorn leaf and flower 2g
    • Limeflower 2g
    • Cinnamon bark 2g
    • Motherwort 1g
    • Saffron 5 strands
    • Rose flower 1g
    • Pomegranate juice a glug (or 1 tbsp) per cup

    This will serve 2 cups of a very heartloving tea.

    Method:

    • Put all of the ingredients in a pot (except for the pomegranate juice).
    • Add 500ml (18fl oz) freshly boiled filtered water. Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain.
    • Add a glug of pomegranate juice to each cup.

    This recipe is from Cleanse, Nurture, Restore by Sebastian Pole

Aromatic
An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitter
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Cooling
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Hot
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilaginous
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resinous
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
Salty
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
Sharpness
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
Sweet
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter