Pomegranate (Shi Liu)
Botanical Name: Punica granatum
Pomegranates are moderate in calories and an excellent source of dietary fiber. They are considered a “super fruit” because of their important nutritional value and antioxidant properties. Regular consumption of pomegranate juice is effective against diabetes, lymphoma, and BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Pomegranates are a worldwide and ancient symbol of fertility and prosperity. The Spanish introduced the fruit to the Caribbean and the Americas. Their leaves and flowers are used to treat burns.
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Western Name: Pomegranate
Also Known As: Peace Pomegranate, Pearl Pomegranate
Organs/Systems: Immune, Respiratory, Skin
Key Actions: Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Antiviral, Antimicrobial, Anti-obesity, Antitumoral.
Medicinal Uses: Diarrhea, eczema, diabetes, lymphoma, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), builds immunity, prevents cancer, prevents heart disease, prevents obesity, lowers high blood pressure, diabetes, tapeworm, parasites, gingivitis, periodontitis, yeast infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, memory.
Pin Yin: Shi Liu
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Lung, Spleen
Key Actions: Tonifies the Spleen, Tonifies the Lungs, Tonifies Wei Qi, Generates Flesh, Clears Heat, Reduces Pains
Medicinal Uses: Leaf – Relieves burns, washes away bad luck. Flowers – Treat burns. Rind – Dysentery. The Skin or Rind can also be used to treat wounds and eczema. Seed – Used internally to treat sore throat, cough, and diarrhea, and to stimulate the uterus to contract during labor. Juice – Strengthens the Spleen and Lungs: supports immunity, highly nutritious.
Basic Habitat / Botany:
Pomegranate is a fruit-bearing shrub or small tree in the family Lythraceae. The fruit is bright red, purple, or orange-yellow depending on the cultivar with a thick leathery outer layer. The inside has a white spongy membrane that holds and separates the individual sections that contain sacs, called arils, that are filled with edible juicy pink pulp surrounding a single seed. The leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy, narrow, and oblong. The flowers are bright red with three to seven petals. The edible fruit is a berry, varying in size from a lemon to the size of a grapefruit. This berry is filled with seeds that are surrounded by the watery pulp.
Pomegranates are believed to be native to Persia (Iran) and the Sub-Himalayan foothills of Northern India. They are now cultivated all over the world. They prefer drier climates.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Aril, Seed, Juice, Peel, Leaf, Flower
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Slightly Bitter, Sour, Cooling
Caution: Considered very safe.
Key Constituents: Seeds, Peel and Juice: Ellagitannin compounds (Granatin B, Punicalagin), Polyphenols (Tannins, Quercetin, Anthocyanins), Fatty acids, Flavonoids, Fiber, Vitamin C, B-complex groups, Vitamin K, Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Manganese. Seeds: Beta-sitosterol, Lipids, Linoleic acid, Punicic, Behenic, and Palmitic acids
History/Folklore: The name “pomegranate” derives from the Latin word “pomum” meaning “apple, and “granatum” meaning “seeded.” The whole name translates as “seeded apple.” The ancient Spanish city of Granada is named after the pomegranate with the city using an image of the fruit on its heraldry.
Pomegranates are long lived with some species being as old as 200 years of age. They are a worldwide and ancient symbol for fertility, life, death, reincarnation, prosperity, eternal life, and marriage.
Pomegranates have been found in the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut in Egypt and archeological sites in Jericho in the West Bank, dating back to the early Bronze Age. The Ancient Egyptians regarded pomegranates as a symbol of prosperity and ambition. They used it as a remedy for tapeworms.
The myth of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, uses pomegranate seeds to quench her thirst while she is a prisoner of the underworld. To this day, in Greece, the pomegranate is given as a gift to new homeowners. The fruit is placed under the home-altar of the house as a symbol of abundance, good luck, and fertility.
Pomegranates appear on the ancient coins of Judea. When not in use, the handles of Torah scrolls are sometimes covered with decorative silver globes similar in shape to pomegranates as pomegranates symbolize the mystical experience in the Jewish mystical tradition, called the kabbalah.
The first incontrovertible image of Christ in a mosaic is a 4th-century floor mosaic from Hinton St. Mary in Dorset England. The bust of Christ is flanked with pomegranates. The fruit bursting open symbolizes the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.
The trees have been grown in South China and Southeast Asia for centuries and were brought by traders via the Silk Road. In Japan, the pomegranate is a popular bonsai tree because of its flowers and its unusual twisted bark that the older trees can attain. In China, a picture of the ripe fruit with seeds bursting forth is often hung in homes to bestow fertility and numerous offspring. Some said the number of seeds represented the number of generations a family would enjoy.
In Chinese culture, the pomegranate is used in Buddhist religious ceremonies and for daily purposes as well. The seeds were used as a dye for hair and as a medicine. The branch of a pomegranate tree was used to sprinkle water during ceremonies. While the peach is typically used to symbolize longevity, once the pomegranate was introduced in 126 B.C., it was used as a replacement if peaches were not available.
The Chinese use the leaves to relieve itch and the flowers are used to treat burns. A third of a pound of skin is mixed with water and then simmered until thick. This is a common recipe for treating eczema. For treating diarrhea, a possible recipe includes using the skin and seeds of one fruit, crushing them together, adding salt, and covering them with water, then steaming the mixture until the liquid is thickened and the skin and seeds are soft and mushy. When done, drink this decoction 3x a day.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pomegranates are considered a Yin food or tonic as they cool and hydrate the body.
Today, in the West pomegranates are recommended for controlling weight, improving circulation, and protecting against cancers. They are used in hormone replacement therapy, oral hygiene, and the treatment of immune suppression.
The peel contains the highest antioxidant capacity. Pomegranate juice contains more than 100 phytochemicals that help boost immunity, support gut health, and prevent chronic diseases caused by inflammation.
Two unique compounds found in pomegranate are punicalagins and punicic acid. Punicalagins have three times the antioxidant activity of red wine and green tea. Punicic acid, found in pomegranate seed oil, is a type of conjugated linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is a fatty acid commonly found in meat and dairy products that plays a special role in heart health. Replacing saturated fat with linoleic acid reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
The constituent, punicalagin, which is unique and abundant in pomegranate juice, is known for being effective in reducing the free radicals that can lead to heart disease. The collective and synergistic force of the ellagitannins (including punicalagin), fatty acids, flavonoids, and other compounds found in pomegranate are known to have a far stronger impact than when they are separated and used individually.
Pomegranates were introduced into Spanish America in the late 16th century and California by Spanish settlers in 1769.
Before the introduction of tomatoes (a New World fruit), pomegranate juice, molasses, and vinegar were widely used in many Iranian foods and are still in traditional recipes.
In Greece, pomegranate is used to make a creamy broth of wheat, pomegranates and raisins.
In India and Pakistan, the dried seeds are used for chutneys and curry preparations.
The pomegranate is one of the main fruits in Armenian culture. It is used in wedding ceremonies as a gift to the bride who throws it against a wall, breaking it into pieces ensuring the bride will have future children.
Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur, jam, and fruit confectionery used on ice cream.
In Mexico, pomegranates are commonly used to adorn the traditional dish “chiles en nogada” representing the red of the Mexican flag in the dish.
Pomegranates contain about the same amount of calories as a single apple. An average pomegranate will contain about 600 juice sacs filled with small edible seeds. The dried seeds are used in trail mix, granola bars, and as toppings for salads and ice cream.
The French Military
The French term for pomegranate, grenade, gives its name to the military “grenade.”
The peel, though often discarded, is edible and contains 3x the amount of polyphenols as the fruit or pulp. It is used in dietary supplements and food preservatives.
Kandahar is famous in Afghanistan for its high-quality pomegranates.
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