Pomegranate is a seeded or granular apple type fruit that is consumed worldwide. It originated from Afghanistan, Iran, China and the Indian subcontinent.
The ruby-colored jewels that are their seeds are like little bursts of sweet and tartness unique to this fruit. The juice and the seeds are widely used in savory and sweet dishes and in all kinds of cuisines around the world.
Pomegranate is a great source of dietary fiber and micronutrients such as vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin A and potassium. However, their biggest claim to fame is the high presence of phenolic compounds,
which have potential antioxidant and other health-promoting properties. It is a no-brainer why there is a huge interest in harnessing all that these fruits have to offer the consumer.
While the juice and the seeds have been shown in recent studies to improve blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels,
The peels are even more effective in providing health promoting effects as they contain a much higher percentage of phenolic compounds than either the seeds or juice.
The peels make up about half of the total weight of the pomegranate fruit and is characterized by an interior network of membranes which house the seeds.
The peel contains extremely high amounts of various phenolic compounds such as ellagitannins, gallotannins, proanthocyanins, catechins and ellagic acids.
All of these compounds have specific health-promoting properties and other functional characteristics.
Because the peel has been regarded as less edible than the fruit’s seeds and juice, the peel of pomegranates are primarily used as food additives or as functional ingredients in food for color or in beauty for functional and beauty benefits.
In addition to their antioxidant potential, these phenolic compounds found in the peels of pomegranates also possess antimicrobial properties
Which are particularly good at fighting off enteric pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp. Shigella spp., as well as Vibrio cholerae
When separated from the seeds and juice which is used in food products or as a single ingredient, the peel is dried out and ground into a fine powder.
This powder can be mixed in hot water and drunk as a tea or made into a supplement encapsulated tablet or even into a paste that can be applied topically.
Potential Benefits Of Pomegranates
The therapeutic benefits and potential of pomegranate peels has been recognized by various cultures throughout history.
For example, in the Egyptian culture, several common aliments were treated with a pomegranate peel extract-this included but was not limited to inflammation, worms, diarrhea, coughing and infertility.
Today, numerous scientific studies have been done which back up the medicinal claims of pomegranate peel extracts and in this piece, the top potential health benefits pomegranate peels have to offer are discussed below.
Reduction Of The Risk Of Chronic Disease
A recent micro-study showed that supplementing a balanced diet with 1,000 mg of pomegranate peel extract may reduce risk factors for the development of chronic conditions such as heart disease and type II diabetes.
This was shown by the overall improvement in cholesterol and blood sugar levels in participants that were overweight and obese. This improvement was due to the anti-inflammatory effects of pomegranate peels.
In another small scale study, the participants all had type II diabetes and those participants that were given a dose of pomegranate peel extract showed improvements in blood pressure,
hemoglobin A1c and their cholesterol in contrast to those participants given a placebo.
In total there have been over 20 human studies conducted trying to prove that the consumption of pomegranate peel extract has a positive effect on blood glucose levels,
and although this was shown, the results were not consistent enough to ring true for the entire population.
There was also a positive correlation to taking pomegranate related products with a lowering of blood pressure but further, longer term studies are needed to assess the effects on the general population.
Therefore, to categorically state that pomegranate peel extract does indeed reduce the risk of chronic disease, more research is required.
Because pomegranate peels are abundant in ellagitannins such as the polyphenol punicalagin, which a polyphenol that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties in some test-tube studies,
the extract of the peels may have ant-cancerous effects on the body.
Additionally, when treated on oral, breast and colon cancer cells, the extract of pomegranate peels had an anti-proliferative effect which stops or slows the spread of cancer cells.
In a small scale study, the extract of pomegranate peels showed to be a promising treatment for prostate cancer cells, as it was able to induce programmed cell death in those cancer cells.
Furthermore, the phenolic compounds found in pomegranate peels may be beneficial in preventing liver cancer as these compounds protect the liver with its high levels of antioxidants which promote free-radical scavenging.
(Free radicals are compounds that can cause activation or appearance of cancer cells).
For generations, pomegranate peel extract has been used in many cultures as a mouth rinse, to alleviate the pain of sore throats. However, this has yet to be proven by thorough studies.
In terms of the antimicrobial properties of pomegranate peel extract in other parts of the body; there have been several studies conducted which prove that they do have potent antimicrobial properties.
The mechanism of the antimicrobial activity of the phenolic compounds present in the peels of pomegranates involves precipitation of membrane proteins in the cells of microorganisms, resulting in cell lysis of the microbes.
The pomegranate peel also can act as a prebiotic to the gut microorganisms, which means that the homeostasis of the gut is modulated and kept consistent.
The extract of pomegranate peel has also shown to be good in wound healing-this could be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the phenolic compounds present in the peel.
Treatment Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
There have been numerous preclinical studies that promote the anti-inflammatory effects of ellagitannin-rich foods such as pomegranate and its derived compounds.
When supplemented to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune condition that involves inflammation in the joints, there were reports of a significant reduction in the disease activity after 8 weeks of supplementation.
In non-human studies on mice, one of the ellagitannins, punicalagin inhibited joint inflammation and cartilage damage in the mice that had arthritis. Additionally, it was shown to delay the onset of the disease.
Brain Function Enhancement
In animal models of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,
the animals that had a diet enriched with pomegranate peel extract showed signs of the development of a neuroprotective effect in their brains.
Therefore, the addition of the phenolic compounds in a diet may result in a neuroprotective effect against these debilitating neurodegenerative diseases.
However, there have been few human studies and so more research in this particular field is greatly needed.
Treatment Of Some Skin Conditions
There have been a few studies demonstrating the effectivity that the pomegranate peel extracts have on reduction of hyperpigmentation on skin-that is, a condition that is characterized by the appearance of dark marks on the skin.
One of these studies showed that when applying pomegranate peel paste masks on the face once a day for a month helped lighten these dark patches of skin without the adverse side effects often encountered from using harsh chemicals on the skin.
The application of pomegranate paste to areas of the skin where acne is experienced can alleviate the effects of acne.
This is due to the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the pomegranate peel phenolic compounds
Pomegranate peel extract may also help protect against UVB ray damage to the skin and decrease signs of aging.
It is important to note here that there is a definitive need for more research on these topics.
Hearing Loss Protection
Age-related hearing loss is something that is caused by oxidative stress, so the inclusion of antioxidant rich compounds in the diet, will protect the body against oxidative damage – like that which causes hearing loss over time.
However, the only studies that have been done on this topic has been conducted on animals and so more research is needed in humans.
Dental Health Protection
Because of its antimicrobial activity of some of the phenolic compounds present in the peels of pomegranates,
when used as a mouth wash in a couple of studies, pomegranate peel was shown to help in the prevention of plaque buildup and prevented tooth decay, respectively.
However, these are isolated studies and more research is required to categorically prove that this is the case.
Bone Loss Prevention
When incorporated into the diet, some early studies on the efficacy of pomegranate peel in preventing bone density loss indicated that the extracts can regenerate new bone tissue and help in the prevention of bone density loss.
However, these studies were conducted in isolation or on animals, and so much more research is required to prove that this is the case.
Pomegranate peels have the potential to provide many health benefits due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Over the last few decades many experimental and clinical research studies have been conducted and a lot of these have proven that pomegranate-derived products like the peel provide health benefits.
However, despite this wealth of information, the results in humans are quite inconsistent, and the outcomes are too fragmented,
which is why EFSA (the European Food Safety Association) has still rejected all health claims associated with pomegranate-derived products.
Even though no adverse effects have been reported with consumption of pomegranate peel or other pomegranate related products,
it is always best to check in with your doctor before supplementing the extracts into your diet or using the peel as a paste on your skin to ensure that you do not experience any adverse effects or allergic reactions.