Punica granatum (Pomegranate) is world renowned for its antioxidant, health, and nutritional benefits. It comes from a shrub or small tree that can grow to 15-25 ft tall. It is native to Southwest Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan) and also cultivated in Southeaset Asia, Malaysia, the East Indies, and Tropical Africa. It was introduced to Latin American & California by Spanish Explorers in the 1700's. The name "Pomegranate" is from the Latin meaning "seeded apple."
Nutrition: Vitamin C, B5 (pantothenic acid), Potassium, & Antioxidant polyphenols. Punicalagins comprise the largest portion of the polyphenols. Their antioxidant properties have been demonstrated in lab experiments but there is no conclusive proof of their antioxidant properties in humans. Other polyphenols in pomegranate include catechins, gallocatechins, & anthyocyanins (prodelphinidins, delphinidin, cyanidin, and pelargonidin). The ORAC score of pomegranate juice was measured to be 2860 per 100g of juice by one study.
An example of whole foods being more important for nutrition is evident by the fact that ellagic acid (an extract often taken from pomegranates) may only have bioavailability after punicalagins (their parent compound) are metabolized.
There is some evidence that pomegranate juice is effective in reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors such as decreasing LDL oxidation & Foam cell formation. These are two important steps towards atherogenesis (formation of plaques). Systolic blood pressure has been reduced by ACE inhibition after pomegranate juice ingestion as well. There may also be antiviral & antibacterial activities. Pomegranate extracts inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation in the lab but there is no evidence of effectiveness in humans.