In recent years we have all heard about one of the beautiful herbs used in Traditional Tibetan Medicine: pomegranate. (Punica granatum). Hailed as a “superfruit”, pomegranate is widely ascribed beneficial applications from skin care to cancer treatment. Primary sources for this praise are picked straight from the tree of respectable medical research, then distributed to the myriad juice stands of the blogosphere.

Traditional Tibetan Medicine has a centuries-long love of this useful fruit. Pomegranate flourishes in the fertile valleys of western Tibet, where it is used to make potent herbal medicines. Pomegranate is known as “sendru” in Tibetan language. Sendru is one of the most important herbs for treating indigestion and gastric conditions. It boosts metabolism, stimulate the appetite, helps reduce excess fat and clears stagnated wastes.

How can we explain the benefits of pomegranate according to Tibetan Medicine theory? What makes pomegranate so powerful? How can we use it to maximize our benefits? Let us explore the nature of Punica granatum according to the elemental principles of Tibetan Medicine. We will begin with a presentation of pomegranate’s place in modern medicine. Then we can compare: is it “apples to oranges”, or do these two medical systems have some common claims about our delicious fruit friend.
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Nutritional Benefits and Medical Indications of Pomegranate

The pomegranate offers an impressive array of useful components. It is fitting that the term “grenade” derives from “grenada”, the old French word for pomegranate. These tightly packed fruits are exploding with benefits. With its succulent juices, hearty fibers, rich aromatic oils, even its leaves, flowers and heartwood, pomegranate is really bringing a lot to the table.


Nutritional Benefits

healthy organic acids and sugars.  Pomegranate is high in soluble and insoluble fiber. This promotes our smooth digestion and regulates the breakdown of those rich natural sugars. Pomegranate is also bursting with micronutrients, and features an impressive profile of amino acids. The list below shows some of the high level vitamins and minerals that have nutritionists enamored with this heart healthy super fruit:

  • vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid)
  • vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
  • folate (a very important B vitamin)
  • vitamin K (a fat soluble vitamin that promotes blood coagulation)
  • calcium
  • copper
  • iron
  • potassium
  • manganese
  • phosphorus

 

Medical Research Indications

We now have decades of fruitful scientific studies linking Punica granatum with a bounty of health benefits. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed ). These include a broad range of indications, from skin care to cancer treatments. The list below will open up some of the juiciest tidbits of modern research on pomegranate’s possible applications.

  • Highly anti-inflammatory, shown to directly inhibit inflammatory markers in a wide range of diseases
  • Anti-bacterial properties, shown to be useful in fighting a variety of bacterial infections include H. Pylori
  • Anticarcinogenic, shown to be a potent inhibitor of malignant tumor metastasis including prostate, lung, breast, colo-rectal, and skin cancers
  • Benefits immunodeficiencies, including HIV
  • Benefits hypertension 
  • Benefits dyslipidemia, and hypercholesterolemia
  • Highly antioxidant to counteract oxidative stress and reducing free radicals. Pomegranate has significantly higher antioxidant potential than green tea or red wine
  • Benefits hyperglycemia
  • Shown to have antiatherogenic properties to fight atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Extracts from the leaves and flowers of Punica granatum are shown to combat diabetes and fatty liver disease
  • Shown to benefit arthritis, both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis

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How Do These Benefits Work According to Western Medicine?

Modern medical research identifies over 120 important phytochemicals extracted from Punica granatum. Many of these derive from the juicy seeds, called “arils”, which we all know and love. However some of the most important chemical compounds are found in the tough outer rind, the fibrous inner seed core, the leaves, flowers and even the heartwood of the pomegranate tree. In fact, modern researchers suggest that the best way to extract maximum antioxidants and medicinal components is to press or grind the entire fruit, rind and all.

Pomegranate is high in a special group of bioactive polyphenols, known as pomegranate ellagitannins. These are the same general type of tannins found in various dark juicy fruits and berries. These ellagitannin polyphenols are responsible for most of pomegranate’s antioxidant and disease fighting properties. High concentrations of these potent ellagitannins are found in the outer rind, not only in the juicy arils. In addition to these specialized polyphenols, Punica granatum features a multitude of fascinating flavanoids and bioactive compounds that continue to be actively investigated by scientists.
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How is Pomegranate Used in Traditional Tibetan Medicine?


The elemental nature of pomegranate

In Tibetan Medicine, all herbs are classified as cool, warm or neutral in nature. Pomegranate (sendru) is warm in nature. This warm nature stimulates and invigorates the internal heat of our gastrointestinal system. It benefits digestion and stimulates the appetite. It helps to “melt” excess fat and accumulated wastes in the body. It dispels cold natured conditions, especially cold imbalances of the earth/water elements function, known as Pekan. Like sunshine, pomegranate is warm, stimulating and nourishing.


The elemental taste of pomegranate

The elemental taste of pomegranate is sour. In Tibetan Medicine theory, the sour taste comes from the combination of the fire and earth elements. This means that sour herbs like sendru have fire and earth element qualities. The qualities of fire and earth combine and complement each other to produce the potent sour taste.

The strongly sour sendru herb perfectly expresses these qualities. It is warm and sharp to stimulate the metabolic heat and “cut” through stagnation. it is heavy and oily to nourish our bodies and harmonize our digestion. It is rough and drying to “scrub” away excess fat and accumulations. Yet it is smooth enough to be well-balanced and gentle on the stomach.


Pomegranate in Tibetan Medicine herbal formulas

Pomegranate is a key ingredient in some Tibetan Medicine herbal formulas. To make such formulas, pomegranate and other herbs are dried, processed, and ground up into powder. The result is a highly specialized and effective formula indicated for specific conditions.

Formulas based on Punica granatum (sendru) treat the gastrointestinal system and the metabolic functions. Some sendru formulas also treat the kidney and liver systems. Let us look at one very popular Tibetan Medicine herbal formula based on pomegranate.
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Tibetan Medicine Herbal Formulas

Pomegranate is most commonly used as a key ingredient in various powdered formulas. To make Tibetan Medicine herbal formulas, different herbs are processed, powdered, and combined. The result is a highly specialized and effective formula indicated for specific conditions.

Formulas based on Punica granatum (sendru) treat the gastrointestinal system and the metabolic functions. Some sendru formulas also treat the kidney system as well. Below are listed a few of the most common pomegranate herbal formulas used in Tibetan Medicine. This includes their key ingredients and primary indications.
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Sendru Dang Nay “Pomegranate Digestive Essence Formula”

Sendru Dang Nay is one of Tibetan Medicine’s flagship formulas for treating indigestion and abdominal complaints. The primary “chief” ingredient is pomegranate (sendru). It is combined with cinnamon, cardamom and long pepper. This produces a warm, spicy, stimulating base that strongly works on the gastrointestinal system. Saffron is added to balance the formula with its cool and sweet nature. This reduces side effects and is soothing to the liver system. Sendru Dang Nay is great for digestive conditions complicated by liver imbalance, and/or irritated fire element function (tripa).

Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)
  • Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
  • Long pepper (Piper longum)
  • Saffron (Crocus sativus)

Indications:

  • Benefits digestion
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Stimulates metabolic heat
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Resolves gastric stagnation
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Strengthens the body

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In Summary

Now we have explored the many benefits of pomegranate. We presented its elemental theory of taste, nature and qualities. We outlined how it functions in terms of modern medicine and Traditional Tibetan Medicine. Comparing the modern and ancient views of pomegranate, we see many important common factors. Both systems agree that pomegranate has strong anti-inflammatory capacity. They concur on its ability to reduce unhealthy fat, and combat imbalances such as high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, liver and kidney disease.

It is wonderful to see modern research confirm what people have known for millennia: pomegranate is amazing! When choosing your supplements, take a tip from Traditional Tibetan Medicine. It is the perfect herb to boost the metabolism, eliminate stagnated wastes, support your long-term health and vigor. Discover the power of sour with some organic pomegranate in your dietary routine.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Coyler, CC

Adam Okerblom, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist and Tibetan Medicine Practitioner | Sowa
Adam offers holistic healthcare consultations and treatments in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is fascinated by ancient healing sciences and spiritual traditions. He is greatly inspired by the opportunity to learn and benefit from millennia of knowledge from around the world.

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