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Pomegranate – Nature’s Oldest Medicine Becomes Today’s Hottest Ingredient by Howard Murad, M.D.

Pomegranate – Nature’s Oldest Medicine Becomes Today’s Hottest IngredientPomegranates are by far, one of the oldest natural remedies known to man. One of my favorite sayings is “before there was medicine, there was food,” and pomegranates top the list when it comes to ancient healing benefits.


As a native plant of Northern Africa, Pomegranate (Punica Granatum L) was written about in 1552 B.C. in the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, which is the oldest and most important medical document yet recovered. The Ebers Papyrus was used widely by Egyptian physicians, and contains over 700 remedies for treating disease; one of the most popular ingredients in their formulas was pomegranate. Physicians in Greece prescribed pomegranate juice as a treatment for arthritis, circulation disorders, viruses, and digestive problems.


Fast forward to today and pomegranate is widely found as a key ingredient in juice drinks, bath products, skincare and suncare products. More importantly, this exotic fruit has captured the attention of the science community, due to the high content of potent antioxidants called polyphenols.


Pomegranates contain one of my all time favorite polyphenols; ellagic acid. I first became interested in ellagic acid as I studied polyphenols and their effect on the skin. Ellagic acid is a powerful free radical scavenger, and extremely effective in increasing the body’s own build-in antioxidant glutathione, which in turn helps protect the DNA in cells from free radical damage. Glutathione is also essential in helping the body recycle hormones such as estrogen, which also protect the skin cells.


Polyphenols, such as ellagic acid, also inhibit the formation of harmful enzymes that cause cells to grow out of control. This is important in terms of cancer prevention because out-of-control cell division is a hallmark of cancer. By inhibiting specific enzymes, ellagic and other polyphenols regulate cell turnover and give the cell time to divide normally and form completely. Ellagic acid is also thought to strengthen the cell membrane, making it less susceptible to free radical damage and preventing water loss from the cell.


Intrigued by the powerful benefits of pomegranate extract, I theorized that it could play a significant role in protecting the skin from all types of environmental damage, specifically ultra violet rays. To prove this theory, I initiated an independent pilot study to determine the effect of pomegranate extract in improving the sun protection factor of sunscreens.


I asked an independent laboratory to test the effect of pomegranate extract on the sun protection factor of volunteers. Eight subjects (five females and three males, ages 18 to 60 with fair to medium skin types) used pomegranate extract orally and topically. First their minimal erythema dose (MED) was tested. Next, they applied four formulas (standard SPF 4 and SPF 8) lotions with and without pomegranate extact) and assessed MED. Subjects then tested pomegranate extract daily for five days under supervision. At the endpoint, subjects were tested again for MED. Based on this research, adding pomegranate extract boosted the SPF of the sunscreen formula by 20 percent. Over and above that, ingesting a tablet of standardized pomegranate extract provides an additional 25 percent improvement in the SPF.


I first began studying the effects of pomegranate extract back in the early 90’s. After publishing my research in Cosmetic Dermatology, pomegranate extract began to pique the interest of university scientists.


In October 2000, the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry covered research by a team form South Dakota University. They reported that when applied topically on mice, pomegranate oil inhibited papilloma incidence and activity.   


In the fall of 2003, researchers at the University of Wisconsin evaluated pomegranate`s anti-skin tumor effects by comparing topical application of pomegranate extract on neonatal mice against TPA-induced markers (12-0-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate), a strong promoter of chemically induced skin cancer. Applying pomegranate extract onto the skin of neonatal mice 30 minutes prior to TPA application significantly inhibited TPA-mediated increases in skin edema and hyperplasia, they said.


They also tested the pomegranate extract on TPA-induced skin tumor promotion. The animals pretreated with pomegranate extract showed substantially reduced tumor incidence and lower tumor body burden. In the TPA treated group, all mice developed tumors at 16 weeks, whereas only 30 per cent of the mice treated with pomegranate extract exhibited tumors at that point.


The protective and healing properties of the pomegranate are extremely important today, as the rate of skin cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer among Western countries. Applying sunscreen alone isn’t enough.  

The challenge is to teach our clients to apply enough and re-apply to cover all areas of the skin from head to toe. Also, teach them that the SPF of a formula doesn’t tell the entire story. An effective sunscreen should provide:

·           Full spectrum sun protection - to block UVA and UVB rays

·           Antioxidants - to neutralize damaging free radicals, such as pomegranate extract, green tea, vitamin c, grape seed extract and   bioflavonoids

·           Anti-inflammatory agents – to soothe and prevent redness, such as licorice extract, zinc, or chamomile extract

·           Hydrating ingredients – to boost topical hydration in the cells, such as sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, and plant-based lipids


For added sun insurance, I recommend taking a 15mg. tablet per day of standardized pomegranate extract. In independent scientific studies, I was able to prove that if you take one pomegranate extract tablet per day, you can increase the potency of topical sunscreens by 25%!.
Discovery of the pomegranate’s potency clearly demonstrates the opportunity for developing an oral sunscreen. We are on the path and continue to make progress as we learn more about this ancient fruit and it’s skin protection benefits.
Howard Murad, MD 
About the Author: Howard Murad, M.D., is widely acknowledged as a leading authority on skin health. A board-certified dermatologist, pharmacist, and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at UCLA, he oversees a thriving Medical Spa, Dermatology practice and Inclusive Health™ Center in Southern California. His patient base of over 50,000 inspired the creation of the Murad brand of topical and internal skincare. A successful author, Dr. Murad shared his breakthrough discovery; The Water Principle® in Wrinkle-Free Forever and The Cellulite Solution. To read more about Dr. Murad click here

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