from the March 2002 issue

Pomegranate's Unique Qualities

Because of its many seeds, the pomegranate has long stood as a symbol for fertility. A refreshing delicacy, it is loved by those who dwell in hot, thirsty lands. The plant grows wild in Syria and Persia and is cultivated in Israel, where 3,000 tons a year are grown annually. It is a shrub or small tree that can grow as high as fifteen feet, with a straight stem, reddish bark and plenty of spreading branches. The dark green leaves are highly polished and the pomegranate flowers are red. When ripe, the fruit is about the size of an orange, has a thick maroon jacket enveloping the pulp. Syrup made from the pomegranate seeds is known as grenadine. The first sherbet was made from snow mixed with pomegranate juice. In ancient times pharmacists made an astringent medication for treatment of dysentery from the blossoms.

Three pomegranates can be seen on the silver shekel of Jerusalem, the coin mentioned in the Bible. It was in circulation from 143 to 135 BC. Hiram of Tyre used the pomegranate in building Solomon's temple (I Kings 7:18, 20). It is also mentioned in regards to the ephod of the high priest which was bordered at the hem with pomegranates.

The medicinal powers of the pomegranate are mentioned in Greek mythology. It is said that Persephone becomes betrothed to her kidnapper, Hades, king of the underworld, after eating pomegranate seeds. Chinese mention pomegranate juice as a longevity drug. But the pomegranate, whose whose main attraction has been as a fruit, is now coming into its own as a modern medical resource. Two separate Israeli medical research groups, are developing a broad range of treatments and products derived from the fruit; At the Lipid Research Laboratory of Haifa's Rambam Medical Center, Dr. Michael Aviram, a Technion biochemist, for 20 years has researched ways to prevent and break down the deposits of cholesterol in the arteries -- arteriosclerosis -- that cause strokes and heart disease. Searching for natural antioxidants, he says he tested "many different substances before focusing on the pomegranate". Its juice, he found, contains a particularly powerful antioxidant, a flavonoid, more effective at fighting heart disease than those known in tomatoes and red wine.

For the past year, he has tested the medicinal value of the juice by providing it to Rambam patients suffering from carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of those arteries that bring blood to the brain. The results, he reports, have been rapid with improvements noticed as early as after the first month.

The potential exists, Aviram says, for high-risk patients to be spared bypass surgery simply by drinking pomegranate juice. To make the consumption of pomegranate more palatable, he is working on developing a pill with the same medicinal attributes as the concentrated liquid. Dr. Ephraim Lansky, the founder of the Rimonest company, is even more upbeat on the prospects for pomegranate. He suggests that research may prove the pomegranate is a virtual cure-all. Its juice, flesh, and even its skin, he believes, contain properties to counter not only cholesterol, but aging, and perhaps even cancer and AIDS, as well....

The primary shareholder and head researcher of Rimonest, Lansky is a University of Pennsylvania-trained physician, with a doctorate in psychology and biology. He is qualified as a homeopathic physician and acupuncturist. He's currently marketing Cardiogranate, a juice concentrate which he says combats high cholesterol. He is also developing a cosmetic line of anti-aging creams, massage oils, masques and toners, using estrogen-rich extractions from pomegranate seeds and peel. As a practicing homeopathic professional, he prescribes pomegranate juice for fever and gives it to menopausal women for hot flashes.

Dr. Lansky is about to begin tests on mice in Israel's Beilinson Hospital and the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, in order to confirm the efficacy of pomegranate in counteracting the proliferation of human breast-cancer cells.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report March 2002

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