Pomegranate extract – Master Chef Challenge update

For anyone following along with the pomegranate peel experiments  (previous post)- update, I had a lot of pomegranate extract thawed at the same time and for a dietitian that means reheat to steaming to assure food safety. So it was an opportunity to experiment some more with trying to adjust the acidity again. When baking soda is added to a hot acidic liquid there is an obvious bubbling reaction and change in color of the liquid. I have pH strips to check acidity and did manage to adjust the acidity of the extract. The taste is still not great but chronic illness and mood issues are not great either. After three cups of experimental attempts my mood is awesome *(see additional note) and I have some recipe details:

6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)

2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice

1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo’s in Creole style cooking)

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

This would be an acquired taste – aka “not good” until you get used to it, or not good at all but the mood and health benefits are worth for me at least. It is also a diuretic which means it is like beer or coffee in the way it increases kidney activity and urine production so it is best to have it earlier in the day followed by plenty of glasses of water early in the day so that you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night as much. Overly acidic, dehydrated body fluids can increase work for the kidneys and result in a frequent feeling of needing to go urgently but then not producing much quantity – drink plenty of water early  in the day and produce plenty of dilute quantity early in the day and a diuretic can help cleanse toxins from the body instead of being a middle of the night problem.

Since pomegranate growing season is limited the powdered spice made from Sumac might be a health substitute. It has been shown to have a range of health benefits, and is also a diuretic. Its phytonutrients are similarly colored suggesting there might be some similar antioxidant content as well. The gallotannin group of phytonutrients are in common and would likely promote Nrf2. (More about Sumac in this post) (a series of posts on Nrf2)

To put a financial perspective on this – for my health needs the pomegranate extract or pomegranate seeds and cardamom powder and a few other good sources of phospholipids are adequate replacements for my medical marijuana which cost me around $1000-1200 per month. The medical effects are slightly different and not quite as good for pain killing properties but the negative psychological effects that can occur with withdrawal for some people are also not present.

To review – cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that are made within the cells of most species and are similar to the group of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants commonly known as marijuana or hemp. Medical marijuana has a euphoria producing one known by the chemical initials THC while hemp has only non-euphoria producing cannabinoids. Both types can have medical or other basic health benefits. Cannabinoids are found throughout membranes and add to cell wall flexibility and help with messenger chemical type activities that can help reduce inflammation and fight infection. Some people such as myself can have genetic differences that make it impossible to make the chemicals internally as in average health. I have had minor health problems since infancy and having external dietary sources of phospholipids or cannabinoids helps my body and mood and immune system. More information about the topic is available in the post/article Is it Addiction or Starvation?

People with problems with binge eating disorders, alcohol abuse tendencies, meth or heroin/opioid abuse tendencies, or seem to have an excess use of marijuana, and nicotine to a lesser extent all may actually have underlying genetic differences that leave them in need of increased dietary sources of phospholipids/cannabinoids. The article Is It Addiction or Starvation? has some legal food sources in addition to pomegranate seeds and cardamom spice. It doesn’t mention the Middle Eastern spice Sumac but it might help also.

*Additional note – three cups was likely to large of a serving, an awesome mood for someone with unstable mood issues was too much of a good thing – Newton’s Law of Gravity may apply metaphorically, “What goes up must come down.” I had a worse mood problem later in the evening. Today (the next morning) I’ve enjoyed a few spoonfuls of the spicy, creamy slightly thickened mixture in my coffee and it is good to my “acquired taste.” The thing about having acquired an acquired taste for something is that you then want to acquire more – pun intended.  The pomegranate season in Australia turns out to also be November to March so that isn’t much help. Processing pomegranate peel during the growing season would be necessary if I hope to continue to be able to acquire pomegranate extract all year long. It has medicinal benefits according to the research that is available, (see links in earlier posts on this site).

New Zealand isn’t ideal for pomegranate either as the summer length may be too short some years, however their harvest season is February-April: “Pomegranates grow best in areas with cold Winters and long hot, dry Summers.” (Pomegranate Wonderful)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

For those who can’t grow pomegranates, consider sumac instead

Sumac is a shrub like tree or a tree like shrub that is an invasive plant in many areas. Types that have white berry clusters should be avoided as the white berries are poisonous but the types with clusters of red berry like seeds are safe to consume when made into a tea and they may be dried and ground into a spice. Native Americans use them in a lemonade like beverage and they are ground into a spice which is used in many Middle Eastern dishes and as a table condiment to sprinkle on foods to individual taste. The ground Sumac is mixed with salt or available plain in shaker bottles and is mixed with a few other spices in the blend called za’atar (sesame seed, salt, and thyme or hyssop).

Some of the phytonutrient content and medicinal properties  of edible sumac are similar to those found in pomegranate and may be associated with the bright red pigmentation. The botanical name for Sumac , ‘Rhus,’ translated as a foreign word means ‘red.’ Some people may be allergic skin reactions from touching the plant in nature (1) and as a more concentrated tea it has diuretic properties, which can have health benefits to help remove toxins if plenty of additional water is also consumed to prevent dehydration. (2)

Sumac is used medicinally in Arab countries. Studies on sumac extracts to date have indicated that the plant may be a source of bioproducts with the following bioactivities: antifibrogenic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antithrombin, antitumorigenic, antiviral, cytotoxic, hypoglycaemic and leukopenic (Rayne and Mazza, 2007).” (1)

The lemonade like flavor would be from the terpene limonene and possibly other terpenes found in the plant. Anthocyanins likely give it some of the bright color. It also contains tannins primarily in the form of gallotannins, which are similar to the elligatannins/ellagic acid found in pomegranate, (3), and other aldehydes and beneficial acids that give it tartness including vitamin C – ascorbic acid. (1) Eating a large enough amount on a regular basis may be important for the health benefits from phytonutrients. Research with elligatannins has found them helpful for cancer prevention and somewhat for treatment (4) but a recent study that used a small dose, 900 mg of pomegranate extract per day, found some changes in important genes but not conclusive health benefits. (5) Research on tumor inhibiting properties of sumac found it beneficial during early stages when the tumor is developing rather than as a treatment after it was formed (animal study). (6) Animal based trials in more recent research that found benefits using pomegranate extract used doses that would be equivalent to larger doses, 1 to 10 grams/kilogram body weight per day. The study and amounts used are discussed in this post and the link is in this earlier post. A beneficial substance that we have to make for ourselves, Nrf2 may be involved. Tannins, anthocyanins, and aldehydes were all mentioned as being helpful for helping promote our own body’s ability to produce more Nrf2. The gallic acid (related chemically to the gallotannins, the mango fruit is also a source (8)) is mentioned to help induce apoptosis in cancer cells (cell death) in an article discussing the role of oxidative stress in cancer treatment. (7)

“Gallic acid (3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoic acid, GA), a polyhydroxy phenolic compound, is abundant in natural plants such as gallnut, grapes, sumac, oak bark, green tea apple peels, grapes, strawberries, pineapples, bananas, lemons, and in red and white wine. Its antioxidative DNA-damage action has been well documented []. However, gallic acid induces apoptosis in several cancer cell lines by increasing ROS level and GSH depletion [].” (7)

That excerpt is from a section titled: 5.1. Anticancer ROS-Generating Compounds from Natural Origin(7), which also contains information on other phytonutrients and foods that contain them that have been found beneficial for preventing or treating cancer or reducing oxidative stress.

I bought some dried sumac prepared for table use but chose a brand without salt added to it so I could use as much as I want without having to be concerned about adding too much salt. The aroma and flavor are good and the color is very pretty, slightly more purplish than paprika but similar in the bright addition it makes when sprinkled on the surface of a food. It was $3.99 for a 9.33 ounce bottle at a Middle Eastern foods grocery store.

Phytonutrients with bright colors often seem to be associated with health benefits but that doesn’t mean all wild berries or plants are edible. Read guides and know what you’re harvesting before eating it – and avoid private property and nature preserves where it might be illegal to pick anything.

They are so common in some areas that I happen to have picture taken on a recent walk. A discussion with more detail and a close up image taken during late summer is available here: The ‘Lemonade Tree’: It’s Time to Harvest Sumac, EdibleEastEnd.com. (2)

Wild sumac seed pod in wintertime.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. Sumac – an overview, ScienceDirect Topics, sciencedirect.com,   https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/sumac
  2. Ronald Halweil, The ‘Lemonade Tree’: It’s Time to Harvest Sumac, Edible East End, August 9, 2012, EdibleEastEnd.com,   https://www.edibleeastend.com/2012/08/09/harvest-sumac/
  3. J. P. PerchelletH. U. GaliE. M. PerchelletP. E. LaksV. BottariR. W. Hemingway, and A. ScalbertAntitumor-Promoting Effects of Gallotannins, Ellagitannins, and Flavonoids in Mouse Skin In Vivo
    Food Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention, Chapter 25, pp 303–327
    Chapter DOI: 10.1021/bk-1994-0546.ch025, ACS Symposium Series, Vol. 546, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-1994-0546.ch025
  4. Tariq Ismail, Cinzia Calcabrini, Anna Rita Diaz, Carmela Fimognari, Eleonora Turrini, Elena Catanzaro, Saeed Akhtar, and Piero Sestili,

    Ellagitannins in Cancer Chemoprevention and Therapy. Toxins (Basel). 2016 May; 8(5): 151. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885066/

  5. Nuñez-Sánchez MA, González-Sarrías A, García-Villalba R, et al, Gene expression changes in colon tissues from colorectal cancer patients following the intake of an ellagitannin-containing pomegranate extract: a randomized clinical trial. J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Apr;42:126-133. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.01.014. Epub 2017 Jan 27.    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28183047
  6. Perchellet, J.P., Gali, H.U.Perchellet, E.M.Laks, P.E.et al., Antitumor-promoting effects of gallotannins, ellagitannins, and flavonoids in mouse skin in vivo  [1994], ACS symposium series, ISSN : 0097-6156, Source: Information Systems Division, National Agricultural Library, http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US9602151

  7. Giuseppina Barrera, Oxidative Stress and Lipid Peroxidation Products in Cancer Progression and Therapy., ISRN Oncol. 2012; 2012: 137289.  
  8. Gallotannins, Science Direct, ScienceDirect.com,   https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/gallotannins

Why care about health? It’s about statistics.

The rate of cancer incidence has increased greatly in many countries and is expected to continue to increase, particularly in association with the aging of the population. Cancer is more often a diagnosis after age 65.  The rate of thyroid cancer in particular has increased greatly in women. The rate of developing some type of cancer during one’s lifetime is expected to reach 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women by the yea 2050, (MedScape) – or a more general 1 in 2 people, (medicalnewstoday) – those are not good odds.

It is common during youth to feel secure about health but our bodies tend to run out of stored nutrients as we age and metabolic pathways that we depend on to rebuild muscle and remove toxins or defective cells can become less effective. A healthy immune system also protects us from our own body’s normal rebuilding/regrowth of new cells. Defective ones are typically removed from growth areas in bone marrow before they enter circulation. Cancer cells are also removed on a regular basis when our immune systems are healthy.

Magnesium deficiency is a topic I keep stressing because the immune cells require magnesium in order to perform the apoptosis, killing, of defective or precancerous cells. The body’s defense systems are well developed but need fuel on a daily basis in order to be able to function as nature designed. While immune cells need magnesium in order to purposefully kill defective cells by apoptosis ( an enzyme is inserted into the cell which causes it to die and then the immune cell engulfs the debris and removes it for detoxification and excretion from the body), a cell that is deficient in magnesium or calcium may also undergo apoptosis due to the deficiency. (magnesium and apoptosis)

Too little Nrf2 may reduce immune system and antioxidant health but too much can be a problem in cancer cells that grow too rapidly. (Nrf2 overproduction and cancer)

Another person writing about the recent research in the area of Nrf2 shares more information about foods that help promote Nrf2 and how nature may have built in a mechanism within some foods that help prevent an over production of the important protein (Nrf2). See: “Activate Nrf2, then optimize: Brussel Sprouts.” – Bill Lagokos (patreon) /Spoiler, if not a fan of Brussel Sprouts the healthy phytonutrient that is discussed is also found in cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, and kale.

I personally am more sensitive to the group, especially if served raw or in larger quantities, but find steamed kale everyday tolerable to my digestive system. The bloating effect may be due to our good guy bacteria enjoying the fiber rich vegetables so much they produce the excess gas – but it can be a sign of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract. Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be affected by any food that causes bloating effects possibly due to TRP channel’s being activated by increased pressure. People with a history of IBS and other chronic pain syndromes may be suffereing from an underlying issue with overactive TRP ion channels. IBS and TRP channels are discussed on this site in a previous post. TRP channels are discussed in more detail with links on another website: Chronic Itch, migraines, IBS and stress; – that is one part frm a longer series: Relaxation and Stress, which is continued in:  Preeclampsia & TRP Channels.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Pomegranate peel may be the best part – medicinally

I’ve been experimenting with making pomegranate peel extract and it may be the best part medicinally but is quite acidic and quite bitter. Mary Poppins sang that a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down and she is on to something. Medicinal herbs may be the bitter ones.  Sugar does help with the taste, but excess amounts of it can help worsen inflammation, so just a spoonful is important. Diluting with extra water and adding a concentrated fruit juice also helped with flavor.

I’m taking notes but am still in the testing phase so this is a summary – yes it seems possible to make an extract from the peel and inner membrane part of the pomegranate. The taste is something that a sick person would tolerate because feeling better is worth a lot including drinking something not very good as quickly as possible. However the healthy person is still likely to prefer the pomegranate juice or juicy crunch of the seeds. If there are seasonal issues one simple experiment worked well – the juicy seeds freeze quite nicely so making a large batch of peel and membrane extract could include simply freezing the seeds for later use in salads or as a sweet and tangy treat. The juice is also tart but the peel extract I made was more acidic than coffee I added baking soda to make it less acidic and easier for the digestive system to tolerate.

The extract did help more of my symptoms than the seeds do. I’ve had early signs of finger numbness, possibly Raynaud’s Disease/Syndrome, which doesn’t really have any treatments. The extract helped restore feeling to my fingers but it was temporary, just that day so the larger quantity of the treatment mentioned in the last post on this topic which used 1 – 10 grams/kilogram for 8 weeks for hepatocellular carcinoma might be best spread out through the day for someone with a more severe illness. Half a cup per day for someone less ill and a half a cup every three to four hours throughout the hours spent awake for someone who is more severely ill might be what helps symptoms. If every cell of the body needs the substances, every hour of the twenty-four, then one dose one time per day might leave the body under-treated for most of the 24 hours and only relieve symptoms for a few hours.

Raynaud’s Syndrome/Disease is referred to by both names. It was mentioned in the search engine results but the article is only available as an Abstract which doesn’t mention any specific conditions: (1). The condition is discussed in an full text available article on oxidative stress and Nrf2. It mentions green tea extracts and Gingko biloba as possibly helping reduce oxidative stress: Review Article: Oxidative Damage and Antioxidative Therapy in Systemic Sclerosis,   (2).

Gingko biloba is also mentioned along with Raynaud’s Disease in this article. A standard dosage is mentioned as being used once or twice per day: “The standard clinical dose of EGb 761 is 120 mg (~1.7 mg/kg) once or twice daily;” Egb is a standardized formulation that contains a certain amount of the active phytonutrients of the Gingko biloba herb which are called gingkolides. It is a traditional herb that was used in cooking and as a medicine in Chinese and Japanese history for conditions such as asthma or as a cough medicine. In the discussion of Future Directions for research the authors suggest more study of dosing as the amount used in preclinical trials was significantly more than used in many clinical trials, “(100 mg/kg compared to <2 mg/kg, respectively),” although some used a larger dose, (300 mg daily).  (3).

I do take a capsule of Gingko biloba daily but not the Egb formulation. The dose I have been using is 60 mg standardized to include “24% Gingko Flavoglycosides = 14.4 mg and 6% Terpene Lactones = 3.6 mg” – which suggests it is a fairly low dose compared to some of the research studies that used 100-300 mg of the Egb formulation. (3)The Egb formulation also includes flavanoids which include one that has been found to help increase Nrf2:

“Beyond oxidant scavenging, the flavonoid isorhamnetin was able to upregulate antioxidant enzymes through Nrf2 activation.(3).

Take home point – clinical trials are a lot of work and accurate dosing, both amount used, concentration of the active phytonutrients, and frequency the dose is used throughout the day, and how large the patient is, are all important factors for effectiveness of the herbal preparation at relieving symptoms of a disease or preventing chronic illness.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. DaigoSumiAikoManjiYasuhiroShinkaiTakashiToyamaYoshitoKumagai., Activation of the Nrf2 pathway, but decreased γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase heavy subunit chain levels and caspase-3-dependent apoptosis during exposure of primary mouse hepatocytes to diphenylarsinic acid., Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Vol. 223Issue 3, 15 September 2007, Pages 218-224.    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041008X07002633 (1)
  2. Bogna Grygiel-Górniak and Mariusz Puszczewicz,Review Article: Oxidative Damage and Antioxidative Therapy in Systemic Sclerosis, Mediators of Inflammation, vol 2014 (2014), Article ID 389582, 11 pages. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2014/389582/. (2)
  3. Kevin M. Nash and Zahoor A. Shah., Current Perspectives on the Beneficial Role of Ginkgo biloba in Neurological and Cerebrovascular Disorders., Integr Med Insights. 2015; 10: 1–9.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4640423/ (3)