Secrets of immortal youth and the plump pink fruit, and the agreement of science and myth.
It’s no wonder the pomegranate is associated with fertility and female sexuality, what with the abundant sweet-juiced seeds and the ruby red mess of it all. It’s unavoidable. Everything about the pomegranate is excessive in its references to a ripe and welcoming woman. And like other aphrodisiacs of renown - say, the artichoke, and the oyster- it requires far greater than usual attention to detail when consuming the flesh. This is perhaps a lost consideration very much in need of remembering.
Jewish scholars suspect it to be the fruit of the Forbidden Tree, mysteriously synchronizing sex and death and awareness. It’s the sacred fruit of Cybele, among the most ancient of goddesses, pre-dating the Sumerians and Egyptians, known for her ecstatic orgiastic rituals of drumming, dancing and singing under the influence of inebriantia. Beloved of Ishtar, pomegranate was favored by the goddesses even as they became more civilized, associated with Persephone and her immortality, Hera and her governance of marriage and birth. But it’s Aphrodite, mighty Venus, that we most associate with the fruiting pomegranate. She is the exquisite Goddess of love and beauty, yes, but more so aroused love, desires of the flesh, sensual pleasures. She is the proprietress of lustful enchantments and forays into sexual fascinations. All the juicy, reason-addling ardors that leave us stupidly blissful and whimpering.
Again and again, myth - ancient ways of knowing - long anticipates scientific discovery of mechanics, the biochemical how-it-happens. We should not be at all surprised to learn that the the study of nutritional medicine is revealing pomegranate to be a rejuvenating nourishment, a potent source of the precursor constituent to the longevity-enhancing compound urolithin A. When a molecule in pomegranate juice encounters certain gut microbes in the intestines, the microbes convert it to urolithin A, which performs as a powerful protector of mitochondria. As a result, muscle and tissue vitality is maintained, and laboratory anti-aging testing shows urolithin A increases lifespan by 45%. So, this biochemical progenitor of longevity is the fruit of Aphrodite, bringer of immortal youth, fertility, sexual fervor and ardent love.
What else have we learned of the science of pomegranate, that defends its reputation as the fruit of youthful appetites and vigor? Pomegranate, or Punica granatum, is well studied for its vast array of benevolent effects on the body: It’s anticancer, antimicrobial, anti- inflammatory, protects cardiovascular health, protects against UV radiation skin damage, and treats Alzheimer’s and cerebral ischemia. It is an antioxidant of repute, again protecting cells from damage, extending cellular function and propagating age-defying virility. So, it maintains skin, muscles, vascular-circulation, thinking… its a convincing provocateur of the mythological beings of immortality and sensual undertakings.
And, what of the sexual flesh itself, the vagina and vulva, the moist and ripened host of these wanderlusts? The fact that pomegranate oil is applied to the punani as a skin nutrient for vaginal integrity gives it credence as a metaphorical advocate for sexual longevity. Pomegranate oil is quite remarkable in that it is a potent keratinocyte proliferation stimulator specific to the epidermis. This means that pomegranate oil notably improves elasticity and increases cellular turnover. So, old skin sloughs off more quickly, increasing tissue elasticity and providing a growth medium for the all-important friendly bacteria. Vaginal and vulvar health is a complex and elegant system, involving crucial cellular turnover that is well-supported with pomegranate oil, which leads to a desirable lactobacilli population, and lactic acid production as a metabolic by-product. The lactic acid produced by the vaginal microbiome and the resulting balance in vaginal pH are the foundation of a healthy vagina and moist, supple intimate tissues.
Pomegranate oil is high in antioxidants--- higher than red wine, and similar to that of green tea---and notably promotes collagen and elastin production. It contains 70 percent punicic acid, a valuable Omega 5 fatty acid that reduces inflammation and aids in cellular repair. Pomegranate seed oil is the only natural source of this highly beneficial fatty acid. The topical application of pomegranate oil offers therapeutic benefit due to its “anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the skin, promotion of wound healing and repair of skin barrier.”
Again, are we surprised that scientific discovery of the bio-mechanical workings of our bodies is beginning to elucidate the ways that the pomegranate represents the voices of the Goddesses of love and youth, of sex and desire? No, we are not. We’ve come to anticipate these confluences, these many intersecting languages of knowing nature, medicine, love, and the human condition.
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