Pomegranate – Your Secret Weapon Against Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of arthritic condition which is known to affect the young and the old equally. This type of arthritic condition occurs when the immune system of the body begins to attack its own cells and tissues. The immune system mistakes its own cells as foreign particles and starts producing anti-bodies against them.

These anti-bodies are then released into the blood stream which reaches the target tissues and starts attacking them. The tissues which are affected the most are the joint tissues which become inflamed and swollen.  

The main causes which lead to this situation include inheritance of certain genes, bacterial or viral infection and changes in the hormones of the body. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are soreness, stiffness, swelling and inflammation of the joints . 

Pomegranate for rheumatoid arthritis

Pomegranate is a fruit obtained from shrub like tree. This tree is commonly found in Asia and Middle East. Punica granatum or pomegranate is fruit with numerous small reddish seeds inside which are sweet in taste. This fruit has been a part of the Indian Ayurveda as it has various health benefits.

Certain parts of the tree including the fruits have been used to make medicines for numerous diseases. People have been taking this fruit as a treatment for heart related conditions, diarrhea, intestinal parasites and arthritic conditions. Pomegranate has been used as treatment for healing wounds and other diseases for more than a thousand years. The usage of this fruits as a medicine dates back to as long as 1500BC .

There have been reports which reported the effectiveness of this fruit in rheumatoid arthritis. One such study was conducted on mice models which were artificially induced with conditions similar to rheumatoid arthritis. The mice models were injected with collagen to induce conditions similar to rheumatoid arthritis. These mice models were then fed with the pomegranate extract and the effect of this extract was recorded. 

The amount of inflammatory factors and mediators released before and after the treatment were recorded by enzyme assays. The reading was also taken using visual scores of the joints of the mice. It was observed that due to the arthritic conditions certain inflammatory mediators were up regulated in the blood.

These mediators included interleukins (IL-1b, IL-6), immunoglobulins and TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor alpha). Other factors like nitric oxide were also noted to be up regulated during the arthritic conditions. After giving the pomegranate extract to these mice suffering from arthritic conditions, it was observed that there was a delay in the onset of the disease condition. In addition to this, there was also a reduction in the incidence of the collagen induced arthritis in the mice models. The severity of the disease decreased significantly after treatment with the pomegranate extract.

The results after pomegranate treatment showed that there was also a reduction in the joint infiltration by the inflammatory cells. Moreover, the extract was also able to alleviate the amount of destruction caused to the bone and the cartilage due to the arthritic condition. All the inflammatory mediators and factors including interleukins and the associated inflammatory pathways were also down regulated.

The study concluded that the pomegranate extract was able to down regulate the signal transduction pathways involved in inflammation and the compounds found in the pomegranate extract may be useful in preventing the onset of the arthritic condition as pomegranate for rheumatoid arthritiswell as lower down the severity of the disease . 

A similar study was conducted on human patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Overall six patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis were given the pomegranate extract regularly for 12 weeks. After the 12 week treatment, the joint status and the oxidative status of the serum were noted down to observe the changes.

It was observed that there was a significant decrease in the disease activity index after the treatment with the pomegranate extract. In addition to this, there was also a reduction in the number of tender joints and oxidative status in the serum.

The incidence of the rheumatoid arthritis is known to induce the production of free radicals and superoxides in the body which lead to increase in the oxidative stress in the tissues and cells. These free radicals and superoxides damage the nearby cells and tissues and cause injury in them.

Pomegranate being an anti-oxidant is able to act as a scavenger of these harmful molecules and reduce the oxidative stress in the body. Thus, after treatment with the pomegranate extract there was a significant reduction in the oxidative status of the cells and tissues. There was a decrease in the production of free-radicals induced by lipid peroxidation up to 25 % in after treatment. The study concluded that the treatment was able to attenuate the symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis to a great level . 

Another study which studied the effect of pomegranate fruit extract on the arthritic conditions and its bioavailability in humans. The researchers found that the fruit extract was able to suppress the production of COX-2 or cyclooxygenase enzyme. This enzyme is mainly involved in the inflammatory pathways, thus suppression of this enzymes blocks the other inflammatory mediators.

The study also reported the good level of bioavailability of the fruit constituents which are easily absorbed into the blood. In addition to this, it was observed that these constituents were also able to suppress the production of interleukin IL-1beta induced production of nitric oxide in the cartilages of the joints. The nitric oxide molecule is known to be an important messenger involved in inflammation in arthritic conditions.

The main constituents and metabolites found in the pomegranate fruit extract were found to down regulate many inflammatory factors and mediators pathways. The study reported that the down regulation of the nitric oxide by the fruit extract plays an important role in slowing down the progression of the arthritic disease . 

How to take in diet

Pomegranate fruit is easily available in the market nowadays. This fruit can be eaten by peeling of the external skin and eating the reddish pink seeds inside. These seeds can be added to fruit salads and enjoyed. The seeds of pomegranate are also added to food items for flavor and used as garnishing on food items. The juice obtained from these seeds can also be taken regularly for a healthy lifestyle. The juice can be either obtained from fresh fruits or from packaged fruit juices.

The juice of pomegranate can also be added to cooked food or food during cooking. This juice can also be added to other fruit drinks according to personal preference.

Other parts of pomegranate tree can also be consumed like leaves, stem and bark. These can be eaten directly or in the form of extract. The extract of pomegranate is also available in the market which can be taken under supervision of a health advisor. The extract is available in various forms like powder, capsule and pill. The important flavonoids found in the pomegranate plant can be found in flavored herbal teas. These teas can be taken regularly or the extract of the pomegranate can also be added to the herbal or decaffeinated tea for health purposes

How much you should take?

The recommended dosage for taking pomegranate is not very specific as eating the fruit is considered safe. For children, giving 4-6 ounces of pomegranate juice is considered safe. However, one should consult a doctor before giving the children the any type of pomegranate extract. For adults, there are no specific recommended dosages . 

Precautions

Taking pomegranate in any form in diet regularly is considered safe; however, there are certain precautions which should be taken into consideration while taking this plant as treatment. While drinking fruit juice, one should make sure that there is no artificial sugar added to the juice, especially for diabetic patients. Additionally, one should not take not this juice if he/she is suffering from diarrhea or taking specific medications as it can interfere with the mode of action of the medicine. The extract of pomegranate of is also not recommended for pregnant women as it may not be beneficial . 

Conclusion

Pomegranate is an excellent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents which can be very beneficial for the body. These properties of pomegranate have been exploited in some studies which reported the effectiveness of the pomegranate extract in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

The constituents of this plant have the ability to down regulate various inflammatory mediators and pathways which lead to inflammation in the joints. In addition to this, the plant extract is also able to stabilize the oxidative stress caused due to free radicals and superoxides released due to inflammation.