Menopause comes to every woman, and unfortunately it is almost always accompanied by unpleasant symptoms and degenerative age-related changes. But do we have to just accept this? No, while we can't have children forever, there are many plant medicines which can help us avoid the aging effects of menopause. Now joining the more well-known remedies such as black cohosh and soy, is the pomegranate, a fruit that bears a striking resemblance to our ovaries.
The traditional Doctrine of Signatures uses the appearance of some fruits, vegetables and herbs as a rule of thumb when remembering their health benefits. This may also apply to pomegranates, which look like the ovaries of a woman on the inside, as experiments have found that they contain a phytoestrogen functionally similar to oestrone (one form of oestrogen). In a study on rats, those that had their ovaries removed and were given nothing suffered the same problems as menopausal women: bone loss, depression and atrophy of the reproductive organs. However, administration of a pomegranate extract (of the juice and seeds) reduced depression and prevented atrophy of the bones and reproductive system. Bone volume was greater, and bone tissue was less porous, in rats given pomegranate extract. Markers of bone tissue breakdown were also normalised by the pomegranate extract, but remained higher in the control group. Although there are some differences between rats and humans, this study suggests that pomegranate fruit extract could protect us against some of the worst problems caused by menopause. But unlike hormone replacement therapy, there isn't a risk of the extract over-stimulating oestrogen receptors and causing overgrowth of breast and reproductive tissue. Pomegranates are known as selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), which are strong enough to benefit us without toxic effects.
On top of this, pomegranates are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C. We typically associate antioxidants like vitamin C with the protection of our cells and their DNA against free radicals, but hormones are not exempt from oxidative damage. One lab study has found that vitamin C can restore the function of hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone after oxidation. This may mean that we do not need to produce as much of these hormones to bring about the same beneficial effects. Of course, antioxidant-rich fruits including pomegranates have significant effects on our cardiovascular health too, which is important for post-menopausal women as the risk of heart and blood vessel problems dramatically increases. Overall, it looks like pomegranates are yet another natural alternative to just "putting up with" the annoying and damaging effects of menopause, but more research on human women needs to be done.