Source, Etc

The pomegranate tree, Punica Grandtum, Linne (N.O. Lythrarieoe), is a shrub or small tree indigenous to north-western India, but cultivated in the warmer parts of the temperate regions, especially in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. More than one variety is known, but that producing crimson flowers is the commonest. The flowers are succeeded by handsome reddish fruits, about the size of a large orange, much esteemed for their agreeable juicy contents. The leaves and flowers, as well as the fruits, were employed in medicine by the ancients; the Romans used the peel of the fruit for tanning, and in the south of Europe it still serves the same purpose.

Description

The pomegranate is a large handsome fruit of sub-globular shape and brownish yellow colour, passing into dull crimson red. It is crowned with a large, deeply five-toothed, tubular, coriaceous calyx, within which are the remains of the stamens and style. The pericarp, the outer surface of which is granular in appearance, is about 1.5 mm. thick, hard, and coriaceous. The large cavity is divided by thin, membranous dissepiments into a number of cells, each of which is completely filled with numerous seeds.

When cut longitudinally the fruit is seen to be divided by a membrane into an upper and lower portion. Transverse sections show the former to be divided by radiating dissepiments into six cavities, in each of which the placentation of the seeds is parietal, whilst in the lower portion from three to five cavities are irregularly arranged. The seeds are about 12 mm. long, subpyramidal in shape, and contain a sweetish acidulous juice in a translucent outer portion. The fruit is a berry sometimes distinguished by the special name * balausta.'

The peel of the fruit, separated from the seeds, was formerly much used as an astringent. It occurs in thin curved fragments, granular and brownish yellow or reddish on the outer surface, uniformly yellowish brown within, and there exhibiting distinct, shallow, angular depressions left by the seeds; to some fragments the remains of the coriaceous calyx are attached. It breaks with a short granular fracture, has little odour, but a powerfully astringent taste.

Fig. 57.   Pomegranate (Punica Granatum). A, flower cut vertically; B, transverse section of the upper part of the ovary, showing six loculi, magnified; C, transverse section of lower part, showing three loculi, magnified. (Luerssen.)

Fig. 57. - Pomegranate (Punica Granatum). A, flower cut vertically; B, transverse section of the upper part of the ovary, showing six loculi, magnified; C, transverse section of lower part, showing three loculi, magnified. (Luerssen).

The student should observe

(a) The astringent taste,

(b) The impressions of the seeds,

(c) The occasional fragments of the superior calyx; and should compare the peel with pieces of Indian bael.

Constituents

The principal constituent is gallotannic acid (28 per cent., Kramer, 1883), and a yellow colouring matter; whether the peel contains any alkaloids allied to, or identical with, those of the bark of the stem and root, is not known.

Uses

The drug is sometimes used as an astringent in the form of a decoction.