What is pomegranate seed oil? It’s the oil obtained from pomegranate seeds. Not the pink-red, juicy so-called ‘seeds’ which are in fact arils (or seed covers), but the actual seeds contained in the pink-red juicy arils. Pomegranate seed oil is classified as a base oil, carrier oil or vegetable oil and is similar to other vegetable oils such as olive oil or sunflower seed oil. It is usually used for skin care, scalp care and hair nutrition or added to cosmetic products for its emollient, anti-aging, healing and rejuvenating properties. As a vegetable oil, it is edible in limited amounts in special formulations, but comes with side effects and medicine interactions so it’s best to always talk to your doctor about whether or not you can use pomegranate seed oil as a food supplement and what is the safe amount for you. Most pomegranate seed oil preparations available are for external use only, so make sure to read the label.
Types of pomegranate seed oil
According to production method, there are two types:
1) Cold pressed pomegranate seed oil. The juicy, pink-red sweet-tart seed coating is removed to expose the actual seeds. After being cleaned of pulp, the hard seeds are dried, then pressed using an oil press to expel the oil from them. The entire process is done under low temperature to avoid alteration of fatty acids in the oil. The resulting oil may be filtered to remove any impurities.
If you have access to an oil press or manual press, this is how to make your pomegranate seed oil at home.
2) Refined pomegranate seed oil. The refined version of the oil is also made by first pressing the hard seeds using an oil press. After the first round of oil is obtained, a solvent is added to the remaining pressed seed paste (called a cake). The solvent helps extract the remaining oil from the pomegranate seed cake. After extraction, the solvent is separated from the oil. The resulting oil may undergo various processing stages that are usually meant to make the fatty acids more stable to heat exposure and less likely to be affected by rancidity.
What is the difference between cold pressed and refined pomegranate seed oil?
Cold pressed pomegranate seed oil retains more color and more flavor than the refined oil, although there isn’t too much of either to begin with since it’s a base oil or vegetable oil. For example, the refined version may undergo processes such as bleaching, which removes some of the color and flavor and, along with it, also some of the properties of the oil.
For the most part, cold pressed pomegranate seed oil benefits compared to refined pomegranate seed oil are derived from the fact that cold pressed pomegranate seed oil is produced as naturally as possible and under low temperatures, by simply squeezing out the oil from seeds. The lack of high heat exposure does not alter fatty acids profile or antioxidants properties and maintains the natural formulation which is superior in terms of nourishment for skin, hair and scalp, reparative and moisturizing properties.
What does pomegranate seed oil look like?
Plain, cold pressed pomegranate seed oil is a soft amber color. The refined oil is light yellow or almost colorless. The cold pressed oil has a medium viscosity, so it’s not very thin. When used topically, it is absorbed into skin at a moderate rate and feels light, but often also leaves a slightly oily finish although it doesn’t clog pores. The refined version is usually thinner and does not hold the same moisturizing properties. Also see Properties and Benefits of Sunflower Seed Oil.
What does pomegranate seed oil taste and smell like?
Aroma is faint in both cold pressed and refined varieties, mainly a light, oily smell. As for taste, there isn’t much of it. If possible, use the cold pressed, unrefined oil from organic agriculture.
Caution! Remember that most pomegranate seed oil products are for topical use only and not meant for consumption. The oil preparations meant to be taken internally should be clearly labeled to indicate this purpose. In any case, avoid taking the oil internally unless clearly specified on the label and before consulting with a doctor. Some preparations may contain ingredients that are harmful if ingested and some people may be at risk of allergic reactions, medicine interactions and other side effects.
Pomegranate seed oil nutritional facts
The quality and properties of pomegranate seed oil are determined by factors such as variety, seeds maturation, quality, production method and processing:
1) Oil content in seeds. Depending on the variety, maturation of seeds and climate conditions, pomegranate seeds may yield as little as 4.4% oil or as much as 18% oil.
2) Oil profile. Pomegranate seed oil is 65% to 85% punicic acid (a healthy polyunsaturated fat) and less than 10% linoleic acid (a healthy Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat), oleic acid (a healthy Omega-9 fat) and palmitic and stearic acid (saturated fats).
3) Antioxidants. Pomegranate seed oil is a natural source of antioxidants, notably flavonoids, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol, euqol and pigmented antioxidants such as beta-carotene and chlorophyll. The soft amber color of the cold pressed oil is a result of the presence of pigmented antioxidants. The lack of color in the refined oil is proof of how the refining process has taken away from the properties and beneficial action of the oil.
4) Vitamins and minerals. Pomegranate seed oil is a rich source of vitamin E (tocopherols) which accounts for its regenerative, emollient and antioxidant benefits on skin. The oil also contains trace amounts of other fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and minerals.
5) Phytosterols are plant compounds similar in chemical composition to cholesterol from animal products. They compete with cholesterol for absorption and hold a beneficial effect for blood cholesterol levels, making them good for cardiovascular health.
The health benefits of pomegranate seed oil include benefits derived from topical use and benefits derived from ingestion. And while it is an edible vegetable oil, it is not usually marketed as a food supplement because it often requires a special formulation to make it ‘edible’. Also, most pomegranate seed oil products available are destined for topical use only and some may also contain ingredients that are harmful if ingested or simply not meant for consumption.
Pomegranate seed oil benefits for skin, hair and scalp
1) Smooths hair cuticle (the outermost part of hair strands), gives shine and prevents, reduces and repairs hair damage. Learn more about the best Nutrients for Healthy Hair.
2) Combats dry scalp and dandruff and reduces irritation of the scalp and itching.
3) Nourishes skin and scalp thanks to its fatty acids and vitamin E content.
4) Intense moisturizing effect as a result of its good vitamin E content and fatty acid profile.
5) Exerts an anti-aging and photoprotective action (light protection from sun radiation) thanks to antioxidants. Potentially good for improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
6) Good for dry skin: reparative action. May help with dermatitis, psoriasis and other similar skin conditions.
7) Emollient action, makes skin feel soft and smooth.
For best results, look for the specification ‘cold pressed’ or ‘manufactured through cold press expeller’ on the label. Also, it’s healthier if you choose oil from organic agriculture.
Pomegranate seed oil benefits for various medical conditions
In vitro and in vivo animal and human studies used special formulations of the oil to test its properties and determine its nutraceutical value. The studies came to the following conclusions:
1) Pomegranate seed oil has showed anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity with potential benefits for arthritis pain and cancer prevention.
Also shows anti-proliferative, angiogenesis inhibiting and apoptosis-inducing activity.
2) Antibacterial and antiparasitic activity with potential uses for skin care and treatment of (likely non-infectious) diarrhea.
Find out What to Eat When You Have Diarrhea.
3) Photoprotective and anti-aging effects that could serve to reduce sun damage, prevent or delay wrinkles.
4) Cholesterol-lowering properties thanks to content of phytosterols, with benefits for general cardiovascular health.
5) Light estrogenic action which makes the it potentially good for hot flashes.
6) May help lower blood sugar levels, with potential benefits for diabetes prevention, management and treatment.
7) Research shows the oil to exert a protective action on the liver.
Also see Properties and Benefits of Pomegranate Seeds.
Potential side effects and contraindications
1) Risk of allergic reaction. Topical use can trigger an allergic reaction that may culminate with anaphylactic shock which is a medical emergency. Allergic reactions to pomegranate fruit, seeds, oil and preparations are more likely in those with multiple pollen or food allergies.
2) Medicine interactions. Various parts of the fruit and tree as well as preparations made from them can either reduce or increase the efficacy of certain medication, including high blood pressure medication and liver medication.
3) Risk of toxicity. Despite being a type of edible oil, pomegranate seed oil is mostly destined for topical use. This means that most preparations available contain other ingredients that are not compatible with internal use. Do not eat or drink pomegranate seed oil meant for topical use because it may contain ingredients that are not destined for consumption. Talk to your doctor first before introducing any new supplements in your diet.