Pomegranate peel extracts could help fighting COVID-19, research finds
Giulia Carbonaro


A study conducted by researchers at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina found that pomegranate peel extracts can play a role in inhibiting coronavirus infection.

"When the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we had an ongoing project [which] explored the health beneficial effects of pomegranate polyphenols extracted from peels of pomegranate fruit," says Relja Suručić, the researcher leading the study.

"And at that time, reading other authors' studies, we have realized that some of the compounds chemically identified in those extracts showed significant antiviral activities against some other and different viruses. So we decided to test our compounds on SARS-CoV-2."


Pomegranate extracts have been found to have inhibitory effects on the influenza virus, herpes virus, poxviruses and human immunodeficiency virus. /Polona Avanzo/EyeEm|/Getty Creative via CFP

Pomegranate extracts have been found to have inhibitory effects on the influenza virus, herpes virus, poxviruses and human immunodeficiency virus. /Polona Avanzo/EyeEm|/Getty Creative via CFP


Pomegranate has been previously found to have beneficial effects on other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, inflammatory diseases and even some types of cancer. Most importantly, pomegranate peel extracts were found to have significant effects in preventing influenza virus entry and RNA transcription.

"We all know that pomegranate fruit had some beneficial health effects," says Suručić. "And in our study, we confirmed some of these aspects like anti-inflammatory effects of lowering cholesterol, lowering sugar."

Suručić's team used computational techniques to see if the compounds from the pomegranate peels could inhibit the viral internalization – when the virus enters the body looking for a host cell – and thus stop the infection.

"I have to say, this is just a small part of a puzzle we reach in our conclusion," warns Suručić. "We said that those compounds have the potential to to inhibit this process, but it's so far away from very clear evidence that it inhibits this process or that it could stop infection, actually, but it's part of a puzzle."



The team is now continuing the study in vitro, working with the spike proteins of the coronavirus. Results haven't been published yet, but Suručić says they confirm their previous study.

"It's a long way to say it's a drug, or it could stop SARS-CoV-2 infection," says Suručić, who warns it would be an exaggeration to call pomegranate a cure for COVID-19. However, he thinks it has the potential to be used as a complementary treatment or a supplement to treat the infection.

"But there is something, of course, with these natural products – we are finding everyday evidence that some people get infected, some not, even if they are in contact with COVID-19 patients. So maybe there is something in their diet or in the supplements that they are taking that could decrease the risk for getting infected. This is the idea behind our research."


A natural aid – but not a remedy

At this point, Suručić's team is looking at the use of pomegranate peel extract as a preventative treatment, as a supplement for decreasing the risk of getting infected. Ideally, they aim to continue their research exploring the effects of the pomegranate compounds during the phase of viral infection, the replication of the virus inside the body, with a clinical study involving patients with mild symptoms.

For those concerned about having to eat the less than appealing peel of pomegranate, Suručić has a word of reassurance. In the parts of the fruit people eat "there are also the same compounds as in the peel," which is rich in these beneficial polyphenols despite being treated as waste.

Suručić warns against treating any natural treatment as a remedy to COVID-19.

"But eating fruits, many polyphenols from other plant sources like polyphenols, from green tea or coffee, is also known to have some antiviral activity," he says. "So when you mix all that, maybe you can protect yourself in some way to decrease the risk of getting infected."

As scientists around the world race to find treatments to COVID-19, any step forward towards stopping the spread of the virus, or mitigating its effects, is welcome news. And this is not the first study suggesting the benefits of the pomegranate.

Another research study into the effect of virucidal products (physical or chemical agents with the capacity to kill a virus) on COVID-19 asymptomatic patients, found that pomegranate lozengess could reduce the presence of the virus in the patient's mouth. 

Video editor: Terry Wilson