Adding to the data on the antitestosterone action of pumpkin seeds, a study of 35 postmenopausal women given either wheat germ oil or pumpkin seed oil found a 16% increase in serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the pumpkin seed oil group. The researchers attributed this improvement not only to the antioxidant action of the oil but also to a phytoestrogenic action.3
Women with overactive bladder may also find their symptoms improve with pumpkin seed oil. A study of 25 men and 20 women taking this oil for 12 weeks found symptoms of overactive bladder including daytime and nighttime frequency, urgency, and incontinence were reduced by 39% at the end of the study period.4 The researchers came to the preliminary conclusion that the action of pumpkin seeds on the lower urinary tract is not dependent on gender or structure.
In another, more unique application of pumpkin seeds, they have long been considered by folk medicine to be a cure for parasites, specifically those in the flat worm family. Although the actual mechanism of action is not clear, studies do confirm a reduction or elimination of these worms in the host when pumpkin seeds are ingested daily.5 The plant compound cucurbitacin may be responsible for this anthelmintic action. Another hypothesis is that the tannins in pumpkin seeds bind to proteins or glycoproteins in the gut and on the worm cuticle, ultimately leading to a metabolically induced death.5
Safety, interactions, side effects
Overall, pumpkin seed products are well-tolerated. Research is insufficient to recommend use in pregnant or nursing women or in infants. Allergic response is possible, so patients with atopic histories should use pumpkin seed products with caution.
The main drug interaction is with lithium. Pumpkin seeds have a very mild diuretic effect and can reduce excretion and increase serum levels of lithium.6
Cost, how supplied, dose
Pumpkin seed products can be purchased in a variety of forms. Some regimens discuss pumpkin seed oil extract, and others use the ground meal of the whole seed. Typical doses range from 300 mg to 500 mg each day in two to three divided doses.6 However, it is easy to go right to the source and prepare a pumpkin seed snack. Clean the seeds, boil for 10 minutes in saltwater, drain in a colander, dry lightly with a paper towel, spread on to a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and roast at 325°F for 10 minutes.
Benign prostatic hypertrophy affects an estimated 15 million men in the United States.7 Factoring in insurance coverage and type of intervention, treatment for people with this condition averages as high as $5,000 each year. The value of pumpkin seeds is especially clear in their natural effect on benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Sherril Sego, FNP-C, DNP, is an independent consultant in Kansas City, Mo.
- El-Mosallamy AE, Sleem AA, Abdel-Salam OM, et al. Antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects of pumpkin seed oil. J Med Food. 2012;15(2):180-189.
- Gossell-Williams M, Davis A, O’Connor N. Inhibition of testosterone-induced hyperplasia of the prostate of Sprague-Dawley rats by pumpkin seed oil. J Med Food. 2006;9(2):284-286.
- Gossell-Williams M., Hyde C, Hunter T, et al. Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: Pilot study. Climacteric. 2011;14(5):558-564.
- Nishimura M, Ohkawara T, Sato H, et al. Pumpkin seed oil extracted from Cucurbita maxima improves urinary disorder in human overactive bladder. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;41(1):72-74. Available at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032845
- Rupa S, Jayanta B. Comparative studies on anthelmintic potential of Cucurbita maxima (pumpkin) seeds and Carica papaya (papaya) seeds. Int J Res Ayurveda Pharm. 2013;4(4):530-532. Available at ijrap.net/admin/php/uploads/1056_pdf.pdf
- Skidmore-Roth L. Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs & Natural Supplements. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2006.
- Hollingsworth JM, Wei JT. Economic impact of surgical intervention in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Rev Urol. 2006;8(Suppl 3):S9-S15. Available at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1686802
All electronic documents accessed September 15, 2015.