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Botanical names: Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita pepo
Pumpkins and other squashes are native to North and Central America, but have since been cultivated around the world. The seeds are primarily used in herbal medicine. The yellow blossoms of pumpkins are also used as medicine in some native traditions.
How it Works
Pumpkin seeds contain several major groups of active constituents: essential fatty acids, amino acids, phytosterols (e.g. beta-sitosterol) minerals, and vitamins. Other major constituents include mucilaginous carbohydrates and minerals.
Pumpkin seed oil has been used in combination with saw palmetto in two double-blind trials to effectively reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Only one open label trial evaluated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil alone for BPH. Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed extracts can improve the function of the bladder and urethra. This might partially account for BPH symptom relief.
Curcurbitin is a constituent in pumpkin seeds that has shown anti-parasitic activity in the test tube. Human trials conducted in China have shown pumpkin seeds to be helpful for people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease occurring primarily in Asia and Africa that is transmitted through snails. Preliminary human research conducted in China and Russia has shown pumpkin seeds may also help resolve tapeworm infestations. The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal parasite infections.
Two trials in Thailand have reportedly found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stone. Pumpkin seeds appear to both reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation. The active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not been identified.
How to Use It
Pumpkin seed oil extracts standardized for fatty acid content have been used in BPH trials. Men with BPH have used 160 mg three times per day with meals. Approximately 5–10 grams per day of pumpkin seeds may be needed for kidney stone prevention. As a treatment for parasites, 200–400 grams are ground and taken with milk and honey, followed by castor oil two hours later. This treatment, however, should not be attempted unless under medical supervision.
Pumpkin seeds may cause an upset stomach, but are otherwise extremely safe. There is no reason to believe pumpkin seeds should be avoided during pregnancy or breast-feeding as they are commonly consumed as food during these times without any indication of harm.
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