Pumpkins can be used for more than just a Halloween decoration. Most parts of the pumpkin can be consumed and it is generally low in calories and packed with vitamins and nutrients. The pumpkin is high in fiber, which helps aid in digestion. The pumpkin aids in kidney health because it reduces calcium oxidate, which causes kidney stones. A fourth of a cup of pumpkin seeds contain 186 calories and more than 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of manganese
The medicinal parts are the fresh and dried seeds.
Flower and Fruit
The flower is yellow, monoecious, very large, and solitary in the leaf axils. The male flower has a longer pedicle. The calyx is fused to the corolla except for the 5 awl-shaped tips. The corolla is 5-tipped and funnel-shaped. The interior is pubescent. There are 3 stamens fused to the anther. The ovary is inferior and 3-locular. The fruit is very large with many seeds. The flesh is fibrous, yellow-orange to white, and has a viscous placenta. The seeds are 7 to 15 mm long, narrow, broad or narrow-ovate, with a shallow groove and flat ridge around the margin.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
Annual plant 3 to 8 m long. The stem is sharply angular with longitudinal grooves and hairy spines. The leaves are alternate, very large and bristly, petiolate with 5 to 7 lobes from a cordate base.
The seeds taste somewhat like almonds.
Pumpkin is indigenous to America and widely cultivated, especially in temperate climates.
Pumpkin seed consists of the ripe, dried seed of Cucurbita pepo and cultivated varieties of Cucurbita pepo.
Actions & Pharmacology
Steroids: Delta5-, Delta7- and Delta8-phytosterols (24- alkyl sterols), including clerosterol, isofucosterol, sitosterol, stigmasterol, cholesterol, isoavenasterol, spinasterol
Fatty oil: chief fatty acids are oleic acid and linoleic acid
Proteic substances (25 to 42%)
Unusual amino acids: including cucurbitin (vermifuge)
The efficacy of lipophilic pumpkin seed extracts or pumpkin seed oil for micturation complaints accompanying benign prostatic hyperplasia or irritable bladder has been confirmed by several clinical and experimental studies. As well as amaroids (cucurbitacin), the drug contains delta-7-sterols, which are similar in conformation to the dihydrostesterone. Cucurbitacin has anthelmintic properties. Pumpkin is also antiphlogistic and antioxidative.
A review of pharmacological activities of Pumpkin indicates that it has been most widely studied for its antidiabetic actions, with the fruit seeds (and pulp) showing hypoglycemic activity in rat and rabbit studies. Pumpkin is used in China and other parts of the world to reduce blood sugar, increase insulin level, and lower branched chain amino acids. Standardization of Pumpkin's antidiabetic components, with follow-up in clinical trials, is a needed next step (Caili, 2006).
The anthelmintic effect is attributed to the constituent curcurbitin, although the concentration of cucurbitin varies widely among species and even within seeds of the same species (Foster & Tyler, 1999).
Urolithiasis Promoting Effects
Pumpkin seed supplementation lowered the occurrence of calcium-oxalate crystals in one study. Oxalate crystalluria was similarly reduced with pumpkin seed supplementation and orthophosphate supplementation. The longer the supplementation period, the lower the calcium-oxalate crystal occurrence (Suphakarn et al, 1987).
Effects on Prostatic Hyperplasia
The prostatic tissue of treatment subjects showed a significant decline in dihydrotestosterone levels compared to the prostatic tissue from an untreated control group (Schulz et al, 1998). Studies using a combination of pumpkin seed and saw palmetto demonstrate significant improvement of symptoms (Grups & Schiebal-Schlosser, 1995).
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 57 subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) protein source tryptophan (de-oiled gourd seed) in combination with carbohydrate; (2) pharmaceutical grade tryptophan in combination with carbohydrate; or (3) carbohydrate alone. Objective and subjective measures of sleep were employed to measure sleep changes. After 3 weeks, researchers found that, in 49 subjects who completed the study, both the tryptophan-rich seed with carbohydrate and the pharmaceutical grade tryptophan with carbohydrate, but not carbohydrate alone, significantly improved insomnia. Therefore, tryptophan derived from pumpkin seed proved comparable to pharmaceutical grade tryptophan in significantly reducing time awake during the night when combined with carbohydrate (Hudson et al, 2005).
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study assessed whether a combination preparation that contained pumpkin seed was effective in the treatment of symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The study included 53 males between the ages of 50 to 80 years with voiding problems attributed to BPH. The preparation Curbicin® contained 80 mg of standardized extract PS6 from Cucurbita pepo L and 80 mg of Sabal serrulata (saw palmetto). Curbicin or identical placebo tablets were given as 2 tablets 3 times daily for a duration of 3 months. Subjective parameters were difficulties in voiding, frequency of urination during the day, and nocturia. Objective parameters included urinary flow rate in mL/second, voiding time measured in seconds, and residual volume. Significant improvement in subjective and objective improvement occurred with the combination preparation and no change was seen in subjects receiving placebo. The results differed from an earlier pilot study in which only nocturia was significantly improved. The authors concluded that the difference in outcome of their study was attributed to the fact that the pilot study used a combination preparation that contained only 15 mg of less refined Sabal serrulata (Carbin et al, 1990).
An open, multicenter clinical trial assessed the efficacy of a combination preparation of pumpkin seed and sabal fruit (80 mg each) for urinary complaints associated with BPH. A total of 1,305 male patients, aged 50 to 82 years, with BPH stage I and II were included in the study. The dosage was not standardized, but determined by the physician. At the end of the three-month period, the combination product produced significant symptomatic improvement. A total of 68% of patients reported reduced daytime urination frequency, 82% reported reduced nighttime urination, 86% had reduced dribbling, and 86% experienced improvement in symptoms of painful urination. No undesired side effects occurred in 98% of patients (Grups & Schiebal-Schlosser, 1995).
A small study investigated the effect of a pumpkin seed snack on inhibitors and promoters of urolithiasis in Thai adolescents. Ten adolescents from a hyperendemic area of Thailand, aged 13 to 16 years, received a prepared pumpkin seed snack supplement (which contained peeled roasted pumpkin seeds, milk powder, roasted sesame seeds and sugar) for 2 days. The amount of pumpkin seed snack supplement received was equivalent to 1200 mg phosphorous per day. Urinary pH was significantly lower in the pumpkin seed group compared to urine samples taken prior to the start of the trial and also during a 2-day period in which subjects received a snack supplement that contained all ingredients except pumpkin seed. There was a significant increase in urinary oxalate among the participants in the pumpkin seed snack group compared to snack without pumpkin seeds. There was a significant decrease in magnesium and pyrophosphate, inhibitors of crystal formation with pumpkin seed snack as compared to before treatment (Suphiphat et al, 1993).
Indications & Usage
Approved by Commission E:
- Irritable bladder
- Prostate complaints
Pumpkin is used for irritable bladder, prevention, and treatment of calcium oxalate kidney stones, micturition problems accompanying prostate adenoma stages I to II. This medication relieves only the difficulties associated with an enlarged prostate without reducing the enlargement. Medical supervision is essential.
In folk medicine, it is also used for kidney inflammation, intestinal parasites, particularly tape worm, and vulnary.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Indigestion and diarrhea, which were controlled by treating with sodium bicarbonate or paregorics, were reported by patients in an open trial of 80 g three times daily of powdered pumpkin seed used for treatment of schistosomiasis (Hsueh-Chang & Ming, 1960). There is a case report of intestinal impaction in a 61-year-old female who ingested 1 cup of roasted pumpkin seed (Chandrasekhara, 1983).
Concurrent use may result in increased risk of bleeding. Two cases of increased INR have been reported in patients taking a combination of pumpkin seed, saw palmetto, and vitamin E (Curbicin®). One of the patients had been stable on warfarin prior to starting Curbicin and one patient was not taking any concomitant anticoagulant therapy (Yue & Jansson, 2001). It is unclear if the increased INR was due to the vitamin E content alone, pumpkin seed or saw palmetto alone, or a combination of all three ingredients. Clinical Management: Caution is advised. Monitor the INR and signs and symptoms of excessive bleeding.
Mode of Administration
Whole and coarsely ground seed and other galenic preparations are for internal use.
The average daily dose is 10 g of ground seeds; 1 to 2 heaping dessert spoons with liquid in the mornings and evenings.
It should be protected from light and moisture.