Parts Used & Where Grown
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.
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
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Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, and for this reason have been suggested to help remedy depression.
Reference Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, and for this reason have been suggested to help remedy depression.4 However, research is needed before pumpkin seeds can be considered for this purpose. It is unlikely the level of L-tryptophan in pumpkin seeds would be sufficient to relieve depression.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Native Americans used pumpkin flesh and seeds for food. Their use of the seeds for the treatment of intestinal infections eventually led the United States Pharmacopoeia to list pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for Reference parasite elimination from 1863 to 1936.1 Native Americans also commonly used pumpkin seeds to treat a variety of kidney problems. The flowers were used topically to soothe minor injuries.2 Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbal medicine) at the end of the 19th century used pumpkin seeds to treat Reference urinary tract problems and Reference gastritis, and to remove tapeworms and roundworms from the intestines.3
How It Works
How It Works
Pumpkin seeds contain several major groups of active constituents: essential fatty acids, Reference 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 Reference saw palmetto in two double-blind trials to effectively reduce symptoms of Reference benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).5 , 6 Only one open label trial evaluated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil alone for BPH.7 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.8
Curcurbitin is a constituent in pumpkin seeds that has shown anti-parasitic activity in the test tube.9 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.10 Preliminary human research conducted in China and Russia has shown pumpkin seeds may also help resolve tapeworm infestations.11 , 12 The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal Reference parasite infections.
Two trials in Thailand have reportedly found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of Reference kidney stone.13 , 14 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.15 Approximately 5–10 grams per day of pumpkin seeds may be needed for kidney stone prevention.16 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.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Pumpkin seeds may cause an upset stomach, but are otherwise extremely safe. There is no reason to believe pumpkin seeds should be avoided during Reference pregnancy or breast-feeding as they are commonly consumed as food during these times without any indication of harm.
1. Vogel VJ. American Indian Medicine. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, 356.
2. Vogel VJ. American Indian Medicine. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, 356.
3. Lloyd JU, Felter HW. King’s American Dispensatory 18th ed. Sandy, OR, Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, reprinted 1998, 1443–4.
4. Eagles JM. Treatment of depression with pumpkin seeds. Br J Psychiatry 1990;157:937–8.
5. Carbin BE, Eliasson R. Treatment by Curbicin in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Swed J Biol Med 1989;2:7–9 [in Swedish].
6. Carbin BE, Larsson B, Lindahl O. Treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia with phytosterols. Br J Urol 1990;66:639–41.
7. Schiebel-Schlosser G, Friederich M. Phytotherapy of BPH with pumpkin seeds–a multicenter clinical trial. Zeits Phytother 1998;19:71–6.
8. Zhang X, Ouyang JZ, Zhang YS, et al. Effect of the extracts of pumpkin seeds on the urodynamics of rabbits: an experimental study. J Tongji Med Univ 1994;14:235–8.
9. Rybaltovskii OV. On the discovery of cucurbitin—a component of pumpkin seed with anthelmintic action. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 1966;35:487–8 [in Russian].
10. Chou HC, Ming H. Pumpkin seed (Cucurbita moschata) in the treatment of acute schistosomiasis. Chin Med J 1960;80:115–20.
11. Chung WC, Ko BC. Treatment of Taenia saginata infection with mixture of areca nuts and pumpkin seeds. Chung Hua Min Kuo Wei Sheng Wu Hsueh Tsa Chih 1976;9:31–5 [in Chinese].
12. Plotnikov AA, Karnaukhov VK, Ozeretskovskaia NN, et al. Clinical trial of cucurbin (a preparation from pumpkin seeds) in cestodiasis. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 1972;41:407–11 [in Russian].
13. Suphakarn VS, Yarnnon C, Ngunboonsri P. The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45:115–21.
14. Suphiphat V, Morjaroen N, Pukboonme I, et al. The effect of pumpkin seeds snack on inhibitors and promoters of urolithiasis in Thai adolescents. J Med Assoc Thai 1993;76:487–93.
15. Carbin BE, Larsson B, Lindahl O. Treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia with phytosterols. Br J Urol 1990;66:639–41.
16. Suphakarn VS, Yarnnon C, Ngunboonsri P. The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area. Am J Clin Nutr 1987;45:115–21.
Last Review: 11-07-2012
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2013.