The thought of pumpkins may have you itching for fall, lattes and pie, but you’re about to find out that pumpkin isn’t just for autumn anymore — if you want to fight disease all year long, that is!
Pumpkin seed oil is a handy ingredient to keep around and use on a daily basis to improve your metabolic and physiological health, similar to benefit-rich black seed oil. (1) Packed with tryptophan, unsaturated fatty acids and a high level of antioxidative substances, this silent champion provides a long list of benefits to both men and women. When the oil from these little seeds is extracted at the right temperature, the possibilities are virtually endless!
Thanks to its high content of carotenoids and liposoluble vitamins, pumpkin seed oil has long been considered an ingredient appropriate for illness prevention, especially for prostate diseases. In addition to that well-known use, research has proved its effectiveness as a treatment for diabetes, anxiety and even cancer.
The World Health Organization recommends consuming pumpkin seeds as a useful way to obtain zinc, which is found in large quantities in the small seeds and maintained through the oil production process. (2)
North America is the original home to pumpkins, which were used by Native Americans for centuries for their many benefits before European explorers brought home seeds from their travels. Today, the U.S. is the largest production center for pumpkins, followed by Mexico, India and China. (3)
Pumpkin Seed Oil Nutrition
There are two types of pumpkins from which pumpkin seed oil is obtained, both of the Cucurbita plant. One is Cucurbita pepo, and the other is Cucurbita maxima. The process of extracting pumpkin seed oil is a simple one, in which the seeds are roasted, then pressed. To achieve the most antioxidant-rich pumpkin seed oil, a lower roasting temperature and longer roasting period are employed. For a stronger aromatic effect, higher temperatures may be used — but this dilutes its beneficial elements. (4)
A 2014 study recognized a vast range of “biologically significant fatty acids,” which, in their unique proportion, attach great value to pumpkin seed oil nutrition. (5) In addition, it contains tryptophan, a substance deemed an “essential amino acid.” Put simply, this means your body does not produce tryptophan — you must receive it from your diet. Healthy tryptophan consumption is necessary for infantile growth and balances the level of nitrogen in adults. A great deal of current research is examining the effects of tryptophan on sleep and mood. (6)
One cup of unsalted pumpkin seeds nutrition contains (7):
11.9 grams protein
11.8 grams dietary fiber
6.6 milligrams zinc (44 percent DV)
168 milligrams magnesium (42 percent DV)
588 milligrams potassium (16.8 percent DV)
52.1 milligrams iron (11.7 percent DV)
9 milligrams phosphorus (5.9 percent DV)
35 milligrams calcium (3.5 percent DV)
8 Benefits of Pumpkin Seed Oil
1. Reduces Inflammation
Replacing saturated fats with healthy, unsaturated fats makes a deep impact on the amount of inflammation in your body. In fact, a research study in 2015 found the replacement of pumpkin seed oil in the diet of people suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries) reduced the effects of these diseases on test subjects. (8)
If you’re seeking to live a disease-free life, introducing anti-inflammatory foods and supplements into your diet is one of the key actions you need to take.
2. Nutritional Aid for Cancer Patients
You read that right! While there is no “cure” for cancer, pumpkin seed oil has been proven in several studies to support the health of cancer patients and/or a reduced risk of cancer.
Pumpkin seeds are one vegetable seed proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. (9) Additional research has found the nutritional value of pumpkin seeds to possibly prevent and treat breast cancer. (10)
The future is promising for men as well as women — pumpkin seeds may also reduce or inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. (11) Pumpkin seed oil, in particular, can reduce the effects of specific carcinogens, making it a useful natural cancer treatment for many different types of cancer. (12)
For those currently being treated for cancer, pumpkin seed oil may also be an answer to common problems. Its antioxidant properties create a filter for radiation and protect against or prevent small intestinal damage from methotrexate, a treatment for several types of cancer and also rheumatoid arthritis. (13, 14, 15).
3. Good for Prostate Health
Perhaps the most well-documented aid of pumpkin seed oil for health is its vast effectiveness on maintaining a healthy prostate. It has been known to protect against prostate cancer, but it’s also great for prostate health in general!
Long used as a folk medicine for prostate health, pumpkin seed oil reduces the size of an enlarged prostate, especially in the instance of benign prostatic hyperplasia (age-related prostate enlargement). (16, 17) That’s why I pumpkin seed oil use is one of three steps to improve prostate health!
4. Encourages Mental Well-being
We all need to consider the health of our brains and mental states. Pumpkin seed oil can help you do that in more than one way — the Cucurbita maxima compound of this oil improves memory, while its tryptophan content is a scientifically proven, effective treatment for social anxiety disorder. (18, 19). Insomnia also may be reduced by the tryptophan in pumpkin seed oil, as it breaks down easily within the body into serotonin to induce peaceful sleep. (20)
5. Fights Hair Loss in Men
The management of hormones in a healthy diet is key to stopping and/or reversing hair loss, as it is linked to an increase in an androgen hormone, DHT (diHydroxy Testosterone). Pumpkin seeds act as a hair loss remedy due to their zinc content, which helps balance hormones, thus in turn benefits hair growth.
In a 2014 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, pumpkin seed oil hair loss benefits were apparent, as men who took pumpkin seed oil over the course of 24 weeks showed an increase of hair count by an average of 40 percent! (21)
6. Great for Heart Health
Is it any surprise that an anti-inflammatory supplement would be great for the heart? Through a process that may involve the production of nitric oxide, pumpkin seed oil exhibits antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects, meaning it can protect you from heart disease and/or heart attacks. (22) It also reduces high blood pressure in postmenopausal women, according to research published in Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society. (23)
7. Treats Diabetes
Diabetes has many causes, one of which is poor diet. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are manageable, and even treatable, with good diet strategies and supplements. Possibly due in part to its low glycemic load (along with other factors), pumpkin seed oil is scientifically proven to be a considerable antihyperglycemic, or natural diabetes treatment. (24)
8. Soothes Overactive Bladder
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine suggests pumpkin seed oil extracts (from both the Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima varieties) effectively treat urinary disorders, specifically overactive bladder. (25) This indicates consuming pumpkin seed oil is an important part of maintaining a healthy excretory system.
Pumpkin Seed Oil History
Pumpkin seeds have been popular for centuries, dating back as early as 1300 A.D., when Native Americans celebrated them for both dietary and medicinal benefits, beginning with the Aztec cultures and spreading to the rest of Native America. After being spread to Europe, these seeds became an integral part of the diet for many areas in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean (notably, Greece). Now, pumpkin seeds have entered traditional food and medicine practices in India and other areas of Asia.
Although the health benefits of pumpkin seed oil are quite impressive on their own, that’s not the only good thing about it. Interestingly, recent research has found pumpkin seed oil (and other vegetable oils) to be a potential source of biofuel. (26)
Pumpkin seed oil is often praised as a “superhero ingredient” in skin care, too, due to the essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals contained within it. The use of pumpkin seed oil for skin and homeopathic beauty routines may serve to treat acne, fight free radical damage, moisturize and much more. (27)
Pumpkin Seed Oil Uses
Pumpkin seed oil, extracted from roasted pumpkin seeds, should not be “cooked,” as heat destroys many of its best health properties and produces a bitter taste. The most common intake of pumpkin seed oil for health is in capsule or liquid form, as a supplement to a health-conscious lifestyle.
One delicious way to use pumpkin seed oil in food, prevalent in Eastern Europe, is as a salad dressing, either by itself or in combination with other healthy oils. (28)
Storage is key to keeping pumpkin seed oil fresh. Warmth and light easily oxidize the polyunsaturated fats in pumpkin seed oil, causing it to go rancid. Therefore, it should be bottled, sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. It’s important to remember that the fresh, nutty taste of the oil will dissipate after it’s first opened, though it remains good for 12 months, sometimes longer.
Because oxidation of the oil produces a pretty nasty smell, it’s also smart to wipe any stray drops from the outside of the bottle or cap before storing it away — after all, it’s not appetizing to smell rancid oil when you’re preparing for a delicious meal! (29)
Pumpkin Seed Oil Recipes
One of my favorite fresh salsa recipes is my Cranberry Salsa, paired with crackers or vegetables. This dish includes pumpkin seed oil and shelled pumpkin seeds, ensuring a scrumptious celebration of the many benefits of this incredible ingredient. I’d love to know if you enjoyed it!
You can try these other pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seed recipes as well:
Possible Pumpkin Seed Oil Side Effects
There are no known pumpkin seed oil side effects, and it is not thought to have any adverse interactions with other foods or medications. However, as the antioxidant properties of this oil can serve to lower blood pressure, you should consult your health care provider before using this in conjunction with hypertension medication to discuss risks and potential complications. (30)
Journal of Food Science, June 2012, “Bioactive compounds in lipid fractions of pumpkin (Cucurbita sp) seeds for use in food”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22671521
World Health Organization, “The World’s Healthiest Foods”: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=82
Life Extension Magazine, October 2012, “The True Potency Of The Pumpkin Seed”: http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2012/10/The-True-Potency-Of-The-Pumpkin-Seed/Page-01
Journal of Food Science, May 2012, “Optimization of hull-less pumpkin seed roasting conditions using response surface methodology”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23163936
Georgian Medical News, September 2014, “The fatty acid composition of large pumpkin seed oil (Curucbitae maxima Dich) cultivated in Georgia”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25341255
U.S. National Library of Medicine: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002332.htm
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3695?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=pumpkin+seed
PLoS ONE, September 2015, “Replacement of Dietary Saturated Fat by PUFA-Rich Pumpkin Seed Oil Attenuates Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Atherosclerosis Development, with Additional Health Effects of Virgin over Refined Oil”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26405765
Nutrition and Cancer, 2012, “The association between dietary lignans, phytoestrogen-rich foods, and fiber intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: a German case-control study”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22591208
Nutrition and Cancer, 2013, “Effects of phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds on estradiol production and ER/PR expression in breast cancer and trophoblast tumor cells”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859042
International Journal of Oncology, June 2011, “Suppression of growth and invasive behavior of human prostate cancer cells by ProstaCaid™: mechanism of activity”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21468543
“Environmental Toxicology,” Volume 28, Issue 12, December 2013: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tox.20763/abstract
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, June 2015, “Physico-chemical properties and fatty acid composition of pomegranate, cherry and pumpkin seed oils”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26033409
Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics, December 2011, “Protective effect of ellagic acid and pumpkin seed oil against methotrexate-induced small intestine damage in rats”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22329239
U.S. National Library of Medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0001158/
Uroligia Internationalis, 2011, “Inhibition of the experimental induction of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a possible role for fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis Hook f.) seeds”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21709398
Nutrition Research and Practice, 2009, “Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20098586
Journal of Biosciences, September-October 2014, “Evaluation of Cucurbita maxima extract against scopolamine-induced amnesia in rats: implication of tumour necrosis factor alpha”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25711042
Canadian Journal of Physiology, October 2007, “Protein-source tryptophan as an efficacious treatment for social anxiety disorder: a pilot study”: http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/y07-082#.ViUE3tZ9T8E
StyleCraze, April 2015, “11 Amazing Benefits Of Pumpkin Seed Oil For Skin, Hair And Health”: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/benefits-of-pumpkin-seed-oil-for-skin-hair-and-health/
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, “Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial”: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/549721/
Journal of Medicinal Food, February 2012, “Antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects of pumpkin seed oil”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22082068
Climacteric: The Journal of the International Menopause Society, October 2011, “Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21545273
Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, November 2013, “Tocopherol from seeds of Cucurbita pepo against diabetes: validation by in vivo experiments supported by computational docking”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24344360
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, January 2014, “Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24872936
Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, January 2014, “Harnessing indigenous plant seed oil for the production of bio-fuel by an oleaginous fungus, Cunninghamella blakesleeana- JSK2, isolated from tropical soil”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24142351
Harper’s Bazaar, September 2014, “Why You Need Pumpkin Seed Oil in Your Skin Care This Fall”: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/skin-care/advice/a3611/pumpkin-seed-oil-benefits/
Livestrong, August 2015, “Uses for Pumpkin Seed Oil”: http://www.livestrong.com/article/153207-uses-for-pumpkin-seed-oil/
Styrian Gold, “Seed Oil Do’s and Don’ts”: http://www.styriangold.ca/cms.php?id_cms=10
Livestrong, July 2015, “What Are the Dangers of Pumpkin Seed Oil?”: http://www.livestrong.com/article/178507-what-are-the-dangers-of-pumpkin-seed-oil/
Original article and pictures take http://draxe.com/pumpkin-seed-oil/ site