From giving forth to all manner of fantastical creatures in the form of Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, to acting as a fairy coach for that most enchanted of princesses, Cinderella, to being hollowed and rowed down the River Ouse in York in the contemporary day, there is something undeniably captivating about the humble and versatile pumpkin, packed with health benefits.
In French, pumpkin is pompon, which seems as playful and colourful as the voluptuous orange melon (which is actually a berry and which can come in pink, red, green, yellow and white!)
Although the term may be used for many varieties of winter squash, a pumpkin is generally understood in the USA and the UK to be a round, orange squash with a ribbed surface and a sharp-cornered, hard stem. It is a mature fruit, like the other winter squash; summer squash are the same species but harvested earlier in the life of the fruit. Regardless of the shape and colour of the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds are full of health benefits.
All plants in the cucurbita genus contain both male and female flowers. For fertilisation to occur, the bees need to distribute pollen between the flowers. Peponapsis and xenoglossa gourd bees are superior to honey bees at this particular job but sadly, because pesticides have decimated these species of bees, commercial pumpkin farming today is mainly dependent on honeybees.
Once upon a time in Mexico
The oldest recorded appearance of pumpkin occurred in Mexico. Pumpkin seeds dating from between 7000 and 5500 BC have been found here. For instance, pumpkin has been harvested in the Tehuacan and Oaxaca valleys and in Tamaulipas in Mexico since approximately 6000 – 5000 BC. Xicallis, or exquisite drinking cups fashioned from pumpkin shells, gave forth to jicara, which is the Spanish word for cup, and the pumpkin still features prominently in the incomparable cuisine of Mexico. Calabaza En Tacha, or candied pumpkin, is a special Day of the Dead delicacy there.
Spaniards brought pumpkin to Europe and Asia. Soon it became an integral part of cooking all around this wide, wide world of ours, with Antarctica being the only continent where pumpkins are not cultivated. The shell, seeds, flowers, and leaves of the pumpkin are edible and all used in cooking in various regions.
Among other things, the flesh of the pumpkin is high in fibre, beta-carotene (which the human body converts into vitamin A), antioxidants and vitamin C. However, pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) and the lush oil made from them may be the most compelling parts of the pumpkin. Among seeds and nuts, pepitas rank highly in concentration of phytosterols. These are plant composites which may be able to lower bad cholesterol. They are also rich in unsaturated fatty acids and nutrients that help fight cell damage caused by free radicals. Researchers have correlated consumption of these “little seeds of squash” with a lower risk of several types of cancer.(1)
Pumpkin seed oil
“The black-gold of the green region” is the poetic phrase used to describe pumpkin seed oil from Styria, in the east of Austria. This country has prided itself on pumpkin seed oil for years now; Austrians classically use it to dress terrine or meat jelly and cherish it for its healthful properties.
The oil is deserving of the lyric representation. A deep, elemental burnished green in colour, it is almost painterly to look at as it slowly spreads. The colour derives from phytochemicals in the oil, which are precious to the body. How wonderful are the rewards that pumpkin seed oil brings to the eye as well. It is a delight for the taste buds; a profound flavour reminiscent of terra firma, loam, and humus slowly sinks into the mouth and continues to expand.
Regardless of where it is made, pumpkin seed oil is rich in minerals that can be hard to source in other foods. These include selenium, useful for the metabolism and the thyroid. On top of that, zinc is another valuable mineral present in the oil.
Pumpkin seed oil health benefits for men
Many people have noted the positive influence of pumpkin seed oil when taken to aid hair growth, especially in men. Research has backed the use of pumpkin oil in helping male pattern baldness. For instance, a Korean study tracked hair growth in men who took 0.4g (less than a teaspoon) of pumpkin seed oil a day for 6 months. Consequently, it found that these men had nearly double the hair growth. That is pretty dramatic, especially for something as hard to treat as male baldness. You could even say that the results are hairy!(2)
Pumpkin seed oil may also be useful in treating a second pervasive issue for many men, benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), which is a condition that causes uncomfortable swelling in the prostate and may complicate urinating. Another Korean study looked into pumpkin seed oil as an alternative treatment for BPH; the research subjects reported a lessening of painful symptoms and greater ease when urinating.(3) This is consistent with the favourable effects of pumpkin seed oil on the male and female urinary tract, supported by a third study.(4) Between a quarter and a half of a teaspoon of pumpkin seed oil was administered. As a result, subjects noted an emphasised change in distress from overactive bladders, including bed wetting at night.
The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, the bladder, the ureters (two muscles on either side of the bladder), and the urethra. These muscles and organs work together to drain the body of wastes and extra fluid. Think of anything that prevents the urinary tract to function properly as a build-up of sticks in a river, keeping it from flowing as it should. Native Americans, Germans, and Southeast Europeans have used pumpkin and pumpkin seeds as a folk remedy to treat urinary disorders for hundreds of years.
Pumpkin seed oil health benefits for women
Menopause is a time of great discomfort for many women, and here too pumpkin seed oil may bring relief. Research carried out on human subjects showed that pumpkin seed oil brings a lessening of the much dreaded hot flashes, as well as of headaches and joint unease.(5) Pumpkin seed oil is rich in phytoestrogen, which can replace estrogen that reduces in the body as menopause occurs. Further positive effects noted by the study included an increase in good cholesterol and an accompanying decrease in blood pressure in the subjects.
The women receiving the placebo pill reported more depression and feelings of being unloved. It does not surprise us that the sensual pumpkin contains substantial love and warmth to be freely passed on, but it is a beautiful thing to have verification by science!
"It does not surprise us that the sensual pumpkin contains substantial love and warmth to be freely passed on, but it is a beautiful thing to have verification by science!"
Pumpkin seed oil for wellness
Perhaps the most valuable benefit of pumpkin seed oil would be its potency for the immune system. Lignans are incredible phytonutrients which support the immune system; a spoonful of pumpkin seed oil a day during flu season – and all around the year – will provide your delicate and overworked immune system with a strengthening boost and with a wonderful vitality.(8)
Rubbed on the skin, nails, and hair, pumpkin seed oil brings zinc and magnesium as well as fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants to deeply moisturise and nourish. It is a wonderful tool against acne and oily skin.
Sleep is increasingly the elusive Holy Grail of contemporary life; plugged-in society often resorts to chemically composed sleeping pills to provide that unique reservoir of energy and comfort. However, in the long term, we need a better solution. Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted by the body into serotonin. While serotonin is fantastic for mood regulation, it aids sleep because once the end of the day comes, it is adapted by the body into melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates our inner clock. In other words, it is the boss of telling you when to sleep.
More than forty studies conducted over a twenty-year span have told us that tryptophan is most effective in helping mild insomniacs reduce the time it takes them to fall asleep. Anyone who has spent night after night counting endless sheep will be able to empathise with the soothing blessing this would be.(6)(7)
Erbology Pumpkin Seed Oil
Erbology Pumpkin Seed Oil is organic and cold-pressed from roasted pumpkin seeds. This preparation method means that valuable chemical compounds native to the oil will remain intact. Erbology pumpkin seed oil is vegan, gluten-free and clean of any preservatives or genetic modifications.
Key pumpkin seed oil health benefits
- Moisturises and nourish skin, hair, and nails
- Boosts the immune system
- Useful for the metabolism and the thyroid
- Prostate health
- Relieve intensely uncomfortable symptoms of menopause
Pumpkin seed oil recipes
In the autumn and winter, we love warm salads, preferably with a variety of root vegetables and some substantial grains. They satisfy that longing for starch and comfort in a completely healthy way. The apple cider vinegar and mustard in this Buddha bowl recipe provide that essential sharpness and freshness to the wonderfully dense elements, and the pumpkin seed oil ties everything together with its deep, rich nuttiness.
(1) Xanthopoulou et al, “Antioxidant and lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of pumpkin seed extracts,” Food Research International, June-July 2009, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996909000453.
(2) Hye Cho et al, “Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 23 April 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017725/.
(3) Hong et al, “Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia,” Nutrition Research and Practice, 31 December 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809240/.
(4) Nishimura et al, “Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder,” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Jan-Mar2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032845/.
(5) Gossell-Williams et al, “Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study.” Climacteric, October 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21545273.
(6) Hudson, Craig, et al. “Protein Source Tryptophan versus Pharmaceutical Grade Tryptophan as an Efficacious Treatment for Chronic Insomnia.” Nutritional Neuroscience, vol. 8, no. 2, 2005, pp. 121–127., doi:10.1080/10284150500069561.
(7) Hartmann, E, “Effects of L-tryptophan on sleepiness and on sleep.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, 1982-1983, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6764927.
(8) Antimicrobial proteins and oil seeds from pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata). Nature and Science, 2011;9 (3) A. B. Abd EI-Aziz and H.H. Abd EI-Kalek.