The culinary and medicinal value of pumpkin seed oil dates back hundreds of years. Pumpkin seed oil was a staple in the diet of ancient Aztecs, while Native Americans used the oil to treat kidney maladies and to eliminate intestinal parasites. The oil has also long been used in many folk remedies. In recent years, several studies have been conducted to determine the medicinal effects of pumpkin seed oil. Research has revealed the numerous health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, along with few side effects.
Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to help men with benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. BPH is a condition that affects many men over age 50. It causes enlargement of the prostate gland and results in a various urinary symptoms. Studies show that pumpkin seed oil helps reduce the effects of BPH by inhibiting testosterone-induced prostate growth. One study noted that that “the protective effect of pumpkin seed oil was significant.”
Pumpkin seed oil has been showed to help women suffering from overactive bladder and stress incontinence by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. One study showed significant improvement in women given a combination of pumpkin seed oil and soybean seed extracts. The only reported side effect in this study was mild stomach upset.
Pumpkin seed oil is high in zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that protects the retina and slows the progression of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness. The Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton in England reports that zeaxanthin "may be far more important in preventing or stabilising macular degeneration than previously realised."
Pumpkin seed oil reduces the effects of BPH in men and overactive bladder in women, resulting in better sleep since fewer trip to the bathroom are made. Better sleep improves overall health.
Pumpkin seed oil contains significant amounts of carotenoids and tocopherols, both of which have antioxidant properties. Carotenoids are high in vitamin A and tocopherols are a good source of vitamin E.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to providing the antioxidants vitamin A and E, pumpkin seed oil is a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil also provide lubrication to joints, thereby protecting against inflammatory conditions such as joint disease and arthritis. Pumpkin seed oil is also rich in phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
Pumpkin seed oil has, so far, not been found to cause negative side effects (beyond mild stomach upset) or to interact with medications. It is always wise, however, to discuss add new supplements or changing you dietary regimen with your physician before beginning.
Using Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil supplements are readily available in health food and nutritional stores. The nutty-flavoured, dark green cold-pressed oil isn’t as widely available, but may be found in health food stores or where gourmet food products are sold. The oil is best used raw, however, as the nutritional value is lost through heating and cooking. Raw cold-pressed oil is a healthy addition to salad dressings or for dipping bread.