Pumpkin Seed and Its Oil
Native to America, pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae) is an herbaceous vine.1 Although it is now grown worldwide, pumpkin has been cultivated in North America and Mexico since 14,000 BCE. Pumpkin seeds contain fatty acids, sterols, tocopherol, carotenoids, selenium, and magnesium salts.2 Other constituents include the amino acid cucurbitin, phytosterols, β-tocopherol, and sqalene.1 Traditionally, the seeds have been used to expel intestinal worms, to eliminate tapeworms, and as a diuretic.
Perhaps one of the most frequent uses, both traditional and modern, is for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).1 A clinical trial of 542 men with early stage BPH and lower urinary tract infection symptoms examined the safety and efficacy of the pumpkin seed extract ProstaFink®Forte (GlaxoSmithKline; Herrenberg, Germany).2 After one year of treatment, the pumpkin seed extract showed significant improvement over placebo. Adverse events were considered of low severity by the physicians. In a study published in 2009, 62 Korean men with BPH were assigned to one of four groups: 320 mg/day of pumpkin seed oil (RIA International; New Jersey), 320 mg/day saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae) oil (RIA International), a combination of 320 mg/day of pumpkin seed oil and 320 mg/day of saw palmetto oil, or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae) starch as a control.3 The researchers found that pumpkin seed oil, saw palmetto oil, and the combination of the two oils were all safe and effective in treating BPH. The authors state that the mechanism of action is well known in that pumpkin seed oil inhibits 5-α-reductase, converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.
A pilot study, published in 2011, examined the effects of pumpkin seed oil on menopausal women. Compared to those who received wheat (Triticum aestivum, Poaceae) germ oil (placebo), pumpkin seed oil was found to significantly increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations and decrease diastolic blood pressure with the addition of significant improvements in menopausal symptom scores.4 In men with androgenetic alopecia, a pumpkin seed oil product (Octa Sabal Plus®; Saerona Co., Ltd; Daegu, South Korea) was found to improve hair growth after 24 weeks of treatment.5
1Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
2Bach D. Placebo-controlled, long-term therapeutic study of a pumpkin seed extract product in patients with micturition complaints from benign prostatic hyperplasia Urology. 2000; 40:437-443.
3Hong H, Kim C-S, Maeng S. Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia. Nutr Res Pract. 2009;3(4):323-327.
4Gossell-Williams M, Hyde C, Hunter T, et al. Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study. Climacteric. October 2011;14(5):558-564.5Cho YH, Lee SY, Jeong DW, et al. Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:549721. doi: 10.1155/2014/549721.