Pumpkin seed oil has been gaining a fan following amongst wellness experts and natural beauty experts as well.
Packed with essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, this oil helps improve heart health, reduces inflammation, improves skin and stimulates hair growth.
What is pumpkin seed oil?
Pumpkin seed oil, also known as pepita oil, is extracted from the unhusked seeds of the pumpkin. Though there are many varieties of pumpkin, its oil is derived from two main types – Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima.
Pumpkin seed oil is obtained through solvent extraction, CO2 or cold pressed method. Though the cold pressed method yields less oil from the seeds, it helps retain the nutrients of this oil.
Cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil is thick and turbid and has to be filtered to reduce its turbidity. It is either dark green or deep red, depending on the thickness of the oil.
This oil has an intense nutty taste. Browned oil has a bitter taste.
History of pumpkin seed oil
Pumpkin seeds have been used for dietary and medicinal benefits since early 1300 AD. Native Americans first used them, and later these seeds became an integral part of the diet in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
The first written evidence of pumpkin seed oil dates back to 1735. At that time this oil was so precious that pharmacies could only use it for the preparation of medicine.
Once the farmers were able to breed pumpkin without a woody seed coat, it became extremely popular. However, it was pressed for own production by farmers in Styria.
It was in the 1980s that this oil became known and started being used in other counties.
Pumpkin seed oil has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for years.
Benefits of pumpkin seed oil
Inflammation can increase the risk of numerous ailments and diseases. Pumpkin seed oil contains healthy unsaturated fats, which help reduce inflammation in the body.
The high fatty acid content in pumpkin oil helps to relieve arthritic pain.
According to a 2015 study, a switch from a diet rich in saturated fats to a diet rich in unsaturated fats can attenuate non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis development.
According to the study, phytochemical-rich virgin pumpkin seed oil exerts anti-inflammatory effects, which result in better health (1).
2. Improves heart health
Pumpkin seed oil has a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats. The oleic and linoleic acids found in pumpkin seed oil help promote heart health by lowering blood pressure, balancing cholesterol levels and protecting against heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis.
Pumpkin oil is also rich in fiber and antioxidants which are beneficial for heart health.
During a 2011 study, researchers gave 40 or 100 mg per kg pumpkin seed oil to rats for six weeks. The results showed that pumpkin seed oil exhibits an antihypertensive and cardioprotective effect through a process that may involve the generation of nitric oxide (2).
During another study, researchers gave 35 postmenopausal women either 2 grams of pumpkin seed oil per day or wheat germ oil for 12 weeks.
According to the results of this study, the women who took pumpkin seed oil had a significant increase in HDL, and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure (3).
3. Supports prostate health
Pumpkin seed oil is beneficial in maintaining a healthy prostate. It has been used for reducing prostate size in folk medicine. Even research has shown that a high level of zinc in this oil is beneficial for the prostate.
According to a 2009 study, when men with benign prostatic hyperplasia were given 320 mg per day of pumpkin seed oil for six months, it reduced their symptoms and improved their quality of life score (4).
In some men, an enlarged prostate can also increase their chances of developing prostate cancer. Pumpkin seed oil can improve urine flow, decrease inflammation in the prostate and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
4. Reduces the risk of cancer and prevents side effects
Pumpkin seed oil has also been linked to reduced risk of certain types of cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer.
According to a 2012 study from Germany, increased consumption of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and soybeans reduced postmenopausal breast cancer risk (5).
Further research also showed that phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds could prevent and treat breast cancer (6).
According to a 2016 study, pumpkin seed extract may also reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells (7).
Methotrexate is commonly used to treat leukemia and other malignancies. It is also used to treat psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis. Gastrointestinal toxicity is amongst the most common side effects of this treatment. Pumpkin seed oil is very useful in preventing small intestinal damage caused by this treatment (8).
5. Relieves anxiety and depression
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in tryptophan, which is an effective treatment for anxiety. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body converts into serotonin and then into melatonin, which is known as the sleep hormone.
Animal-based studies have also shown that pumpkin seed extracts can alleviate depression. Its effect is similar to anti-depressive drugs, without any side effects (9).
6. Treats diabetes
Pumpkin seed oil contains several beneficial nutrients that can help manage and treat diabetes. According to a study from the University of Nottingham, UK, pumpkin fruit pulp, oil from ungerminated seeds, and protein from germinated seeds have hypoglycaemic properties.
The study showed that the macromolecules in pumpkin seeds like trigonelline, nicotinic acid, D-chiro-inositol, possess sugar-lowering properties and could assist in diabetes control (10).
According to a 2009 study from Japan, feeding pumpkin seed paste to rats improved their glucose tolerance and insulin resistance (11).
Regular use of pumpkin seed oil can stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss. Hair loss in men is linked to an increase in dihydrotestosterone, an androgen hormone.
Pumpkin oil is an excellent source of zinc, which helps balance hormones and thus prevents hair loss.
During a 2014 study, 76 men were given either 400 mg per day of pumpkin seed oil in capsule form or a placebo for 24 weeks. The results showed that pumpkin seed oil improved androgenetic alopecia and increased hair count by 40 percent (12).
8. Treats overactive bladder
An overactive bladder causes the need to urinate suddenly, regardless of the amount of urine in the bladder. Pumpkin seed extract can alleviate overactive bladder and incontinence.
According to a 2014 study, pumpkin seed extracts from C. maxima as well as C. pepo are useful for treating urinary disorders (13).
9. Skin care
Pumpkin oil is an excellent source of vitamin E, zinc, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants. These nutrients help reduce skin inflammation, retain moisture, fight free-radicals and help maintain a youthful appearance.
The high levels of fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil help treat a variety of skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, acne and dry, flaky skin.
10. Eases symptoms of menopause
Pumpkin seed oil also helps to lower the symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, headaches and joint pain. During a 2011 study from Jamaica, 35 postmenopausal women were administered pumpkin seed oil or a placebo for 12 weeks.
The results showed improvement in the menopausal symptom scores with a decrease in the severity of hot flashes, fewer headaches and less joint pains (14).
How to buy and store pumpkin seed oil?
Pumpkin seed oil is available in both liquid and concentrated pill form. Pumpkin seed oil pill is more convenient to use and is commonly available in 1,000 mg capsules. You can purchase these from health food stores or through an online retailer.
Due to the high cost of harvesting pumpkin seeds and producing the oil, manufacturers mix sunflower or rapeseed oil into this oil.
Adulterated pumpkin seed oil may not have the same effects and may even cause some side effects. So, always purchase pumpkin seed oil from a reputable source.
You should always store pumpkin seed oil in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. The warmth and light can oxidize the polyunsaturated fats in this oil, causing it to go rancid. The typical shelf life of this oil is between six months to one year.
Side effects of pumpkin seed oil
Pumpkin seed oil is generally considered safe for use when used in food and medicinal amounts. Some individuals can develop an allergic reaction to consuming this oil.
The symptoms include gastrointestinal distress and skin inflammation. Rancid pumpkin seed oil has a strong nasty scent. Avoid using such oil and supplements.
Pumpkin seed oil is extracted from the seeds of Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima. It is either dark green or deep red, depending on the thickness of the oil. This oil has an intense nutty taste.
Pumpkin seed oil contains antioxidants, polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E and zinc which provide it with numerous health benefits.
Using pumpkin seed oil helps reduce inflammation, improves heart health, supports prostate health, reduces cancer risk, relieves anxiety, treats diabetes, stops hair loss, treats overactive bladder and improves symptoms of menopause.
Always buy organic cold pressed, virgin pumpkin seed oil from a reputable source.