Pumpkin Seed Health Benefits

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Active Constituents - Details of Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain several major groups of active constituents:
Essential fatty acids, amino acids, phytosterols (e.g. beta-sitosterol) minerals, and vitamins. Other major constituents include mucilaginous carbohydrates and minerals. Pumpkin seed oil has been used in combination with saw palmetto in two double-blind trials to effectively reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 4, 5 Only one open label trial evaluated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil alone for BPH. 6 Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed extracts can improve the function of the bladder and urethra. This might partially account for BPH symptom relief. 7 Curcurbitin is a constituent in pumpkin seeds that has shown anti-parasitic activity in the test tube. 8 Human trials conducted in China have shown pumpkin seeds to be helpful for people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease occurring primarily in Asia and Africa that is transmitted through snails. 9 Preliminary human research conducted in China and Russia has shown pumpkin seeds may also help resolve tapeworm infestations. 10, 11 The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal parasite infections. Cucurbitin, an unusual amino acid identified chemically as (-)-3-amino-3-carboxypyrrolidine, is the active principle responsible for the anthelmintic (worm-expelling) effects of the drug. It occurs only in the seeds of Cucurbita species, but its concentration is quite variable even in seeds of the same species. This variability probably accounts for reports in the literature that cucurbita seeds are either unreliable or ineffective as a teniafuge. One study showed the concentration of cucurbitin in different samples of C. pepo ranged from 1.66 to 6.63%, in C. maxima from 5.29 to 19.37%, and in C. moschata from 3.98 to 8.44%.
Due to the purported L-tryptophan content of pumpkin seeds, they have been suggested to help remedy depression. 12 However, research is needed before pumpkin seeds can be considered for this purpose. Two trials in Thailand have reportedly found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stone. 13, 14 Pumpkin seeds appear to both reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation. The active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not been identified.
Pumpkin becomes an increasing significance as a source of a high quality edible oil. Besides the seeds are used as an additive in the food industry. Pumpkin seed has been used in traditional medicine in North America and Mexico since long ago as an anthelmintic and as a bladder disease agent. Its modern clinical uses are comparable to its traditional uses in Northern American aboriginal medicine. Pumpkin seeds are considered an alternative treatment for stage I and II benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and for irritable bladder. C. pepo is an annual plant with yellow flowers, a climbing stem up to 12 m long and a fruit with a round shape and fibrous flesh. For medical purposes the seeds of the variety convar. citrullinina GREB. var. styriaca GREB are mainly used. They consist of up to 50 % fatty oil, carotinoids, proteins, tocopherols, phytosterols and phytoestrogens as well. How pumpkin seeds may work in BPH is not currently kown. The hypothesis of phytosterols as active compounds is not supported by studies carried out scientifically. Recently lignans belonging to the group of phytoestrogens have been discovered in pumpkin seeds. Depending on dosage they have estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects. Further investigations have to been made to prove activity of lignans preventing hyperproliferation of prostatic cells and improving irritable bladder symptoms.

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Pharmacology and Health benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Acrodermatitis enteropathica: Acrodermatitis enteropathica is a rare inherited disorder that results in the inability to absorb adequate amounts of zinc from the diet. Anyone who is severely zinc deficient can develop the symptoms of the inherited form of this disorder. Pumpkin seeds, pecans, and Brazil nuts are all high in zinc. However, people with acrodermatitis enteropathica also need to take zinc supplements.

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Anti-Inflammatory Benefits in Arthritis:

The healing properties of pumpkin seeds have also been recently investigated with respect to arthritis. In animal studies, the addition of pumpkin seeds to the diet has compared favorably with use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in reducing inflammatory symptoms. Importantly, though, pumpkin seeds did not have one extremely unwanted effect of indomethacin: unlike the drug, pumpkin seeds do not increase the level of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the linings of the joints, a side-effect that actually contributes to the progression of arthritis.

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Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Pumpkin seeds are considered an alternative treatment for stage 1 and 2 benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In stage 1 BPH, urination is frequent, and causes numerous interruptions of sleep during the night. There may be a delay in beginning urination, and also post-void dribbling. Stage 2 symptoms indicate bladder function debility, and include urgency and incomplete emptying of the bladder. In addition, Commission E also approves the use of pumpkin seed for the treatment of irritable bladder; the seeds may help to reduce childhood incidence of bladder stones in areas where the condition is endemic. A study in Thailand demonstrated that pumpkin seeds reduced oxalcrystalluria (formation of bladder stones due to the accumulation of oxalate crystals) in boys between the ages of 2 and 7, while increasing pyrophosphate, glycosaminoglycans, and potassium values (Suphakarn et al., 1987). Countries where men have traditionally consumed pumpkin seeds to reduce prostate enlargement include Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Ukraine (Tyler, 1993; Weiss, 1988), but as with many promising herbal remedies, while efficacy is established empirically, it has not been proven scientifically. Similarly, how pumpkins seeds may or may not work in BPH is not currently known. One theory suggests that the fatty oil content of the seeds, at a 50% concentration, may precipitate diuresis (Tyler, 1993) and may be of benefit not only in prostate hyperplasia but also in irritable bladder. Others postulate that delta-7 sterols in the fatty oils block dihydrotestosterone from androgen receptors, which may prevent the hyperproliferation of prostate cells (Schulz et al., 1998). This theory is somewhat supported by a small, open study in which six patients who were scheduled for radical prostatectomies agreed to take pumpkin seed sterols for three to four days before the operation. When the prostatectomies were performed, tissue removed from the patients taking the sterols contained much less dihydrotestosterone, compared to dihydrotestosterone levels in the tissues taken from the control group (Schilcher, 1992).
Clinical studies on the effects of pumpkin seed preparations in BPH patients are generally lacking. However, in one study, 53 BPH patients participated in a three-month double-blind study. Results showed that urinary flow, frequency, time spent urinating, post-void dribbling and backwash, and subjective feelings about their symptoms significantly improved in the participants given the pumpkin seed preparation (Carbin et al., 1990). The success of this study indicates that follow-up studies are warranted. The unique chemistry of pumpkin seeds has been shown in double-blind trials to effectively reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Trials in Thailand have shown that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stone, called a calcium oxalate stone. Pumpkin seeds appear to reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation. In Germany, pumpkin seed is official in the German Pharmacopeia, tenth edition, approved in the Commission E monographs, and also official in the German Standard License monographs (Braun et al., 1997; DAB 10, 1991?996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). It is used as a component of a few urological and prostate drug preparations (e.g., Prosta Fink N , by Fink and Prostamed , by Klein) (Weiss, 1988; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). In German pediatric medicine, pumpkin seed preparations (e.g., Granufink K rbis-Granulat, by Fink) are used to treat irritable bladder and also enuresis nocturna (bedwetting). Granufink is a granulated and sugar-coated pumpkin seed from a medicinal cultivar of pumpkin (e.g., Cucurbita pepo L. convar. citrullinina Greb. var. styriaca Greb.) (Schilcher, 1997). In the United States, pumpkin seed was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia fifth through tenth editions (Bombardelli and Morazzoni, 1997). German pharmacopeial grade pumpkin seed consists of the whole, dried, ripe seed of C. pepo and/or different cultivars of this species. Botanical identification must be confirmed by macroscopic and microscopic examinations plus organoleptic evaluation. It must not smell or taste rancid (DAB 10, 1991?996). The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia requirements are comparable to the DAB though it requires an additional identification test by a thin-layer chromatography (TLC) method (BHP, 1996). The German Standard License quantitative standards include not less than 35% diethyl ether-soluble extractive and not less than 0.1% total sterols (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
The Commission E approved pumpkin seed for irritable bladder and micturition problems of benign prostatic hyperplasia stages 1 and 2. The German Standard License indicates its use for supportive treatment in functional disorders of the bladder and for difficult urination (Braun et al., 1997). Childhood enuresis nocturna and irritable bladder have been treated successfully with pumpkin seed (Schilcher, 1997). It has also been used to eradicate tapeworm (Weiss, 1998). Pumpkin seeds are taken principally as a safe deworming agent. They are particularly useful against tapeworms in pregnant women and in children, for whom stronger-acting and toxic preparations are unsuitable. The seeds are also mildly diuretic, and have been used in Central American herbal medicine as a treatment for nephritis and other urinary system problems. Varieties of pumpkin that are particularly diuretic, tonic to the bladder, and high in zinc have been recommended in the early stages of prostate problems. The pulp is used as a decoction to relieve intestinal inflammation, and is applied as a poultice or plaster for burns

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Pumpkin Seeds Promote Prostate Health:

For the good benefit for BPH as mentioned above,Increasing incidence of prostate enlargement in U.S. men has catapulted pumpkin seeds into the health spotlight. These seeds contain chemical substances called cucurbitacins that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into a much more potent form of this hormone called dihydrotestosterone. Without dihydrotestosterone, it is more difficult for the body to produce more prostate cells, and therefore more difficult for the prostate to keep enlarging. The fact that pumpkin seeds serve as a good source of zinc makes them doubly well-suited for this role as a prostate protector, since zinc is a mineral also used by healthcare practitioners to help reduce prostate size.

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Depression:

Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, and for this reason have been suggested to help remedy depression. However, research is needed before pumpkin seeds can be considered for this purpose. It is unlikely the amount of L-tryptophan in pumpkin seeds would be sufficient to relieve depression.

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Traditional Anthelmintic, Taeniacide, Diuretic:

Parasites: Pumpkin seeds have purported effects against tapeworms. Given their safety, they are often recommended as an addition to other, more reliable therapies. In Germany, 200�C400 grams (about 6�C13 ounces) are ground and taken with milk and honey, followed by castor oil two hours later. Tapeworms can cause severe illness and should be treated only with medical supervision. Human studies conducted in China have shown pumpkin seeds to be helpful for people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease transmitted from snails that occurs primarily in Asia and Africa. The assistance of a physician is required to help diagnose and treat any suspected intestinal parasite infections. Pumpkin seed has been used in traditional medicine as an anthelmintic (an agent used to expel intestinal worms), taeniacide (an agent which kills tapeworms) and as a diuretic (Bombardelli and Morazzoni, 1997). Its modern clinical uses are comparable to its traditional uses in North American aboriginal medicine. For example, the Cherokee people used pumpkin seed as an anthelmintic and also as a pediatric urinary aid to treat bed-wetting. The Iroquois people prepared an infusion of the seeds as a diuretic given to children with reduced urination. The Menominee people of Wisconsin used the seed to facilitate the passage of urine (Moerman, 1998). The seeds have been reported to eliminate both tapeworms and roundworms (Budavari, 1996; Tyler, 1993). An amino acid, curcubitacin, is thought to be responsible for the seed's anthelmintic actions (Tyler, 1993). To use pumpkin seed as an anthelmintic agent, one method of preparation is to pound or grind 200?00 g of unpeeled seeds into a pulp, then mix the pulp with milk and honey until reaching a porridge-like consistency. Ingestion on an empty stomach in the morning, in two doses, is recommended, followed by castor oil 2? hours later. Another method is to combine 150 g of unpeeled, crushed pumpkin seeds with senna electuary. An electuary is a preparation made by mixing the drug (e.g., senna) with honey or syrup to form a pasty mass (Weiss, 1988). The seeds are one of the most efficient vermifuges in the plant kingdom. They are particularly useful against taenia or tapeworms in pregnant women. They are also safely taken by children for whom stronger-acting and toxic preparations are unsuitable. *For maximum effectiveness, the seeds must be taken in the correct manner. Fasting for twelve hours is recommended followed by a saline-based cathartic. This cleanses and disinfects the intestines of any remaining fecal matter and also weakens the tapeworm. Two ounces of seeds are then crushed and added to 3/4 pint of milk that has been sweetened with 1/2 ounce of honey and 1 ounce of cane sugar. One-third of this mixture should be swallowed every two or three hours and after the last dose, a moderate amount of Castor oil should be taken (Hallowell). For those who cannot tolerate milk, try soy or almond milk. The seeds are mildly diuretic and have been used in Central American medicine as a treatment for nephritis and other urinary system problems. Certain varieties of pumpkin that are particularly diuretic, tonic to an irritable bladder, and high in zinc have been recommended in the early stages of prostate problems. However, they do not reduce prostate enlargement.

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Kidney stones:

Two studies have found that eating pumpkin seeds as a snack can help prevent the most common type of kidney stone, called a calcium oxalate stone. Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) seeds appear to reduce levels of substances that promote stone formation in the urine and increase levels of substances that inhibit stone formation. The active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not been identified. Approximately 5�C10 grams per day of pumpkin seeds may be needed for kidney stone prevention.

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Protection for Men's Bones:

In addition to maintaining prostate health, another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although osteoporosis is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men. Almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men, and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture. A study of 396 men ranging in age from 45-92 that was published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a clear correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine. (October 18, 2004)

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Medicinal properties and uses of Pumpkin Seeds:

Internal use Vermifuge and taenifuge:
To get rid off intestinal parasites, such as pinworms and, for a long time, widely used to extract taenias or tapeworms from the human body. In the first case, it is advised to eat peeled seeds in the desired amount. In the second case, it is recommended to do the following procedure: Smash 50 gr. of fresh seeds; mix them with sugar or honey. Eat the mixture as the only food for a day in the main meals. After some hours, try to make a deposition and see if the parasite has been expelled. On the contrary, this process can be repeated on another occasion. Laxative: It favours the intestinal transit, being specially interesting the fact that it does not irritate the intestinal tract (Look at the pumpkin as an edible fruit) Anti-prostatic: Recent studies seem to suggest it is very effective, when combined with the lipophilic extract of the palm " Serenoa repens " for the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia. By decreasing the inflammation, this gland doesn't make so much pressure on the urethra, which makes easier the expulsion of urine.
External use Emollient:
To soften the skin dryness or roughness, pimples, spots, freckles, ..Etc. (Apply a facepack made with the pulp of this fruit)
Burnings: By applying the previous treatment on a burning, you favor its healing.
Another uses
We are talking about an edible fruit, with diuretic properties, being so rich in fibers and having poor caloric contents, which make it very suitable to treat obesity and constipation. It's got a great amount of vitamin A and it also contains vitamin C. With a big charge of amino-acids, that may contribute to good health in the following ways: The presence of alanine helping to synthesis of proteins. Arginine plays a good part in the development of muscles and scar healing. Aspartic-acid is very useful to wipe out ammonium. Glycine helps immune system. Histidine is a stimulant. Isoleucine is necessary to a proper body growth and lysine enters also in the growing process and in the formation of hormones and antibodies. It can be eaten in many ways: as confiture ( Not very advised during low-caloric diets ) it can be mixed with another vegetables, or cooked in the oven, in pur�...etc. It is also very valuable to eat courgettes, considering they contain a lot of vitamin A and potassium.

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Pumpkin Seeds as balanced source of good proteins, minerals and vitamins:

They are very nourishing and energizing. Pumpkin Seeds, being high in zinc content, aids the healing process, and is useful in treating an enlarged prostate gland. Other nutrients include magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, potassium, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin. They also contain pantothenic acid, unsaturated oils, and antioxidants. Pumpkin Seeds and husks also aid milk production in lactating mothers, and are used to reduce postpartum swelling of the hands and feet. The medicinal use of Pumpkin Seeds was adopted by Oriental healers sometime in the seventeenth century. When the first explorers arrived in America, they noticed the Pumpkin plant in the cultivated maize fields of the Indians. The native Indians utilized the plant for medicine as well as for food. An emulsion made from a mixture of Pumpkin and watermelon seeds served to heal wounds for members of the Yuma tribe. The Catawba tribe ate the fresh or dried seeds as a kidney medicine, while the Menominee tribe drank a mixture of water, powdered squash, and Pumpkin Seeds to ease the passage of urine. In settler folk medicine, the ground stems of Pumpkin were brewed into a tea to treat "female ills", and the ripe seeds were made into a palatable preparation to dispel worms. Modern folk healers advocate Pumpkin Seeds to rid the body of intestinal worms, and they point out that the seed oil is especially helpful for healing bums and wounds. People of Germany discovered that raw, hulled Pumpkin Seeds contain substances that stimulate sex hormone production. The seeds contain large amounts of zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin B. So, eating a handful of Pumpkin seeds a day may help prevent impotence. Bulgarian mountain dwellers, Hungarian Gypsies, Anatolian Turks, Ukrainians, and Transylvanians all eat Pumpkin Seeds as part of their everyday diets. Originally intended to prevent prostate ailments (probably due to the high zinc content), Pumpkin Seeds have been found by all of these cultures to prevent impotence as well. The Pumpkin is a symbol of prosperity and fruitfulness in China, even though the first Pumpkins actually came from India. In both countries, a popular snack is made by drying Pumpkin Seeds and dipping them in salt. This snack has gained popularity in other parts of the world, including the United States. The seeds are notorious for improving vision. Ethiopians chew Pumpkin Seeds (which contain fiber) as a natural laxative.

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A Rich Source of Healthful Minerals, Protein and Monounsaturated Fat:

In addition to their above-listed unique health benefits, pumpkin seeds also provide a wide range of traditional nutrients. Our food ranking system qualified them as a very good source of the minerals magnesium and iron, and as a good source of manganese, copper, protein, monounsaturated fat, and as previously mentioned, zinc. Snack on a quarter-cup of pumpkin seeds and you will receive 57.7% of the daily value for magnesium, 34.4% of the DV for iron, 29.7% of the DV for manganese, 19.2% of the DV for copper, 16.9% of the DV for protein, 19.7% of the DV for monounsaturated fat, and 21.4% of the DV for zinc.

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Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH):

Pumpkin seed oil has been used in combination with saw palmetto, in two double-blind trials, to effectively reduce symptoms of BPH. Only one preliminary trial has evaluated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed oil alone for BPH. Researchers have suggested the zinc, free fatty acid, or plant sterol content of pumpkin seeds might account for their benefit in men with BPH, but this has not been confirmed. Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed extracts can improve the function of the bladder and urethra; this might partially account for BPH symptom relief. Pumpkin seed oil extracts standardized for fatty acid content have been used in BPH studies in the amount of 160 mg three times per day with meals. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia reported prostatic action (BHP, 1996). The Merck Index reports its therapeutic category as anthelmintic (Budavari, 1996). The constituents tocopherol and selenium may have a protective function towards the oxidative degradation of lipids, vitamins, hormones, and enzymes. Protein fractions of pumpkin seed are thought to function as trypsin inhibitors (Krishnamoorthi et al., 1990; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). A recent review of studies on the therapeutic activity concluded that pumpkin seed inhibits 5a-reductase in vitro. In vivo, it has demonstrated anti-androgenic and anti-inflammatory activity (Bombardelli and Morazzoni, 1997).

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