10 Amazing Benefits Of Pumpkin Seed Oil + Prostate & Heart Health


umpkin dishes are admired by epicureans and its seeds are popular snacking delicacies. It is believed that the pumpkin seeds were the only part of the vegetable consumed by the ancient humans. Although pumpkin was one of the earliest domesticated vegetables, unlike the modern day pumpkin, the flesh of its ancient ancestor, the wild pumpkin, had a bitter taste and, therefore, discarding the flesh, the ancient humans consumed only the pumpkin seeds. However, what many of us are not aware of is that the oil extracted from the pumpkin seeds, that few of us care to include in our diet, is one of the most nutritious oils, blessed with a number of health benefits. [1]

Though popularity of pumpkin seed oil is gradually rising across the world, it has been a popular culinary specialty in Austria, Slovenia and Hungary for a long time. In these regions of Europe, pumpkin seed oil is widely used as salad dressing. The pumpkin seeds are cleaned, dried, grounded, kneaded and roasted. At 100 to 130 degree Celsius temperature, the roasted seeds are pressed. Almost 98% of the fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil comprise of mono and polyunsaturated fats. The four prominent fatty acids found in the oil are oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid and palmitic acid.

In addition, pumpkin seed oil is a good source of vitamin E, which is present in the form of alpha and gamma tocopherol and tocotrienol. It is also one of the best sources of plant sterols and carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein. [2] However, the exact content of the fatty acids depends upon the pumpkin variety. Compared to the oil extracted from the white seeds, the concentration of unsaturated fatty acid is higher in the oil sourced from black pumpkin seeds.

Roasting the pumpkin seeds increases the total sterol content from 1710 mg/kg to 1930 mg/kg. Protochlorophyll present in the oil and the thin hulls in the seeds gives the oil its green color. Depending upon the thickness of the oil, it can be light to dark green in color. Owing to the presence of protochlorophyll, pumpkin seed oil is sensitive to light. To retain its stability, pumpkin seed oil should therefore be stored in a cold dark area. Because of its intense nutty taste, pumpkin seed oil is traditionally used for making salad dressing. [3]

Pumpkin Seed Oil Benefits

Consumption of pumpkin seed oil entails a number of health benefits.

1. Helps Fight Prostate Gland Enlargement

Pumpkin seed oil is best known for its beneficial effect on the prostate gland. Preliminary studies suggest that it helps in inhibiting hyperplasia or enlargement of the prostate gland induced by the male hormone testosterone. Research suggests that pumpkin seed oil works through various mechanisms in fighting enlargement of prostate gland. It helps in decreasing the weight of the prostate gland and lowers the protein content and level of the enzyme prostatic acid phosphatase in the prostate gland. It helps in increasing the testosterone to estradiol ratio and modulates metabolism of cholesterol.

These beneficial effects of pumpkin seed oil appear to help in lowering the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate gland enlargement. According to a small trial, ingesting pumpkin seed oil with saw palmetto for three months helps in increasing the Qmax or maximum urinary flow in men with BPH. Studies suggest that consuming 320 mg of pumpkin seed oil per day may help in improving the health of the prostate gland. Furthermore, pumpkin seed oil is considered safe and can be used alone or along with conventional treatment. [4]

2. Helps Lower Cholesterol

The antioxidant and polyunsaturated fatty acid rich pumpkin seed oil helps in lowering the total cholesterol level. In a study using animal model, researchers had found that ingesting pumpkin seed oil along with the cholesterol-lowering medication simvastatin for three weeks caused significant reduction in the total lipids and cholesterol levels in animals with diet-induced elevated cholesterol level. Moreover, the study has shown that the side effects of simvastatin treatment such as increase in the creatine phosphokinase and aminotransferases can be avoided by combining pumpkin seed oil with the cholesterol-lowering medication. [5] According to a study, virgin pumpkin seed oil is more effective than refined pumpkin seed oil in decreasing the very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. The lipid-lowering effect of pumpkin seed oil helps in lowering risks of atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. [6]

3. Helps Reduce High Blood Pressure

Pumpkin seed oil is also known to lower the elevated blood pressure. An experimental study suggests that the antihypertensive effect of pumpkin seed oil is due to its ability to stimulate nitric oxide production. It seems to be as effective as the conventional calcium channel blocker drugs. [7] In another study, researchers found that consuming pumpkin seed oil for four weeks before administration of the blood pressure lowering drugs or combining pumpkin seed oil with the medications caused significant improvement in blood pressure management. The antioxidant effect of pumpkin seed oil seems to improve the potency of the medicines and helps in slowing down the progression of hypertension. [8]

4. Good For The Heart

Pumpkin seed oil is heart-friendly oil. The cholesterol and blood pressure lowering effects of pumpkin seed oil are primarily responsible for its beneficial effect on the heart health. According to animal studies, by decreasing the blood pressure, pumpkin seed oil helps in maintaining the normal heart rhythm and lowers the risk of sudden cardiac death. [9] Studies suggest that replacing the saturated fatty acids in the diet with the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) rich pumpkin seed oil helps in decreasing risks of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the cholesterol reducing property of the oil, its anti-inflammatory effect associated with the phytochemicals present in virgin pumpkin seed oil helps in fighting atherosclerosis. [10]

5. Beneficial For Postmenopausal Women

Owing to the presence of phytoestrogens, pumpkin seed oil is believed to help in low estrogen conditions. A study published in Climacteric, the Journal of the International Menopause Society, had revealed that postmenopausal women who took two grams of pumpkin seed oil for over twelve weeks reported significant improvement in the symptoms of menopause. Pumpkin seed oil helped in reducing the severity of hot flushes, joint pains and headaches associated with menopause. In addition, ingesting pumpkin seed oil significantly increased the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level and lowered the diastolic blood pressure level. [11]

6. Fights Hair Loss

In men, androgenetic alopecia is a common cause of hair loss. Almost 70% of men experience androgenetic alopecia after the age of 50, which is induced by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It causes miniaturization of the hair follicles and decreases the duration of the active phase of hair growth or the anagen phase and increases the resting or the telogen phase. Pumpkin seed oil is known to obstruct the enzyme 5-alpha reductase that converts testosterone to DHT. According to a clinical study, men with mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia who took 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil daily for 24 weeks had more hair count than men who took a placebo. An increase of 40% in mean hair count was observed in men who ingested pumpkin seed oil. [12] The DHT lowering effect of pumpkin seed oil can also help women experiencing male pattern baldness. In women, apart from thinning of scalp hair, DHT stimulates growth of unwanted body and facial hair. [13]

7. Helps In Reducing Urinary Disorder And Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder is a common symptom of urinary disorder. It especially affects elderly people. The common symptoms of an overactive bladder are frequent urgency to urinate with or without urinary incontinence and nocturia or excessive nighttime urination. Pumpkin seed oil is found to be effective in improving the symptoms of human overactive bladder. In a study, researchers found that ingesting 10 grams of pumpkin seed oil for 12 weeks helped in reducing the severity of the overactive bladder symptoms. [14]

8. Helps Fight Inflammation

Pumpkin seed oil is known for its anti-inflammatory effect. In an experimental study, researchers found that pumpkin seed oil exhibited anti-inflammatory effect similar to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) indomethacin in rodents with arthritis. It helps in reversing most of the changes in the parameters that occur during arthritis including the changes observed during the chronic phase. Moreover, unlike indomethacin, pumpkin seed oil did not elevate the levels of lipid peroxides. [15] Apart from helping arthritis patients, the anti-inflammatory activity of pumpkin seed oil appears to help in averting small intestine damage caused by methotrexate, a drug used for chemotherapy and suppressing the immune system. Researchers had identified ellagic acid present in pumpkin seed oil as one of the key constituents of the oil responsible for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. [16]

9. Skin Care

You can also incorporate pumpkin seed oil in your skin care routine. It can be used as base or carrier oil for diluting essential oils. As pumpkin seed oil has a thick consistency, 20% of the oil should be combined with some other carrier oil. [17] Rich in vitamins A, C and E, the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and zinc, pumpkin seed oil is believed to be good for wounds, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, burns and scars. This is very rich oil. Pumpkin seed oil is added to creams, lotions, balms and salves. [18] It is considered an effective moisturizing agent for the dry and damaged skin. Loaded with nutrients, it helps in maintaining the youthful tone of the skin and helps in fighting skin aging. [19] Experiment studies suggest that pumpkin seed oil can also help in speeding up healing of wounds. The high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid, sterols and tocopherols help in the healing process. [20]

10. Good For The Mental Health

Pumpkin seed oil is believed to be good for the health of the brain. Experimental studies suggest that when ingested, pumpkin seed oil helps in inhibiting memory impairment. It seems to work by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity and inflammation in the brain. Moreover, the antioxidant activity of pumpkin seed oil, by reducing oxidative stress, helps in fighting memory loss or amnesia. [21] In Ayurveda, massaging the head with pumpkin seed oil is recommended to improve memory. It is also believed to help in reducing anxiety, insomnia and fever. [22]

Pumpkin seed oil is extracted from the seeds of two pumpkin varieties, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita pepo L. The oils produced from the seeds of these two varieties are considered to be of the highest quality. [23] Pumpkin seed oil is believed to be safe when consumed in food or medicinal amounts. Though side effects are rare, nevertheless, intake of pumpkin seed oil in medicinal amount is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Studies suggest that one to two pumpkin seed oil tablets or capsules can be taken daily to reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. When taken along with saw palmetto, people with BPH can take 160 mg pumpkin seed oil one to three times a day. For fighting male pattern baldness, 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil divided in equal doses can be taken daily. [24]

The best quality pumpkin seed oil is produced in Styria in Austria and Slovenia. The top grade pumpkin seed oils hold a number of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certifications. The oil produced from Styrian pumpkin seeds is dark viscous oil extracted through a gentle pressing process. The PGI certified oil from Slovenia is unrefined edible vegetable oil extracted from the best quality roasted seeds obtained from the different parts of Slovenia. Being high-quality pumpkin seed oil, it is an expensive vegetable oil. [25]

To enjoy the health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, add it to your diet and make sure that the oil you are buying is of the best quality and free of adulteration. Unrefined pumpkin seed oil is considered best for culinary use. It is best used for enhancing the tastes of salads, soups, steamed vegetables and fish and hot crusty bread. To moderate the robust flavor of unrefined pumpkin seed oil and to increase its smoking point, a small amount of pumpkin seed oil should be blended with a larger amount of monounsaturated fat. To retain the optimal taste and nutritional value of the oil, it should be stored in the refrigerator and used up within a short period. [26]