Pumpkins are thought to be originally native to North America, but are now found worldwide. They are an annual creeping plant with twining stems, lobed leaves, yellow flowers and large orange fruit. Pumpkins are harvested in autumn or fall (1).
Pumpkin seeds contain a fixed oil that is mostly linoleic acid (43-56%) and oleic acid (24-38%). Other constituents include protein, sterols, curcurbitin, vitamin E, beta-carotene and minerals (including iron, zinc and selenium) (1).
Pumpkin seed is taken orally for bladder irritations and intestinal worms (3). It is thought to be a particularly safe and effective de-worming agent, particularly in children for whom aggressive and toxic preparations are inappropriate (1).
Traditionally pumpkin seed has been taken to expel intestinal worms (4) with particular effectiveness noted against both tapeworms and roundworms (2) (5). Early settlers in North America mixed ground pumpkin seeds with water, milk or honey to provide a remedy for worms (1).
The United States Pharmacopoeia listed pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for eliminating parasites from 1863 until 1936, and this use for curcurbita was practiced by eclectic physicians at the end of the 19th century. Traditional uses within the United States also included treating bacterial infections of the kidneys and urinary tract infections (3) (6).
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that curcurbitin, a chief constituent in pumpkin seed, has anti-parasitic activity. Human trials in China show that pumpkin seed is helpful to people suffering from schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease. Other human studies in China and Russia have demonstrated the effectiveness of pumpkin seed against tapeworm infestations (6).
Generally pumpkin seed is regarded as safe when taken appropriately. Due to the lack of reliable evidence on the effect of pumpkin seed on pregnancy and lactation, it should be avoided during these times (3).
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Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy Phytochemistry Medicinal Plants. Second Edition as Translated by Caroline K. Hatton.Paris:Lavoisier Publishing,1999.
Bisset NG. ed.Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals.Translated from Second Edition.Boca Raton:CRC Press,1994.
“Pumpkin.” Home Remedies Index. 2002. MotherNature.com. (Accessed May 16, 2003).