Updated: Oct 21
Scientific Name: Cucurbita maxima
Common Names: Pumpkin seeds, Pepitas
Family: Cucurbitaceae (Gourd)
Pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, or their scientific name Cucurbita maxima, differ slightly from traditional American pumpkin seeds. Pepitas are the shell-less interior of pumpkin seeds but are still classified as pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are oval-shaped with cream-colored husks, while pepitas are the same shape but without the husk/shell, only exposing the green interior of the seed (1). Pumpkin seeds and pepitas are often roasted and enjoyed as a snack, but they are also brimming with health benefits.
Benefits of Pumpkin Seed
How I Use Pumpkin Seed
Benefits of Pumpkin Seed
Rich in Nutrients
Our body needs nutrients to flourish. Without vital vitamins and minerals, our bodies won’t function properly. Pumpkin seeds are rich in complete protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, selenium, folate, and vitamins A, E, and K (2).
Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (3). In studies, through a simple fluorescence technique, pumpkin seed oil’s polar (phenolic) compounds showed protective, antioxidant effects (4). In studies, pumpkin seeds also revealed metabolism activity and protection against genotoxicity in studies (5,6).
Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (7). In older animal studies, rats with arthritis experienced adverse events from anti-inflammatory drugs. Contrarily, rats given pumpkin seed oil had reduced inflammation without side effects (8).
An antiparasitic property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb or seed, can kill, repel, or remove parasites (9). A form of antiparasitic is anthelmintic, meaning a substance that can destroy parasitic worms, like ivermectin (10). Several human and animal studies have demonstrated pumpkin seeds possess anthelmintic properties (11,12,13). One study concluded that naturally occurring compounds in plants, like pumpkin seeds, constitute an alternative to synthetic anthelmintics (14).
May Support Heart Health
Unfortunately, heart disease is the world's number 1 cause of death (15). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it's hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. That’s where pumpkin seeds may help.
Pumpkin seeds increase nitric oxide generation in the body (16). Nitric oxide improves blood flow and reduces the risk of plaque growth in the arteries, posing positive effects on heart health (17). It’s no wonder various studies demonstrate pumpkin seed oil’s ability to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. For instance, one study found using pumpkin seed oil for 12 weeks reduced diastolic blood pressure by 7% while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels by 16% in postmenopausal women (18).
May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
As of 2020, 34.2 million (1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million (1 in 3) Americans have prediabetes (19). In older studies, all parts of the pumpkin (including the seeds and juice) reduced blood sugar levels in animals (20,21). In more recent studies, healthy adults who consumed 65 grams of pumpkin seeds during high-carb meals had decreased blood sugar levels (22).
May Promote Sleep & Relieve Insomnia
It’s said that 70 million adults in the United States experience sleep disorder symptoms; more than half of them experience insomnia, with another 10 to 15 percent being chronic (23). Thankfully, pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep (24). One study notes that consuming 1 gram of tryptophan can improve sleep quality in athletes (25). Although it would take 170 grams of pumpkin seeds to reach that goal, you could incorporate plenty of other foods to reach the 1 gram of tryptophan.
Tryptophan aside, pumpkin seeds are also a great source of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions, including sleep. Low magnesium levels are often the culprit for why people struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, causing a night of restless sleep and frequent awakenings. This is because magnesium supports deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA (24). That would explain why several studies have found magnesium supplementation improves sleep quality and decreases the time it takes to fall asleep in adults with insomnia (25,26).
May Promote Kidney Health
The kidneys are most known for their responsibility to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body through urination to maintain a stable balance of its natural chemicals. This function is needed due to the importance of regulating the body's salt, potassium, and acid content, all performed by the two kidneys (27). An older study found pumpkin seeds’ high phosphorus levels can be used to potentially lower the risk of bladder-stone disease (28).
May Support Prostate Health
The prostate’s primary function is to produce the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm (29). The anti-inflammatory properties in pumpkin seeds are likely responsible for their ability to support prostate health. For instance, several human studies demonstrate that the consumption of pumpkin seeds reduces symptoms associated with (30,31). Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition that enlarges the prostate gland, resulting in urination problems (32). In one study, although pumpkin seeds were not as effective as prescription medications for BPH, pumpkin seed oil reduced symptoms and improved the quality of life in all 73 participants with fewer negative side effects (33).
Furthermore, pumpkin seeds’ zinc content may benefit sperm quality. This is likely because low zinc levels have been associated with reduced sperm quality and an increased risk of infertility in males (34). In animal studies, pumpkin seed oil and vitamin E supplementation improved sperm quality and reproductive performance in roosters (35).
May Support Urinary Health
The urinary tract removes wastes and produces and controls urine (36). Pumpkin seeds may help reduce disorders or problems that might occur within the tract. This is thanks to its diuretic effects, flushing out potentially harmful bacteria and supporting better kidney health (37). Pumpkin seeds’ ability to support prostate health and symptoms of BPH is likely why they can also benefit urinary health. An older study found that 10 grams of pumpkin seed oil extract improved urinary function in participants with an overactive bladder (38).
May Promote Bone Health
Low bone mass affects an estimated 43 million older adults in the United States, leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks (39). Studies have linked dietary magnesium deficiency to osteoporosis. In animal studies, magnesium deficiency resulted in bone loss, a decrease in osteoblasts, and an increase in osteoclasts by histomorphometry (40). Since pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, that would explain why pumpkin seeds can help promote bone health and even help manage arthritis in rats (41).
Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn't have to (42)? Some research suggests the plant compounds in pumpkin seeds can help protect against cancer growth (43). In vitro, pumpkin seed extract slowed the growth and spread of prostate cancer (44). Older studies found that lignans in pumpkin seeds may play a key role in preventing and treating breast cancer (45). A more recent study found that the consumption of pumpkin seeds by postmenopausal women also reduced the risk of breast cancer (46).
⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.
Contraindications & Interactions
The only concern regarding pumpkin seeds is when consumed raw, they may increase your risk of food poisoning. Raw pumpkin seeds may harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. When consumed, the bacteria may cause foodborne illness, leading to symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps (47). This is true with any raw foods.
Additionally, due to the rich fiber content of pumpkin seeds, eating a lot may produce gas, bloating, and constipation, especially when you’re not accustomed to a diet high in fiber. Furthermore, due to their ability to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure, excessive intake of pumpkin seeds may lead to low blood sugar or blood pressure.
How I Use Pumpkin Seed
When I make my own products herbal remedies, I try to buy herbs locally. When buying locally isn’t an option, I typically purchase from one of the following brands I trust:
I haven't had the opportunity to make herbal remedies with pumpkin seeds. Still, I have a few functional food recipes that contain pumpkin seeds, like Pumpkin Seed Tofu Alternative (Pumfu), Italian-Style Pumfu Parmesan, and Just Like Eggs Pumfu Scramble. I also enjoy a few premade herbal products.
Products Recommended with Pumpkin Seed Ingredients
Earthley’s 3-in-1 Soap is perfect for anyone wanting to simplify their cleansing routine, including the littlest of littles. Available in three scents.
Earthley’s Gut Health Oil is an herbal tincture created to help detox your gut for improved health. This product can help to eliminate candida, parasites, and other stomach issues like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and more. It’s also a prebiotic, which encourages the growth of good bacteria in your gut to support better wellness.
MaryRuth's Organic Pumpkin Seed Oil Liquid Drops are easy-to-take drops that may help support urinary tract health and the normal hair growth cycle. It’s rich in beneficial nutrients, such as essential fatty acids. This botanical has also been shown to help maintain healthy blood lipid levels to support cardiovascular function.