Hey, Pumpkin! (Part 2: Medicine)
Pumpkins may have a reputation for being a favorite autumnal flavor, but they are more complex and powerful than they are given credit for. As if Cinderella didn't prove their magic already, below are a few bibidi-bobidi-boo moments where pumpkins, and each of their respective parts, come in handy for health.
Our eyes, like our skin, naturally lose their flexibility as we age. Because this hardening of the lenses in our eyes is inevitable, preventative measures are vital for healthy peepers. While carrots are a typical go-to, pumpkins actually have all of the essential nutrients to optimize our sense of vision.
Zinc. Essential for a healthy retina.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration–two of the leading causes of adult blindness.
Beta-carotene. Converts to Vitamin A in the body which protects the cornea and allows us to see under conditions of low light.
Lutein and zeaxanthin. Powerful antioxidants that filter out harmful, high-energy wavelengths of light, acting like a sunscreen for our eyes. They also aid in preventing eye disease.
When we talk about pumpkin seeds, we are mostly talking about raw, organic pumpkin seeds. These can be consumed hulled (without the shell) or unhulled to receive the benefits below.
Due to the lack of androgenic activity, pumpkin seed applications can be regarded as safe for the prostate. Pumpkin seeds, rich in zinc, are known for being a non-irritating treatment for benign enlargement of the prostate gland (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)). Pubmed sites this study saying, “Overall, in men with BPH, 12 months of treatment with pumpkin seed led to a clinically relevant reduction in IPSS (The International Prostate Symptom Score) compared with placebo”.
Our hormonal ecology, for both men and women, is constantly bombarded by xenoestrogens (compounds that imitate estrogen) and endocrine disruptors that are in our products, food and environment. Thankfully, pumpkin seeds can play a part in restoring the natural ebb and flow of healthy hormone regulation. Ligand-rich seeds bind to excess hormones roaming around in the body, and essential fatty acids are vital building blocks for hormone production. Pumpkin seeds, specifically, are high in the zinc needed to help promote the progesterone production. A practice known as seed cycling (explained below) is a naturopathic remedy that has been around for years and utilizes pumpkin seeds during the first part of the menstruation cycle to support healthy hormone balance.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Improved Heart Health
As a good source of unsaturated fats, pumpkin seed oil has shown to be a great protector of the heart. One animal study made note that the phytochemical compounds in virgin pumpkin seed oil lowered cholesterol and blood pressure. Another study saw the similar results in decreased hypertension when taking pumpkin seed oil daily over 6 weeks.
Pumpkin seed oil is a common European treatment for urinary disorders, and has also been effective in Native American botanical medicine. Consequently, western medicine is starting to get on board. In one human study, 45 subjects were given 10 g oil/day over a 12-week period showing symptomatic improvement for overactive bladders. Understanding little lifestyle changes that provide this level of benefit can empower us all to be in control and more aware of our own bodies.
Seasonal depression and anxiety naturally kick in as the days shorten this time of year. An article published by the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology stated “… when deoiled gourd seed (a rich source of tryptophan…) is combined with glucose (a carbohydrate that reduces serum levels of competing LNAAs) a clinical effect similar to that of pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan is achieved.” As research develops, it will be great to note that these little gourds sitting on our front porches this season could potentially cure anxiety as well as a pharmaceutical.
Pumpkins, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil can all be introduced into the body in a culinary fashion. As always, look for organically grown and hopefully locally sourced. Recipes that contain the following amounts are the most beneficial: 1 cup of cooked pumpkin, 1 handful of pumpkin seeds, 2 teaspoons (or 2 capsules) of pumpkin seed oil. However, there is one remedy for hormonal balance that needs a more thorough explanation.
As females, we have hormones cycling throughout our bodies at various levels and times. When these cycles don't run like clockwork, we can experience irregular, painful menstruation, acne and even infertility. Seed cycling uses the unique phytochemicals in several different seeds at the appropriate times during our menstrual cycle to keep our female bodies running like the powerful machines they were created to be.
How it works
Dr. Kiran Khaira of Roots Whole Health explains it like this, "The seeds used in seed cycling contain essential fatty acids to support hormone production, as well as chemicals called lignans, which are converted by bacteria in our guts to compounds that can have estrogenic or anti-estrogenic activity, depending on whether you are high or low in estrogen."
Because these phytoestrogens are lower strength that what the body produces, it's a safe and simple therapy that takes a little more time (3-4 cycles) for the body to adjust. We sat down with Dr. Khaira to talk briefly about seed cycling in the video below. For even more information, check out Dr Khaira's blog and get a deeper dive!
How to do it
Day 1 - 14, or until ovulation.
1 tablespoon each freshly ground raw flax seeds and pumpkin seeds daily. These can be incorporated into dishes or consumed or their own. Please use organic, raw (non roasted) seeds when possible.
Day 15 - 28, or until menses.
1 tablespoon each freshly ground raw sunflower and sesame seeds daily. These can be incorporated into dishes or consumed or their own. Please use organic, raw (non roasted) seeds when possible.