Pumpkin seed oil is known to help treat prostate disorders, improve urinary health and promote a healthy heart.
It has also been linked to having cancer fighting properties as well as the ability to grow hair.
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in several unique bioactives, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid.
Pumpkin seed oil is effective in treating an enlarged prostate. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common condition as men age. As the prostate gland enlarges, symptoms such as frequent or urgent need to urinate, increased urination at night, difficulty starting urination or inability to completely empty the bladder becomes a problem (1).
Researchers are increasingly looking into alternative therapies to effectively treat and prevent BPH. In a 2009 Korean study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was performed over 12 months on 47 benign prostatic hyperplasia patients.
Participants received either placebo (group A 320 mg/day), pumpkin seed oil (group B, 320 mg/day), saw palmetto oil (group C, 320 mg/day) or pumpkin seed oil plus saw palmetto oil (group D, each 320 mg/day).
At the conclusion of the study, it was noted that in comparison to placebo, quality of life score improved after three months of treatment in group B (pumpkin seed oil) and group C (saw palmetto oil), while improvements were seen after six months of treatment in group D (pumpkin seed oil plus saw palmetto oil).
Serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) was reduced only in group D after three months. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate. An elevated PSA can indicate an enlarged or inflamed prostate or the presence of prostate cancer (2).
Maximal urinary flow rates were gradually improved in groups B and C, with statistical significance after six months in group B and after 12 months in group C (3).
These results suggest that pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil may be effective as a complementary treatment for BPH. There were also no adverse side effects noted.
Pumpkin seed oil improves overactive bladder. Pumpkin seed oil has been associated with improving urinary disorders, namely overactive bladder syndrome. A 2014 study sought to evaluate the effects of pumpkin seed oil from Cucurbita maxima (the main pumpkin species grown for food, especially in Japan) on alleviating symptoms of this condition.
Forty-five subjects were given an oral dose of 10 g of oil each day for 12 weeks. At the six and 12 week mark, it was noted that the total scores (daytime frequency, nighttime frequency, urgency and urgency incontinence) were significantly decreased compared to the scores at the start of the study.
Pumpkin seed oil decreases atherosclerosis development. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in the artery walls can restrict blood flow (4). Atherosclerosis leads to a range of complications, including coronary heart disease, carotid artery disease and aneurysms. Pumpkin seed is high in unsaturated fatty acids and a rich source of phytochemicals, which help to improve blood cholesterol and aid in cardioprotection.
Researchers in 2015 investigated the potential long-term health effects of replacing saturated fats in diet with unsaturated fats on the development of atherosclerosis.
Using an animal model, mice were fed a Western-type diet containing cocoa butter and cholesterol for 20 weeks. In separate groups, cocoa butter was replaced by refined or virgin pumpkin seed oil (both types of are comparable in fatty acid composition, but different in phytochemical content).
Promising results revealed that both oils decreased LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. In addition, phytochemical-rich virgin pumpkin seed oil exerted an anti-inflammatory effect which attenuated the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (5).
Pumpkin seed oil has antitumor activity. Several studies show that the extracts of pumpkin rind, flesh and seeds show inhibition for cancer cell breast carcinoma and liver carcinoma. Seed oil showed probable cytotoxicity (cell death) against breast carcinoma in the range of 0.40–1.01 mg (6).
Pumpkin seed oil has antioxidant properties. In a 2013 study published in Environmental Toxicology, researchers evaluating the effects of the seed oil on aflatoxin poisoning (a family of toxins) in mice were met with promising results.
At the end of the 21-day study, it was concluded that administration of pumpkin seed oil diminished aflatoxin-induced adverse effects (7).
Pumpkin seed oil is shown to be effective in men with alopecia. Alopecia, a common form of hair loss, affects approximately 50 million men and 30 million women in the U.S. (8)
A 2014 study investigated the efficacy and tolerability of pumpkin seed oil in male patients with mild to moderate alopecia. Seventy-six males received 400mg of oil each day or placebo for 24 weeks.
At the end of the study, the group treated with the oil had a mean hair count increase of 40 percent, while increases of 10 percent were observed in the placebo-treated men. There were no adverse effects in the two groups (9).
Pumpkin seed oil helps treat intestinal parasite infections. In countries such as Germany and China, pumpkin seeds are often recommended in addition to other pharmacological treatments for tapeworms. In China, pumpkin seeds have also been shown to effectively treat acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease that is transmitted by snails (10).
Pumpkin seed oil appears to be safe when taken short-term.
According to a 2009 issue of Nutrition Research and Practice, many patients take it in supplement form for BPH every day without apparent adverse effects (11).
Yet, according to the authors, studies of long-term treatment of BPH patients using pumpkin seed oil is necessary in order to assess the occurrence of side effects.
Due to ongoing human and animal studies, the dosage of pumpkin seed oil is not well-established.
In one study, the dosage to lower cholesterol was 2 g daily.
The dosage in a study to treat BPH was 320 mg/day (12).
Pumpkin seed oil is known to help treat prostate disorders, improve urinary health and lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
It has also been linked to having anti-tumor and antioxidant properties as well as the ability to grow hair. Short-term use in clinical studies has not produced adverse side effects.
Moving forward, researchers are interested in increasing the number of participants taking part in studies along with evaluating a longer observation period for efficacy and side effects. They also want to get a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for its many medicinal properties.