Pumpkin Seed Oil

- By: Aimee Regur

Cultivated in Austria, Slovenia, Germany, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Pumpkins are native to the Americas with know cultivation since 14,000 BCE and were one of the first foods along with potatoes to make the return voyage back to Europe. Pumpkins are aggressive herbaceous vines, that love disturbed soils and full sun.

The name “pumpkin” originates from the Greek word pepon, which means “large melon.” The French modified this name to pompon and the British changed it to pumpion, which was later changed by the American colonists to pumpkin. The most familiar and delicious pumpkin pie originates in colonial New England, where colonists cut off the top of the pumpkin, removed the seeds, filled the fruit with milk, spices, and honey, and baked the fruit over hot ashes. Traditionally some Native American tribes dried the skins of pumpkins into strips and wove them into mats. A still used polyculture farming triage, the Three Sisters is the cultivation of pumpkin or another curbit along with corn and beans. This mutually beneficial grouping provides the soil and companion plants with much needed nitrogen from the beans (leguminous), while the corn serves as stalks from growing the beans, and the vining pumpkins or other squashes provide shaded ground cover maintains even temperature and humidity in the soil. All three when the harvest is finished provides ample biomass to protect the soil from erosion after the winter thaw. Corn, beans and squash provide a “complete protein” meaning that all the essential amino acids are present, the building blocks of protein and muscle, while also containing large amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fats, soluble and insoluble fiber, carbohydrates and protein… in essence the 3 Sisters offer a balanced nourishing meal that would sustain people through the long winters. Pumpkin is now a micro-brewers favorite flavorful additive to hoppy beers in the fall.

Pumpkin Seed Oil (PSO) is affectionately referred to as "green gold”, because of its delicate nature, pleasant and mild flavor, make it suitable for culinary applications as 320˚F. It is shelf state and should be stored in a cool and dry place, away from light, though refrigeration is recommended to prolong shelf life.

Pumpkin seedscontain protein, Omega-6 fatty acids (Oleic, Stearix, Linoleic, Linolenic & Palmitic), squalene (a natural and vital part of the synthesis of all plant and animal sterols, including cholesterol, steroid hormones, and vitamin D), phytosterols, β-tocopherol (vitamin E), carotenoids (precursor to Vitamin A, which maintains vision and the health and function of bones, skin, and mucous membranes), trace minerals: magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium and the amino acid cucurbitin. The fruit contains gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has inhibitory effects on the nervous system.

Traditionally, the seeds have been used to expel intestinal worms, eliminate tapeworms, as a diuretic and as a treatment for diabetes. The Iroquois people prepared an infusion of the seeds as a diuretic given to children with reduced urination at night. Curcubitacin, is thought to be responsible for the seed's anthelmintic (anti-parasite) actions. The traditional recipe includes mashing unpeeled seeds into a pulp, then mixing the pulp with milk and honey until reaching a porridge-like consistency. Taken on an empty stomach in the morning, in two doses, followed by castor oil 23 hours later. Another method is to combine 150 g of unpeeled, crushed pumpkin seeds with senna tea. This has been used in children, adults and canines with success.

Modern research shows several bioactive constituents in pumpkin exhibit medicinal properties, such as anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, and antioxidant actions. Specific peptides and proteins found in pumpkin seeds have potent anti-fungal activity and inhibitory activity against fungal infections caused by Botrytis cinerea, Fusarium oxysporum, and Mycosphaerella arachidicola. Additionally, pumpkin proteins display a synergistic effect with antibiotics for the inhibition of the fungus Candida albicans, which can cause mucous membrane infections, such as thrush and vaginal yeast infections. Pumpkin Seeds have many uses for men, including the treatment of androgenic alopecia, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) have lower urinary tract symptoms, acting as a dose-related antagonist to the development of the prostate and related target organs. PSO is also shown to reduced oxalcrystalluria (formation of bladder stones due to the accumulation of oxalate crystals). Protochlorophyll and carotenoids and the high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and tocopherols makes the oil a beneficial treatment of diet-related hyperlipoproteinemia and in preventing atherosclerosis. Pumpkin seed oil was found to significantly increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) concentrations and decrease diastolic blood pressure. Children and adults with ADHD may be deficient in essential fatty acids& amino acids and the use of PSO can be of benefit along with other essential fats and correct diet.

Pumpkin seed oil has exhibited broad spectrum antimicrobial effects in cell culture studies with the following organisms: Acinetobacter baumannii, Aeromonas veronii biogroup sobria, Candida albicans, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serotype typhimurium, Serratia marcescens, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Externally PSO can be used for the treatment of acne, rosacea and other ulcerative conditions. Being an anti-inflammatory and containing squalene an important protective lipid, PSO is a beneficial SPF 6. The high level of tocopherols add potent antioxidant, therefore anti aging properties when applied topically. The carotenoids add to skin elasticity and thickness, for aging and thinning skin. Being non-comedogenic and mild, PSO is suitable for most skin types.

The name “pumpkin head” comes from the early colonists who used pumpkin shells as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and uniform finished cut.

There are many folkloric stories surrounding the pumpkin, from the Irish tale of Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil, has been the main theory as to the origins of Jack-o-lanterns and Halloween. Early Jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips and potatoes by the Irish and Scottish and carried in Celtic celebrations. Lumps of coal were lit on fire and placed inside the hollow root vegetables. When European settlers arrived in America, they found that our American pumpkin varieties were well suited to being carved as a "Jack's" lanterns. For protection, carving ghoulish faces into pumpkins and placing them at your doorstep in October is said to help protect your home from wandering, harmful spirits when the veil to the other world is thinnest on Halloween (Samhain).

The Pumpkin can be found in the French fairytale of Cinderella, to the Hmong (Indigenous Vietnamese) story of Pumpkin Seed and the Snake, in Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, and in the Legend of Sleepy Hallow and the Headless Horseman.

The largest pumpkin ever grown is 1,502 pounds. It was grown by Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island.

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon."

Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

“There are three things that I've learned never discuss with people: religion, politics,
and the Great Pumpkin.”

- Linus It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown