What Is It?
Numerous species of the Cucurbita genus are native to North America. Their fruits (mostly squash) have long been used for food, and their seeds for healing. Well-known Cucurbita species include autumn squash, butternut squash, China squash, crookneck squash, summer squash, and the famous Halloween squash and adornment: the pumpkin (C. pepo).
All Cucurbita plants are relatively large and grow on vinelike stems, producing yellow flowers and flattened, oval seeds. Many varieties are cultivated around the world. In health-food stores, cucurbita seeds are often sold as pumpkin seeds.
The seeds of cucurbita plants are particularly nutrient-dense, providing notable stores of protein, fiber, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, as well as the amino acids arginine and glutamic acid. The seeds also contain calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, folate, and niacin.
The seeds of certain Cucurbita varieties, including the pumpkin, contain linolenic acid, a nutrient believed to help prevent hardening of the arteries.
Eating a ground-up mixture of the seeds–or simply snacking on a small handful of seeds once or twice a day–can calm the irritated and overactive bladder occasionally associated with bedwetting. Germany’s Commission E has approved using pumpkin seeds for bedwetting and other bladder problems.
Specifically, cucurbita seeds may help to:
Eradicate intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms and roundworms. Perhaps the most enduring folk use for cucurbita seeds is to eliminate intestinal parasites, a use largely explained by the eventual discovery of an unusual amino acid called cucurbitin in the seeds. This active ingredient is believed to paralyze the worms over time, forcing them to loose their grip and get expelled from the body.
To confuse matters, however, the concentration of cucurbitin in Cucurbita plants varies widely, which may explain why some herbalists have had positive experiences in treating intestinal parasites with the seeds while others have not.
Prevent and relieve symptoms of prostate enlargement. Several years ago, researchers noted that men who live in countries where cucurbita seeds are a regular part of the diet suffer lower rates of prostate problems. And many men who take on a therapeutic regimen of eating cucurbita seeds say that their symptoms of prostate enlargement have improved.
The use of cucurbita seeds for prostate symptoms can be traced back to Native American healers. Today, a number of European countries (including Germany) approve of their use for lessening urination problems in men with early stage (I or II) benign prostate enlargement, medically known as benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH. The exact mechanism for the seeds’ effectiveness is uncertain but it may involve a fatty oil in the seeds that promotes urine flow. (The fatty oil appears to block the action of the hormone dihydrotestosterone on the prostate gland).
In one of the few clinical trials on cucurbita seeds (pumpkin specifically) for BPH, significant improvements in such symptoms as post-void dribbling, weak urine flow, and time spent urinating were reported in many of the participants. Fifty-three men with BPH took part in this three-month, double-blind study completed in 1990.
Preliminary findings also indicate that the seeds may reduce hormonal damage to prostate cells, possibly reducing the future risk of developing prostate cancer.
–Cucurbita seeds are sold in the shell and shelled, roasted and raw. They can be found in health-food stores and some supermarkets.
–The oil in cucurbita seeds can easily go rancid, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer and be sure to discard them by the date indicated on the package.
For anti-worm actions: Make an emulsion by grinding up the seeds, mixing them with some sugar (or honey) and some milk (or water). Sip this mixture in three daily doses, ingesting a total of about 2 ounces of the emulsion. Alternatively, make a tea with the ground seeds by infusing them in hot water; allow the brew to cool slightly before straining and sipping. Don’t take more than 16 ounces at one time.
For preventing and treating prostate enlargement (in early stages): Chew a handful of cucurbita seeds every day.
Guidelines for Use
You can “harvest” your own cucurbita seeds from fresh pumpkins or other squash, then roast the seeds on an oiled baking sheet in a slow oven until crisp.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with cucurbita seeds.
Possible Side Effects
There are no known side effects associated with the use of cucurbita seeds.
If you are experiencing bothersome or troubling symptoms of possible prostate enlargement (weak urine flow, frequency, post-void dribbling and backwash, for example), see your doctor.
Keep in mind that although the seeds may relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, they have not been proven to actually reduce the size of this gland.
If you suspect that you have intestinal parasites of any kind, consult your doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Then you can discuss your desire to treat the condition with cucurbita seeds.