What is Pumpkin Seed Extract?
Everyone’s familiar with pumpkin, the all-star of autumn pies and lattes. Dishes based on this seasonal orange gourd are synonymous with fall, but pumpkin seeds have great nutritional wealth every day of the year. One small ounce of pumpkin seed has 30 percent of your daily recommended intake of magnesium and 25 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron.
Pumpkin seed extract comes from the little nutrient-rich powerhouse seeds of pie pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are a little smaller and more orange than carving pumpkins and have flat, green oval seeds (called pepitas). Pumpkin seed extract is most versatile in a concentrated powder. Its powder has a light, nutty taste that pairs well with many dishes and beverages.
Pumpkin Seed Extract Benefits
Pumpkin seed has been used in alternative and home medicines for centuries. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people took pumpkin seed oil to kill parasitic worms and prevent their return (x). To add, people used pumpkin seed extract to treat infections. But in the 21st century, we’re more aware than ever of pumpkin seed extract’s wide-ranging health benefits.
It’s not always handy to reach for a handful of pumpkin seeds. But pumpkin seed extract is easy to add to many dishes and beverages. It’s nutrient dense, containing many different vitamins, minerals, healthy fibers and oils. By any measure, pumpkin seed extract is a nutritional powerhouse (x).
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with antioxidants (x). Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are associated with a host of maladies, including some cancers. Free radicals are nothing more than highly reactive atoms that attach to cell tissues too vigorously; they’re the normal byproducts of cellular metabolism. Although free radicals are normal, in overabundance they linger in tissues, causing cells to undergo oxidative stress, which prematurely ages them and makes them much less effective at doing their jobs. Antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta-carotene and cryptoxanthins scavenge free radicals from tissues and thus prevent oxidative cell damage from free radicals. Antioxidants are also great at reducing inflammation, especially in joints and supporting tissues (x).
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in potassium, folate and riboflavin and are a surprisingly fertile source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (x). These nutrients work alongside antioxidants to cleanse cells from the detritus of metabolic processes. Free radicals, although the natural result of cellular metabolism, degrade tissues and are in part to blame for aggravating arthritis and excessive inflammation in the body. Pumpkin seed is a one-stop supply of everything the body needs to protect itself from them.
Prostate and Bladder Health
Pumpkin seeds are good for the prostate and bladder (x). A study conducted in 2009 showed that pumpkin seed extract helps reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a non-cancerous condition in which the prostate swells, restricting the flow of urine. It’s common in men over 50, and although it’s not life threatening, it can be miserable. The abundant magnesium and zinc in the extract reduce inflammation in the prostate, allowing more comfortable urination and less urinary retention.
Further research suggests that taking pumpkin seeds or their products as supplements can help treat symptoms of an overactive bladder and even reduce its prevalence (x). The extract also helps the body produce nitric oxide, which relaxes muscles and arteries and is necessary for control of the voluntary muscles, which must be relaxed during urination. Without enough nitric oxide, the bladder doesn’t empty because its muscles stay rigid. By boosting nitric oxide, the extract helps reduce urinary retention (x).
Most Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets, but that’s easily correctable (x). Pumpkin seed extract is so rich in magnesium that it’s one of its top three natural sources. Magnesium is a must-have for good heart health. It’s also essential for bowel and bladder functioning and cellular regeneration. Another benefit of the extract’s high-density magnesium is that it helps regulate blood sugar (x).
Magnesium is one of the body’s most in-demand minerals (x). It’s necessary for hundreds of different life-sustaining chemical reactions in your body, which include:
- Controlling high blood pressure (x)
- Lowering heart disease risk (x)
- Regulating normal heart rhythms
- Forming and maintaining healthy bones (x)
- Regulating blood sugar levels (x)
- Regulating mood and supporting healthy mood (x)
- Maintaining healthy cellular regeneration and cell metabolism, especially in seniors (x)
Pumpkin seed has plentiful vitamin K, an essential vitamin for critical life functions (x). It helps the body clot blood, heal wounds and form healthy bone tissues. Nutritional experts believe that vitamin K plays an important part in the health of the heart’s major vessels (x). Vitamin K is also important for good skin health and helps heal bruises, cuts and other superficial skin damage.
Zinc is another mineral necessary for the prostate’s health. It’s also vital for the production of healthy sperm cells. Pumpkin seed extract contains an abundance of zinc and has been shown to improve the motility of sperm (x). Zinc is also essential for healthy immune systems. Research shows that zinc supplementation can shorten the duration of even the most persistent bad cold if taken consistently at its onset (x).
Other Benefits and Uses of Pumpkin Seed Extract
Pumpkin seed extract has shown promise in treating a condition called androgenetic alopecia, a type of hair loss common to men. Over the course of a six-month study, men whom researchers treated with pumpkin seed oil grew 40 percent more hair than those treated with placebo (x).
Reduction in Cholesterol
Phytosterols are a group of plant chemicals that reduce bad cholesterols (LDL cholesterol) in the body. Pumpkin seed extract powder is loaded with them. Phytosterols are very complex molecules and human-made variations don’t work well. To reap their cholesterol-lowering benefits, you must consume phytosterols derived from nature’s own garden — the extract is an ideal source (x).
Blood Sugar Regulation
If you have trouble falling asleep, the extract may help. It’s a rich source of tryptophan, a major component of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) responsible for regular sleep and mood.
The high levels of magnesium in the extract may reduce the incidences and intensity of migraines (x).
Pumpkin seed extract is loaded with dietary fiber, which is great for your body. Fiber promotes regularity and improves the health of your colon and bowel.
Pumpkin Seed Extract Side Effects
Pumpkin seed extract is high in fiber. Although high-fiber foods are great for adding bulk to stool, too much fiber in one meal can cause bloating, flatulence and a feeling of being too full. This extract is very dense in fiber, so it’s important that you space out your intake over the day.
The high-fiber content of the extract can cause diarrhea. Again, modifying your intake should prevent this side effect.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Pumpkin seed extract can lower blood sugar (x). Use caution when taking it with medications, such as metformin, that reduce blood sugar.
Other Side Effects and Warnings of Pumpkin Seed Extract
Lithium and lithium carbonate interact with pumpkin seed extract. It can act as a diuretic, flushing fluids out of the body, causing rapid changes in the amount of lithium in the body. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking the extract if you’re taking lithium.
Pumpkin seed extract can lower blood pressure, which is a great outcome, unless you’re already taking medicine for hypertension. You may experience low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness. Use caution if you’re consuming the extract while taking medication for hypertension.
Pumpkin Seed Extract Dosage
The Bottom Line
Pumpkin seed extract powder is that rare supplement that has it all — critical vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy oils and lots of fiber. Pumpkin seed extract is heart healthy, full of fiber, loaded with magnesium and zinc and rich in healthy oils. It protects the cardiovascular system, reduces swelling and inflammation throughout the body, reduces frequent urination and has been shown to help maintain mood and sleep regularity.
There are many other benefits to the extract. It has one of the highest concentrations of vital minerals and nutrients for the smallest calorie intake available. If you want a supplement that gives lots of benefits without boosting your calorie or fat intake, then the extract may be for you.