Carving a Halloween pumpkin can be a fun fall activity to share with the kids.
You can then freeze the pumpkin pulp that gets scooped out to use later for making pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie from scratch. The pumpkin seeds can also be saved for roasting to make a tasty, healthy snack for the family.
But, did you know that the oil from pumpkin seeds actually has many other health benefits besides being a healthy alternative to candy corn or fun-size candy bars this Halloween season? Read on to find out more about some of those benefits.
1. Mood and mental health
Both whole pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil have traditionally been used to improve mood—most notably depression. A brief letter to the dditor from a 1991 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry reported positive results from giving pumpkin seeds to a group of eight adult patients who suffered from depression.1
Obviously, this was a small group of patients, but research has been ongoing to replicate these findings with larger groups.
2. Cardiovascular health
Previous research has established the cardiovascular benefits of changing from a diet heavy in saturated fats to those that are unsaturated. As pumpkin seed oil is unsaturated, it is considered one of the “good” fats that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as improve overall cardiovascular health.
A 2015 study in PLoS ONE showed the results of an animal study comparing the effects of a diet including either cocoa butter (a saturated fat) or pumpkin seed oil for development of nonalcoholic liver disease and atherosclerosis among lab mice.2
At the end of the study, the mice fed the pumpkin seed oil showed a protective effect against both the fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis. Furthermore, the researchers noted that the pumpkin seed oil had other beneficial anti-inflammatory effects.2
3. Prostate health
A 2009 article in Nutrition Research and Practice investigated the possible effect of pumpkin seed oil and palmetto oil for treating benign prostate hypertrophy, in which the prostrate becomes enlarged.
This can cause pain and block the normal flow of urine.3 The Korean study followed a group of 47 men for a total of 12 months. They were randomized into groups to receive either potato starch (the control group), pumpkin seed oil, saw palmetto oil, or pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto seed oil.
At the end of three months, quality of life improved for those taking either pumpkin seed oil or saw palmetto oil, while those taking the combination saw improvement after six months.3 Furthermore, maximum urinary flow also improved for those patients who were taking either just the pumpkin seed oil or the saw palmetto oil.
The researchers concluded: “From these results, it is suggested that administrations of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil are clinically safe and may be effective as complementary and alternative medicine treatments for benign prostatic hyperplasia.”3
People usually associate pumpkins with Halloween and Thanksgiving. Recent research, however, seems to indicate that it may also help keep people healthy throughout the year.
1 Axford S, Mutton O, Adams A. Beyond pumpkin seeds. British Journal of Psychiatry. 1991;158(4):573. Available at: bjp.rcpsych.org/content/158/4/573.1.
2 Morrison MC, Mulder P, Stavro PM, et al. Replacement of dietary saturated fat by PUFA-rich pumpkin seed oil attenuates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis development, with additional health effects of virgin over refined oil. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(9):e0139196. Available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2640576%205.
3 Hong H, Kim CS, Maeng S. Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia. Nutrition Research and Practice. 2009;3(4):323-327. Available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809240.
4 Nishimura M, Ohkawara T, Sato H, et al. Pumpkin seed oil extracted from cucurbita maxima improves urinary disorder in human overactive bladder. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2014;4(1):72-74. Available at: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032845.