Super Snacks: Pumpkin Seeds

Native to North America, pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have long played an important role in the medicinal traditions of many native cultures throughout the United States and Mexico, with uses ranging from healing burns and cuts with the seed oil to ridding the body of intestinal worms.

Nutrients

Similar to many edible seeds, pumpkin seeds are packed full of nutritional and medicinal value. Just one cup provides the body with 17% daily value of iron, enough to improve anemia associated with iron deficiency, 16 % DV of manganese, 22% DV of copper, 42% DV of magnesium, 44% DV of zinc and 17% DV of potassium. In addition to this, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, Omega 3 fatty acids. They also contain niacin, folic acid, riboflavin thiamin and antioxidants. They are a great choice for an energy boost between meals and don’t cause a spike in blood sugar.

Aside from a healthy snack, pumpkin seeds have been used medicinally to treat the following:

Bladder Function

Pumpkin seeds have been found to be diuretic and to aid in the treatment of urinary tract infections and prostate disorders. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, these seeds contain chemicals that promote the elimination of water from kidneys and bladder. Due to this, pumpkin seeds have been useful in treating conditions such as kidney infection, bladder inflammation and urinary retention caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia.

The primary symptom of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is frequent urination. Research done by the University of Maryland Medical Center has found that a compound known as Beta-sitosterol, which can be found in pumpkin seeds, improves urinary flow in cases regarding an enlarged prostate.

Studies at Vienna University have discovered that the men of Transylvania have very few cases of enlarged prostate. Research in the Transylvanian Alps has attributed this to the Transylvanians’ big appetite for pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds also contain large amounts of magnesium, which have been proven effective in the treatment of prostate related illnesses.

Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy, unsaturated fats necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Other than pepitas, good sources of Omega-3s include walnuts, flax, salmon and beans. These fatty acids treat inflammation and may lower risk for cardiovascular disease, arthritis and cancer. Studies have found Omega-3s to be essential for brain health and that they improve its cognitive and behavioral functions. While prenatal vitamin supplements are often taken to improve the brain development of the fetus, medicinal amounts of pumpkin seeds should not be taken during pregnancy.

Relieves Anxiety

Pumpkin seeds are also said to relieve anxiety due to their high concentration of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that helps the body regulate sleep patterns, appetite and mood. Since tryptophan has been shown to raise serotonin levels, it has been used medicinally in the treatment of various conditions including insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Pumpkin seeds also contain the Vitamin B6, folic acid and magnesium required for the metabolization of tryptophan.

Intestinal Worms

Pumpkin seeds are also recommended for the treatment of intestinal parasite infections, as they also contain a chemical found to be effective against intestinal worms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Intestinal parasite infections can be acquired when a person comes into contact with contaminated food or water and are most commonly acquired during travel to foreign countries where water purification systems are not available. The harmful parasites found in the United States are giardia and cryptosporidium. They can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, fatigue and weight loss.

Menopause

A study where women were given 2,000 mg of pumpkin seed oil over a course of 12 weeks showed the following results: they had a reduced blood pressure, an increase in HDL cholesterol, and a decrease in problems relating to hormone insufficiency such as hot flashes, headaches and joint pain.

 

Human studies with pumpkin have shown few side effects, although there is the potential for allergic reactions to pumpkin. An excess use of this plant may also produce negative effects on liver function.

 

sources: Greenmedinfo.com, Livestrong.com, Holisticonline.com

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