The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil—also called pepita oil—is the oil extracted from the seeds of a pumpkin or Cucurbita maxima. The orange-red oil is sold as cooking oil and as a health supplement. Research suggests pumpkin seed oil can prevent and reverse hair loss, ease menopause symptoms, improve prostate and heart health, and treat overactive bladder.
Study-proven uses for pumpkin seed oil include lowering cholesterol, easing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men, reducing hot flashes and hormone-related headaches in women, and reversing hair loss.
Pumpkin seed oil contains phytosterols, which are structurally similar to the body’s cholesterol. Phytosterols compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system, which can block cholesterol absorption and lower cholesterol levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Pumpkin Seed Oil for Hair Loss
A study published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that when men took 400 milligrams of pumpkin seed oil per day (in capsule form) for 24 weeks, they saw an increase in hair growth.
Those who took pumpkin seed oil saw a 40 percent increase in hair count, whereas men who took a placebo saw a 10 percent increase in hair count.
While this study was funded by a private company, the study authors reported no conflict of interest.
Relief of Menopausal Symptoms
A pilot study conducted on 35 menopausal women found that those who took pumpkin seed oil (rather than wheat germ oil) experienced increases in HDL cholesterol, a decrease in diastolic blood pressure, and fewer menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, and joint pain.
Study authors suggested that more research is needed to confirm their results.
Urinary Tract Health
Research has linked pumpkin seed oil to improved prostate health and relief from overactive bladder.
A study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicinefound that when study participants consumed pumpkin seed oil as an extract for 12 weeks, they found relief from overactive bladder symptoms.
A that compared pumpkin seed oil to saw palmetto oil in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) showed both oils to be effective individually for improving maximal urinary flow rate. Taken in conjunction, pumpkin seed and saw palmetto oils reduced serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.
Possible Treatment for Metabolic Disease
A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture examined the use of pumpkin seed oil on metabolic disease in rats. Scientists found that pumpkin seed oil may be helpful in the prevention or treatment of metabolic disorder in rats who were fed a high-fat diet. However, rodent studies don’t provide strong evidence that humans will experience the same benefit. These studies simply offer clues to researchers so that further studies can be developed.
Possible Treatment for Blood Pressure, Prevention of Heart Disease
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that pumpkin seed oil may have the potential to lower blood pressure and provide other benefits to prevent heart disease. This study was also performed on rats, so it is unclear whether humans would experience these same benefits.
Possible Side Effects
The Therapeutic Research Center Natural Medicine Database reports that pumpkin seed oil is probably safe when consumed orally and appropriately.
However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to avoid using the product in amounts greater than those found in food because there is not enough evidence to supports its safety.
Dosage and Preparation
As a supplement, pumpkin seed oil is sold in dosages ranging from 100 mg. to 2,000 mg.
Pumpkin seed oil is also available as a cooking oil that can be used in a variety of different recipes, including salad dressing, marinades, and toppings. Some even recommend pouring a small amount of pumpkin seed oil over ice cream—its nutty flavor makes a tasty treat.
Pumpkin seed oil has a smoke point of 320F or lower and should not be used for frying, sautéing, stir-frying, or other forms of cooking with heat.
A typical serving of pumpkin seed oil is 2 teaspoons, which has 80 calories and 9 grams of fat. Most of the fat in pumpkin seed oil is polyunsaturated fat, specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Research has shown that these essential fatty acids can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease.
You’ll also get a small amount of monounsaturated fat when you consume pumpkin seed oil. Monounsaturated fats are considered good fats because they can help boost your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.
What to Look For
When purchasing pumpkin seed oil for cooking or as a supplement, choose cold-pressed oil. This means the oil has been extracted out of the pumpkin seeds using pressure rather than heat. This retains more of the health benefits and antioxidants that are depleted by heat.