Pumpkin seed oil is the edible oil made from pumpkin seed kernels. It is made from particular varieties of pumpkin, especially cultivated for their high oil-yielding seed kernels. Pumpkin seed oil is a thicker, more flavorful oil, preferred for use fresh on food. Other uses include cosmetic use, for skin care, hair loss management and hair care in general, and use as a complementary therapeutic agent for BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia management. It is a high unsaturated fatty acids oil and a good source of vitamin E and pigmented antioxidants. Its nutrition recommends it for cardiovascular health and for its antioxidant action-related health benefits.
What is pumpkin seed oil?
Pumpkin seed oil is an edible seed oil made from the hulled and roasted seeds of pumpkins. By definition, a pumpkin is a winter squash with ribbed, smooth or warty-like rind, ranging in color from pale and golden-yellow or bright-orange to deep green, deep and light green, green with yellow or orange and white-gray. However, just as there are preferred varieties of pumpkin for making pie (e.g. the typical pumpkin) or for use as culinary vegetables in risottos or other meals (e.g. butternut squash), there are preferred varieties for oil-making. For example, the Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo var. styriaca is used to make the famous Styrian pumpkin oil.
What does pumpkin seed oil look like?
The appearance of pumpkin seed oil depends primarily on the variety used. In general, pumpkin seed is a liquid and viscous, dark-colored oil that appears almost black, with dark green and dark red/maroon reflexes and a golden-brown undertone. In a thin layer the oil appears dark green in color, especially on a white background, but in a thicker layer it appears dark red, a property known as dichromatism (having two colors). Varieties of pumpkin with whitish (not green-grayish) kernels are becoming more and more attractive for oil production; these yield a slightly less viscous, light-colored, whitish pumpkin seed oil.
What does pumpkin seed oil taste like?
Pumpkin seed oil has a strong flavor profile, with a pregnant nutty taste, likely owed to the roasting of the kernels prior to oil extraction. It is a particularly flavorful oil, best suited for use fresh on food (.e.g. salad dressing). Cooking heat alters the unsaturated fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil, reducing its beneficial properties, which limits its use in the kitchen.
Properties of pumpkin seed oil
- Edible seed oil (food-grade) made from roasted pumpkin kernels (in rare cases, whole pumpkin seeds, kernels and hulls, are used).
- Can be cold-pressed, solvent-extracted or extracted through the supercritical carbon dioxide method.
- Can be unrefined or refined (production information available on the label).
- Carrier oil, non-fragrant, but slightly odoriferous, and flavorful (strong nutty taste).
- Cosmetic oil, suitable for face, skin and hair care.
- High vitamin E-oil (good source of alpha, gamma and delta-tocopherols).
- High unsaturated fat-oil, with 73.1% to 80.5% unsaturated fat content.
- High Omega-6 oil (polyunsaturated linoleic acid).
- High Omega-9 oil (monounsaturated oleic acid).
- Low-Omega-3 oil (alpha-linolenic acid, ALA).
- Allergenic potential. Not to be used by anyone allergic to pumpkin seeds!
Fatty acids profile and nutrition
Not all pumpkin seed oil is the same. The variety of pumpkin from which the oil-yielding kernels are sourced, seed maturity, choice of extraction method and any processing undergone before and after extraction all determine fatty acids profile and impact oil properties. This being said:
- Pumpkin seed oil fatty acids profile and nutrition facts:
- Unsaturated fat content: 73.1 to 80.5% (high)
- Saturated fat content: up to 29% (moderate)
- Omega-6 (polyunsaturated linoleic acid) content: 36.2% to 62.8%
- Omega-9 (monounsaturated oleic acid) content: 17% to 39.5%
- Omega-3 (polyunsaturated alpha-linolenic acid, ALA) content: less than 1%
- Omega-7 (monounsaturated palmitoleic acid): up to 0.5%
- Gadoleic acid (unsaturated): up to 0.17%
- Palmitic acid (saturated): 12.6% to 18.4%
- Stearic acid (saturated): 5% to 8.5%
- Arachidic acid (saturated): up to 1.12%
- Behenic acid (saturated): up to 0.6%
- Vitamin E content: alpha-tocopherol (27.1 to 75.1 microg/g), gamma-tocopherol (74.9 to 492.8 microg/g), delta-tocopherol (35.3 to 1109.7 microg/g)
- Other micro-nutrients in pumpkin seed oil (content currently undetermined, but presumed to be extremely low): vitamin A from carotenoid antioxidants (alpha, beta-carotene), vitamin K, possibly also iron or zinc.
Also read about the uses and benefits of pumpkin rind.
What is pumpkin seed oil used for?
Pumpkin seed oil is used for culinary and cosmetic purposes and as a nutritional supplement to enhance health and improve various conditions. Here is a list of its most prominent uses:
- Culinary use: Specialty oil, used fresh on food to add flavor. Not meant to be cooked (nutritional properties and flavor profile are sensitive to cooking heat).
- Cosmetic use for hair care and skin care: As a type of carrier oil, you can use pumpkin seed oil directly on the hair and skin to enhance, protect and repair.
- Nutritional supplementation. Pumpkin seed oil is available in capsules for use as a dietary supplement for cardiovascular health as well as for improving fertility in women and men.
- Health-related uses: What is pumpkin seed oil good for? Well, the specialty oil is used in a complementary approach for the management of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), for bladder control and the maintenance of urinary tract health, for promoting hair growth in both men and women dealing with hair loss and for getting rid of intestinal worms and other parasites.
What are the benefits?
There are many health benefits attributed to pumpkin seed oil, but what is it really good for? Does it really promote hair growth in men and women? Does it help with bladder control, incontinence or BPH in men? Does it represent a viable treatment for urinary tract infections, worms and intestinal parasites? Here is the truth about the benefits of pumpkin seed oil:
- Pumpkin seed oil benefits for BPH. The benign, age-related condition is caused by an increase in cell numbers resulting in abnormal growth. Animal studies show taking pumpkin seed oil alone or in combination with phytosterol-F can help mitigate the condition and restore a closer to normal function. See study here.
- Potential benefits for bladder control. Pumpkin seed oil is a common OTC treatment for an overactive bladder and incontinence in both men and women. Users report an improvement in bladder control, with fewer trips to the bathroom during the night. The effective dosage is reported to be 2,000 mg a day (the equivalent of 2 soft-gel capsules of pumpkin seed oil supplements), taken morning and night.
- Pumpkin oil for hair growth. Typically, hair loss has two major causes in both men and women: genetic and endocrine. The more serious the underlying causes, the more severe the hair loss. Taking pumpkin oil supplements does not promote intensive hair growth indeterminately or stop hair loss completely, but both internal use as supplementation and external use directly on the hair may potentially help mitigate hair loss issues. How? A few small-scale studies show supplementation with pumpkin oil oil can potentially induce new hair growth by inhibiting the action of an enzyme known as 5α-reductase. As much as 30% to 40% new hair growth has been observed in men with male-pattern baldness over the course of a 24-week study. External use provides much needed nutrition and strengthens the hair, and possibly also blocks hormone action directly on the scalp. See study here.
- Cardiovascular benefits. Pumpkin seed oil is high in healthy unsaturated fatty acids and actively promotes cardiovascular health by contributing to healthier cholesterol numbers, namely lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
- Anti-inflammatory benefits. As a high unsaturated fat-oil, pumpkin seed oil exerts an anti-inflammatory action and can provide benefits in instances of cardiovascular disease through supplementation as well as healing properties when used externally on the skin.
- Benefits for the skin. High in vitamin E, pumpkin seed oil is great for use on the skin, providing protection against oxidative stress and reducing free radical damage, with anti-aging benefits at cell level. The fatty acids in the oil contribute to cell membranes and help skin better retain moisture for a more youthful appearance.
- Potential benefits for cognitive function. A healthy diet, higher in unsaturated fatty acids, can help maintain the brain young and supports cognitive functions such as memory, thinking and attention, contributing to delayed cognitive decline.
- Benefits for the nervous system: High in vitamin E, pumpkin seed oil helps with proper conduction of electrical impulses along nerves, contributing to normal neuro-motor function, while the unsaturated fats help build up nerve cell membrane. Also see the benefits of pumpkin leaves and find out all about the benefits of pumpkin flowers.
What are the side effects?
- Allergic reactions. Although it has a low allergenic potential compared to common allergens such as soy, eggs or peanuts, there is a small possibility that pumpkin seed oil can lead to allergic reaction that could potentially amount to anaphylactic shock. If you know or suspect you are allergic to pumpkin seeds, avoid the oil, seeds and all preparations containing them. If you experience localized or generalized itching with raised, red bumps, swelling or closing of the airways, wheezing and difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal upset, low blood pressure and a fainting sensation following , seek medical help immediately.
- Digestive upset. People taking pumpkin seed oil as a dietary supplement have reported digestive upset with side effects such as lower abdominal cramps, stomach pain, loose stools and diarrhea.
- Other side effects. Fever, muscle weakness, a general feeling of unwell, blurred vision have been known to occur with pumpkin seed oil supplements, although it has not been determined if the side effects are caused by the oil, other ingredients or potential contaminants. If this is the case, discontinue consumption and see a doctor immediately.