Pumpkins and mustaches are both important symbols of fall. Pumpkins are of course essential for Thanksgiving and Halloween, while mustaches are iconic for men’s health issues that get recognized every fall. Growing a mustache for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September through to Movember is a lighthearted annual tradition that increases awareness of serious issues affecting men, like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide, while raising money for prostate cancer research.
In an interesting twist, pumpkins could themselves become recognized emblems for men’s health one day. Cucurbita pepo, as pumpkin is officially known, may help with prostate issues such as prostate enlargement, and reduce symptoms that can otherwise negatively affect quality of life. Pumpkin seeds have long been used in herbal medicine for the prostate and related urinary issues, and it is thought that pumpkin seed oil can play a role in supporting prostate health and relieving benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Pumpkin seeds and preparations thereof are approved by the German Commission E for use in cases of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
Of course, pumpkins are equal opportunity gourds. At Flora we get calls from both men and women who have been asked to take a small amount of pumpkin oil daily for urologic symptoms at the insistence of their doctors. While many of these physicians have read articles that show that even a small amount of pumpkin oil can help with lower urinary tract symptoms related to enlargement of the prostate, there is also at least one study that has found pumpkin seed oil helpful in general cases of overactive bladder, and another showing other benefits in post-menopausal women, as well.
However, urology specialists agree that pumpkin products are particularly helpful for men, for reducing or limiting the oh-so-common prostate enlargement that the majority face at midlife and beyond. One reason it can help to eat a handful of seeds is because the pumpkin seeds are a rich, plant-based source of zinc. In addition to zinc aiding overall immunity, prostate function relies on optimal zinc levels and men require larger amounts than women. Additionally, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oils contain phytosterols, which means plant sterols. These protective compounds may improve prostate health. Pumpkin seed oil may contain over a dozen sterols, including campesterol, beta-sitosterol, and stigmasterol.
These sterols are potentially helpful for symptoms of BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is caused by changes in hormone balance. Androgen hormone imbalance can influence hair loss, and the overproduction of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, can overstimulate prostate cells. It is thought that sterols in pumpkin seeds can prevent the multiplication of prostate cells and pumpkin oil can be helpful with hair growth. The American Botanical Council reported as early as the late 1990’s on a cell study where pumpkin seed extracts inhibited the conversion of testosterone into DHT in cultures of human fibroblasts. Since then, 4 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials of patients taking sterols from pumpkin seed reported significantly better urinary flow rate, voiding time and voiding ‘completeness’.
In addition to sterols and zinc, pumpkin oil contains interesting phenolic compounds like caffeic acid, gallic acid, vanillin, vanillic acid and apigenin, and healthy fatty acids like palmitic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid, which can vary somewhat depending on the variety of pumpkin seed and their origins. The oil contains pigmented antioxidants, including green-hued proto-chlorophyll and red-hued carotenoids, which give it a unique multi-tonal look. It is also a rich source of other antioxidants like tocopherols (vitamin E) and contains a uniquely high amount of squalene and a mild natural steroid called delta-7-sterine, too.
The reddish carotenoid pigments in the oil may also play an important role in lowering the risk of BPH. According to a report in European Urology, doctors at the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche in Milan sought to find nutritional interventions to prevent prostate problems. They compared 1,369 men with surgically treated BPH to 1,451 control men, and found BPH risk decreased by 20% with each 2.6 mg increment in dietary carotene intake. Other nutrients, like iron and vitamin C, were beneficial as well. They also discovered that when it comes to some nutrients, whole food sources were more beneficial than supplements with isolated compounds.
If you or a male in your life would like to incorporate the whole food support that pumpkin can offer, try to include a handful of organic pumpkin seeds 2-3 times a week, and aim to ingest pumpkin seed oil regularly – even a ¼ teaspoon daily may be enough! Flora is a quality source for pumpkin oil. Flora offers Organic Pumpkin Seed Oils made from seeds carefully sourced from Washington state. Seeds are selected for their purity, flavour and benefits, then expertly fresh-pressed without heat and bottled without oxygen.
Do you have any further questions about Flora pumpkin oils? Call product Information at 1 888 436 6697 for more information.
Flora is offering you a 15% savings on Culinary Oils right now, simply apply the code CULINARY15 at checkout.
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.