Pumpkins are a staple of fall. They can be found at lively pumpkin patches and Halloween mazes. They’re also a popular ingredient in lattes, ice cream, and fall treats such as pie and scones.
Pumpkins also produce an exquisite essential oil that can be used in aromatherapy, skincare, and traditional medicine. The oil is extracted from pumpkin seeds and has historically been used for stress relief, prostate health, and decreased inflammation. Read on to discover more about the uses and benefits of pumpkin seed oil.
What Is Pumpkin Seed Oil?
Pumpkin essential oil, as the name indicates, is extracted from the seed of the pumpkin. The oil is also commonly called pepita oil. The oil can be made using a wide variety of pumpkin types, but the two most common are Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita pepo. The oil can be extracted using a process known as cold pressing, steam distillation, or through the use of solvents.
Solvent extraction typically produces an inferior product and may contain chemicals that are harmful to human health. The process also generally removes all of the antioxidants, flavor, and vitamins in the plant.
Cold-pressed pumpkin oils are considered to be the highest quality compared to steam distilled oils. The cold-pressing process involves extracting the oils by applying high amounts of pressure. This process allows the oil to maintain the healthy properties of the pumpkin plant.
Pumpkin oil contains antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins that make it the perfect addition to an aromatherapy massage or a culinary dish. The essential oil is a particularly good source of omega 6 fatty acids and linoleic acid. It also contains large amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E, which may be beneficial for immunity, skin, and hair. The oil is widely produced in Europe, particularly in Austria. Pumpkin seed oil offers a nutty and slightly sweet aroma and pairs well with carrot seed oil, ginger oil, and palmarosa oil.
Uses and Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seed Oil
1. Reduces Stress
Aromatherapy has long been used to help reduce stress and improve relaxation. Pumpkin oil contains components that make it particularly suited to improving mental well-being.
Research published in the International Journal of Pharma Medicine and Biological Sciences examined the effects of pumpkin seed oil on depression in rats. Researchers found that a distilled extract of pumpkin seed oil significantly reduced depression in rats (1).
2. Prostate Health
The main use of pumpkin seed oil in alternative medicine is to improve the health of the prostate. The oil is used to treat an enlarged prostate and prostate problems such as benign prostatic hyperplasia. In addition, the oil has been used to treat urinary disorders such as overactive bladder.
Research published in Nutrition Research and Practice investigated the impacts of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil on benign prostatic hyperplasia. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial consisting of 47 Korean men over a period of one year. The patients were given potato starch (a placebo), pumpkin seed oil, saw palmetto oil, or a combination of the oils every day. Researchers found that patients who took either oil had significant improvement in their quality of life after three months and improved urinary flow rates after six months (2).
3. Inflammation Benefits
Pumpkin oil contains vitamins and antioxidants that are known to decrease inflammation. While short-term inflammation is an integral part of the body’s healing process, chronic inflammation can cause a host of problems from arthritis to heart disease.
The anti-inflammatory properties help to decrease inflammation, which may improve symptoms of pain and discomfort. In terms of diet, using pumpkin seed oil may help improve health when used in place of dietary saturated fats. In fact, a study published in PLoS found that switching from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats — like those in pumpkin seed oil — significantly decreased inflammation and had pronounced health effects (3). To use pumpkin seed oil for these benefits, use it as cooking oil or use it as a salad dressing base.
4. Heart Health
Millions of Americans suffer from heart disease. Pumpkin oil may help to improve heart health thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers examined the heart benefits of pumpkin seed oil in a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Researchers found that this essential oil boasts antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects thanks to changes in the nitric oxide levels in blood serum (4). Additional research published in 2011 found that pumpkin oil lowered HDL cholesterol and symptoms such as hot flashes in postmenopausal women (5).
Essentially, the oil works to decrease inflammation, which may help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease risk factors such as blood clots.
5. Hair Benefits
Pumpkin oil, like many other essential oils, is a deeply hydrating oil that may improve the health of hair. In fact, this oil has long been used in the alternative treatment of hair loss. Premature balding can be accelerated or triggered by changes in hormones. Pumpkin oil contains large amounts of zinc, which may help to moderate hormonal changes.
Modern medical research on the benefits of pumpkin oil is relatively new and scarce. However, one study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine examined the impact of pumpkin seed oil on androgenetic alopecia — male pattern baldness.
The study consisted of 76 male patients who received a placebo or pumpkin seed oil daily for 24 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that patients who receive pumpkin seed oil had a mean average of 40 percent hair growth compared to placebo (6).
Side Effects of Pumpkin Seed Oil
The main side effect of pumpkin oil is allergic reaction and skin irritation. To avoid this side effect, always apply pumpkin oil using a carrier oil such as coconut oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil. Do not use pumpkin oil if you are allergic to pumpkins or the pumpkin plant. Test the oil on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours before applying to larger areas of skin.
Unlike other essential oils, pumpkin oil is safe for consumption. Add the oil to your favorite baked goods or drizzle it over a salad for a healthy alternative to calorie-laden dressings. Make sure to purchase organic, cold-pressed pumpkin oil for the best flavor and benefits.