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Pumpkin Seed (Nan Gua Zi)

What are pumpkin seeds? What are they used for?

Pumpkin seeds come -- oddly enough -- from pumpkins. The pumpkin is native to America, but is now cultivated worldwide in warm and temperate regions. Although the most common use for pumpkin seeds is as a snack food, the seeds are being used increasingly in medicinal preparations.

Pumpkin seeds are small, rather flat and oval-shaped, sometimes white but usually a vibrant orange. The seeds contain a variety of amino acids, phytosterols and minerals, and an oil, comprised of several acids and carotenoids. Due to the wide variety of pumpkin species, the quality of oil can vary significantly.

In traditional Chinese medicine, pumpkin seeds have sweet and neutral properties and are associated with the Large Intestine and Stomach meridians. They are often used to alleviate pain and expel parasites. In Europe, pumpkin seeds have been recognized as effective for treating conditions such as irritable bladder and stages 1 and 2 of benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is also used to treat enuresis (bedwetting) in children, and to eradicate tapeworms and roundworms.

How much pumpkin seed should I take?

The recommended daily dosage for pumpkin seed, unless otherwise prescribed, is 10 grams of whole and coarsely ground seed for internal uses. The German Standard License recommends a slightly higher dosage: 1-2 heaping tablespoons (15-30 grams total) coarsely ground or well-chewed seeds, taken with fluids, in the morning and evening. It is recommended that the testa, the seed's outer covering, be removed before consumption.

What forms of pumpkin seed are available?

Pumpkin seeds are widely available in a variety of forms -- whole (either raw, dried or roasted), powder, capsule, pill and tablet.

What can happen if I take too many pumpkin seeds? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

As of this writing, there are no known side-effects of contraindications for taking pumpkin seed, and no known interactions with other drugs. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking pumpkin seeds or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


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