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Pumpkin seed oil factory in Prekmurje, Slovenia
Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca
Dried seed of Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca
Pumpkin seed oil (Kernöl or Kürbiskernöl in German, bučno olje in Slovenian, bučino ulje or bundevino ulje in Serbian and Croatian)and tökmag-olaj in Hungarian is a culinary specialty of south eastern Austriamarker (Styriamarker), eastern Sloveniamarker (Styria and Prekmurje), north western Croatiamarker (esp. Međimurjemarker), adjacent regions of Hungarymarker, and a European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product.

Today the oil is an important export commodity of Austrian and Slovenian parts of Styria. It is made by pressing roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), from a local variety of pumpkin, the "Styrian oil pumpkin" (Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca, also known as var. oleifera). It has been produced and used in Styria's southern parts at least since the 18th century. The earliest confirmed record of oil pumpkin seeds in Styria (from the estate of a farmer in Gleinstättenmarker) dates to February 18, 1697.

The viscous oil is light green to dark red in colour depending on the thickness of the observed sample. The oil appears green in thin layer and red in thick layer. Such optical phenomenon is called dichromatism. Pumpkin oil is one of the substances with strongest dichromatism. Its Kreft's dichromaticity index is -44. Used together with yoghurt, the colour turns to bright green and is sometimes referred to as "green-gold".

Culinary uses

Pumpkin seed oil has an intense nutty taste and is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Browned oil has a bitter taste. Pumpkin seed oil serves as a salad dressing when combined with honey or olive oil. The typical Styrian dressing consists of pumpkin seed oil and cider vinegar. But the oil is also used for desserts, giving ordinary vanilla icecream an exquisite nutty taste. Using it as a cooking oil, however, destroys its essential fatty acids.

Medicinal uses

Claims, based on local folk medicine, suggesting usefulness of the oil in the prevention and treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia may be backed by some studies showing clinically proven efficacy (particularly along with Serenoa repens, saw palmetto, and Pygeum africanum) according to the criteria of evidence-based medicine.

Pumpkin seed oil is most commonly used to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Small studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds, which contain amino acids, steroidal compounds, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, may lower the risk of certain types of kidney stones and improve symptoms associated with enlarged prostates Additionally, pumpkin seeds reportedly contain significant amounts of L-tryptophan. Some studies have also found pumpkin seeds to prevent arteriosclerosis and regulate cholesterol levels.

Pumpkin seed oil, commonly prescribed in German folk medicine, remedies parasitic infestations of the intestinal tract such as tapeworms.

Seed types and oil

Other types of pumpkin seed oil are also marketed worldwide. International producers use white seeds with shells and this produces a cheaper white oil. New producers of seeds are located in China and India.

An analysis of the oil extracted from the seeds of each of twelve cultivars of C. maxima yielded the following ranges for the percentage of several fatty acids:

n:unsat Fatty acid name Percentage range
(14:0) Myristic acid 0.09-0.27
(16:0) Palmitic acid 12.6-18.4
(16:1) Palmitoleic acid 0.12-0.52
(18:0) Stearic acid 5.1-8.5
(18:1) Oleic acid 17.0-39.5
(18:2) Linoleic acid 18.1-62.8
(18:3) Linolenic acid 0.34-0.82
(20:0) Arachidic acid 0.26-1.12
(20:1) Gadoleic acid 0-0.17
(22:0) Behenic acid 0.12-0.58


The study did not distinguish between positional isomers (e.g. ω-3 versus ω-6 linolenic acid). The sum of myristic and palmitic acid (cholesterogenic saturated fatty acids) content ranged from 12.8 to 18.7%. The total unsaturated acid content ranged from 73.1 to 80.5%. The very long chain fatty acid (> 18 carbon atoms) content ranged from 0.44 to 1.37%.

References

  • Dreikorn, K; Berges, R; Pientka, L; Jonas, U. "Phytotherapy of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Current evidence-based evaluation" Urologe A. September 2002; 41(5):447-51. Quotation: "Only a few randomized clinical trials that meet standard criteria of evidence-based medicine but with relatively short follow-up times and some meta-analyses mainly regarding Serenoa repens and Pygeum africanum as well as more recent studies on pumpkin seeds have shown clinical effects and good tolerability."
  • Vahlensieck, W, Jr. "With alpha blockers, finasteride and nettle root against benign prostatic hyperplasia. Which patients are helped by conservative therapy?" MMW Fortschr Med. 18 April 2002; 144(16):33-6. Summary: Established medications for the treatment of BPH in current use are alpha-blockers, finasteride, and the phytotherapeutic agents pumpkin seed (Cucurbitae semen), nettle root (Urticae radix), the phytosterols contained in Hypoxis rooperi, rye pollen and the fruits of saw palmetto (Sabalis serrulati fructus)
  • Dreikorn, K. "The role of phytotherapy in treating lower urinary tract symptoms and benign prostatic hyperplasia". World J Urol. April 2002; 19(6):426-35. Summary: A number of short-term randomised trials and some meta-analyses in the recent literature suggest clinical efficacy and good tolerability for some preparations, mainly extracts from Serenoa repens and also Pygeum africanum, products with high concentrations of beta-sitosterol, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Bracher, F. "Phytotherapy of benign prostatic hyperplasia", Urologe A. January 1997; 36(1):10-7. Quotation: "In this article, the most widely used phytopharmaceutical agents, such as saw palmetto berry extracts, Radix urticae extracts, pumpkin seeds, pollen extracts and different phytosterols, are described. Based on these results, the use of phytopharmaceutical agents for the treatment of mild to moderate symptomatic BPH seems to be well justified."
  • Carbin, B.E.; Larsson, B.; Lindahl, O. "Treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia with phytosterols", Br J Urol. December 1990; 66(6):639-41. Quotation: "In a randomised, double-blind study, the preparation Curbicin, obtained from pumpkin seeds and dwarf palm plants (Cucurbita pepo l. and Sabal serrulata), was compared with a placebo in the treatment of symptoms caused by prostatic hyperplasia; 53 patients took part in the study, which was carried out over a 3-month period. Urinary flow, micturition time, residual urine, frequency of micturition and a subjective assessment of the effect of treatment were all significantly improved in the treatment group."


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