In recent years, seed oils have received some unpopular attention on social media, with naysayers arguing that consuming any oil from seeds can worsen health. There isn’t solid research to support that notion, though. The truth is that certain seed oils — such as pumpkin seed oil — are associated with numerous potential health benefits, as Harvard University and Consumer Reports note.
Pumpkin seed oil, also called pepita oil, is made by heat- or cold-pressing the oils out of pumpkin seeds, typically those from Styrian pumpkins native to central Europe. Like many plant-based oils, pumpkin seed oil contains unsaturated fats that may promote heart health, as well as antioxidants that could tame inflammation and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. Its phytoestrogens may also help hormone-related issues like menopause symptoms and prostate enlargement. And, if you’re on TikTok, you might be familiar with its most on-trend purported use: treating hair loss.
Although pumpkin seed oil is often sold in supplement form (such as in capsules or serums), it’s also a versatile cooking oil. “You can drizzle pumpkin seed oil on salads, pasta dishes, bread, or any other items where you’d typically use another oil,” says Amy Brownstein, RDN, of Nutrition Digested in Oakland, California. “You can also use it in marinades, sauces, or dressings.”
Although quality research is lacking, here are five possible health perks of pumpkin seed oil that researchers are investigating.
1. Pumpkin Seed Oil May Promote Hair Growth
The internet is awash with claims that a daily dose of pumpkin seed oil will help you grow (or regrow) a lush head of hair — but is the hype justified? Some experts are hopeful. “There is potential for pumpkin seed oil (PSO) to be an effective treatment for hair loss,” says Kristin Draayer, RDN, of Nutrition by Kristin in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “PSO is rich in nutrients like fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.” Theoretically, these may support hair growth and health, though research proving those results is limited.
Several studies have investigated the effects of the oil on hair loss. Draayer points to one study wherein 76 men with mild-to-moderate androgenetic alopecia, which is a common form of hair loss, took PSO supplements or a placebo daily for 24 weeks. The group administered PSO saw a significant increase in hair count compared with the placebo group. Other research has examined the oil’s effects on women. A study published in September 2021 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology compared the efficacy of pumpkin seed oil with minoxidil 5 percent topical foam, a medication used to treat hair loss, in women with female-pattern hair loss. After three months of treatment, both groups had improved measures of hair shaft diversity. The study’s authors concluded that pumpkin seed oil had a promising role to play in treating female-pattern hair loss.
Still, the oil might not be a magic bullet for full, flowing tresses. “It’s important to note that the studies on PSO for hair loss have some limitations,” Drayer says. “Many of the trials have small sample sizes and lack diversity in their participants. Additionally, the mechanisms behind how PSO affects hair growth are not yet fully understood.” Draayer encourages speaking with a board-certified dermatologist before trying pumpkin seed oil for hair growth.
2. Pumpkin Seed Oil May Support Heart Health
Like its more well-known counterpart olive oil, pumpkin seed oil might support cardiovascular health. A study published in July–September 2020 in SciELO Brazil, a medical journal out of Brazil, examined the effects of PSO supplementation on people with varying degrees of medical conditions that affect heart health, including dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Subjects who received a 1,000 milligram (mg) pumpkin seed oil supplement (in addition to a prescription for a healthy diet and lifestyle habits) experienced a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, as well as an increase in HDL (aka “good”) cholesterol, compared with controls who received only healthy diet and lifestyle guidance.
Draayer says the “why” behind these effects likely has to do with the oil’s unique nutritional matrix. “Pumpkin seed oil may be beneficial for heart health due to its unique combination of nutrients, including antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and phytosterols,” she explains.
3. Pumpkin Seed Oil May Reduce Menopause Symptoms
Could hot flashes be cooled with a bit of pumpkin seed oil? Some research has investigated the potential hormone-mediating effects of this plant-based oil. A past study, for example, found that a 2,000 mg PSO supplement taken for 12 weeks reduced symptoms like headaches, hot flashes, and joint pain in postmenopausal women when compared with controls who took another oil, wheat germ.
The study’s researchers theorized that the oil’s phytoestrogens might be the key to taming symptoms caused by low estrogen. “Because phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors, they are [potentially] able to have an estrogen-like effect on the body. This results in improved menopause symptoms,” Brownstein explains.
4. Pumpkin Seed Oil May Help Overactive Bladder
If you have overactive bladder, you’re far from alone. According to research published in Current Bladder Dysfunction Reports, 16.5 percent of American adults live with this condition. Supplementing with pumpkin seed oil might alleviate some of the urgency and excessive urination that come with it. “Pumpkin seed oil contains many vitamins and compounds that may be beneficial to urinary tract health, though the exact mechanism is still unclear,” says Brownstein.
A small past study out of Japan found improved signs of overactive bladder symptoms in participants who received 10 grams (g) of pumpkin seed oil (specifically Cucurbita maxima, a pumpkin species from Japan) daily for 12 weeks. That said, 10 g of pumpkin seed oil is a lot of PSO. “A standard dose for a pumpkin seed oil supplement is 500 to 1,000 mg [0.5 to 1 g] per day,” says Brownstein. Ten g is 10 to 20 times this dose. For urinary health or any other purpose, speak with your doctor before starting a pumpkin seed oil supplement, especially at high doses.
5. Pumpkin Seed Oil May Improve Prostate Health
Pumpkin seed oil may also affect another component of the urinary tract in men: the prostate. A study published in October 2021 in BMC Urology compared the effects of PSO and tamsulosin, a prescription medication used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as enlarged prostate). Both the PSO and tamsulosin had a reduction in symptoms, yet, PSO wasn’t as effective. Yet pumpkin seed oil wasn’t as effective as the prescription medication.
Similarly, in an older study in Nutrition Research and Practice, subjects with an enlarged prostate received either pumpkin seed oil, palmetto oil, or a placebo for 12 months. Those in the PSO group experienced improved urinary flow rate and reported better quality of life after three months. These results were achieved with just 320 mg of PSO per day — a relatively low amount to take in from pills or capsules. The even better news: No side effects were reported from supplementation.