You can find pumpkin spice flavoring in just about anything these days, and when we think of pumpkins, many of us focus on pumpkin pie and carving pumpkins—but the pumpkin seeds themselves have many benefits and are a traditional remedy for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.
Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for urinary conditions, and by 1578, pumpkin seeds were included in a European herbal encyclopedia. We find pumpkin seeds listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1863, and Germany approved its use in 1985 for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition which causes uncomfortable urinary symptoms.
Pumpkin seeds and their extracts are very beneficial for those who suffer from an overactive bladder, incontinence, or have BPH. Overactive bladder and urinary incontinence can be especially dangerous for older people because it can increase the risk of falls in elderly people as they try to navigate to the bathroom at night. However, the condition can affect both men and women of all ages and pumpkin seed oil can be especially helpful for women who have urinary complications after childbirth. There have been no known side effects of pumpkin seed oil.
Pumpkin seed oil extract has reduced episodes of incontinence by 79%, nighttime urination by up to 68%, and daytime urination by up to 39% in studies.
Several clinical trials have found that pumpkin seed oil extract can reduce the symptoms of overactive bladder, and 500-1000 mg/day for 12 weeks decreased the International Prostate Symptom Scores by 41.4% in men who supplemented with the extract. Research in animals has also suggested it might inhibit the growth of the prostate as well.
How does the little pumpkin seed achieve this?
Pumpkin seed oil extract works in two ways. Its anabolic (muscle-building) actions can make more testosterone available to the pelvic muscles and binds to the androgen receptor on the pelvic muscle cells, which can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The urinary incontinence that worsens in women after menopause is due to low levels of all the hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), and pumpkin seed oil extract can assist women who have declining hormone levels.
The other way that pumpkin seed oil extract works is by increasing the synthesis of nitric oxide which is necessary for lower urinary tract health. Nitric oxide is needed for the muscles that cause urination so they relax when the bladder is full, and it can be emptied. If nitric oxide synthesis is reduced or inhibited, the bladder does not relax enough to fill to its capacity and results in a reduced fluid volume and causes bladder hyperactivity.
The thing to remember before trying pumpkin seed oil extract is that it comes in two forms: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble extract is the most powerful and beneficial type of extract for urinary health. You can get some results from fat-soluble extracts, but the gold standard of pumpkin seed extract is the water-soluble extract because it has better bioavailability. Some pumpkin seed oil extract formulations are mixed with soy, so if you’re trying to avoid soy, be sure to only use pumpkin seed oil extract itself.
- Faloon, William. “A Breakthrough in the Relief of Overactive Bladder and Urinary Incontinence.” Life Extension Magazine, Nov. 2008, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f44f/9a1cb2cd8a6d1d559d7c29ed79cc22579398.pdf.
- Nishimura, Mie et al. “Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine vol. 4,1 (2014): 72-4. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.124355