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Pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil factory in Prekmurje, Slovenia
File:Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca04.jpg
Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca
File:Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca07.jpg
Dried seed of Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca

Pumpkin seed oil (Kernöl or Kürbiskernöl in German, bučno olje in Slovenian, bučino ulje, tikvino ulje or bundevino ulje in Croatian, ulei de dovleac in Romanian, and tökmag-olaj in Hungarian), is a culinary specialty of south eastern Austria (Styria), eastern Slovenia (Styria and Prekmurje), Central Transylvania, Orastie-Cugir region of Romania, north western Croatia (esp. Međimurje), and adjacent regions of Hungary. It is a European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product.

Today the oil is an important export commodity of Austria and Slovenia. It is made by pressing roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), from a local variety of pumpkin, the "Styrian oil pumpkin" (Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo var. 'styriaca',[1][2] 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 Gleinstätten) dates to February 18, 1697.

The viscous oil is light to very dark 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.[3] Pumpkin oil is one of the substances with strongest dichromatism. Its Kreft's dichromaticity index is -44.[4] 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. The oil is also used for desserts, giving ordinary vanilla ice cream a nutty taste. It is considered a real delicacy in Austria and Slovenia, and few drops are added to pumpkin soup and other local dishes, including, as mentioned, vanilla ice cream. Using it as a cooking oil, however, destroys its essential fatty acids.[5][6]

Folk medicine

There are claims from natural medicine and phytotherapy of usefulness of the oil in the prevention and treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.[7][8][9][10]

Seed types and oil

Pumpkin seed oil in a clear glass vial
A drop on a white plate showing dichromatism

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:[11]

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 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%.


  1. ^ Fürnkranz, Michael; Lukesch, Birgit; Müller, Henry; Huss, Herbert; Grube, Martin; Berg, Gabriele (2012). "Microbial Diversity Inside Pumpkins: Microhabitat-Specific Communities Display a High Antagonistic Potential Against Phytopathogens". Microbial Ecology (Springer) 63 (2): 418–428. JSTOR 41412429. doi:10.2307/41412429.  edit
  2. ^ Košťálová, Zuzana; Hromádková, Zdenka; Ebringerová, Anna (August 2009). "Chemical Evaluation of Seeded Fruit Biomass of Oil Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L. var. Styriaca)". Chemical Papers (Springer Versita for Institute of Chemistry) 63 (4): 406–413. doi:10.2478/s11696-009-0035-5. 
  3. ^ Kreft, Samo; Kreft, Marko (November 2007). "Physicochemical and Physiological Basis of Dichromatic Colour" (PDF). Naturwissenschaften (Springer Science+Business Media) 94 (11): 935–939. PMID 17534588. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0272-9. 
  4. ^ Kreft, Samo; Kreft, Marko (2009). "Quantification of Dichromatism: A Characteristic of Color in Transparent Materials". Journal of the Optical Society of America (Optical Society of America) 26 (7): 1576–1581. PMID 19568292. doi:10.1364/JOSAA.26.001576. 
  5. ^ "The Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds". Health Learning Info. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Healthy Cooking Oils". University of Kansas Medical Center. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Pumpkin Seeds". World's Healthiest Foods. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ Ejike, C. E.; Ezeanyika, L. U. (2011). "Inhibition of the Experimental Induction of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Possible Role for Fluted Pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis Hook f.) Seeds.". Urologia Internationalis 87 (2): 218–224. ISSN 1423-0399. PMID 21709398. doi:10.1159/000327018. 
  9. ^ Gossell-Williams, M.; Davis, A.; O'Connor, N. (2006). "Inhibition of Testosterone-induced Hyperplasia of the Prostate of Sprague-Dawley Rats by Pumpkin Seed Oil". Journal of Medicinal Food 9 (2): 284–286. ISSN 1096-620X. PMID 16822218. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.9.284. 
  10. ^ Hong, H.; Kim, C. S.; Maeng, S. (2009). "Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia". Nutrition Research and Practice 3 (4): 323–327. PMC 2809240. PMID 20098586. doi:10.4162/nrp.2009.3.4.323. 
  11. ^ Stevenson, D. G.; Eller, F. J.; Wang, L.; Jane, J.; Wang, T.; Inglett, G. E. (2007). "Oil and Tocopherol Content and Composition of Pumpkin Seed Oil in 12 Cultivars". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 4005–4013. PMID 17439238. doi:10.1021/jf0706979.  Note: The data are found in Table 3 on page 4010
  • Dreikorn, K.; Berges, R.; Pientka, L.; Jonas, U. (September 2002). "Phytotherapy of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. Current Evidence-based Evaluation". Urologe A. (in German) 41 (5): 447–451. ISSN 0340-2592. PMID 12426861. 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, Jr., W. (18 April 2002). "With alpha blockers, finasteride and nettle root against benign prostatic hyperplasia. Which patients are helped by conservative therapy?". MMW - Fortschritte der Medizin (in German) 144 (16): 33–66. PMID 12043098.  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. (April 2002). "The role of phytotherapy in treating lower urinary tract symptoms and benign prostatic hyperplasia". World Journal of Urology 19 (6): 426–435. ISSN 1433-8726. PMID 12022711. doi:10.1007/s00345-002-0247-6.  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. (January 1997). "Phytotherapy of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia". Urologe A. (in German) 36 (1): 10–17. PMID 9123676. 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. (December 1990). "Treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia with phytosterols". British Journal of Urology 66 (6): 639–641. PMID 1702340. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410x.1990.tb07199.x. 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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