Medicine Woman’s Larder – Pumpkin Seeds – Multi-talented for bones and prostate

Medicine Womans larder

Since the focus for the next couple of week is men’s health I thought that I would save this Medicine Woman’s Larder for today.

When I was researching my men’s health book I came across some interesting statistics with regard to the very common problem of an enlarged prostate. In fact if you live to the age of 90 – 9 out of 10 men will have the condition!  Any man over the age of 50 who has a reduction in testosterone is likely to experience mild symptoms that are worth dealing with early. Here is a link that you might find useful if you are a man in your 50s or a partner of a man in his 50s as I have found it is often the person closest to you who notices the changes to your body and behaviour.

As with any alternative therapy it is not permitted to claim that it works unless there is official permission to do so. However, after 20 years of working in nutrition and herbal therapies I have certainly seen some benefits clearly in myself and those I have worked with.

This includes today’s featured food.  Pumpkin Seeds will offer a great many benefits to the whole body but they may also have a therapeutic effect on an enlarged prostate.

Thankfully enlightened scientists are researching the properties and benefits of many of our foods and hopefully in the future their use will be considered  as part of any treatment plan. And as I always say, 1000’s of years of natural medicine across the world cannot be all wrong!  Certainly it is unlikely that eating pumpkin seeds regularly will do as much harm as perhaps taking long term medication.  But, if already taking a prescribed medicine for any condition do not suddenly stop without the knowledge of your doctor.

Pumpkin seeds.

When you look at a handful of pumpkinseeds it is very hard to imagine that each flat dark green ‘pepita’ is packed full of nutrients. Normally eaten roasted these nutty seeds contain protein, fibre, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, all nutrients that provide essential ingredients for good health. They also contain trace amounts of calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, folate and B3 as well as Linolenic acid a property that prevents hardening of the arteries.

They also contain the amino acids arginine and glutamic acid that are also included in the nutrients directory in the link beneath the post.

The therapeutic origins of Pumpkin Seeds.

As with many of our natural remedies, pumpkin and their seeds played a vital role in the diet and health of the American Indian. Not only were they used for male health but also for urinary tract infections and in China they are regarded as a remedy for depression probably due to the presence of good levels of tryptophan and B3.

As with the melon, cucumber and squash the pumpkin belongs to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family but pumpkin seeds are the most adaptable for consumption in their own right.

pumpkin seeds 2

Pumpkinseeds and Prostate health

The reputation enjoyed by pumpkinseeds may be thousands of years in the making but modern research is backing the long held health claims.

It is thought that the oil containing cucurbitacins in the seeds may reduce the hormonal changes from testosterone to dihydrotestosterone that damages and increases the number of prostate cells that results in an enlarged prostate. It is also thought that they may well reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Zinc in the seeds is also an important mineral as it helps to maintain semen volume and health as well as adequate levels of testosterone necessary for a healthy sex drive. The prostate gland actually contains the highest concentration of zinc in the body and certainly foods containing zinc may relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

Apart from its effect on the health of our arteries, it is thought that the Linolenic acid in pumpkinseeds may also improve urine flow among men with enlarged prostate glands.

The selenium in the seeds has many functions in the body but importantly in the case of the male reproductive system it is also believed to improve sperm motility and mobility. It is interesting that nearly 50% of a man’s selenium is found in his testes and it is lost through ejaculation in the semen. Selenium also may protect against enlargement of the prostate as well as reduce damage to the cells that might develop into prostate cancer.

As an antioxidant, selenium may prevent oxidative damage to fats, vitamins, hormones and enzymes involved in normal prostate functioning.

Bone Health

Zinc in the seeds is also an important mineral that promotes bone density an often overlooked factor as men get older. It is often assumed that it is post-menopausal women who are most at risk of hip fractures but in fact nearly a third of these fractures are suffered by men. Declining hormone levels effect men as they reach their fifties and sixties and osteoporosis of the hip and spine are becoming more common as our modern lifestyle results in nutritional deficiencies.


Another side effect of modern life is the increasing levels of unhealthy oxidised LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol in our bloodstream. Although 80% of our cholesterol is manufactured by our livers, if we consume a high sugar, processed food diet full of trans fats we end up with far more than our overworked systems can cope with and process. It then is subjected to free radical damage and forms plaque in the arteries, blocking them and resulting in high blood pressure and ultimately heart disease.

As in the herb Saw Palmetto, phytosterols in pumpkin seeds actively work to reduce the levels of unhealthy cholesterol in our blood stream and eating a handful every day is much healthier in my opinion than eating the very expensive and hydrogenated alternative spreads to butter currently touted in our supermarkets. This also applies to sesame seeds, which has the highest phytosterol content as well as unsalted pistachios and sunflower seeds.

Other health benefits

I consider pumpkinseeds to be a must for everyone’s shopping list due to the nutritional density supplied by just one handful.

In addition to prostate, bone and the health of our arteries, eating pumpkinseeds may well help reduce the inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. In recent studies it was shown that not only did pumpkin seeds work as well as some prescribed medication but it did not have the unwelcome side effects and long term potential to further damage the lining of the joints.

How to eat.

My advice to my male clients is to have a handful of pumpkin seeds everyday as a mid-morning snack.  They are also delicious sprinkled on salads and I also use in fresh baked bread.  A really tasty way for the whole family to enjoy the taste of pumpkin and other seeds is in the form of a butter.  There are a number of recipes online but basically you toast the seeds for about 15 minutes in the oven on a baking sheet and then put into a food processor adding a little virgin oil or coconut oil to the mix to provide a smooth butter finish.  Delicious and good for you.

Here is a link to my health directory where you will find a seies on Cholesterol that illustrates how important the substance is to our health and dispelling some of the myths surrounding it.

©Sally Cronin – Forget the Viagra….Pass Me a Carrot 2013.

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure chest – Saw Palmetto – Hormone Imbalance

In recent years Saw Palmetto has been primarily recommended to men but it is an herb that can also be used by women especially if they are suffering from oestrogen dominance throughout their reproductive years.

saw palmetto

Saw palmetto is a small palm tree with large leaves and deep red/black berries. The berries contain an oil comprising a variety of fatty acids and phytosterols (plant cholesterol that blocks our body’s production of cholesterol).

Like many of our herbal remedies, Saw Palmetto has been used for thousands of years by Native American Indians as a remedy for urinary tract problems, impotence, testicular and prostate disease and reduced sex drive. They also used the berries as a general tonic and to stimulate appetite after illness. Women were also treated with Saw Palmetto for painful periods and to increase levels of breast milk.

As with all supposed folk remedies this herb has come under increasing scrutiny and in some cases poorly conducted research products that tend to confuse the public as to its medicinal benefits.

There is growing evidence however that Saw Palmetto may have very definite benefits for a condition that affects many men over the age of 40 and at least half the men over the age of 60 years old.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is an overgrowth of the cells in the prostate gland probably due to hormonal changes that begin to occur in men over the age of 40. It is not cancerous but it causes the prostate to enlarge and press onto the urethra, the tube carrying urine from the bladder. This causes frequent urination and the feeling that the bladder is never quite empty. In most cases doctors prescribe alpha blockers such as Tamsulosin, but there is increasing evidence that Saw Palmetto can also relieve the symptoms but without the side effects of the drug. These might include loss of sex drive, semen production, dizziness due to a drop in blood pressure and a runny nose.

It is not fully understood how the herb works but it is thought that the fat-soluble extract of the berries may block the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which can stimulate the growth of prostate cells. The herb also exhibits an anti-inflammatory effect, which will also help relieve the swelling and urinary tract discomfort.

Obviously if you are currently taking prescribed medication for this condition you cannot simply stop taking it or start taking Saw Palmetto in tandem. Do consult your doctor beforehand.

Oestrogen Dominance in women

Though we think of declining oestrogen as the hallmark of menopause, it’s actually common for women to experience surges of abnormally high oestrogen levels during the menopausal and pre-menopausal periods, as well as earlier in life. It is believed that an excess of oestrogen, coupled with a deficiency of progesterone (the counter hormone to oestrogen), is the common denominator for a lot of female reproductive problems as well as other apparently unrelated conditions.

Because of our modern diet we are exposed to a huge amount of additives in our food chain and these include hormones which are given to livestock to promote heavier meat yield. This is supposed to be regulated but it was particularly prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s and affected teenage girls who reached puberty during that period.

Even today there is still a lack of regulation about what is put into the feed for animals we are eating and certainly it is my theory that it is not only affecting young women but increasing the menopause symptoms for older women. What is not considered is the effect on men who also experience a reduction in testosterone in middle age and are exposed to oestrogen.

Oestrogen dominance can build up before puberty leading to periods beginning later at 14 and 15 years old. Typically these will be painful when they do start and it is common for doctors to simply prescribe the birth control pill which can lead to more problems than it solves as it further destabilizes the hormone balance.

Symptoms that are associated with excess oestrogen and deficient progesterone are as follows:-

Allergies, breast tenderness, cold hands and feet, decreased sex drive, depression, dry eyes, fat gain in abdomen, hips and thighs, fatigues, headaches, poor hair quality, irregular, heavy and prolonged bleeding, endometriosis, insomnia, foggy thinking and memory loss, sluggish metabolism, water retention and bloating.

Other health benefits of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto has also been used in the past to heal chest infections as it acts like an expectorant helping the body eliminate mucous from the lungs and bronchial tubes. Native athletes would have taken the herb to increase stamina, muscle and strength as well as an anti-inflammatory for injuries. Allegedly it is a mild aphrodisiac, probably because of its hormone balancing properties, and may also help treat urinary tract infections.

Add its mild sedative effect and its alleged ability to stimulate the thyroid and you have a versatile and useful herb to keep in the medicine cupboard.

The herb is available in tincture and capsule form and you should always follow the directions for use. If in any doubt do consult a qualified herbalist to ensure that you are taking the correct remedy.

The usual dosage for the tincture is 10 – 20 drops; two or three times per day in a little water and if in capsule form take once a day after meals.

N.B. The herb is a medicine and should therefore be used with caution when taking any prescribed medication. In particular any medication that contains oestrogen such as the birth control pill, as the Saw Palmetto may decrease the effectiveness. Also should not be taken with anticoagulants and the herb may slow blood clotting. This includes aspirin widely taken as a preventative to thin the blood.

For the other posts in the series:

Thanks for dropping by and would love your feedback. Sally