Scientific Name(S): Cucurbita pep.o L. (pumpkin or pepo), C. maxima Duchesne (autumn squash), C. moschata Poir. (crookneck squash). Family: Cucurbitaceae.

Botany: The members of this genus are plants that develop long vine-like stems that produce large edible fruits. The large, yellow flowers are eaten in some Mediterranean cultures; whereas, the fruits are eaten world­wide. Many cultivated varieties can be found throughout the world.

History: The seeds of several species of cucurbita have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. They have been used to immobilize and aid in the expulsion of intestinal worms and parasites. Traditionally, the seeds of Cucurbita species are ingested after grinding or as a tea. The amount of seeds that can exert a pharmacologic effect appears to vary by species, from as few as 50 g to more than 500 g. These are usually taken in several divided doses. Some cultures suggest eating small amounts of the seeds on a daily basis as a prophylactic against worm infections. The seeds also have been used in the treatment of prostate gland disorders.

Uses of Cucurbita

Squashes, pumpkins, and other fruits of this family are consumed throughout the world. Flowers and seeds of some species are eaten. Seeds of some species are a traditional vermifuge. Also, components of some seeds may be useful in treating prostatic disorders.

Side Effects of Cucurbita

Severe toxicity has not been reported with the use of cucurbita extracts

Toxicology: Severe toxicity has not been reported with the use of cucurbita extracts. In a 53-patient, randomized, double-blind trial, no side effects from C. pepo were noted. Ingestion of C. maxima seeds by rats and pigs over a 4-week period resulted in no changes in glucose, urea, creatinine, liver enzymes, blood counts, etc. One report on C. moschata describes dermatitis.

Summary: Seeds of Cucurbita species have been used throughout the world for centuries as a vermifuge. The active component, cucurbitin, is an effective vermifuge agent in vitro and may also be effective in humans. Cucurbita also demonstrates antimalarial and antitumor activities. The plant improved symptoms of BPH in one trial. It may be useful in diabetes, but more human research is warranted. Preparations of this plant have not been generally associated with toxicity.

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