Posted by: Glow-worm PJ3 NOV 2011
As now happens annually during the build-up to the Hallowe’en celebrations, our supermarkets recently featured prominent displays of pumpkins at temporarily inflated prices.
The pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo, is a creeping annual plant of the gourd family, native to Central America. It was grown by native Americans as part of the “three sisters” tradition of cultivation, along with maize and beans. The maize provided a trellis for the climbing beans, whose roots fixed nitrogen from the atmosphere to feed the corn and squash, and the extensive foliage of the pumpkins acted as a cover to exclude weeds and preserve moisture.
Introduced to the Pilgrim Fathers by the indigenous inhabitants of New England, pumpkins were an important factor in helping the early settlers to survive the long harsh winters.
All parts of the pumpkin plant have been used, but the fruit and seeds are most commonly employed. Pumpkin flesh is rich in both beta- and alpha-carotene, which are powerful antioxidants known to have anti-inflammatory effects, as well as preventing cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels. It is also rich in amino acids, and the seeds in particular are a source of fatty acids.
Studies in China and Russia have concentrated on a protein contained in the seeds called cucurbitin, which has been shown to be effective in the treatment of tapeworm infestations, causing shrinkage in the adult body size and a reduction in ova production by the worms.
Pumpkin oil is an effective diuretic, and it has been used to provide relief in urinary tract infections.
Other studies have shown the oil to be effective in the relief of symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, by improving the function of the bladder and urethra.
In a recent study in Korea, scientists found that proteins extracted from the rind inhibited growth of several fungi, including Candida albicans, which has recently shown resistance to several antimycotics. It is hoped that novel antimycotics may result from further research.