Last week, I told you about pumpkins’ impressive nutritional profile. But there’s even more healing potential hiding inside these festive fall favorites.
In fact, pumpkins have a long history of medicinal use in the Americas, as I’ll explain in a moment.
But first, let’s talk a little about the origins of pumpkins…
The origins of this orange fall décor
The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning “large melon.” And they date back thousands of years to Mesoamerica (modern-day Mexico).
The pumpkin is a vining squash. And it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, along with cucumber, squash, and zucchini.
(A remarkable, natural, no-calorie sweetener called lo han guo also belongs to this versatile family from tropical China and Southeast Asia. You can often find this ingredient listed as a “natural sweetener” in many “super-food” powders, including my very own CoreForce BioBlend.)
Native Americans did not squander this squash
Native Americans used all parts of the pumpkin — including the flesh, flowers, and seeds — as both foods and medicines. And they planted pumpkins and squash together with corn and beans, and referred to this combination as “The Three Sisters.”
Together, all three crops supplied calories, proteins, carotenoids, vitamin A, minerals, and other nutrients. The cornstalks grew tall, providing stalks or bean poles for the beans to climb. And the vines of squash and pumpkin grew in the shade along the ground. Today, this planting method is still used by many gardening enthusiasts.
This hearty plant has tremendous healing potential
Pumpkins sustained the indigenous peoples of North America through the cold winter months. And European settlers in North America quickly learned to use them as well.
In fact, it’s said that Europeans made the first pumpkin “pie” by removing the seeds and filling the shell with cream, eggs, honey, and spices. Then, they buried it in the hot coals of a fire to bake.
Pumpkin seeds are especially nutritious…
They’re high in protein, linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), and bioavailable minerals. Plus, the flesh of the pumpkin contains lots of natural beta-carotene, an antioxidant and metabolic precursor of vitamin A, as well as other vitamin and mineral micronutrients.
In fact, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds have a long history of medicinal use among Native Americans. Pumpkin seeds were often used to treat a variety of kidney problems and parasites.
Additionally, the United States Pharmacopoeia, an annual collection of drug listings, declared pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for parasite elimination from 1863 to 1936. And modern practitioners of traditional medicine still use it to treat rheumatism, swelling, and urinary conditions.
Plus, modern science shows pumpkin and pumpkin seed extracts and oils have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
So — don’t just display your carved jack-o-lanterns this Halloween, consider cooking the flesh for your own pie filling using the recipe I gave you last week.
You can also roast the seeds as a great, tasty, natural source of essential fatty acids and minerals.
When I was young, you could find pumpkins and gourds in stores all the way through Thanksgiving. But years ago, they began disappearing from grocery stores, markets, and roadside stands the day before Halloween. So, make sure to stock up now, so you’ll have plenty of fresh pumpkin to enjoy now through Thanksgiving.
For more information about the health benefits of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, check out the October 2016 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“The healing secrets inside your Halloween jack-o-lantern”). If you’re not already a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started.
“Pumpkin,” Michigan Medicine (uofmhealth.org)