We often hear that pumpkin seeds can be used for intestinal parasites, but what is the reality of the situation?
Here is what science says about it.
What are intestinal parasites?
Intestinal parasites are organisms that live in the intestines of humans or animals, causing them harm.
They feed off their hosts and release toxins, such as metabolic waste, into their body.
Globally, intestinal parasite infections are one of the main causes of human disease and mortality1.
WHO estimates that nothing but amoebic infections cause 40-100 thousand deaths annually2.
What are common intestinal parasites?
The most common human intestinal parasites are worms and protozoa in developing countries and protozoa in developed countries2.
Worms (helminths) include2:
- Nematodes (roundworms)
- e.g., Ascaris, pinworms, and hookworms
- Cestodes (tapeworms)
- e.g., Taenia and Echinococcus
- Trematodes (flatworms)
- e.g., liver flukes and blood flukes
Roundworms are known to infect 3.5 billion people every year3.
- Ascaris lumbricoides
- Trichiuris trichiura
- Giardia lamblia
- Entamoeba histolytica
What are the symptoms of intestinal parasites?
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Sleep disturbances
What are the causes of intestinal parasites?
Intestinal parasitic infection is often associated with drinking stagnant water in tropical countries.
Although some parasites are more common in tropical climates, others are found in temperate zones.
Parasites and their eggs are present in the water we drink and the food we eat, especially in:
- Raw vegetables and fruits
- Undercooked meat and fish (e.g., sushi).
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are the edible seeds found in orange winter squashes.
Shelled pumpkin seeds (seeds with a white outer husk) are known as pumpkin kernels.
However, once the husk has been removed, they are green in color and known as pumpkin seeds.
Pepitas are huskless seeds from some pumpkin cultivars.
Pumpkin seeds for intestinal parasites
Studies have shown that pumpkin seeds display activity against a variety of parasitic worms.
The anti-parasitic agent in pumpkin kernels is cucurbitine, an amino acid5.
1. Pumpkin seeds for Ascaridia galli parasites
A study has shown that pumpkin seeds extract eliminates Ascaridia galli parasites8.
Comparison with a common drug
Pumpkin seeds displayed a similar effect to fenbendazole, the drug routinely used to eradicate Ascaridia galli parasites8.
2. Pumpkin seeds for Ascaris suum parasites
Ascaris suum is a large roundworm that may infect pigs and humans9.
It was found that pumpkin seeds extract kills Ascaris suum worms10.
3. Pumpkin seeds for Fasciola gigantica parasites
Fasciola gigantica is a type of liver fluke, a parasitic flatworm that infects the liver.
It is very closely related to Fasciola hepatica, another liver fluke11.
Researchers have shown that pumpkin seeds extract kills Fasciola gigantica worms12.
4. Pumpkin seeds for Hymenolepsis nana parasites
Hymenolepis nana, the dwarf tapeworm, is a cosmopolitan parasite species common in temperate zones that infects humans, especially children13.
Research reported that pumpkin seeds extract reduces the number of adult worms and eggs14.
Comparison with a common drug
Pumpkin kernels were more effective in eliminating Hymenolepis nana than Praziquantel, the main drug used against this parasite14.
5. Pumpkin seeds for Schistosoma parasites
A study revealed that pumpkin seed oil eliminates Schistosoma mansoni worms and eggs17.
Reports from China have claimed that cucurbitine, the active component in pumpkin seeds, prevents the growth of Schistosoma japonicum, a closely related blood fluke18.
They also revealed that cucurbitine damages the genital organs of Schistosoma japonicum, resulting in a decline in egg production18.
Comparison with a common drug
Praziquantel, the usual treatment for schistosomiasis, was more effective than Pumpkin seed oil17.
Nevertheless, Praziquantel has begun to lose efficacy in the emergent Schistosoma mansoni-resistant strains17.
6. Pumpkin seeds for Taenia parasites
Taenia is a genus of parasitic worms belonging to the cestode (tapeworm) class19.
Members of the genus have a ribbon-like body composed of a series of segments19.
A study reported that, after eating peeled raw pumpkin seeds, 75% of infected patients expelled whole tapeworms5.
Comparison with common drugs
In comparison, Praziquantel and Niclosamide, the two common drugs used to treat taeniasis, are 95% and 85% effective, respectively5.
However, Praziquantel can cause epileptic seizures and convulsions5.
7. Pumpkin seeds for Trychostrongylus parasites
Trichostrongylus is a species of parasitic roundworms that infects herbivores and humans21.
Research reported that a diet including pumpkin seeds cake generated a 52,9% reduction of fecal parasite eggs after 12 days22.
Pumpkin seeds prevent parasite eggs from hatching
It was revealed that pumpkin seed ethanol extract prevents Heligmosoides bakeri eggs from hatching3.
Heligmosoides bakeri is a parasitic roundworm of rodents used as a model for human intestinal parasites in laboratory research23.
How long does it take for pumpkin seeds to kill parasites in humans?
It depends on the type of parasite and if the seeds are consumed on an empty stomach5.
A study demonstrated that it took about 14 hours for infected patients to expel whole Taenia worms following treatment with pumpkin seeds5.
They ate the seeds in the morning on an empty stomach5.
Additionally, they drank magnesium sulfate (a laxative) 40 min to 1 hour later as a purge5.
How long does it take for pumpkin seeds to kill parasites in vitro?
Pumpkin seeds for parasites in cats and dogs
Pumpkin seeds may also treat parasitic worm infections in cats and dogs.
Furthermore, cats and dogs share many common parasites with humans.
They are hosts to many intestinal parasites that they can transmit to humans.
How much pumpkin seeds to kill parasites?
Dosage for a 137 lbs human adult: 4 oz.
Dosage for a 62 kg human adult: 120 g5.
Take the seeds in the morning on an empty stomach. Wait a few days and then repeat.
What are the side effects of pumpkin seeds?
If you eat too many pumpkin seeds, you may experience mild symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and, rarely, vomiting5.
However, these symptoms are transient and disappear over time.
They are known as die-off symptoms or a Herxheimer detox reaction.
Summary: Pumpkin seeds for intestinal parasites
Pumpkin seeds display amazing anti-parasitic activity.
Thanks to their high content of cucurbitine, they kill intestinal worms by paralyzing them before they get expelled.
Furthermore, pumpkin kernels prevent parasite eggs from hatching.
Pumpkin seeds can be used for intestinal parasites in humans, cats, and dogs.
They kill the following parasites:
- Ascaridia galli
- Ascaris suum
- Fasciola gigantica (liver flukes)
- Hymenolepsis nana
- Schistosoma mansoni (blood flukes)