Is Pumpkin Seed Oil an Effective Hair Loss Treatment?

Pumpkin seed oil and spoon on table

There has been some fuss in the past several months about Pumpkin Seed oil’s potential as a treatment for Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), also known as male-pattern baldness, but can it really make a difference?

AGA is estimated to affect about 50 million men in the US. It generally begins with hair loss at the temples, continues on around the crown, and eventually leads to total baldness.

AGA is caused by a genetic predisposition. The principal androgen believed to be associated with it is dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

It is thought that when DHT levels increase in hair follicles, the hair’s growth cycle is shortened, and new hair growth is delayed. Over time, the hair follicles completely stop growing new hair.

Possible benefits of using pumpkin seed oil for hair growthThe pharmaceutical treatment options for AGA are Minoxidil and Finasteride.

Minoxidil, commercially known as Rogaine, is a topical treatment that stimulates the hair follicles. It has been shown to be moderately effective.

Finasteride, marketed as Propecia and Proscar is a pill that works by binding to the enzyme that would otherwise convert free testosterone to DHT.

It is somewhat more effective than Minoxidil. Both Minoxidil and Finasteride can have adverse side effects.

Both pharmaceutical options are expensive, require prescriptions and have potential adverse side effects. The possibility that an inexpensive, natural substance like Pumpkin Seed could be an alternative remedy for AGA would certainly seem to justify all the fuss if it actually works.

The intent of this article is to present all the relevant facts so that consumers can make an informed decision as to whether this claim has any merit and, if so, how to use it to achieve the desired results.

We will get there by answering the following questions:

  • What is Pumpkin Seed oil?
  • What does Pumpkin Seed oil do?
  • What does science have to say about it?
  • Are there side effects?
  • How do you use Pumpkin Seed oil?
  • What’s the bottom line?

What Is Pumpkin Seed Oil?

Pumpkin seed (cucurbita pepo) oil is obtained by expeller-pressing toasted, hulled pumpkin seeds. It is a rich source of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, minerals, and more. It is also a long-time foodie favorite for its nutty aroma and flavor.

Aside from being a delicious edible plant (it’s officially a fruit, by the way) and making a darned good pie, pumpkin is also known to have substantial medicinal properties including anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and others.

Interesting fact: Pumpkin Seed oil has been highly valued for its healing properties ever since it was first produced in Austria back in the seventeenth century. As a matter of fact, in March 1773 Austrian Empress Maria Theresa issued a legal edict which stipulated,

“This healthy oil is unique and much too precious for using it in tasty meals and therefore should rather be used as a medicine. So it shall not be used as a culinary delicacy anymore but shall be collected and distributed only by the apothecaries.”

…and thus it was decreed.

Today, Pumpkin Seed oil is used to treat all sorts of issues and conditions, from prostate function problems to high cholesterol to arthritis to diabetes (is there a link between diabetes and baldness?). It also tastes heavenly on a salad.

What Does Pumpkin Seed Oil Do For Hair?

There are a lot of health benefits attributed to Pumpkin Seed oil, most of which have nothing to do with hair loss. The following is a summary of the main health uses of Pumpkin Seed oil, including the conditions that it is used to treat.

Mineral Support

Pumpkin seeds on white background

 

Pumpkins, like all plants that have a close relationship to the soil, are an excellent source of mineral nutrients.

Pumpkin seeds, extracts, and oil are all very good sources of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium (learn more about magnesium oil), manganese, and copper and good sources of the minerals zinc and iron.

Antioxidant Support

Pumpkin seeds have a broad diversity of antioxidants. For example, they contain a wide variety of forms of Vitamin E, two of which have only recently been discovered.

They also contain mineral antioxidants, (much like evening primrose oil) phenolic antioxidants, and lignans. This diverse mixture of antioxidants imbues Pumpkin Seeds with antioxidant-related properties that are not widely found in other foods.

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Anti-inflammatory

Fatty acids isolated from Pumpkin Seed oil have been used in medicine for their anti-inflammatory properties, and include mainly linoleic, followed by oleic, palmitic and stearic acid.

The people of Central America and India rub the oil extracted from the seeds of pumpkin on herpes sores, venereal sores, acne vulgaris and stubborn leg ulcers which refuse to heal. Pumpkin leaves are also applied as a poultice on sprains and pulled ligaments.

Diabetes

Pumpkin seeds, extracts, and oil are used to improve insulin regulation in animals, and to prevent some unwanted consequences of diabetes of kidney function.

Antimicrobial

Pumpkin seeds have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties as a result of their unique proteins.

Cancer-related

Pumpkin seeds are unique in their composition of antioxidant nutrients, which can decrease oxidative stress association with the development of some cancers.

Additionally, the lignan content of pumpkin seeds could play a role in treating breast and prostate cancer.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Pumpkin Seed oil has been used to treat BPH successfully, based on its phytosterol, lignan and zinc content, which is interestingly, what hair loss drug finasteride was originally intended to treat.

Certain types of hair loss

As a proven antifungal and antibacterial agent, Pumpkin Seed oil can be helpful for maintaining a clean, healthy scalp and strong, healthy hair follicles. In this way, it may be useful in treating hair loss caused by clogged hair follicles, dead skin build up, or some sort of scalp condition.

Male-pattern baldness

Pumpkin Seed oil may be helpful in treating Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), also known as male-pattern baldness.

What Does Science Have to Say About Pumpkin Seed Oil?

In other words, is Pumpkin Seed oil really an effective treament for male-pattern baldness?

Befor and after results of using pumpkin seed oil on hair after 24 weeks

The photos show a positive visual difference after treatment with pumpkin seed oil after 24 weeks.

In 2014, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (1) published the results of a clinical research study that investigated the efficacy of Pumpkin Seed Oil (PSO) as a treatment for Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).

This was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to study this issue. The 24-week trial included 76 male subjects with mild to moderate AGA.

Half were given a daily supplement of PSO in the form of a 400 mg capsule. The other half were given a placebo.

The researchers used a process known as phototrichography to analyze hair changes, including hair counts and diameters.

Hair analysis was performed at the start of the trial to establish a baseline, after 12 weeks of treatment, and again after 24 weeks of treatment.

The results, shown in the two tables below, show that the PSO treatment group had significant increases in hair count over the placebo group.

The differences in hair thickness were negligible.

As a result of their study, the researchers were able to conclude that taking a PSO supplement for 24 weeks has a positive anabolic effect on hair growth in patients with mild to moderate AGA. They believed this could be due to the possible effects of 5-reductase inhibition.

Diagram of hair count, and hair thickness after 24 weeks using pumpkin seed oil compared to a placebo

It’s clear from the digram that the pumpkin seed oil had a positive effect on hair count compared to the placebo after 24 weeks. Difference in hair thickness compared to the placebo was negligible.

Are There Side Effects?

According to the University of Michigan Health System (2), Pumpkin Seed oil has no reported side effects.

However, it has been speculated that Pumpkin Seed oil might have a diuretic effect. Thus, taking a Pumpkin Seed oil supplement might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects.

Finally, it is important to note that any natural remedy can cause an allergic reaction in some people, and this holds true for Pumpkin Seed oil as well.

Signs of an allergic reaction to Pumpkin Seed oil listed by the Physicians’ Desk Reference may include breathing problems, tightness in the chest or throat, chest pain, hives or rash and itchy or swollen skin. Any of these reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take any supplement without consulting their doctor.

How Do You Use Pumpkin Seed Oil On Your Hair?

For use in maintaining a healthy scalp, Pumpkin Seed oil should be massaged into the scalp with some type of carrier oil such as olive oil and then left in overnight.

It has been suggested that this should be repeated at least twice a week for a minimum of two months before expecting to see results.

For treatment of AGA, Pumpkin Seed oil is ingested orally as a supplement. Pumpkin Seed oil (curcurbita pepo) supplements are widely available online, and at drug stores, grocery stores, nutrition specialty stores and the like. They are packaged as capsules or soft gel caps.

Dosages range from 500 to 1000 mg. Prices typically range from 15 cents to 35 cents per unit, depending of course on the dosage, brand, and quantity purchased.
Individuals deciding which supplement to buy should look for those containing pure, unrefined, organic Pumpkin Seed oil that has been expeller-pressed.

A recommended dosage for the particular treatment of AGA has not been defined.

The way I take it is by adding a nice dollop of oil to my morning smoothie. This way its gets mixed in with all the other lovely ingredients and absorbs easily into your body. It also helps me to not forget to take it everyday.

What’s the Bottom Line?

There is promising scientific evidence to support the use of Pumpkin Seed Oil supplements to treat mild to moderate AGA, also known as male-pattern baldness.

However, there has been only one trial, and much more research needs to be done to verify its results and identify a recommended dosage.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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References

(1) Aisle7. Pumpkin. University of Michigan Health System. http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2151005#hn-2151005-interactions. Published June 6, 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016.

(2) Cho YH, Lee SY, Jeong DW, et al. Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic Alopecia: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014; 2014:1-7. doi:10.1155/2014/549721.

Other sources

Hair growth and rejuvenation: an overview. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20536276

Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9777765

Male pattern baldness: classification and incidence. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1188424

Leave a Comment:

9 comments
Jack says October 28, 2016

Propecia made all of my hair grow back. The side effects were not worth it though, I lost all interest in women. No libido anymore but a full head of hair

Reply
    Will Hartfield says October 28, 2016

    Hi Jack, yes some of the side-effects of Propecia can be quite scary and definitely not worth it in my opinion. I would suggest that you slowly transition into more natural methods that I talk about here on the blog and in detail in my program Hair Equilibrium. I have personally found them to be just as effective as Propecia but instead of horrible side effects, the natural method gives amazing benefits such as glowing health, energy and wonderfully healthy hair. My philosophy is that hair loss is unnatural, and is a symptom of an imbalance in your body. Trying to fix the problem with a pharmaceutical can only have bigger, more disastrous long term consequences. Pumpkin seed oil is a good place to start swapping drugs for plant based alternatives.

    Reply
Putri says September 28, 2016

Would you recommend taking as a capsule or having the oil from a bottle?

Reply
    Will Hartfield says September 28, 2016

    I prefer the oil from a bottle because it seems more natural, the unrefined, cold pressed and crude PSO from Ol’Vita (pictured) is amazing stuff. The capsules may be more convenient, since I think you have to keep the Ol’Vita bottle refrigerated after you open it. The key is to take a high quality supplement consistently.

    Reply
James O'greggor says September 28, 2016

Great article, I’ve been taking PSO for around 4 months, and obviously its hard to isolate the factors but I believe it is having a GOOD effect on my thin hair. Besides, the oil I use it tasty and very healthy, so why not add it to your diet if you’re worried about your hair?

Reply
Chandan Rabha says August 12, 2016

I’ve been eating 250 g raw pumpkin seed every day for the last 4 months and topically using it on scalp for the same period. I’m also taking a hair growth supplement, omega 3 and lot of almond along with green tea everyday. But the result is zero. I consulted 2 dermatologists and got blood tested. Everything was found normal…….Nobody can save hair……

Reply
    Will Hartfield says August 15, 2016

    Pumpkin seed oil isn’t a cure. Hair loss is a multifactorial problem and that’s why I created the Hair Equilibrium Framework. When you remove all the factors causing hair loss and boost and optimise all the factors that cause hair growth, that’s when you start to see amazing results. No one thing will work alone.

    Reply
Wendy G says June 24, 2016

This is very interesting research, and it’s exciting to see such a substantial increase in hair count. But why did the placebo hair count also go up?

Reply
    Will Hartfield says June 24, 2016

    Thank you Wendy, yes it’s very interesting. This is great point, there is clearly an increase in hair count for the placebo group. I can only imagine this is the power of the mind, the researchers didn’t seem to be able to provide a valuable explanation. I don’t think it invalidates the results though, if you’re worried about hair loss then taking pumpkin seed oil as a daily supplement is probably well worth it. Thanks, Will

    Reply
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