Pumpkin Pumpkin Pumpkin
Everybody is Thinking it
This time of year, these blustery, fiery-colored months of October, every one is gearing up for the season: Pumpkin Season! A personal favorite of mine, this is the time when adults and kids alike gather their pumpkins from patches, stores, their gardens, and almost morbidly hack open their tops, remove their innards, carve a face into them and place a candle inside and hope that the chill in the air might slow the rotting procedure long enough for Halloween to pass. There's the added delight of pumpkin smashing, roasting the seeds, cutting up different varieties of pumpkin to roast or bake or just turn into a pie. Sometimes with all the tasting and carving and chucking, we forget that there are some pretty interesting healing benefits to this squash, never mind its interesting folklore and history.
Irish tales tell of a tricky farmer by the name of Jack who harassed the Devil. One myth talks of how he had stolen from some villagers and as he was being pursued by these villagers, he ran into the devil who announced that it was time for Jack's death. Jack haggled with the devil, and in an attempt to get one over the villagers which were hot on his tracks, and whom were good church-goers, and so the Devil agreed. Jack asked the Devil to turn into a coin in which to pay the villagers from which he had stolen. Of course then the Devil would disappear and thus, the coin would, which would cause the villagers to squabble over who had stolen the coin. As he turns into the coin and jumps into Jack's wallet, Jack closes the wallet and only then does the Devil realize that there is a cross in the wallet, which renders him powerless. Jack lets the Devil go when he make him swear that he won't take Jack's soul. The deal is made. Years down the line, when Jack dies, his soul is too full of sin to go to Heaven, but the Devil promised against taking his soul, and as a result was left to wander. He asked the Devil where he should go, and in a form of jest, the Devil tossed an ever-glowing ember to Jack, which he carried on and became known as the Jack of Lanterns.
There are many variations of this story, all with the same basic outline with Jack somehow ticking the Devil into a sticky spot so that Jack can bargain to not have his soul taken. There are also one that date back as recently to the English settlers in the New World with the common story of the Sleepy Hallow.
The Meat of the Matter
Playing with Pumpkins and their innards is pretty entertaining. However, there's more than one purpose for this orange beast of a squash and a lot of those purposes correspond to the nutritional value and even medicinal value of the pumpkin.
The meat of the vegetable is rich in Beta Carotene. Carotene is converted to vitamin A as it goes through the body. This can help reduce risk of developing certain cancers, protect against heart disease, degeneration brought on aging, boost the immune system, and prevent against build up of cholesterol on the arterial walls. Alpha Carotene is also found within the walls of a pumpkin, which also aids in slowing signs of aging as well as prevents the formation of cataracts. It is high in fiber as well as potassium which can lower the risks of hypotension (low blood pressure). Pumpkin is a good source of zinc as well, which is significant in strengthening the immune system and will help to improve bone density.
Pumpkin can act as a natural protector against Osteoporosis, reduce inflammation without causing any of the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs, prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation, and reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and can reduce the risk of macular degeneration which in a problem severe enough to cause blindness.
An extract has been found to help regenerate pancreatic cells which have been damaged which in turn increases insulin levels in the blood stream. This has the potential to be excellent for pre-diabetic people along side of people who are already diabetic. The implications of this are exciting! It could indicate the possibility of elimination of some cases of diabetics!
A Seed For Thought
The seeds, called pepitas, are delicious and usually covered in goo when you first encounter them, that is if you're dislodging them yourself. The seeds are pretty excellent in most areas. They for one, are diuretic and also will promote all over prostate health with the exception of difficulty with urination. They contain L-tryptophan which is effective against depression. Typtophan can also be found in milk, and in comparison, only a grams worth of pumpkin seed is needed to be equivalent to that found in a glass of milk. These seeds also full of protein, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and phytosterols, copper, potassium, niacin, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, iron, Vitamin E, B vitamins and antioxidants.
The oil of these seeds is produced by roasting them, and has been used in the past as a folk remedy for prostate problems and was even claimed to battle against prostatic hyperplasia. The oil also contain fatty acids which help to maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves.
Pumpkin seeds can be used as an aphrodisiac, as a remedy for gout, as a treatment for acne, or as just something delicious and nutritious to snack on.