Practical Magic: Pumpkin – The American Fall Essential

Pumpkin – The American Fall Essential

Name: Pumpkin

Most Commonly Found: Pumpkins originated in North America with 1.5 billion pounds harvested each year. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 95 percent of the U.S. crop is grown in Illinois. 

Stone Cold Facts: A pumpkin is a cultivar of a squash plant, which is native to North America and a stable in Canada and the United States. It's popular for both Halloween and Thanksgiving and is commonly prepared as a puree or a pie. Its seeds are also commonly eaten. Today, pumpkin spice is incorporated into just about everything – from cookies to cakes to beer.

What to Heal: While pumpkin spice is incorporated into just about everything, if you want to receive the major health benefits, go for the original. 

Pumpkin seeds pack about 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per once, which allows you to feel fuller longer and helps to keep the appetite at bay, says nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin, author of The Virgin Diet.

It also helps boost vision, as a cup of cubed pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which promotes good vision, especially in the dark, making it perfect for the season, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It also slows the decline of retinal function in those with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness,  according to researchers from Harvard. In general, vitamin A promotes healthy skin, teeth, and bones. 

Pumpkin seed oil is full of phytoestrogens, which are shown to prevent hypertension and lower blood pressure. 

Since they contain tryptophan, the amino acid that contributes to post-Thanksgiving-dinner sleepiness, pumpkins also help the body make serotonin, helping you relax and sleep. 

For men, pumpkin seeds have been shown to block unhealthy prostate growth. The seeds also contain zinc, which boosts male sexual health. 

Multiple studies have also shown that pumpkins are great for your heart, mostly because it is full of fiber

Pumpkin oil helps fight various bacterial and fungal infections and is packed with nearly 20 percent of the recommended amount of daily vitamin C, which may help you recover from colds faster.

How to Heal: Perhaps the best ways to consume the health benefits of pumpkins are to consume the seeds or use the oil. 

Or, you may want to check out these recipes:

Related Chakras: Because of its orange color, it's been known to help balance the sacral chakra

History + Lore: Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America and the oldest evidence dates back between 7000 and 5500 BC in Mexico. 

Pumpkins are common in folklores, with a common motif of people being turned into pumpkins. The jack-o-lantern is meant to ward off demons.

It's also a symbol in CinderellaPeanuts, Harry Potter, and other fictional stories.

In 2003, Starbucks turned pumpkin spice into a major sensation from its pumpkin-spice lattes.

Photo: iStock