Pumpkin seeds

Chinese: 南瓜子

Pinyin: Nán Guā Zǐ

Parts used: Dried seeds

TCM category: Herbs that expel parasites

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Sweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLarge intestine

Scientific name: Cucurbita moschata

Use of pumpkin seeds (Nan Gua Zi) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove shells to extract the seeds and dry them.

Dosage: 60 - 120 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels parasites

Primary conditions or symptoms for which pumpkin seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Intestinal parasites Diabetes Edema

Common TCM formulas in which pumpkin seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind pumpkin seeds (Nan Gua Zi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pumpkin seeds are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that expel parasites' category. Herbs in this category are used to treat roundworms, tapeworm, hookworm and other intestinal parasites. In most cases, these herbs should be combined with other herbs to assist their action such as 'Purgative herbs that drain downward' or Qi tonics. Typically these herbs should only be prescribed for a short period as they often have some level of toxicity.

Furthermore pumpkin seeds are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that pumpkin seeds tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition pumpkin seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Pumpkin seeds also taste Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Sweet ingredients like pumpkin seeds tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such pumpkin seeds are thought to target the Stomach and the Large intestine. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Large Intestine on the other hand receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces.

Research on pumpkin seeds(Nan Gua Zi)

A combination of pumpkin seeds and areca nut extracts is effective in the expulsion of Taenia spp. tapeworms in over 89% of cases.1


1. Ito, Akira; Li, T.; Chen, X.; Long, C.; Yanagida, T.; Nakao, M.; Sako, Y.; Okamoto, M.; Wu, Y.; Raoul, F.; Giraudoux, P.; Craig, P. S. (2013). "Mini Review on Chemotherapy of Taeniasis and Cysticercosis Due to Taenia Solium in Asia, and a Case Report With 20 Tapeworms in China" (PDF). Tropical Biomedicine. 30 (2): 164–73. PMID 23959481.

Use of pumpkin seeds (Nan Gua Zi) as food

Pumpkin seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Pumpkin Seed Brittle or Sweet and Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.