Pumpkin? Really Amanda? That’s not an herb.
I can hear you all the way over here, questioning why we would choose pumpkin instead of one of the many fantastic, normal medicinal herbs out there. The answer is simple: Food is medicine! Not just in the “nutrients are good for you,” or “eat more fiber,” school of thought, but also, foods can balance the body in all kinds of ways.
Food as medicine has a lot to do with energetics—that is, a plant’s subtle energetic qualities, and how that plant may influence energy or constitution in a person using it. Some examples of energetic qualities of plants include cold/hot, wet/dry, and heavy/light, with often finer gradations like warm/cool, damp/drying, etc.
The human body is meant to be in balance. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too moist, not too dry. Flexible with high endurance, to a point. But, life has a way of imposing imbalances. We may be too hot and dry, or damp and cold, or have restricted movement and feel unfit. Our bodies need balance, and this balance can be achieved with food, herbs, and lifestyle.
When you hear about pumpkins in herbal circles, it is usually around the idea that pumpkin seeds can be an effective vermifuge (kill intestinal worms). Pumpkin seed oil is also gaining popularity in the skin-care industry as a good source of certain omegas, and a light oil with a clean finish and very little smell to it. You often don’t hear about the use of the fruit to help balance the body in Western herbalism, but Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda use squash to balance the body in an intentionally medicinal way.
With this idea in mind, that even the simple things we eat can be profound medicine for us, we can approach the whole pumpkin plant—leaf, fruit, and seed—as an edible and medicinal plant with high safety margins and thousands of years of empirical evidence of use in several cultures. Let’s not forget, they are also in season, and you can probably find a local organic pumpkin patch to go harvest your very own, if you aren’t already growing them! (Friends in the southern hemisphere: Please do reserve this issue until your next fall and use it then!)