Seeds of several species of the genus Cucurbira have long enjoyed a considerable reputation as teniafuges (agents which paralyze and expel intestinal worms). Chief among these are pumpkin seeds or pepo, obtained from C. Pepo L., but the seeds of the auturnn squash (C.Maxima Duchesne) and of the Canada pumpkin or crookneck squash [C. Moschata (Duchesne) Poir.] have similar properties. All are large edible fruits produced by herbaceous, running (vinelike) plants of the family Cucurbitaceae. Numerous cultivated varieties exist.
When used as a teniafuge or anthelmintic, cucurbita seeds are ordinarily administered in the form of the ground seeds themselves, as an infusion (tea), or as an emulsion made by beating the seeds with powdered sugar and milk or water. Usually three divided doses are given, representing a total weight of seeds ranging from 60 to as much as 500 grams. Such treatment is said to be effective in expelling both tapeworms and roundworms.
Another traditional use of the seeds is in the prevention and treatment of chronic prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate gland) in males. A handful of the seeds eaten daily is supposed to be a very popular remedy for this condition in Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Ukraine.
Cucurbitin, an unusual amino acid identified chemically as (-)-3amino-3-carboxypyrrolidine, is the active principle responsible for the anthelmintic (worrn-expelling) effects of the drug. It occurs only in the seeds of Cucurbita species, but its concentration is quite variable even in seeds of the same species. This variability probably accounts for reports in the literature that cucurbita seeds are either unreliable or ineffective as a teniafuge.