Pumpkins are the universal symbols of Fall and Halloween. But now, researchers have found that the skin of that pumpkin you carved into a Jack-o’-Lantern contains a substance that could put a scare into microbes that cause millions infections in adults and infants each year.
The study of pumpkins was prompted by the emergence of clinical bacterial strains that show resistance against conventional antibiotics. Researchers around the globe are looking for new material to stifle infections.
Past studies hinted that pumpkin, long used as folk medicine in some countries, could offer antibacterial benefits. It’s not alone, researchers have shown that popular spices like garlic, onion, oregano and thyme have also been found to be among the most antimicrobial.
The pumpkin has long been recognized as a natural medicine cabinet. Food scientists have cited historical references to pumpkin being used by Native Americans for the treatment of intestinal infections.
As long ago as the 1870s, American’s ultimate authority for prescription, over-the-counter and natural medications – the United States Pharmacopoeia – listed pumpkin skin and seeds for treatment of parasites and kidney maladies.
Pumpkin is very low in calories, rich in potassium, magnesium and iron and its bright orange flesh of pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant beta -carotene that fight free radicals.
At least two studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the antioxidant in pumpkin can provide a defense for the body against infection of the mucous membranes of the eyes, ear, nose, throat and also the lungs and bladder.
It is this infection-fighting capability that the Korean research team from Chosun University Research Center for Proteineous Materials was investigating. Kyung-Soo Hahm, Yoonkyung Park and their colleagues had been studying natural antibiotics that have the potential to overcome antimicrobial resistance.
According to their study, published in the current issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the scientists extracted proteins from pumpkin rinds to see if it would inhibit the growth of microbes.
Rinds from pumpkins purchased in local markets were homogenized in extraction buffer, then washed and ultra-filtered. The extract was then tested for antimicrobial against both pathogenic bacteria and yeast.
The scientists targeted Candida albicans, a Diploid fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections, diaper rash in infants, and other – sometimes severe – health problems.
The study, funded by the Korean government, showed the pumpkin protein could be developed into a natural medicine for fighting yeast infections in humans.
Additionally, the protein also blocked the growth of several fungi that attack important plant crops and could be useful as an agricultural fungicide, the researchers concluded.
Here is a link to the Korean study.