Pumpkin seed oil

Dear Dr. Roach: I’m an 81-year-old mother of five, and I have an overactive bladder. My situation was the usual “can’t get there in time.” I had taken an expensive drug for this, which worked but gave me a “brain fog” feeling that I didn’t need or want. My doctor, a female specialist, recommended pumpkin seed oil. I took it for about two months before improvement. Could you review the evidence? The pharmacists I talked to did not know about this. — P.C.D.

Answer: I found a 2014 study from Japan that treated 25 women and 20 men with overactive bladder for three months with 10 grams (about 2 tablespoons) pumpkin seed oil. The results showed significant benefit, especially in people who had what we call “urgency,” the sense that you have to get to the bathroom right away. No side effects were noted, and there were no significant changes in cholesterol levels.

I can conclude that although this was a small study from Japan — which may not be exactly applicable to a U.S. or Canadian population — pumpkin seed oil has some potential for benefit. I’d like to see a larger study done to confirm these results before I recommend it; however, especially for people who have side effects from their current treatment, it might be worth a try. People should recognize that in the study, it took three months for maximum benefit.

When I looked online for pumpkin seed oil, I found the liquid oil, but also 1,000-mg capsules. To replicate the study findings, it would take 10 capsules a day. I don’t know if less would work as well.