Cucurbits Plants: A Key Emphasis to Its Pharmacological Potential

Molecules. 2019 May 14;24(10):1854. doi: 10.3390/molecules24101854.


Cucurbita genus has received a renowned interest in the last years. This plant species, native to the Americas, has served worldwide folk medicine for treating gastrointestinal diseases and intestinal parasites, among other clinical conditions. These pharmacological effects have been increasingly correlated with their nutritional and phytochemical composition. Among those chemical constituents, carotenoids, tocopherols, phenols, terpenoids, saponins, sterols, fatty acids, and functional carbohydrates and polysaccharides are those occurring in higher abundance. However, more recently, a huge interest in a class of triterpenoids, cucurbitacins, has been stated, given its renowned biological attributes. In this sense, the present review aims to provide a detailed overview to the folk medicinal uses of Cucurbita plants, and even an in-depth insight on the latest advances with regards to its antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticancer effects. A special emphasis was also given to its clinical effectiveness in humans, specifically in blood glucose levels control in diabetic patients and pharmacotherapeutic effects in low urinary tract diseases.

Keywords: anticancer; antimicrobial; antioxidant; cucurbits; pumpkin; squash; traditional medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Cucurbita / chemistry*
  • Cucurbitacins / chemistry*
  • Cucurbitacins / pharmacology*
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Blood Glucose
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cucurbitacins