Pumpkin as a Dewormer

(I originally wrote this for the The Tortoise Forum.)
I was doing some research on the possibility of using pumpkin as a dewormer for my tortoises as a response to several questions at the Tortoise Forum- what sort of dosing would it take, etc. and I ran into two interesting things…

  1. Most sites and discussions focus on the pumpkin SEEDS as doing the magic, even though many people seem to think that the pumpkin meat does the trick. I found about 50 references to pumpkin seeds for every reference for just plain pumpkin. This makes sense- most plant seeds contain certain poisons to keep them all from being eaten. Apple seeds and peach pits, for example, have toxins in them. The toxins are what supposedly kill the worms, which leads to…
  2. There is little scientific evidence it does any good- at all. Almost every controlled study done so far with pumpkin seed or other herbal dewormers on a variety of animals has shown that the herbal dewormers have no measurable benefit.

    Deworming is a big deal for ranchers and others who work with a lot of animals, and chemical dewormers are harsh and dangerous- so there is a huge market for safer, herbal dewormers. People swear by several concoctions and a dozen herbs but
    so far they seem to have little effect.

On the other hand… a lot of apparently respectable sites and sources seem to think that herbal dewormers offer at least some benefits, like the McGill article listed below. (It uses references what appear to be studies in favor of herbals, but I don’t have access to most of those studies so have no idea what they involved.)

So, although most research suggests it won’t do anything, there is still some popular support for the idea. It could maybe be a useful tool for prevention or managing very minor infestations, but I would see a vet for a real infestation, imported animals, etc.

Based on the above, I would say that this might be a helpful program for tortoises:

  1. Be sure to do what you can to minimize the risk of worms and parasites to begin with. The McGill article at the very bottom has a lot of good info on this.
  2. Make up a mix of crushed or pureed fresh, uncooked and undried pumpkin seeds. Add a little fresh crushed garlic and fresh ground or shredded ginger, and a few crushed mustard seeds. (The theory here is that most sources recommend a combination of these herbal dewormers for maximum effect.)
  3. Serve daily for a week, making sure all exposed tortoises get some. Can be served with other foods. (FYI- the dose for adult humans is considered by some to be 1-2 tablespoons, so a small fraction of a teaspoon is all you need.)
  4. Repeat the dosage in 3 weeks to kill new parasites (wormers rarely kill the eggs, so must be repeated after they hatch).
  5. Repeat everything every 6 to 12 months to prevent new infestations.


– References to pumpkin SEEDS

– Studies and vet responses

– Good article on parasites and management (the McGill article)
– http://eap.mcgill.ca/agrobio/ab370-04e.htm

Revised 4-17-2012. Copyright Mark Adkins