Sleep aid from the pumpkin patch? Ontario doctor creates all-natural solution
Published Saturday, July 27, 2013 10:26PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 28, 2013 9:28AM EDT
Take one psychiatrist, inundated with patients with insomnia, add in one great idea -- and the result is an entrepreneurial medical story with worldwide appeal.
Stratford Ont.-based psychiatrist Dr. Craig Hudson said he started noticing about 10 years ago that many of his patients were complaining about their inability to sleep or stay asleep.
Many of them were taking sleep medications or over-the-counter sleep aids, but he worried about the drugs' side effects and about how addictive these medications could become.
So he set out to design an all-natural sleep aid, and found the solution in an unexpected place: pumpkins.
During his research, Hudson discovered that pumpkin seeds are one of the highest sources of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to boost the body's production of the brain chemical serotonin, which creates feelings of well-being and relaxation.
Hudson also found there was research suggesting that tryptophan can act as a sleep aid. But in order to be absorbed into the brain, tryptophan needs to be taken with carbohydrates.
So in his tiny kitchen, Hudson and his wife devised a pumpkin seed-dextrose powder mix. He ultimately came up with a recipe for a chocolate-covered pumpkin seed power bar, as well as a lemon-flavour powder that can be stirred into water.
Hudson says what's great about his formulations is they induce the body to create melatonin and fall into a natural sleep. That means users who take the powder or bars don't wake up feeling sedated or hung over, as is often the case with sleep medication.
Hudson's research also found the bars are helpful in reducing anxiety.
It took Hudson several years to develop the recipes, find suppliers, complete studies on the powder's effectiveness and secure the necessary patents. But the resulting products, called Zenbev, are now sold in select health food stores across Canada.
Sales of the powder are also brisk in Europe, where about 7,500 tubs are sold a month. In all, Hudson is now seeing sales of about $1 million a year -- and all with almost no advertising.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip