Nigella sativa, commonly known as Black Cumin, Black Seed, or Black Cumin Seed is a flowering plant native to South Asia. Its fruit is large and contains numerous small black seeds.
Raw seeds, seed oil, or seed extract have been traditionally used alone or in combination with other ingredients for various health conditions, such as eczema, cough, headache, diabetes, asthma, infections, and high blood pressure.
Some of the claims that come from its traditional reputation in various cultures have been researched, while others lack scientific evidence. Although this herb has sparked the curiosity of scientists worldwide, most of the research on black cumin so far has only been carried out in cells or animals.
Black Seed Active Ingredients
The main and most researched active ingredient in black seed oil is Thymoquinone. Thymoquinone has been studied for protecting the liver, reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, and as an antioxidant. The seeds also contain alpha-hederin, a potential cancer-fighting ingredient.
Black cumin seeds are also rich in various vitamins and minerals, such as: copper, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and carotene (provitamin A).
Fatty acids makeup about 30% of the seeds. These are mostly unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid and oleic acid, and some saturated fatty acids.
Black Cumin seeds have been used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and European folk medicine as a natural remedy for a wide range of diseases for over 2000 years. In Islamic literature, regular use of black seed is considered a cure for every disease (except death!), earning it the Arabic approbation “The Blessed Seed”. Black cumin is also considered an important remedy in Ayurveda.
Black cumin has a specific bitter taste and smell and is often added to confectionery and liquors. The oil can be used to add flavour to various dishes and can also be applied on the skin as a painkiller and antiseptic.
Black Cumin Seed Oil Snapshot
Solid evidence for reducing allergies.
A safe antihistamine.
Evidence against bacterial, fungal, and viral, and parasitic infections.
Black cumin seeds can likely help reduce slightly increased blood pressure and blood lipids.
The evidence for weight loss benefits, reducing inflammation and pain is still limited.
Shows some anti-cancer activity (but limited to cell studies).
Black cumin seed oil can lower blood sugar. Although this can be beneficial, diabetics should consult with their physicians before they start supplementing.
Black Cumin Seed oil is not safe to use during pregnancy.
Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
1) Black Cumin Reduces Allergies
Several quality human studies back up the benefits of black seed oil for safely reducing allergic symptoms, especially in those with breathing difficulties.
In a study of 29 asthmatic patients. It reduced the frequency of asthma symptoms, wheezing, and improved lung function over 3 months. The patients who took black cumin seed extract also had a reduced need for additional medications and inhaler.
In another review (of 4 studies, total of 152 patients with allergic diseases), black cumin seed oil reduced subjective allergy symptoms, including asthma, eczema, and stuffy nose. Patients received black cumin oil capsules 40 to 80 mg/kg daily, which would be about 2-4 g of oil daily for someone who weighs about 110 lb.
In a study of 66 patients with allergic rhinitis, black cumin oil reduced symptoms such as itching, running nose, sneezing and congestion after 2 weeks, In 39 patients with similar symptoms, black seed oil after immunotherapy reduced symptoms and increased neutrophil.
Black Cumin may also help with breathing problems that are not caused directly by allergies. The vapour of boiled extract of the seed oil improved breathing and lung function, reducing the need for inhalers, in a study of 40 chemical war victims who had breathing difficulties.
Black Seed oil relaxed the airways in a tissue study (on guinea pig trachea), which can shed some light on its respiratory benefits.
2) Black Seed Can Protect the Heart
Daily use of black seed extract for 2 months lowered blood pressure in patients with mildly elevated blood pressure (diastolic BP 140-159 mmHg). The test group received either 100 mg or 200 mg of the extract 2 times per day. Aside from reducing blood pressure, the extract also lowered LDL cholesterol levels, helping to protect the heart. The oil also lowered blood pressure in 70 healthy volunteers after 2 months with no adverse effects. The treated group took 2.5 ml of black seed oil twice daily.
Overall, black seed seems to help lower blood pressure in only mild cases and may take 2 months to achieve its benefits.
Animal studies point to additional potential benefits of black seed for the heart. For example, black cumin seeds improved the recovery of damaged heart tissue in rats (in response to a heart surgery or post-heart attack treatment. Both exercise and black seed oil increased heart blood flow and new blood vessels in rats, potentially helping to prevent heart attacks.
Black seed can protect the heart not only by lowering blood pressure, but by also reducing blood lipids. This prevents the lipids from building up and hardening the arteries.
According to a review of clinical studies black seed supplementation helps lower:
The active ingredient in black cumin (thymoquinone) prevented the hardening of arteries from high cholesterol in rabbits. Even on a high cholesterol diet, the treated rabbits maintained normal blood lipid levels and blood vessels.
How It Works
Based on the available scientific evidence, black seed oil may protect the heart by:
Flushing excessive fluids from the body (diuretic)
Reducing the fight-or-flight (sympathetic) response
Increasing blood vessel-relaxing nitric oxide
Lowering blood lipids
Acting as an antioxidant
3) Black Seed May Help Diabetes
Black Seed is quite popular among traditional medicine practitioners for reducing diabetic symptoms, such as high blood sugar, as well as insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.
Research does back up the benefits for diabetes but remember that sudden drops in blood sugar can be dangerous if you have diabetes. If you are already on diabetes medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before supplementing with black seed oil.
Several large analyses on thousands of people confirmed that black seed is a good option for keeping glucose levels in check, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. It helped lower both blood glucose and blood lipids, possibly with long-term benefits (by also reducing HBA1C).
Even in patients with type 2 diabetes on oral anti-diabetes drugs, black seed supplementation helped to reduce heart complications. In a study of 114 patients, black seed oil daily over one-year reduced lipids, blood pressure, and BMI.
In rats, black seed extract helped sensitize the muscles to insulin and activated energy balance pathways — both important for fighting type 2 diabetes.
4) Black Seed May Reduce Inflammation
Black seed (Thymoquinone) has promising anti-inflammatory properties and is good for both Th1 and Th2 dominance.
However, only several small studies confirmed that black seed oil can help with inflammatory conditions like arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effect can be attributed to the active ingredient, thymoquinone (based on animal studies).
Black seed essential oil reduced inflammation and pain in mice. It also reduced autoimmune brain inflammation in rats with Multiple Sclerosis.
It may reduce brain inflammation by blocking NF-κB , one of the most important factors that lead to inflammation. It reduces inflammation by preventing the immune cells from creating more nitric oxide, which is overly produced in inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
5) Black Seed Oil Is an Antioxidant
Black Seed acts on many antioxidant pathways (according to numerous animal and cell studies, increasing liver antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione).
Protecting various tissues from oxidative injury, such as the stomach, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels.
Black seed extract also restored antioxidant enzymes (in red blood cells) in mice with malaria, helping to clear the parasite infection. The oil neutralized harmful Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and brain injury in mice.
The exact benefits of its antioxidant activity in humans remain to be researched.
6) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Anxiety
Black Cumin seeds decreased anxiety and improved mood and cognition in a study of 48 adolescent male volunteers after 4 weeks. The treated group took 1g of black cumin daily in capsule form.
Black cumin extract reduced anxiety in mice, possibly by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
It also reduced anxiety, fatigue, and increased thyroid function in mice.
Black seed oil calmed and protected the developing brain in rats, even those who were under stress.
Black cumin probably works to reduce anxiety thank to its active ingredient, thymoquinone, which increased GABA in mice.
7) Black Seed May Boost Memory and Protect the Brain
In a study of 20 elderly volunteers, 1 g of black cumin daily improved cognition, attention, and memory after nine weeks.
Thymoquinone and other components of black cumin seeds protected the brain from damage in several animal studies and cell studies. It prevented brain damage from lead in growing mice, as well as from arsenic. In growing rats with poor thyroid function, it helped prevent learning difficulties and brain damage.
8) Black Cumin May Protect the Gut and Help Digestion
Virgin Black Seed Oil is traditionally used for indigestion, loss of appetite, and diarrhoea and to stop vomiting. So far, there is some evidence to support its use in those with indigestion to a Helicobacter pylori infection.
In a study of 88 patients with indigestion and positive for Helicobacter pylori, black cumin helped eradicate the bacteria and symptoms as well as standard triple antibiotic therapy.
Some reviews suggest that it may also help protect the stomach lining from damage and ulcers, mostly based on findings from animal studies and clinical experience.
Black cumin seed protected the stomach lining from the harmful effects of alcohol in rats. The oils also prevented gut damage in rats.
9) Black Cumin May Help Weight Loss
The evidence is limited when it comes to black cumin and weight loss.
In one study of overweight men, black cumin did improve weight loss and reduced appetite after 3 months. In another study of 64 patients, the seeds reduced BMI and the waist-hip ratio, but the benefits were modest.
10) Black Cumin Oil May Help Fight Infections
Black cumin has been researched for fighting various bacteria, viruses, and parasites, but most studies were in animals, microorganisms, or cells.
Black seed oil acts against:
Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of skin infections.
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a big problem when it comes to hospital-acquired infections that are hard to treat.
H. Pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers
Black cumin oil can also be applied to the skin to prevent infections and relieve pain.
Black seeds can also fight some fungal infections.
Extracts are active against Candida albicans.
Black seed oil also protected against mould (aflatoxicosis) in rats, which could potentially help help people with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.
Black Cumin seed safely improved symptoms and reduced viral load in patients with Hepatitis C in a study of 30 people. In another study of 75 patients with hepatitis C, black seed alone (500 mg) or combined with ginger (500 mg) had similar beneficial effects.
Black Seed helped fight the herpes-causing cytomegalovirus virus (CMV) in mice.
Black Seed helped clear a malaria-causing parasite in mice.
The oil may protect against a parasite that damages the liver in mice.
In test tubes, black seed protects against several parasites that can cause serious gut issues in humans.
11) Black Seed Oil may Boost the Immune System
Many cell studies confirm the immune-boosting benefits of black seed oil's active ingredient, thymoquinone. Its effects on immunity are wide-ranging (affecting both cellular and humoral immunity), increasing immune cell activity and antibody levels.
Black seed extract increased Natural Killer cell cytotoxicity to tumour cells.
Black cumin seed was able to increase the immune response in cells (IL-3 from lymphocytes).
12) Can Black Cumin Oil Fight Cancer?
The simple answer is: we don’t really know yet. Black cumin has mostly been studied in animal and cells when it comes to its cancer-fighting potential. The research we bring up is promising, but human studies are limited.
Black Cumin oil blocks tumour growth and spreading in rats. It seems to activate of phase I and II detox genes.
Black Cumin seed (Thymoquinone) reduced liver and bladder cancer in rats.
In cells, it could kill cervical cancer, bone cancer, breast cancer, and stomach.
13) Black Cumin May Increase Testosterone and Male Fertility
In a study of 68 infertile men daily intake of 5 ml (1 tsp) of black seed oil for two months improved semen quality without any adverse effects.
In diabetic rats, black seed increased testosterone. It also improved sperm quality and motility in another rat study, probably due to its antioxidant activity.
14) Thymoquinone May Improve Arthritis
Black cumin seeds (Thymoquinone) reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in a study of 40 female patients, at a dose of 500 mg of the oil 2X day. It reduced overall symptoms, joint stiffness, and swelling.
Combined with its anti-inflammatory effects, black cumin may help those suffering from inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
15) Black Seed Protects the Kidneys and Prevents Kidney Stones
Black Cumin seeds have been traditionally used for the treatment and prevention of kidney stones.
It helped fight kidney stones in rats and protected the kidneys from damage and injury.
16) Black Seed Oil May Reduce Seizures
Black cumin oil (Thymoquinone) reduced seizures in children with epilepsy in a pilot study of 22 children.
Black cumin (Thymoquinone) also had an anti-seizure effect in mice. It probably reduces seizures by boosting GABA in the brain.
17) Black Cumin Oil May Protect Against Radiation
Black Cumin oil protected against the immune-suppressing and damaging effects of radiation in rats.
18) Black Seed May Help with Opioid Dependence
Black Seed helped reduce the symptoms of opioid dependence and withdrawal in a study of 35 opioid-dependant patients. Importantly, it also helped reduce weakness, infections, and improve appetite.
19) Black Cumin May Help with Breastfeeding
Traditionally, it was used to help increase milk production during breastfeeding in nursing mothers.
20) Black Seed Oil Relaxes Muscles
Black Seed reduced spasms in muscle tissues in various studies. It has an effect only on smooth muscles, such as the heart, gut, and airways. This is the reason black seed is used for asthma, breathing difficulties, gut issues, high blood pressure, and potentially urinary tract issues.
It acts by blocking the effects of calcium on the tissues and blocking histamine and cholinergic pathways
Black seed (Thymoquinone) in combination with radiation had a stronger effect against breast cancer cells.
Garlic Extract and Black cumin oil may work better together to combat parasites.
Consumption of garlic extract and virgin Black seed oil may have beneficial antioxidant effects in healthy postmenopausal women.
Black Cumin and Garlic together work together to lower high cholesterol.
I use the oil and I recommend 1 tsp (5ml) 2X daily for a 150-pound person.
The active ingredient, thymoquinone, given to advanced cancer patients was tolerated up to 2.6 g/day. The essential oil can contain up to 30% of thymoquinone.
Nutritional Value of Black Seed
Is rich in fatty acids particularly the unsaturated and essential fatty acids (Linolenic and Linoleic acid)
Is also a source of Calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium.
Contains Carotene (provitamin A).
Contains B-complex vitamins like Thiamine (B1), Niacin and Folic acid.
Is a good source of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6).
Black Cumin oil and its active ingredients have no known toxic effects. Black cumin is generally very safe, but several rare cases of skin allergies to the oil have been reported.
Since black cumin can reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, people on medications for high blood pressure or diabetes should consult their doctor before supplementing.
Pregnant women should avoid taking black cumin seed extract or oil. Although safe in moderation, black cumin seeds can cause abortions in larger amounts. Clinical studies have not confirmed that it is safe to use in pregnancy even in smaller amounts, nor in small children.
Activity in Lungs and trachea
My Own Experience
I noticed Black Seed oil was a potent anti-inflammatory the first time I took it. Ever since I’ve always made sure to have it in stock.
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