These seeds of the annual flowering plant, Nigella Sativa, have been prized for their healing properties since time immemorial.
While frequently referred to among English-speaking cultures as Roman coriander, black sesame, black cumin, black caraway and onion seed, it is known today primarily as black seed, which is at the very least an accurate description of its physical appearance.
The earliest record of its cultivation and use come from ancient Egypt.
In fact, Black seed oil, was found in Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun’s tomb, dating back to approximately 3,300 years ago. In Arabic cultures, black cumin is known as Habbatul barakah, meaning the “seed of blessing.” It is also believed that the Islamic prophet Mohammed said of it that it is “a remedy for all diseases except death.”
A lot of black cumin’s traditionally ascribed health benefits have been thoroughly confirmed in the biomedical literature. In fact, since 1964, there have been 656 published, peer-reviewed studies referencing it.
Here are health conditions that may be benefited from the use of the herb, including over 20 distinct pharmacological actions it expresses, such as:
- Analgesic (Pain-Killing)
- Gluconeogenesis Inhibitor (Anti-Diabetic)
- Hepatoprotective (Liver Protecting)
- Insulin Sensitizing
- Interferon Inducer
- Leukotriene Antagonist
- Renoprotective (Kidney Protecting)
- Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Inhibitor
These pharmacological actions are only a subset of a far wider number of beneficial properties intrinsic to the black seed. While it is remarkable that this seed has the ability to positively modulate so many different biological pathways, this is actually a rather common occurrence among traditional plant medicines.
Our project has identified over 1600 natural compounds with a wide range of health benefits, and we are only in our first 5 years of casual indexing. There are tens of thousands of other substances that have already been researched, with hundreds of thousands of studies supporting their medicinal value (MEDLINE, whence our study abstracts come, has over 600,000 studies classified as related to Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
Take turmeric, for example. We have identified research indicating its value in over 600 health conditions, while also expressing over 160 different potentially beneficial pharmacological actions. You can view the quick summary of over 1500 studies we have summarized on our Turmeric Research page, which includes an explorative video on turmeric. Professional database members are further empowered to manipulate the results according to their search criteria, i.e. pull up and print to PDF the 61 studies on turmeric and breast cancer. This, of course, should help folks realize how voluminous the supportive literature indicating the medicinal value of natural substances, such as turmeric and black seed, really is.
Black seed has been researched for very specific health conditions. Some of the most compelling applications include:
- Type 2 Diabetes: Two grams of black seed a day resulted in reduced fasting glucose, decreased insulin resistance, increased beta-cell function, and reduced glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in human subjects.
- Helicobacter Pylori Infection: Black seeds possess clinically useful anti-H. pylori activity, comparable to triple eradication therapy.
- Epilepsy: Black seeds were traditionally known to have anticonvulsive properties. A 2007 study with epileptic children, whose condition was refractory to conventional drug treatment, found that a water extract significantly reduced seizure activity.
- High Blood pressure: The daily use of 100 and 200 mg of black seed extract, twice daily, for 2 months, was found to have a blood pressure-lowering effect in patients with mild hypertension.
- Asthma: Thymoquinone, one of the main active constituents within Nigella sativa (black cumin), is superior to the drug fluticasone in an animal model of asthma. Another study, this time in human subjects, found that boiled water extracts of black seed have relatively potent anti-asthmatic effect on asthmatic airways.
- Acute tonsillopharyngitis: characterized by tonsil or pharyngeal inflammation (i.e. sore throat), mostly viral in origin, black seed capsules (in combination with Phyllanthus niruri) have been found to significantly alleviate throat pain, and reduce the need for pain-killers, in human subjects.
- Chemical Weapons Injury: A randomized, placebo-controlled human study of chemical weapons injured patients found that boiled water extracts of black seed reduced respiratory symptoms, chest wheezing, and pulmonary function test values, as well as reduced the need for drug treatment.
- Colon Cancer: Cell studies have found that black seed extract compares favorably to the chemoagent 5-fluoruracil in the suppression of colon cancer growth, but with a far higher safety profile. Animal research has found that black seed oil has significant inhibitory effects against colon cancer in rats, without observable side effects.
- MRSA: Black seed has anti-bacterial activity against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
- Opiate Addiction/Withdrawal: A study on 35 opiate addicts found black seed as an effective therapy in long-term treatment of opioid dependence.
Sometimes the biblical reference to ‘faith the size of a mustard seed moving mountains’ comes to mind in connection with natural substances like black seeds. After all, do seeds not contain within them the very hope for continuance of the entire species that bore it? This super-saturated state of the seed, where life condenses itself down into an intensely miniaturized holographic fragment of itself, promising the formation of future worlds within itself, is the very emblem of life’s immense and immortal power.
If we understand the true nature of the seed, how much life (past, present and future) is contained within it, it will not seem so far-fetched that it is capable of conquering antibiotic resistant bacteria, healing the body from chemical weapons poisoning, or stimulate the regeneration of dying insulin-producing beta cells in the diabetic, to name but only a fraction of black seed’s experimentally-confirmed powers.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet. PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
Domestication of plants in the Old World (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. 2000. p. 206. ISBN 0-19-850356-3.
Abdullah O Bamosa, Huda Kaatabi, Fatma M Lebdaa, Abdul-Muhssen Al Elq, Ali Al-Sultanb.Effect of Nigella sativa seeds on the glycemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct-Dec;54(4):344-54. PMID: 21675032
Eyad M Salem, Talay Yar, Abdullah O Bamosa, Abdulaziz Al-Quorain, Mohamed I Yasawy, Raed M Alsulaiman, Muhammad A Randhawa. Comparative study of Nigella Sativa and triple therapy in eradication of Helicobacter Pylori in patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia. Saudi J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jul-Sep;16(3):207-14. PMID: 20616418
Javad Akhondian, Ali Parsa, Hassan Rakhshande. The effect of Nigella sativa L. (black cumin seed) on intractable pediatric seizures. Med Sci Monit. 2007 Dec;13(12):CR555-9. PMID: 18049435
Farshad Roghani Dehkordi, Amir Farhad Kamkhah. Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2006 Apr;39(4):421-9. Epub 2006 Apr 3. PMID: 18705755
Rana Keyhanmanesh, Mohammad Hossein Boskabady, Mohammad Javad Eslamizadeh, Saeed Khamneh, Mohammad Ali Ebrahimi. The effect of thymoquinone, the main constituent of Nigella sativa on tracheal responsiveness and white blood cell count in lung lavage of sensitized guinea pigs. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct 29;126(1):102-7. Epub 2009 Aug 8. PMID: 19711253
M H Boskabady, N Mohsenpoor, L Takaloo . Antiasthmatic effect of Nigella sativa in airways of asthmatic patients. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb 8. Epub 2010 Feb 8. PMID: 20149611
M Dirjomuljono, I Kristyono, R R Tjandrawinata, D Nofiarny. Symptomatic treatment of acute tonsillo-pharyngitis patients with a combination of Nigella sativa and Phyllanthus niruri extract.Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jun;46(6):295-306. PMID: 18541126
Mohammad H Boskabady, Javad Farhadi. The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed aqueous extract on respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function tests on chemical war victims: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Nov;14(9):1137-44. PMID: 18991514
Elsayed I Salim, Shoji Fukushima. Chemopreventive potential of volatile oil from black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seeds against rat colon carcinogenesis. Nutr Cancer. 2003;45(2):195-202. PMID: 12881014
Elsayed I Salim, Shoji Fukushima . Chemopreventive potential of volatile oil from black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seeds against rat colon carcinogenesis. Nutr Cancer. 2003;45(2):195-202. PMID: 12881014
Abdul Hannan, Sidrah Saleem, Saadia Chaudhary, Muhammad Barkaat, Muhammad Usman Arshad. Anti bacterial activity of Nigella sativa against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008 Jul-Sep;20(3):72-4. PMID: 19610522
Sibghatullah Sangi, Shahida P Ahmed, Muhammad Aslam Channa, Muhammad Ashfaq, Shah Murad Mastoi . A new and novel treatment of opioid dependence: Nigella sativa 500 mg. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008 Apr-Jun;20(2):118-24. PMID: 19385474