Nigella sativa seeds have been used therapeutically for many centuries. The seeds are black, an also known as black cumin, black caraway or even black seed in some places. Regardless of what name we give this plant, Nigella seeds have been used to treat numerous conditions traditionally in Ayurveda, Asian, Greek, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures.
Nigella sativa is a flowering plant that grows up to a foot tall. It grows throughout Asia and the Middle East and the seeds are often used in recipes as a replacement for cumin – one reason why it is also called black cumin.
1. Asthma and lung function
Two 2017 clinical studies on Nigella seeds have proven its ability to treat lung conditions.
A study from the UK’s University College London and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University conducted a clinical trial on 80 asthma patients. The researchers gave 40 of the patients 500 milligrams of Nigella seed oil in capsules twice a day for four weeks. The other 40 patients were given a placebo.
After the four weeks, those taking the Nigella seed oil had significantly fewer asthma attacks (better control of their asthma). They also had significantly lower blood eosinophils and better forced expiratory volume. In a study from Saudi’s University of Dammam, 77 asthma patients were divided into three groups. One group was given 1 gram of Nigella seed oil per day for 12 weeks. Another group was given 2 grams per day, and the third group was given a placebo.
After the 12 weeks, both Nigella groups had significantly reduced asthma attacks and better scores in lung tests. These included the fractional exhaled nitric oxide test (FeNO), the peak expiratory flow test (PEF) and other lung tests. The Nigella group also had improved IgE levels and improved cytokines.
2. Ulcers and heartburn
Nigella seed has been used as a treatment for ulcerative conditions. One reason for this use is the seed oil’s ability to inhibit Helicobacter pylori – an overgrowth involved in many ulcerative conditions.
A 2015 study of 70 patients with chronic dyspepsia were treated with either Nigella seed oil with honey (5 milliliters/day) or placebo for 8 weeks. The black seed group had significantly improved symptoms compared to the placebo group.
A 2010 study of 88 ulcer patients tested Nigella seed oil against triple therapy antibiotics. The eradication of H. pylori was accomplished equally between the Nigella group and the antibiotic group.
Several studies have tested Nigella seed’s ability to control diabetes. A 2017 study of 114 type-2 diabetes patients were given 2 grams per day of Nigella seed oil for a year, or a placebo. The Nigella group had lower levels of triglycerides, low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, heart rate (HR), and lower body mass index.
The black seed group also had lower levels of fasting blood sugar and reduced glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels. Insulin resistance was also significantly lower and beta-cell activity was significantly greater.
A 2010 clinical study of 94 diabetes patients found that 2 grams per day of Nigella seed oil significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and lower HbA1c after two months.
4. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
A 2016 study of 40 patients with Hashimoto’s was treated with powdered Nigella seed oil for 8 weeks or placebo. The Nigella group had significantly lower TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone and lower anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) levels. They also had a reduction of Hashimoto’s symptoms and reduced serum VEGF concentrations.
5. Breast pain (Cyclic mastalgia)
A 2016 study of 156 women suffering from cyclic mastalgia were divided into three groups. They were treated with either N. sativa oil (topically), diclofenac or placebo. The Nigella seed oil group significantly reduced pain after one and two months among the patients. The effect of the black seed oil was similar to the effect of the topical diclofenac treatment.
Nigella seed has been tested against human cancer cells on various occasions. These have included breast cancer, cervical cancer, bone cancer and others. In most of these cases, Nigella extracts were found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
A 2011 study of 66 allergy patients found that Nigella seed reduced runny nose, sneezing attacks and nasal congestion after 30 days. Other studies have shown Nigella is an anti-inflammatory agent.
8. Heart disease
Studies have shown that black cumin will reduce blood pressure and reduce thrombosis. A 2008 study of heart patients found 100 and 200 milligrams of N. sativa extract per day for eight weeks significantly decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels. The black seed extract also reduced LDL levels among the patients.
A 2014 study of 37 menopausal women found that N. sativa seed oil significantly reduced LDL-c and triglycerides, while increasing HDL-c levels.
A 2015 study tested 84 obese women. Researchers gave 43 women 3 grams of Nigella seed oil per day and the rest were given a placebo. After eight weeks, the black seed group had significantly reduced waist circumference and lower weight. This is despite the fact that they continued to eat the same amount of calories. The black cumin group also had lower LDL levels.
A 2007 study of 23 epileptic children found that black cumin seed oil significantly reduced seizures compared to the placebo group who were also taking seizure control drugs. The treatment period was for four weeks.
A 2013 study found similar results.
11. Mood and cognition
In a 2013 study, Nigella seed oil or placebo was given to 48 young men between 14 and 17 years old for four weeks. They were given 500 milligrams seed extract per day. The seed group had significantly reduced anxiety levels, better moods and increased long-term free recall.
Another 2013 study tested 40 volunteers for 9 weeks with 500 mg per day. This study also found the black seed oil group had enhanced memory, attention and cognition levels.
12. Bacterial infections
Nigella seed oil is a potent antibacterial agent. Studies have shown that Nigella seed inhibits the growth of potent bacteria strains such as Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 25923 and Staphylococcus epidermidis. This makes Nigella seed oil useful for skin infections and internal infections.
13. Candida and other fungal infections
Several studies have shown that Nigella seed is a potent antifungal agent. Studies have shown it inhibits a variety of strains of Candida albicans. It also has been shown to inhibit other fungal infections such as toe and toenail fungus and ringworm:
Nigella seed oil has been tested against parasites including different species of Schistosoma mansoni. These also include in the different stages of growth. The research has found Nigella inhibited parasitic infections.
A 2012 study of 40 women with rheumatoid arthritis were divided into two groups. One group was given 1 gram of Nigella oil in capsules per day for one month. The others were given a placebo.
After the month, swollen joint levels decreased, and mobility increased for those given the black seed oil. RA scores were also higher among those given the herbal treatment.
Really? Nigella improves all these conditions? The reason may lie in the fact that Nigella contains numerous medicinal compounds. These include:
• vanillic acid
Nigella seeds also contain:
• linoleic acid
• oleic acid
• eicodadienoic acid
• dihomolinoleic acid
• palmitic acid
• stearic acid
This array of phytochemistry adds up to only one thing: The fact that Nigella seeds are seriously medicinal.