Black seed, Black cumin, Nigella sativa, Kalonji, Schwarzcummel, sinouj, Nutmeg flower, Black caraway, Habba sowda, fennel flower...
"A cure for every disease except death." (Sahih Bukhari)
Black seed (Nigella sativa) is considered to be one of the greatest healing herbs of all times. This herb has been used for millenniums to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the body, purify the blood, protect against irritants and support healthy longevity. Long forgotten this herb is now enjoying a positive and welcomed come-back.
What is Black Seed?
An annual herbaceous plant, black seed (Nigella sativa) is believed to be indigenous to the Mediterranean region but has been cultivated into other parts of the world including Saudi Arabia, northern Africa and parts of Asia.
Tiny and hairy, being no more than 3mm in length, black seed originates from the common fennel flower plant (Nigella sativa) of the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family. Nigella sativa is sometimes mistakenly confused with the fennel herb plant (Foeniculum vulgare).
The plant has finely divided foliage and pale bluish purple or white flowers. The flowers grow terminally on its branches while the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs, on either side of the stem. Its lower leaves are small and petiole, and the upper leaves are long (6-10cm). The stalk of the plant reaches a height of twelve to eighteen inches as its fruit, the black seed, matures.
Nigella sativa reproduces with itself and forms a fruit capsule which consists of many white trigonal seeds. Once the fruit capsule has matured, it opens up and the seeds contained within are exposed to the air, becoming black in color (black seeds).
Nigella sativa and its black seed are known by other names, varying between places. Some call it black caraway, others call it black cumin (Kalonji), or even coriander seeds. In English, the Nigella sativa plant is commonly referred to as "Love in a Mist". Nevertheless, this is Nigella sativa, which has been known and used from ancient times and is also known in Persian as Shonaiz.
The most pertinent point to be made about black seed is that it should be regarded as part of an overall holistic approach to health and ideally should be incorporated into one's everyday lifestyle. In this way, the many nutritional and healing properties contained in the seed can help build the body's immune system over time, supplying it with the optimum resources it needs to help prevent and fight illness.
History of the Black Seed
Nigella sativa was discovered in Tutankhamen's tomb, implying that it played an important role in ancient Egyptian practices. Although its exact role in Egyptian culture is not known, we do know that items entombed with a king were carefully selected to assist him in the afterlife.
The earliest written reference to black seed is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah contrasts the reaping of black cumin with wheat: For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over the cumin, but the black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and the cumin with a rod. (Isaiah 28:25,27 NKJV). Easton's Bible Dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for black cumin, "ketsah," refers to "without doubt the Nigella sativa, a small annual of the order Ranunculaceae which grows wild in the Mediterranean countries, and is cultivated in Egypt and Syria for its seed."
Dioscoredes, a Greek physician of the 1st century, recorded that black seeds were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache, and intestinal worms. They were also used, he reported, as a diuretic to promote menstruation and increase milk production.
The Muslim scholar al-Biruni (973-1048), who composed a treatise on the early origins of Indian and Chinese drugs, mentions that the black seed is a kind of grain called alwanak in the Sigzi dialect. Later, this was confirmed by Suhar Bakht who explained it to be habb-i-Sajzi (viz. Sigzi grains). This reference to black seed as "grains" points to the seed's possible nutritional use during the tenth and eleventh centuries.
In the Greco-Arab/Unani-Tibb system of medicine, which originated from Hippocrates, his contemporary Galen and Ibn Sina, black seed has been regarded as a valuable remedy in hepatic and digestive disorders and has been described as a stimulant in a variety of conditions, ascribed to an imbalance of cold humours.
Ibn Sina (980-1037), most famous for his volumes called "The Canon of Medicine," regarded by many as the most famous book in the history of medicine, East or West, refers to black seed as the seed "that stimulates the body's energy and helps recovery from fatigue or disspiritedness."
Black seed is also included in the list of natural drugs of Al-Tibb al-Nabawi, and, according to tradition, "Hold onto the use of the black seed for it has a remedy for every illness except death." This prophetic reference in describing black seed as "having a remedy for all illnesses" may not be so exaggerated as it at first appears. Recent research has provided evidence which indicates that black seed contains an ability to significantly boost the human immune system - if taken over time. The prophetic phrase, "hold onto the use of the seed," also emphasizes consistent usage of the seed.
Black seed has been traditionally and successfully used in the Middle and Far East countries for centuries to treat ailments including bronchial asthma and bronchitis, rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to treat digestive disturbances, to support the body's immune system, to promote digestion and elimination, and to fight parasitic infestation. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and is used topically to treat cold symptoms.
The many uses of black seed has earned for this medicinal herb the Arabic approbation habbatul barakah, meaning "the seed of blessing."
Primary Properties of the Black Seed
As the evidence presented in this section will show, it is quite probable that as medical science increasingly learns more about black seed, one or more of its more active ingredients may become combined into a pharmacy prescription for specific conditions. In the event that this does occur, it is also likely that this particular extract of black seed will be chemically compounded and thus become a more potent medicine.
While it may be argued that chemical additives may increase black seed's effectiveness in treating specific conditions, the healing principles of black seed in its pure, natural form should also be taken into account.
Black seed, in its complete, natural form, acts on the principle of assisting the body's own natural healing process in overcoming illness or maintaining health. It works on the part or system of the body affected without disturbing its natural balance elsewhere.
The effect of black seed's combined nutitrional and medicinal value is that not only does it help relieve the current condition at hand, but also helps the body build further resistance against future ailments or disease.
While historical evidence suggests black seed's potential use for a wide variety of ailments, we have limited our descriptions of its primary healing properties here to the most recent research findings on black seed.
How Does Black Seed Benefit?
The majority of our health problems have the same causes- infection by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When using clinical (allopathic medicines) each symptom is treated individually and usually with synthetic chemically manufactured medicines that contain alcohol and other harmful ingredients. Black seed is effective at treating the body as a whole and fights the actual cause of the symptoms. Black seed regulates too weak or too strong reactions of the immune system and is excellent for treating chronic, allergic and hormonal diseases.It uses are many as well as its benefit. Black seed support metabolism, improve digestion, and lowers blood sugar levels. It is used to dispel worms and parasites from intestinal track. It is useful in soothing bronchitis and coughs,increase body tone, stimulates menstrual periods, increases the flow of breast milk, provides quick energy, increases sperm count, calms the nervous system, encourages hair growth and retards hair fall out, prevents skin wrinkling, and much more.
How is Black Seed Used?
Black seed can be used in many ways. As a dietary supplement we recommend one teaspoon once or twice a day. the correct dosage is dependent on whether you are using it for prevention or treatment of acute problems. In one particular study in Munich, 600 allergy patients were given 500mg of black seed oil twice a day for 3 months. A clear improvement was observed in 85% of the patients. The oil can be mixed into any cold liquid or yogurt. It can also be applied topically for arthritis, eczema, psoriasis,and scalp ointment. The herb can be mixed with any hot or cold beverage or food. It can be used as a spice in vegetable or meat recipes. Click on our uses & recipes page The benefits are obtained through whichever way you choose.
Is Black Seed Ayurveda Medicine?
We consider Back seed Prophetic Medicine since it was recommended by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) over 1400 years ago. He in his divine wisdom said "Use this Black seed, it has a cure for every disease except death.Although Black seed does follow the Ayurveda theory with respect to the bitter alkaloid component, nigelline. According to the Ayurveda Theory bitter components work cooling, light and dry; after consumption they are sharp. It lowers fever, cleanses and dries excretions out. It gives tone to tissue and strengthens it, and even helps by skin irritations. It stimulates the appetite and metabolism and helps digestive problems. Bitter components also make it possible to eliminate excess acids
Why is Black Seed Considered a Universal Remedy?
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) said in his divine wisdom about the Black seed
"Use this Black seed, it has a cure for every disease except death". (Sahih Bukhari)
Black seed unquestionably has a positive and stabilizing effect on the human immune system which . Moreover, since diseases are the result of defective immune systems, it is fair to assume that the beneficial effects go beyond skin disorders and allergies. Since the immune system has a direct or indirect effect on all the systems of the body, when you are infected by any disease, the power of the immunity system affects the cure of this disease.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Black seed is a safe and effective herb that can be used by almost anyone. No irritations or side effects are caused when the right dose is correctly applied. Its benefits are obtained through consistent use,the effects are medium to long term. Diabetes is useful in the treatment of diabetes mellitus or diabetes caused by an allergy. However it is recommended that the treatment be supervises because Black seed does lower blood sugar levels. Black seed should not be taken by pregnant women if their wombs are sensitive (Many Muslim women take it while pregnant and no harm has been found. I, Asma Rice, personally have taken it in all of my pregnancies without any harm, Alhamdulillah).
What Are Some Nutritional Components?
Black seed contains over 100 valuable nutrients. It contains about 21% protein, 38% carbohydrates and 35% plant fats and oils. The contents are similar to evening primrose oil, but because of its complex composition, it is much stronger. The active ingredients of black seed are Thymoquinone, Nigellone, and Fixed oils. it also contains in significant proportions protein, Carbohydrates and Essential fatty acids. Other ingredients include Linoleic acid, Oleic acid, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium, Vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin B2,Niacin, and Vitamin C.
Has There Been Any Scientific Reserach Done?
There has been numerous on going research on the effects of Black seed since 1959. Research carried out at major international universities and articles published in various scientific journals documenting the astonishing results of the Black seed. In 1960, Egyptian researchers confirmed that Nigellone was responsible for Black seeds broncho-dilating effect. Scientists in Germany have confirmed the anti-bacterial and antimycotic effects of black seed oil. Scientist sat the Cancer and Immuno-Biological Laboratory have found that Black seed stimulates bone marrow and immune cells and raises the interferon production, protects normal cells against cell destroying effects of viruses, destroys tumor cells and raises the number of anti- bodies producing B cells. U.S researchers have written the world wide first report on the anti-tumor affects of Black seed oil. Its title "Study of the Effects of Nigella sativa on Humans".
Should I Take the Oil of the Herb?
Both are effective in their own right..
Do I Have to Be Sick to Take Black Seed?
Absolutely not! Nowadays because our food is more and more denaturalized, our bodies are full of free radicals which produce cancer. The essential fatty acids in black seed bind the free radicals and eliminate them. Since our bodies are not able to synthesize thereby making Black seed an important addition to our diet. Black seed also contains beta carotene, which is known to destroy cell damaging substances which produce cancer.
Black Seed is Rich in Nutritional Values.
Monosaccharides (single molecule sugars) in the form of glucose, rhamnose, xylose, and arabinose are found in the black seed.
The black seed contains a non-starch polysaccharide component which is a useful source of dietary fiber.
It is rich in fatty acids, particularly the unsaturated and essential fatty acids (Linoleic and Linoleic acid). Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body alone, and therefore we acquire these from food.
Fifteen amino acids make up the protein content of the black seed, including eight of the nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized within our body in sufficient quantities and are thus required from our diet.
Black seed contains Arginine which is essential for infant growth.
Chemical analysis has further revealed that the black seed contains carotene, which is converted by the liver into vitamin A, the vitamin known for its anti-cancer activity.
The black seed is also a source of calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Required only in small amounts by the body, these elements' main function is to act as essential cofactors in various enzyme functions.
2. Immune System Strengthening
Studies begun just over a decade ago suggest that if used on an ongoing basis, black seed can play an important role to enhance human immunity, particularly in immunocompromise patients.
In 1986, Drs. El-Kadi and Kandil conducted a study with human volunteers to test the efficiency of black seed as a natural immune enhancer. The first group of volunteers received black seed capsules (1 gram twice daily) for four weeks and the second group were given a placebo. A complete lymphocyte count carried out in all volunteers before and four weeks after administration of black seed and the placebo revealed that the majority of subjects who took black seed displayed a 72% increase in helper to suppresser T-cells ratio, as well as an increase in natural killer cell functional activity. The control group who received the placebo experienced a net decline in ratio of 7%. They reported, "These findings may be of great practical significance since a natural immune enhancer like the black seed could play an important role in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and other disease conditions associated with immune deficiency states."
These results were confirmed by a study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal in 1993 by Dr. Basil Ali and his colleagues from the College of Medicine at Kin Faisal University.
In the field of AIDS research specifically, tests carried out by Dr. Haq on human volunteers at the Department of Biological and Medical Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1997) showed that black seed enhanced the ratio between helper T-cells and suppresser T-cells by 55% with a 30% average enhancement of the natural killer (NK) cell activity.
3. Anti-histamine activity
Histamine is a substance released by bodily tissues, sometimes creating allergic reactions and is associated with conditions such as bronchial asthma.
In 1960, scientists Badr-El-Din and Mahfouz found that dimer dithymoquinone isolated from black seed's volatile oil, under the name of "Nigellone," and given by mouth to some patients suffering from bronchial asthma, suppressed the symptoms of the condition in the majority of patients.
Following the results of this early study, crystalline nigellone was administered to children and adults in the treatment of bronchial asthma with effective results and no sign of toxicity. It was observed, however, that although effective, crystalline nigellone displayed a delayed reaction.
In 1993, Nirmal Chakravarty, M.D., conducted a study to see if this delay could be attributed to the possibility of crystalline nigellone being an inhibitory agent on histamine. His hypothesis proved correct. Dr. Chakravarty's study found that the actual mechanism behind the suppressive effect of crystalline nigellone on histamine is that crystalline nigellone inhibits protein kinase C, a substance known to trigger the release of histamine. In addition, his study showed that crystalline nigellone decreased the uptake of calcium in mast cells, which also inhibits histamine release.
The importance of these results are that people who suffer from bronchial asthma and other allergic diseases may benefit from taking crystalline nigellone.
4. Anti-tumor principles
A study of black seed's potential anti-tumor principles by the Amala Research Center in Amala Nagar, Kerala (India) in 1991 lent further impetus to Dr. Chakravarty's suggestion for the possible use of black seed in the treatment of cancer.
Using an active principle of fatty acids derived from black seed, studies with Swiss albino mice showed that this active principle could completely inhibit the development of a common type of cancer cells called Ehrlich ascites carcinoma (EAC). A second common type of cancer cells, Dalton's lymphoma ascites (DLA) cells were also used.
Mice which had received the EAC cells and black seed remained normal without any tumor formation, illustrating that the active principle was 100% effective in preventing EAC tumor development.
Results in mice who received DLA cells and black seed showed that the active principle had inhibited tumor development by 50% less compared to mice not given the active principle.
The study concluded, "It is evident that the active principle isolated from nigella sativa seeds is a potent anti-tumor agent, and the constituent long chain fatty acid may be the main active component."
In 1989, a report appeared in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmacy about anti-fungal properties of the volatile oil of black seed. 1992 saw researchers at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting a study in which the antibacterial activity of the volatile oil of black seed was compared with five antibiotics: ampicillin, tetracycline, cotrimoxazole, gentamicin, and nalidixic acid.
The oil proved to be more effective against many strains of bacteria, including those known to be highly resistant to drugs: V. cholera, E. coli (a common infectious agent found in undercooked meats), and all strains of Shigella spp., except Shigella dysentriae. Most strains of Shigella have been shown to rapidly become resistant to commonly used antibiotics and chemotheraputic agents.
In light of the above research findings, it is of interest that homeopaths have long been known to make a tincture from the black seed for digestive and bowel complaints. Traditionally, the black seed is still used to help relieve vomiting and diarrhea, as well as flatulent colic, and to help counteract the griping action of purgatives (e.g. certain laxatives, fruits such as apricots when over consumed).
As early as 1960, Professor El-Dakhakny reported that black seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it could be useful for relieving the effects of arthritis.
In 1995, a group of scientists at the Pharmacology Research Laboratories, Department of Pharmacy, Kings College, Lond, decided to test the effectiveness of the fixed oil of Nigella sativa and its derivative, thymoquinine, as an anti-inflammatory agent. Their study found that the oil inhibited eicosanoid generation and demonstrated anti-oxidant activity in cells.
The inhibition of eicasanoid generation, however, was higher than could be expected from thymoquinone alone. Their study suggested that other compounds within the oil might also be responsible for the enhanced anti-inflammatory reactions in cells.
The scientists speculated that the unusual C20:2 unsaturated fatty acids contained in black seed were possibly responsible for boosting the oil's effectiveness.
In 1997, studies conducted at the Microbiological Unit of the Research Center, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, found that externally in an ointment form, the anti-inflammatory activity of the black seed was found to be in the same range as that of other similar commercial products. The tests also demonstrated that the black seed is non-allergenic.
7. Promotes lactation
A study by Agarwhal (1979) showed that black seed oil increases the milk output of breastfeeding mothers.
A literature search by the University of Potchefstroom (1989), including biological abstracts, revealed that black seed's capacity to increase the milk flow of nursing mothers could be attributed to a combination of lipid portion and hormonal structures found in the black seed.