Black seed and the oil extracted from it have been used for thousands of years as a tasty spice and as a home remedy for a variety of health conditions such as weight loss, improving the complexion, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and other metabolic disorders. I was surprised to find out that seeds from the black seed plant were found in the tomb of ancient Egypt’s famous boy-king Tut.
Our ancestors used black seed for many other disorders of the respiratory system, digestive system, kidneys, liver, cardiovascular system, and immune system, including:
- Abscesses (pockets of infection)
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Increase sperm function
- Intestinal worms
- Nasal congestion
Taken internally, black seed has been an historical favorite to counter loss of appetite, indigestion, diarrhea, menstrual irregularities, and swelling.
Black seeds provide dietary fiber and are high in unsaturated fats, notably linoleic acid (the omega-6 fat) and oleic acid (the omega-9 fat), the fatty acid prized in olive oil. The seeds also contain various vitamins and minerals. A number of chemical compounds are thought to account for the healing effects of these versatile seeds.
Other names for black seeds are black caraway, black cumin (no relation to either caraway or cumin), kalonji, and black onion seeds. These small black-hued seeds can also flavor curries, pickles, and bread in a similar way to cumin or oregano.
Native to Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East, Nigella sativa, a small shrub with light purple, blue, or white blooms, yield seeds that can be crushed to produce oil.
Scientists are still working out the details of how black seed achieves the health benefits that have been demonstrated. We do know that black seed oil contains an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory called thymoquinone which shrank tumors in rats but hasn’t been tested on humans.
Two other components, thymol, and thymohydroquinone, add to the body’s ability to fight off infections from viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Antioxidants strengthen the immune system as they purge cell-damaging free radicals from the body. Anti-inflammatory agents fight infections and reduce angry red inflammations.
Shop online or at your local health food store for black seed products.
High-grade black seed oil may be used in cooking, baking, and added to beverages. Black caraway is a favorite flavoring for curry dishes, pickles, bread, yogurt, sauces, salads, baked goods, and cheese.
Other ways to take the therapeutic oil are by swallowing liquids or capsules or by applying it topically (directly to the skin’s surface). Look for personal hygiene products that contain black seed oil or add it yourself to massage oils, shampoos, homemade skin-care products or fragrances.
Some people mask the strong, bitter taste of black seed by mixing it with sugar or honey.
The limited scientific research that has been done so far on how black seed oil affects humans shows that it can help with several common health problems:
Acne – Healing black seed oil cleans out the pores, making it a useful acne remedy. Studies hint that black seed oil may be just as effective as benzoyl on acne.
Allergies – After 6 weeks of putting black seed oil drops in their noses to treat mild, moderate, or severe cases of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), more than 9 out of 10 people claimed their sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and other symptoms either got better or went away completely.
Asthma – Oral doses of black seed can reduce coughs and wheezing and improve lung function. Patients with quite low lung function report the best results. Others say that the drugs theophylline or salbutamol work better.
Breast Pain (Mastalgia) – Women whose painful breasts during the menstrual cycle were treated with a gel containing black seed oil reported reduced pain.
Diabetes – Taking 2 grams of black seed powder a day can help blood sugar levels in diabetics and is being studied for effectiveness lowering blood cholesterol as well.
Eczema – Skin imperfections, psoriasis, bug bites, and rashes can all get worse if they get infected by harmful microbes. Applying black seed oil to exposed, inflamed areas can cure infections and reduce the odds that disease-causing germs in the skin can flourish.
Heart Health – Taking a powdered black seed supplement (not the oil) may boost high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, when accompanied by aerobic exercise.
Sperm Function Improvement – Ingesting black seed oil increases an infertile man’s sperm count and help sperm swim faster.
Weight Loss – A 2018 study found that black seed supplements had a moderate effect on reducing body weight, BMI (Body Mass Index), and WC (waist circumference).
Although black seed is considered safe for humans, stop taking it immediately if you experience nausea, bloating, heartburn or slight increases in liver and kidney enzyme markers.