Black seed oil is derived from the small, black seeds of the Nigella sativa, a flowering plant with purple, white or blue flowers, that is native to Southern Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. Nigella sativa belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and can grow up to 30 cm tall. It produces a fruit with seeds that are used as a spice in many cuisines and is cultivated in many countries of the world. Its black seeds are therefore known by many names including, black cumin (Egypt), black caraway (Turkey), Kalonji (India/Pakistan), roman coriander, and many more.
In Islam, the black seeds are called Habbat al-Barakah, which means the ‘blessed seeds’ and it has been considered one of the most treasured nutrient-rich herbs in history around the world.1 Some research proposes that it was used as early as the 5th century by Hippocrates. Black seeds have a strong aroma and notes of onion, oregano, and black pepper.
Black seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and phytonutrients and contain good amounts of various vitamins and minerals such as copper, phosphorus, zinc, and iron.
In addition to its culinary use, black seed is also well-known for its medicinal benefits. It has a long history of use in various traditional systems of medicine, such as Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha, and is said to have a broad number of therapeutic benefits. It has been used specifically for many ailments including asthma, hypertension, diabetes, inflammation, cough, bronchitis, fever and influenza and has been traditionally used for the treatment of a variety of diseases relating to the respiratory system, digestive tract, kidney and liver function, cardiovascular system and immune system support, as well as for general well-being.2 Its application can in fact be tracked back many centuries as a natural solution for many ailments.
Thymoquinone is a powerful compound and the major active chemical component of the oil. Most of the beneficial properties of black seed oil are attributed to its presence. Studies have indicated several therapeutic potentials, such as antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.3
Thymol has antimicrobial properties and adds to black seed oil’s potential viability as a natural antibiotic. The antimicrobial effects include those on gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi pathogens.4
Black seed has a wide range of biological activity and therapeutic potential and many pharmacological actions have been studied in vitro, in animal studies, and in a small number of human studies.
Some studies have found that black seed may exert antibacterial benefits and be effective at fighting off specific strains of bacteria. For example, thymoquinone was shown to exhibit significant bactericidal activity against various human pathogenic bacteria, in particular those that are gram positive.1 Other studies have demonstrated that black seed can help to inhibit the growth of MRSA, in addition to other strains of bacteria.2,3 Black seed has been shown to help fight the herpes-causing cytomegalovirus virus in mice.4 Black seeds chemical compounds have also been shown to deliver strong anti-fungal properties.
A number of compounds found in black seed (thymoquinone, carvacrol) are responsible for its potent antioxidant properties1 and studies have found that black seed oil acts as a strong antioxidant.2 In animal studies, thymoquinone by intraperitonial injection was found to show protective effects on lipid peroxidation processes during ischemia-reperfusion injury in rat hippocampus.3
Research has shown that black seed may have strong anti-inflammatory benefits in the body. One study showed that subjects with rheumatoid arthritis saw reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress after taking 1,000 mg of black seed oil daily for 2 months.1
Black seed may have antidiabetic properties and improve blood sugar levels. The effect of black seed on the glycaemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes was investigated. Black seed was used as an adjuvant therapy and was added to anti-diabetic medication. Results showed that a dose of 2g/day caused significant reductions in fasting blood glucose, two hour postprandially and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c).1
In a single-blind, non-randomised trial over the course of one year, black seed supplementation improved total cholesterol, mean arterial pressure and heart rate in type 2 diabetes patients on oral hypoglycaemic agents.2 Similarly, a randomised controlled trial showed that long term supplementation with black seed improved glucose homeostasis and enhanced antioxidant defence systems in type 2 diabetic patients treated with oral hypoglycaemic drugs.3
Furthermore, a small meta-analysis showed promising results on the effectiveness of black seed on glucose homeostasis and serum lipids4 and a systematic review showed that black seed significantly improved laboratory parameters of hyperglycaemia and diabetes control after treatment.5 Another systematic review revealed that black seed supplementation might also be effective in glycaemic control in humans.6
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
There is some evidence that black seed can play a part in the reduction of risk factors in people who already have elevated blood pressure and cholesterol. A meta-analysis suggested a significant association between black seed supplementation and a reduction in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, with a greater effect of the seed oil versus seed powder observed on serum total cholesterol and LDL-C levels.1
Results of a singular study showed that black seed significantly improved lipid profiles of menopausal women (decreased total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride, and increased high density lipoprotein cholesterol) more than the placebo treatment over two months of intervention.2
Increased Lung Function
In a small amount of studies, black seed and its derivatives have been reported to have anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects and have been shown to improve pulmonary function in asthmatics. A randomised controlled trial demonstrated that black seed supplementation with inhaled maintenance therapy improved some measures of pulmonary function and inflammation in partly controlled asthma.1 Another study showed improved asthmatic symptoms in patients with a reduction in the frequency of asthma symptoms, wheezing, and improved lung function over 3 months. Patients also had a reduced need for additional medications and inhalers.2 Another placebo-controlled study of 80 asthmatics had similar results. In this study, black seed oil taken by mouth for 4 weeks improved asthma control and lung function.3
Research has shown that black seed oil can help to reduce allergic symptoms like asthma, eczema, and overall congestion. Its effect in reducing inflammation in the airways may also help with bronchitis symptoms. A clinical trial study was conducted to investigate the anti-inflammatory effects of black seed in patients with allergic rhinitis symptoms. Individual characteristics of the disease, including nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose, and sneezing attacks, were evaluated. The results showed that black seed reduced the presence of the nasal mucosal congestion, nasal itching, runny nose, sneezing attacks, turbinate hypertrophy, and mucosal pallor during the first two weeks.1 Early research suggests that taking black seed oil daily might also improve allergy symptoms in people with hay fever.
Benefits for the skin
Black seed oil may be beneficial for people with various skin conditions. In a small-scale study comparing the therapeutic benefits of black seed with those of prescription medications, black seed oil was shown to reduce the severity of eczema.1
Research also suggests that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of black seed oil can improve acne.2 Early research suggests that taking black seed oil orally might improve symptoms in people with itchy and inflamed skin.
- Black seed oil is derived from the small, black seeds of the Nigella sativa
- Black seeds are rich in essential fatty acids and phytonutrients and contain good amounts of various vitamins and minerals such as copper, phosphorus, zinc, and iron.
- Black seed is also well-known for its medicinal benefits and has a long history of use in various traditional systems of medicine, and is said to have a broad number of therapeutic benefits
- Thymoquinone is a powerful compound and the major active chemical component of the oil. Studies have indicated several therapeutic potentials, such as antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
- Some studies have found that black seed may exert antibacterial benefits and be effective at fighting off specific strains of bacteria
- Research has shown that black seed may have strong anti-inflammatory benefits in the body
- Black seed may have antidiabetic properties and improve blood sugar levels
- Significant association between black seed supplementation and a reduction in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Black seed and its derivatives have been reported to have anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects and have been shown to improve pulmonary function
- Black seed oil can help to reduce allergic symptoms like asthma, eczema, and overall congestion
- May be beneficial for people with various skin conditions
If you have questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
Amanda Williams and the Cytoplan Editorial Team
- Yimer, E. M. et al. (2019) “Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin): A Promising Natural Remedy for Wide Range of Illnesses,” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hindawi Limited.
- Ahmad, A. et al. (2013) “A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb,” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. China Humanity Technology Publishing House, 3(5), pp. 337–352.
- Tekbas, A. et al. (2018) “Plants and surgery: The protective effects of thymoquinone on hepatic injury—a systematic review of in vivo studies,” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. MDPI AG.
- Forouzanfar, F., Fazly Bazzaz, B. S. and Hosseinzadeh, H. (2014) “Black cumin (Nigella sativa) and its constituent (thymoquinone): A review on antimicrobial effects,” Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, pp. 929–938
- Chaieb, K. et al. (2011) “Antibacterial activity of Thymoquinone, an active principle of Nigella sativa and its potency to prevent bacterial biofilm formation,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. BioMed Central, 11(1), p. 29.
- Anti bacterial activity of Nigella sativa against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus – PubMed (no date). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19610522/ (Accessed: September 14, 2020).
- Antimicrobial effect of crude extracts of Nigella sativa on multiple antibiotics-resistant bacteria – PubMed (no date). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10997492/ (Accessed: September 14, 2020).
- Salem, M. L. and Hossain, M. S. (2000) “Protective effect of black seed oil from Nigella sativa against murine cytomegalovirus infection,” International Journal of Immunopharmacology. Int J Immunopharmacol, 22(9), pp. 729–740.
- Leong, X. F., Rais Mustafa, M. and Jaarin, K. (2013) “Nigella sativa and its protective role in oxidative stress and hypertension,” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hindawi Limited.
- Burits, M. and Bucar, F. (2000) “Antioxidant activity of Nigella sativa essential oil,” Phytotherapy Research. Phytother Res, 14(5), pp. 323–328.
- Hosseinzadeh, H. et al. (2007) “Effect of thymoquinone and Nigella sativa seeds oil on lipid peroxidation level during global cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury in rat hippocampus,” Phytomedicine. Phytomedicine, 14(9), pp. 621–627.
- Hadi, V. et al. (2014) “Effects of Nigella sativa oil extract on inflammatory cytokine response and oxidative stress status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.,” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, 6(1), pp. 34–43.
- Effect of Nigella sativa seeds on the glycemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus – PubMed (2010). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21675032/ (Accessed: September 15, 2020).
- Badar, A. et al. (2017) “Effect of Nigella sativa supplementation over a one-year period on lipid levels, blood pressure and heart rate in type-2 diabetic patients receiving oral hypoglycemic agents: Nonrandomized clinical trial,” Annals of Saudi Medicine. King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, 37(1), pp. 56–63.
- Kaatabi, H. et al. (2015) “Nigella sativa improves glycemic control and ameliorates oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: Placebo controlled participant blinded clinical trial,” PLoS ONE. Public Library of Science, 10(2).
- Daryabeygi-Khotbehsara, R. et al. (2017) “Nigella sativa improves glucose homeostasis and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, pp. 6–13.
- Hamdan, A., Idrus, R. H. and Mokhtar, M. H. (2019) “Effects of nigella sativa on type-2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. MDPI AG.
- Mohtashami, A. and Entezari, M. H. (2016) “Effects of nigella sativa supplementation on blood parameters and anthropometric indices in adults: A systematic review on clinical trials,” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. Isfahan University of Medical Sciences(IUMS).
Blood Pressure and LDL Cholesterol
- Sahebkar, A. et al. (2016) “Nigella sativa (black seed) effects on plasma lipid concentrations in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials,” Pharmacological Research. Academic Press, pp. 37–50.
- Ibrahim, R. M. et al. (2014) “A randomised controlled trial on hypolipidemic effects of Nigella Sativa seeds powder in menopausal women,” Journal of Translational Medicine. BioMed Central Ltd., 12(1).
- Sahebkar, A. et al. (2016) “A systematic reviewandmeta-analysis of randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of supplementationwith Nigella sativa (black seed) on blood pressure,” Journal of Hypertension. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, pp. 2127–2135.
- Salem, A. M. et al. (2017) “Effect of Nigella sativa supplementation on lung function and inflammatory mediators in partly controlled asthma: A randomized controlled trial,” Annals of Saudi Medicine. King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, 37(1), pp. 64–71.
- Boskabady, M. H. et al. (2007) “The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patients,” Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology. Fundam Clin Pharmacol, 21(5), pp. 559–566.
- Koshak, A. et al. (2017) “Nigella sativa Supplementation Improves Asthma Control and Biomarkers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Phytotherapy Research. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 31(3), pp. 403–409.
- Nikakhlagh, S. et al. (2011) “Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: The use of Nigella sativa,” American Journal of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery. Am J Otolaryngol, 32(5), pp. 402–407.
- Yousefi, M. et al. (2013) “Comparison of therapeutic effect of topical Nigella with Betamethasone and Eucerin in hand eczema,” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 27(12), pp. 1498–1504.
- Aljabre, S. H. M., Alakloby, O. M. and Randhawa, M. A. (2015) “Dermatological effects of Nigella sativa,” Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery. Medknow, 19(2), pp. 92–98.