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The Impressive History and Health Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Black cumin seed oil also referred to as “black seed oil” comes from the black cumin plant (Nigella sativa) native to southern Asia. It has been used medicinally and as a spice throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia for thousands of years.
The History of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Black cumin seed oil has a rich history of being valued in many cultures for thousands of years. The earliest documented use of black cumin seed was written in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament where it is referred to in Hebrew as “ketzah”, a spice for bread and cakes. (1)
The Islamic prophet Muhammad touted black cumin seed oil as “a cure for any disease except death”, so it is has earned an important place in Prophetic Medicine (traditional medical practices written by clerics of the Prophet Muhammad’s day and in the Qur’an). (2,3)
Back in ancient Egypt almost 4,000 years ago, certain belongings believed to be helpful in the afterlife were buried with Pharaohs. Black cumin seed was one of the substances considered to be very powerful, as it was discovered entombed with King Tut! (4,5)
The Greek physician Hippocrates (5th century B.C.) used black cumin seed oil to support the liver and digestion. Then, several centuries later it was also used for treating snakebites, tumors, abscesses, head colds, and skin rashes. (6)
Health Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil
The history of Black Cumin Seed Oil is impressive, for sure. What’s really exciting is that hundreds of modern studies have since confirmed the health claims from ancient times and more benefits continue to be discovered!
Black cumin seed oil contains fatty acids, volatile oils, and minerals that all support good health, but it seems that the compounds thymoquinone (TQ), thymohydroquinone (THQ), and thymol lead the way. These specific oils get the credit for stopping inflammation in its tracks while making sure the immune system doesn’t overreact to foreign invaders like germs and bacteria. This combination protects us from infections, cancer, arthritis, allergies, asthma, digestive issues, heart disease, and more. Let’s take a closer look at what this oil can do.
Inflammation is often caused by free radicals – the by-products of normal body functions and detoxification – sort of like the exhaust created when you drive your car. Luckily, antioxidants found in nutrients protect us from cell damage caused by free radicals. Black cumin seed oil is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges the free radicals, leading to less inflammation, less chance of disease, and slower aging.(7)
Protects the Heart
Decreased inflammation, in its own right, will boost heart health. In addition, a 2008 study found that daily oral treatment with black cumin seed oil lowers blood pressure, LDL (bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol. (8) This, along with the antioxidant properties of this oil, helps prevent atherosclerosis (9).
Strengthens the Gut
Black cumin seed oil lowers acid levels in the gut and strengthens the delicate layer of mucus that lines the stomach, preventing ulcers and protecting from damaging toxins like alcohol and stress.(10,11) It also decreases inflammation in the gut, which prevents leaky gut, colitis, and other digestive issues.
Supports Memory and Brain Health
The antioxidant power of black cumin seed oil can come to the rescue yet again, this time for brain health. In a 2013 study of forty elderly volunteers divided into two groups, the group given 500 mg capsules of black cumin seed oil twice daily for nine weeks had improved memory, attention, and learning.(12)
Supplementing with black cumin seed oil increases levels of tryptophan in the brain and blood. Tryptophan is a mood-regulating, hormone-balancing amino acid that helps decrease anxiety. (13) A 2014 study showed that the mood and anxiety level of adolescent boys improved when given 500 mg of black cumin seed oil daily for just four weeks! (14)
Relieves Allergies and Asthma
Black cumin seed oil dilates the bronchial tubes, which helps improve asthma and other lung and bronchial-based health concerns. Amazingly, the oil caused improvement on all pulmonary function tests of 15 asthmatic patients participating in a 2010 study. (15) In addition, 66 patients with nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing due to allergies showed dramatic improvement after being given black cumin seed oil. (16)
Defends Against Cancer
Black cumin seed oil has been impressive in the treatment of cancer. It appears that Thymoquinone (TQ) takes the lead as the most powerful anticancer, antitumor, and anti-angiogenic component of this oil, as it boosts the ability of key immune cells to identify, hunt down, and destroy infected or cancerous cells. (17) A recent study actually showed a significant increase in the activity of the immune cells responsible for searching out and killing cancer cells after black cumin seed oil supplementation.(18)
Is Black Cumin Seed Oil Safe for Everyone?
If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or lactating, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor before adding this oil to your health regimen due to its estrogenic properties. Also, the availability of some medications may increase when taken at the same time as black cumin seed oil, increasing the chance for side effects. (19)
How to Use Black Cumin Seed Oil
Use only organic oil free of additives that’s packaged in a dark bottle to protect from rancidity. If you prefer, black cumin seed oil is also available in capsules. One 500 mg capsule daily or 1-2 teaspoons daily of the oil is sufficient to gain the health benefits. There are many ways to incorporate this powerhouse oil into your daily health regimen, including adding a teaspoonful to juices or smoothies, mixing a small amount with your moisturizer for daily skin care, or sprinkling ground seeds on salads or yogurt. Here are a few simple recipes that you can also try:
Power-packed Salad Dressing
1 teaspoon Black cumin Seed Oil
1 teaspoon Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
A sprinkle of ginger
A sprinkle of turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Black Cumin Seed Tea
Bring one cup of water mixed with two teaspoons ground black cumin seeds to a boil.
Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
Strain before drinking.
Add a teaspoon of raw honey for additional benefit.
Original Prophetic Remedy
The Prophet Mohammad taught his followers to use black cumin with honey. Combine one teaspoon of black cumin oil (or seeds) and one teaspoon of honey and eat.
The Bottom Line.
Because of its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulating properties, black cumin seed is truly worthy of its traditional nickname “seeds of blessing”. Its ability to strengthen and balance the immune system has far-reaching, positive health effects and should be considered to be a safe and worthwhile addition to almost any health regimen.
Zohary, Daniel; Hopf, Maria (2000). Domestication of plants in the Old World (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 206. ISBN 0-19-850356-3.
Saliha B, Sipahib T, Oybak Dönmez, E (2009). “Ancient nigella seeds from Boyalı Höyük in north-central Turkey”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 124(3): 416–20.
Padhye S, Banerjee S, Ahmad A, Mohammad R, Sarkar FH. From here to eternity – the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond. Cancer Ther. 2008;6(b):495-510.
Tariq, M. (2008). Nigella Sativa Seeds: Folklore Treatment in Modern Day Medicine. Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology : Official Journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association, 14(3), 105–106.
Amin, B., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2016). Black cumin (Nigella sativa) and its active constituent, thymoquinone: an overview on the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Planta Medica, 82(01/02), 8-16.
Dehkordi, F. R., & Kamkhah, A. F. (2008). Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension. Fundamental & clinical pharmacology, 22(4), 447-452.
Ragheb, A., Elbarbry, F., Prasad, K., Mohamed, A., Ahmed, M. S., & Shoker, A. (2008). Attenuation of the development of hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis by thymoquinone. International Journal of Angiology, 17(04), 186-192.
Al Mofleh, I. A., Alhaider, A. A., Mossa, J. S., Al-Sohaibani, M. O., Al-Yahya, M. A., Rafatullah, S., & Shaik, S. A. (2008). Gastroprotective Effect of an Aqueous Suspension of Black Cumin Nigella sativa on Necrotizing Agents-Induced Gastric Injury in Experimental Animals. Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology : Official Journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association, 14(3), 128–134.
Shakeri, F., Gholamnezhad, Z., Mégarbane, B., Rezaee, R., & Boskabady, M. H. (2016). Gastrointestinal effects of Nigella sativa and its main constituent, thymoquinone: a review. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 6(1), 9–20.
Sayeed, M. S. B., Asaduzzaman, M., Morshed, H., Hossain, M. M., Kadir, M. F., & Rahman, M. R. (2013). The effect of Nigella sativa Linn. seed on memory, attention, and cognition in healthy human volunteers. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 148(3), 780-786.
Beheshti, F., Khazaei, M., & Hosseini, M. (2016). Neuropharmacological effects of Nigella sativa. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 6(1), 104–116.
Sayeed, M. S. B., Shams, T., Hossain, S. F., Rahman, M. R., Mostofa, A. G. M., Kadir, M. F., … & Asaduzzaman, M. (2014). Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety, and cognition in healthy adolescent males. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 152(1), 156-162.
Boskabady, M. H., Mohsenpoor, N., & Takaloo, L. (2010). Antiasthmatic effect of Nigella sativa in airways of asthmatic patients. Phytomedicine, 17(10), 707-713.
Nikakhlagh S, Rahim F, Aryani FH, Syahpoush A, Brougerdnya MG, Saki N. Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa. Am J Otolaryngol. 2011 Sep-Oct;32(5):402-7.
Salem ML, Alenzi FQ, Attia WY. Thymoquinone, the active ingredient of Nigella sativa seeds, enhances survival and activity of antigen-specific CD8-positive T cells in vitro. Br J Biomed Sci. 2011;68(3):131-7.
Majdalawieh AF, Hmaidan R, Carr RI. Nigella sativa modulates splenocyte proliferation, Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, macrophage function and NK anti-tumor activity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Sep 15;131(2):268-75. Epub 2010 Jun 30.
Ahmad, A., Husain, A., Mujeeb, M., Khan, S. A., Najmi, A. K., Siddique, N. A., … Anwar, F. (2013). A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 3(5), 337–352.