Hearing word of a new functional superfood with an impressive skill-set and mix of benefits is exciting for any wellness fan. Although I must say, often times I’m equal parts skeptical as I am intrigued, especially when this new supplement is claimed to ease aches and pain, decrease sugar cravings, promote better digestion and provide adaptogenic like qualities.
One of our wellness communities latest fascinations is with Black Seed Oil (BSO). Thankfully this isn’t a newbie backed up by convincing pseudoscience. This is an ancient superfood that has been around much longer than we have – Black Seeds have been utilized for thousands of years. In the Middle East, black seed oil is as common as cod liver oil in Northern European countries.
But is black seed oil too good to be true? Is this another fairy tale remedy, or should we clear a spot next to our collagen and turmeric? Let’s investigate BSO, what it can do for you, and how you can get your hands a high-quality version of it.
THE MANDALA EFFECT OF BLACK SEED OIL
Let’s get the most mind-boggling part out of the way first.
While black seed oil is often labeled and referred to as black cumin seed oil, neither cumin (Cuminum cyminum) or black cumin (Bunium bulbocastanum) plant species are true black seed.
Black seed comes from Nigella sativa, and this is the name you should remember. Nigella sativa is a flowering plant in the buttercup family. In Ayurveda and Unani traditional medicines, black seeds fill an integral role in their holistic practices. A well-known use of black seed is for digestive support, working like a natural Pepto Bismol, black seed oil benefits all the symptoms in the song, from nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach – and you know the rest.
Black seed was the secret of the Pharaohs, it is said that these seeds were found in King Tut’s tomb. Being able to ‘cure everything except for death’, black seed was also mentioned in The Old Testament.
THE GOODNESS WITHIN
What makes this amber-colored oil from these tiny black seeds so mighty? Black seed contains natural phytosterols, plus omega-3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids. This is a leading reason as to why black seed oil is so effective at supporting healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure. But black seed oil isn’t just a fatty acid supplement. There’s a lot more to it.
In addition to phytosterols and omega’s, black seed oil contains other compounds which are highly effective in fighting inflammation. If you aren’t already aware: inflammation is the fiery roots to just about every condition and disease
Thymo-quin-what-now. Now, if you’ve read any Holisticole blogs on my favorite superfoods, anything with a long weird name like that is sure to be some sort of powerful phytonutrient.
If you’re still not following along: Phytonutrients are ‘active ingredients’, which I reference a lot in my work. As a refresher – anthocyanin is an example of a phytonutrient and is an active ingredient in blueberries. Curcumin is a phytonutrient and an active in ingredient turmeric. In black seed oil, the most prevalent active ingredient is thymoquinone (TQ), which provides many of the therapeutic benefits associated with black seeds.
This particularly potent component has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune supporting abilities. Its benefits are really quite impressive. While there’s a laundry list of black seed oil benefits, these are 9 of my favorites:
Black seed oil can be your new Pepto Bismol, not that you use that pink stuff anyways, but like I mentioned before you can use black seed oil for every component of the Pepto Bismol song, except you’ll be changing the lyrics to: ‘Yay black seed oil!’ (it still rhymes). If you don’t know the song – here’s a reminder. Thymoquinone has gastroprotective effects, working almost instantly for digestive relief. Black seed oil also supports the end goal of Better Digestion, long-term 
SEASONAL ALLERGIES & ASTHMA
The anti-inflammatory and phytonutrient components in black seed oil are responsible for the potential decrease of both asthmatic and allergy symptoms. Black seed oil has immune-modulating effects which inhibit inflammation from affecting the airway in both conditions .
BALANCED MOOD & IMPROVED MEMORY
Studies show that black seed oil produces anti-anxiety effects, while also improving cognitive function and memory. This may be related to increased levels of serotonin and tryptophan, which have been shown to naturally increase after just one-month of supplementation .
SUPPORTS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
We (as in humans, and many animals) have what’s called an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is one of the body’s largest neurotransmitter networks. Your endocannabinoid system has the motive of creating balance. This network sends messages and communications to all of your body parts to ensure everything is running smoothly, and it confirms if anything needs to be re-balanced. When your ECS finds a problem, it regulates by sending further instructions to receptors, which adjust how you feel and think. While the brain naturally produces endocannabinoids, the first cannabinoid to be discovered was in plant-based THC back in the 1960s. However, black seed oil also contains a key phytocannabinoid called beta-caryophyllene (BCP), and BCP binds exclusively to the CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Supporting this system is essential if you’re looking to improve or maintain health for the nervous system, immunity, digestion, joints, liver, skin, and bones .
LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE
Black seed oil has a vasorelaxant effect, meaning it has the ability to reduce tension in the blood vessel walls. This respectfully lowers blood pressure and helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. It may take 2-months of supplementation to achieve this, but since there are no known contraindications or adverse side effects, incorporating even small amounts into your routine may benefit heart health in the long-term .
SUPPORTS HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS & BLOOD SUGAR MANAGEMENT
Maybe you shouldn’t, but a quick search for “black seed oil + weight loss” will lead you to a number of bloggers and vloggers raving about BSO and its ability to ‘melt away pounds’. Don’t roll your eyes and close this tab, research actually suggests that since black seed oil reduces inflammation, its inclusion would also benefit our weight. Since extra-weight and inflammation are related, it makes sense. If you’re following a healthy lifestyle, the inclusion of black seed oil may be exactly what you need to help reach your goals. Don’t expect to drizzle black seed oil on a big mac and get results, this is something you would benefit from if you’re already on your best health journey. Black seed oil also works to balance blood sugar levels and has been shown effective in treating type 2 diabetes, due to its ability to improve insulin sensitivity 
HEALTHY SKIN (PSORIASIS & ECZEMA)
Black seed oil provides significant benefits for both eczema and psoriasis. Since thymoquinone pertains immunomodulating abilities, this oil works to significantly reduce inflammation, which relates to both conditions. For cases of psoriasis, the results of BSO may actually be more effective than tazarotene, the standard drug for “eruptions of the skin” . Black seed oil also helps to stop psoriasis and eczema from spreading.
For cases of psoriasis and eczema, black seed oil can be applied topically in addition to being used internally, both practices are recommended.
CHOOSING A HIGH-QUALITY BLACK SEED OIL
Not all black seed oils are created equal, many BSO products mostly provide omega-3 fatty acids, but as we’ve discovered it’s the phytonutrients that we want, specifically the thymoquinone. Black seed oil supplements should meet a few requirements when purchasing:
- Choose an oil that is cold-pressed. Other methods of extraction typically involve high heat which would damage the therapeutic properties of the oil.
- You want true Nigella sativa (Black Seed), not black caraway, not cumin seed, not black sesame.
- Opt-in for certified organic, this certification will ensure you’re getting a product with no synthetic pesticide residues.
- Choose a BSO that comes in a dark, light-blocking bottle, this prevents rancidity and also protects the therapeutic compounds
HOW MUCH BLACK SEED OIL DO I TAKE?
While each brand will provide its own recommended dosing, it’s a simple oil to include, as it can be taken straight up – simply measure on a spoon and enjoy.
Black seed oil has a pungent, bitter and peppery taste, which can be easily washed down with a swig of water. These flavor characteristics are wonderful for balancing the taste buds and work to naturally decrease our cravings for sweet.
You can also incorporate black seed oil into your vibrant meals. Think of black seed as a finishing oil, you should never cook or heat it, however, you can easily include it in salad dressings, smoothies, and on grains and legumes.
One of my favorite ways to include Black Seed Oil is in this Be Vibrant Turmeric Elixir:
Makes 1 serving
- 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1/4 cup coconut cream*
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated turmeric root
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
- 1/8 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
- 1-2 tablespoon raw local honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Seed Oil
- Add your plant-based milk, coconut cream, fresh turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon to a pot and heat over medium
- Bring to a gentle simmer and whisk until frothy (3-4 minutes)
- Reduce to low heat and continue to whisk (1-2 minutes)
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before stirring in your honey and Black Seed Oil
- Pour into your favorite mug. Sip, enjoy and Be Vibrant
- When opening full-fat coconut milk, reserve the coconut water and just utilize the cream for this recipe
- Don’t have full-fat coconut milk on hand? You can substitute with a teaspoon of coconut oil and an extra splash of plant-based milk
- Raw honey and Black Seed Oil don’t like to be cooked. To retain their vibrant beneficial properties, be sure to stir these superfoods in right before enjoying
- Turmeric stains, so don’t wear your favorite shirt while making this
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
Black seed oil should be consumed as recommended by the label or natural medicine practitioner. More does not mean better. When taken in the appropriate amounts there are no known side effects or contraindications for black seed oil.
It should be noted that since one of the benefits of black seed oil is to naturally thin the blood, this may not be suitable for certain people. For topical use of black seed oil, as always, complete a small patch test before applying a new product as part of your skincare routine.
This article was written by Nicole Eckert, Holistic Nutritionist and the Owner + Founder of Holisticole. Check out her holistic living blog: holisticole.com for amazing clean-eating recipes, informative blog posts and online programs. Stay inspired by Nicole’s passion – follow her on Facebook & Instagram (@holisticole). BE vibrant.
- Gastrointestinal effects of Nigella sativa and its main constituent, thymoquinone: a review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884214/
- Black seed oil ameliorates allergic airway inflammation by inhibiting T-cell proliferation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19059494
- Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety and cognition in healthy adolescent males https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24412554
- Cannabinoid Receptors 101: Why Do We Have Them? https://www.greenrelief.ca/blog/cannabinoid-receptors/
- Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2449371/
- Blood pressure lowering effect of Nigella sativa L. seed oil in healthy volunteers https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23436437
- Antihyperglycemic effect of thymoquinone https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4653335/
- Effect of Topical Application of Black Seed Oil on Imiquimod-Induced Psoriasis-like Lesions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28926201
- Antipsoriatic activity and cytotoxicity of ethanolic extract of Nigella sativa seeds https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3785163/
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