Nigella Sativa aka Black Cumin is a delicious Ancient Egyptian super-spice that boosts immune function and fights cancer & inflammation.
Super Powers & Health Benefits of Nigella Sativa
Secret Compounds in Black Seed
- Thymoquinone – A phytochemical that has demonstrated anti-cancer, anti-inflammation and immune-boosting properties.
- Essential Fatty Acids – Black seed is high in essential fatty acids, particularly Linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is an omega 6 that has cancer prevention properties. It has also been shown to help with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and dermatitis.
- Amino Acids – Nigella Sativa contains 15 amino acids that are needed for many bodily functions to maintain good health.
- Minerals – Black onion seed also contains a lot of minerals which are important for normal bodily functions. These minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium and iron.
- Carotene – A compound that the human body can convert into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed in the human body for the growth of new cells, improved night vision and healthy skin and hair to name but a few of its vital functions.
- Phytosterols. This compound has been shown to lower cholesterol.
Nigella Sativa: The Spice of Egyptian Pharaohs
Black Cumin has an interesting history that traces back to the Eyptian Dynasty. The seed was discovered in Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb. This discovery dates all the way back to 1325 BC. The ancient Egyptians had very strong beliefs regarding the items they placed in the tombs of their deceased pharoahs. They carefully selected items which they believed would assist the Pharoahs as they passed on into the afterlife.
Various seeds, plants and spices were placed in the tombs to ward off evil spirits and protect from evil beings. It is particularly significant for Black Onion seed to make an appearance here as only the most important items (gold amulets, several ornaments,weaponry etc.) were placed in these tombs. It’s not clear why the black seed was in the Pharoah’s tomb, but it’s safe to say it played an important role in ancient Egyptian life.
History also tells us that Black Onion Seed’s healing powers were discovered long before modern times. As a matter of fact, Black Onion seed makes an appearance in both the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. An interesting quote is derived from the Holy Quran when the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, says “Use the Black Seed for indeed, it is a cure for every disease except death” – Saheeh al-Bukharee 7:591.
“Use the Black Seed for indeed, it is a cure for every disease except death” – Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, in the Holy Quran
Nigella flowers have been grown in English cottage gardens since Elizabethan times & are known by the romantic name “Love in the Mist.”
Identifying Nigella Sativa
Nigella Sativa is a flowering plant that grows in South & South West Asia. Its fruit produces numerous little black seeds that are often used as a spice. However, don’t be surprised if you don’t see them in your local grocery marketed under their botanical name.
Instead, look for their more consumer-friendly label: Black Onion Seeds. The spice they produce is known as Black Cumin. Other names include fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed or black caraway seeds.
The Nom-Nom Factor
These litle black seeds taste like a combination of onions, black pepper and oregano and have a slight bitterness to them like mustard seeds. In Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, dry-roasted nigella seeds flavor curries, vegetables, poultry, rice dishes, baked goods and even certain liquors.
Black Cumin Research from the Lab
To date, there has been a lot of research aimed at evaluating the healing powers of black onion seeds. Let’s take a look…
Cancer-Fighting. Black seed extracts have proved effective in treating tumors without the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Scientists have discovered a black seed component known as Thymoquinone. A recent study as the Texas A&M university showed that thymoquinone had anti-cancer properties. They identified that “Thymoquinone inhibits tumor angiogenesis and tumor growth”.1 In June 2007, the Brazilian Journal of medical and Biological Research published a study on the anti-tumor properties of black seed extracts. The study showed that there was a clear reduction in the growth of cancer cells in mice that were treated with black seed extracts (up to 95%). This was significant as it confirmed that black seed extracts had anti-cancer properties.2
Anti-Inflammation. Another study on Black Onion Seed looked at the health benefits. The study was carried out at the University of South Carolina in 2005. They discovered that the oil of the seed and consituents such as thymoquinone had “potent anti-inflammatory effects”. Their experiments centered on conditions such as colitis and arthritis”. They also discovered that “the oil and certain active ingredients showed beneficial immuno-modulatory properties, augmenting the T cell- and natural killer cell-mediated immune responses”. T cells and natural killers cells are the body’s natural army. They defend the body from disease by killing off any infections. This is promising for those with immune disorders such as AIDS where the T cell count is usually low.3
Allergy Protection – Certain diseases like bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema cause the body to produce histamines. When these histamines are released, the body’s immune system is goes into overdrive, causing tell-tale symptomatic allergic reactions. Researchers have reason to believe that Nigella Sativa protects people with these diseases by blocking the release of histamines in the first place. In Munich, 600 allergy patients were given 500mg of Black seed oil twice a day for 3 months. Scientists recorded a massive improvement in 85% of the patients.3
Opioid Withdrawal – Nigella Sativa also helped relieve withdrawal symptoms for those trying to get off opiates. Researchers reported “rapid improvement in signs and symptoms of acute opioid abstinence” from black cumin and that it also “prevented the development of significant craving and relapse”. They recommended it be part of any opiate withdrawal treatment program.4
Anti-Microbial Properties – The anti-microbial properties of Nigella Sativa include protective effects for viral and bacterial infections, and even parasites. In one study, black seed oil was given by injection to subjects with murine cytomegalovirus (very similar to the human herpes virus). After just 10 days, the virus was no longer detectable in the either the spleen or liver5. Even more exciting, research out of Cairo University shows that botanical extracts are effective against a host of drug-resistant bacterial infections, including E. coli6. Still other studies show that essential oils from Nigella Sativa are effective against parasites like tapeworms even when diluted at a 1:100 ratio 7,8.
Black onion seeds contain modest amounts of phytosterols, which can help lower cholesterol. However, the sterol make up of each seed varies widely depending on the plant’s origin. If you are looking to get more sterols this way, opt for seeds or oil harvested in Germany, rather than Tunisia or Iran9. There is also some exciting new evidence to suggest taking rose hip oil can improve the stability of sterols.
Black Cumin Research References
- Thymoquinone inhibits tumor angiogenesis and tumor growth through suppressing AKT and extracellular signal-regulated kinase signaling pathways
- Anti-tumor properties of blackseed (Nigella sativa L.) extracts
- Immunomodulatory and therapeutic properties of the Nigella sativa L. seed
- Role of Nigella Sativa in Opioid Dependence
- M.L. Salem, M.S. Hossain. Protective effect of black seed oil from Nigella sativa against murine cytomegalovirus infection. Int J Immunopharmacol, 22 (9) (2000 Sep), pp. 729–740
- N.M. Morsi. Antimicrobial effect of crude extracts of Nigella sativa on multiple antibiotics-resistant bacteria. Acta Microbiol Pol, 49 (2000), pp. 63–74
- R. Agarwal, M.D. Kharya, R. Shrivastava. Antimicrobial and anthelmintic activities of the essential oil of Nigella sativa Linn. Indian J Exp Biol, 17 (1979), pp. 1264–1265
- M.S. Akhter, S. Riffat. Field trail of Saussurea lappa roots againt nematodes and Nigella sativa seed againt cestodes in children. J Pak Med Assoc, 41 (1991), pp. 185–187
- Ramadan MF, Morsel JT (2004) Oxidative stability of black 45 cumin (Nigella sativa L.), coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) and Niger (Guizotia abyssinica Cass.) crude seed oils upon stripping. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 106:35-43