Everything You Need to Know About Nigella sativa
Scientific Name: Nigella sativa (of the Ranunculaceae family)
Any Other Names: Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Seed, Kalanji, Nigella, Nutmeg Flower, Onion Seed, Roman Coriander, Spanish Nigella
Primary Constituents: 40% Oils, Fatty Acids (Linoleic acid, Oleic acid, Palmitic acid), Saponin (melantin), Terpenes and More (Nigellicine, Nigellidine, Nigellimine N-oxide, Thymoquinone)
Country or Region of Origin: Native to Western Asia, Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and Europe
Known Uses: Antioxidant, Breathing Support, Digestive Support, Inflammation, Headache, Lowering Cholesterol, and More
General History & Introduction
The Nigella sativa plant is considered an annual plant, blooming pale blue-to-white or purple flowers, typically only growing about 1 foot tall (30 cm) (Chevallier, 2016). It is a member of the buttercup family and is a different plant from cumin or caraway, neither of which it shares relation (2016). It is well known, with a rich historical value in many cultures, and has been used for its medicinal and culinary applications (Orr, 2014). There are records of the herb being used as far back as the 16th century, B.C. (Ahmad et al., 2013). It has a strong presence throughout Ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures (Chevallier, 2016). In modern times, it is popular still throughout Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world (Ahmad et al., 2013). Some of the benefits Nigella sativa offers may include antioxidant properties, breathing support effects, anti-inflammation properties, preventative support for many diseases, and more (2013).
Nootropic Benefits of Nigella sativa
Many have tested Nigella sativa to find effective antioxidant properties (Burits & Bucar, 2000). Some more recent research has revealed the seed’s thymoquinone content to be notably high (Bordoni et al., 2019). This same study suggested the high thymoquinone content to be primarily responsible for the herb’s high performance as an antioxidant. These antioxidant properties were reportedly strongest when the thymoquinone was extracted from the seeds (such as in a dietary supplement dose of the herb) (2019). And research supports the theory that Nigella sativa’s antioxidant properties can be used to protect the liver (Orr, 2014).
Breathing Support (Asthma, Bronchitis, etc.)
Modern empirical data is beginning to suggest Nigella sativa seeds as a reasonable treatment supplement for many breathing issues. The seeds have been purportedly able to treat nasal congestion (Chevallier, 2016). They have been studied for its potential to treat bronchial asthma, and with good efficacy (Shakeri et al., 2016). Al-Jawziyya, a Muslim scholar from the 14th century recorded Nigella’s positive effects on breathing, even suggesting it was used as an aid for gasping, shortness of breath, and hard breathing (Koshak et al., 2017). It is suggested to have the ability to reduce and even stop phlegm. Modern uses of Nigella still include cough and asthma, especially in its native regions (2017).
Black Cumin seeds are reportedly great for the digestive tract, both in a culinary sense and as a dietary supplement (Chevallier, 2016). It can treat stomach pain and ease stomach spasms. These digestive benefits also include reduced bloating, flatulence, and gas (2016). It has been said to offer incredible healing benefits during gastrointestinal disturbances (Shakeri et al., 2016). It has been used to treat constipation with great success (2016). And some sources report its powerful diuretic properties (Orr, 2014).
Many new models and clinical trials have been supporting the suggestion that Nigella sativa has preventative and therapeutic effects on many gastro-intestinal conditions (Shakeri et al., 2016). Much like the plant’s antioxidant properties, the digestive support can mostly be traced to the herb’s thymoquinone content. The anti-inflammation properties of the herb are also partly to contribute to its success as a treatment for many gastrointestinal diseases (2016).
Inflammation, Headache, and Toothache
Kalanji (Black Cumin) is extremely well-known for its anti-inflammation effects (Chevallier, 2016). It is an essential anti-inflammatory throughout the Middle East and India, also being used to treat infection (Orr, 2014). The seeds offer excellent holistic treatment for headaches and migraines, even being used to treat toothaches (Chevallier, 2016). In fact, some studies have reported the herb to have incredibly high efficacy in treating headaches of all kinds (Shakeri et al., 2016). This same research also revealed Nigella’s potential to decrease inflammation, reduce oxidative damage, and improve intestinal barrier function (2016).
Black Cumin seeds may possess a powerful ability to treat cholesterol (Chevallier, 2016). Some research has suggested that the seeds may be able to treat metabolic syndrome (2016). A recent study showcased Nigella’s ability to significantly reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol in participants (Farhangi et al., 2018). The seeds are shown to have an innate ability to improve dyslipidemia associated with type 2 diabetes, and is considered protective against atherosclerosis and some cardiovascular issues (Kaatabi et al., 2012).
Nigella sativa has many other traditional uses, some which have been backed with clinical trials or studies, and others which are only purported applications. It has been shown to possess antiviral properties and might be a potential treatment for chronic viral infections such as hepatitis (Chevallier, 2016). These properties contribute to its use as an antiseptic and has antimicrobial properties. Ayurvedic practice uses Nigella seeds to increase breast-milk production and promote menstrual periods (2016).
Some sources call Nigella an excellent treatment for diarrhea (Orr, 2014). It has been cited for its purported ability to combat cancer symptoms, and hypertension (2014). It is anti-fungal, anti-histaminic, and can relieve symptoms of many conditions (Shakeri et al., 2016). Some of the conditions which benefit from the therapeutic properties of Nigella sativa previously unmentioned include anorexia, back pain, conjunctivitis, dysentery, hydrophobia, obesity, paralysis piles, and some skin diseases (2016). The seeds have even been found to have anti-ulcer effects (Al Mofleh et al., 2008).
Dosing and Usage Information
A typical suggested daily dose of Nigella sativa in most dietary supplements is between 200 and 600 mg of extract. Usually only the seeds of the Nigella plant are used.
Nigella sativa is generally considered safe in normal, established daily value limits. Throughout much research and many studies, very few adverse effects were reported (Tavakkoli et al., 2017). Although, it should not be taken by individuals with hypotension, on chemotherapy drugs, or whom are breastfeeding or pregnant.
Other Important Information
Black Cumin seeds have a bitter taste with a flavor comparable to an onion (Orr, 2014). As it is toasted or extracted, the taste will be comparable to a nut and the fragrance will be strong. The seeds are especially enjoyed as a regular culinary asset throughout India and the Middle East, often being included on flatbreads and cakes of all types. The plant’s flowering head will bloom into a puffball after pollination, also paving its way as a gardener’s favorite for ornamental arrangements (2014).
Although Nigella sativa may not be the most exciting herb, it is a huge part of many holistic healing traditions. There is a lot of modern research which has suggested the herb is worth further investigation and clinical studies. Its antioxidant effects make it an excellent supplement to add to any daily regimen. Even the prophet Muhammad is famous for advocating the seed, proclaiming “…it has a cure for every disease except death” (Orr, 2014). The herb promotes a healthy body weight (Farhangi et al., 2018) and the proper functioning of so many other organs. In the end, it is no wonder the therapeutic benefits of these seeds have been used for thousands of years!
A Note from NooFiles
This article is intended to be used for information only. We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.
Ahmad, A., Husain, A., Mujeeb, M., Khan, S. A., Najmi, A. K., Siddique, N. A., Damanhouri, Z. A., AND Anwar, F. (2013). A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine. Vol. 3(5). Pp. 337–352. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2221-1691(13)60075-1
Al Mofleh, I. A., Alhaider, A. A., Mossa, J. S., Al-Sohaibani, M. O., Al-Yahya, M. A., Rafatullah, S., and 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. Vol. 14(3). Pp. 128–134. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4103/1319-3767.41731
Bordoni, L., Fedeli, D., Nasuti, C., Maggi, F., Papa, F., Wabitsch, M., De Caterina, R., and Gabbianelli, R. (2019). Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Nigella sativa Oil in Human Pre-Adipocytes. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland). Vol. 8(2). Pp. 51. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8020051
Burits, M., and Bucar, F. (2000). Antioxidant activity of Nigella sativa essential oil. Phytother. Res.. Vol. 14. Pp. 323-328. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/1099-1573(200008)14:5<323::AID-PTR621>3.0.CO;2-Q
Chevallier, A. (2016). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Third Edition. DK Publishing. New York, New York. ISBN 978-1-4654-4981-8
Farhangi, M.A., Dehghan, P. and Tajmiri, S. (2018). Powdered black cumin seeds strongly improves serum lipids, atherogenic index of plasma and modulates anthropometric features in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Lipids Health Dis. Vol. 17. Pp. 59. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-018-0704-x
Kaatabi, H., Bamosa, A. O., Lebda, F. M., Al Elq, A. H., & Al-Sultan, A. I. (2012). Favorable impact of Nigella sativa seeds on lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients. Journal of family & community medicine. Vol. 19(3). Pp. 155–161. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8229.102311
Koshak, A., Wei, L., Koshak, E., Wali, S., Alamoudi, O., Demerdash, A., Qutub, M., Pushparaj, P. N., & Heinrich, M. (2017). Nigella sativa Supplementation Improves Asthma Control and Biomarkers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 31(3), 403–409. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5761
Orr, S. (2014). The New American Herbal. Clarkson Potter Publishers. New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-449-81993-7
Shakeri, F., Gholamnezhad, Z., Mégarbane, B., Rezaee, R., and Boskabady, M. H. (2016). Gastrointestinal effects of Nigella sativa and its main constituent, thymoquinone: a review. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. Vol. 6(1). Pp. 9–20. PMID: 27247918
Tavakkoli, A., Mahdian, V., Razavi, B. M., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2017). Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. Journal of pharmacopuncture, 20(3), 179–193. https://doi.org/10.3831/KPI.2017.20.021