By Hwaa Irfan
Known also as fennel/Nutmeg flower, Love-Lies-Bleeding, Black Cumin/Caraway, or Roman coriander in English, the spice from which black seed oil is derived is native to Syria. Spreading from the Middle East to Africa, India, and Europe it is not to be confused with cumin, i.e. Cuminum cyminun/odorum the seed is used a popular spice in Middle Eastern cuisine, traditional and alternative medicine, and is often used to replace pepper in French cuisine. In India, the seeds may be placed amongst the linen to keep away insects, traditional Indian herbal medicine apply it as a carminative, for gastro-intestinal disorders, diabetes, inflammations, chest infections, and for fevers. In South East Morocco the seeds are used for hypertension, and diabetes.
Records reveal that it has been used for over 3, 000 years – seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankh-amun. Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said:
“Use this black seed regularly, because it has a cure for every disease except death.” (Al Bukhari)
Known as faux cumin in French, schwarzkummel (German), tikur azmud (Amharic), habbet el-barakat (Arabic), kalo jira (Bengali), Sanuj (Catalan), hak jung chou (Cantonese), siah daneh (Farsi), kalanji (Hindi), chernushka in Portuguese, and jintan hitam (Malay), black seed belongs to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae in the plant kingdom. The firm stems bear grayish-green leaves, and white – grayish-blue flowers. The seeds have a curious three corner shape, with two flat sides, and one convex with a brown-black exterior, and a white interior. Sown in the spring, the seeds ripen around the middle of summer carrying bearing a strong, pungent aroma..Once harvested the seeds must be kept in a cool dry place.
As the use of Black seed oil has become widespread, more names have popped up including black cumin oil, nigella seed oil, and black oil. It is obtained from the seeds through cold press extraction. The oil is thick in consistency, and has a deep-dark amber color with a strong pungent aroma. It should be bought in an amber bottle which prevents light from deteriorating the therapeutic value, and has a shelf life of 6 months if kept in a stable environment, but refrigeration is recommended.
When buying the oil, make sure that it is labeled cold pressed, and solvent free because it has been known to be extracted using a petroleum-based process.
Black seed oil contains over 100 properties synergistically, and in pharmacology it has been found that it is best to use the whole oil (rather than specific properties e.g. supplement), or the crude oil extract. The chemical properties identified include:
- Nigellimine N-oxide
- Stearic acids
- Palmitic acid
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid
- Glutamic acid
- Ascorbic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin B₂
- Vitamin C
In clinical trials, Nigellone or dithymoquinone has been found to be affective in the relief of bronchial asthma, and is effective with allergies pertaining to the lungs e.g. asthma, emphysema, congestion because nigellone acts as an inhibitor of histamine. Thymoquinone protects against nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity (pertaining to the liver) induced by either disease or chemicals. The oil has demonstrated strong anti-inflammatory qualities against encephalomyelitis, colitis, peritonitis, edema, and arthritis by suppressing prostaglandins and leukotriens which lead to inflammation.
The African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine published findings that black seed extract cured an HIV patient in August 2013. A complete recovery was experienced experienced with no detectable HIV virus or antibodies against HIV in their blood serum, both during and long after the therapy ended.
A study conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College found Black seed oil is effective against 97 out of 144 antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria including HIV, staphylococcal, tuberculosis, influenza, gonorrhoea, candida, and malaria.
Much of the therapeutic qualities of black seed oil has yet to be discovered in the medical sense, but what has been discovered includes:
- Tonic (immune system)
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents
This oil is a powerful antioxidant preventing the deterioration of cells. As an emmenagogue it stimulates menstruation in cases of suppressed menses, and as a galactagogue it stimulates lactate ion in nursing mothers. It is a tonic to the immune system by increasing antibodies, a tonic to the liver by strengthening the function of the nephrons, and detoxifying the liver. Its qualities as an anthelmintic means that it destroys and expels worms, as an analgesic it relieves pain whether taken orally or applied externally, and as an antipyretic it reduces fever. As a carminative the oil promotes the discharge and flow of bile from the gall bladder into the small intestines by disinfecting the bowels.
- Digestive problems, constipation
- Congestion of the liver
- Sluggish lymphatic, vascular system
- Delayed menses
- High blood pressure
- Exhaustion, anxiety, depression
- Skin infections, acne
- Colds, flu
- Hair loss
- Allergies(especially ears, nose and throat)
- Chest infections
- Nursing mothers
There is low adverse reaction to black seed oil, but allergic dermatitis is possible for those with sensitive skin in its concentrated (absolute) form. It should not be used in conjunction with antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories. Ingestion can cause gripe, and the estragole content makes it unsuitable for pregnant women, and its anti-oxytocic qualities also makes it unsuitable for pregnant women, by preventing contractions. It is also unsuitable for those who suffer from low blood pressure.
Can be taken orally for the treatment of allergies, arthritis, anxiety, bruises, cold symptoms, diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure, flu, sore muscles, rheumatism, and stomach problems.
It can be applied directly to the scalp for hair loss
It can be applied directly to non-sensitive skin for the treatment of fungal infections (I have recently used it successfully in the treatment of psoriasis of the skin)
It can be rubbed on the back for treatment of asthma, and chest infections
It can be massaged on the stomach for colic
Dripped into the ear for infections of the ear
It can be rubbed on the forehead for headaches.
Applied in vapour therapy (though the smell maybe disliked by some) for acne, asthma, coughs, and allergies.
Blunden, G. “Pharmacological and Toxicological Properties of Nigella Sativa.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12722128
“Fennel Flower.” botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/fenflo04.html
Ji, S “Black Seed Extract ‘Cures’ HIV Patient Naturally” greenmedinfo.com/blog/black-seed-extract-%27cures%27-hiv-patient-naturally
Nickavar, B et al “Chemical Composition of the Fixed and Volatile Oils of Nigella sativa L. from Iran.”
Salem, L. “Immunomodulatory and Therapeutic Properties of the Nigella Sativa Seed.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16275613