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Black Seed (Nigella sativa)

 

Black Seed Nigella sativa, also known as black caraway, and/or the black cumin (Kalonji), is an herbaceous plant is native to the hot, dry climates of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and some parts of the Mediterranean.  The seeds are so popular that more acreage is devoted to growing this blessed seed every year.

 

Black seeds are tiny and hairy, being no more than 3mm in length.  The seeds originate from the common fennel flower plant (Nigella sativa) of the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.  Nigella sativa is sometimes mistakenly confused with the fennel herb plant (Foeniculum vulgare).

 

The plant has finely divided foliage and pale bluish purple or white flowers.  The flowers grow terminally on its branches while the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs, on either side of the stem.  Its lower leaves are small and petiole, and the upper leaves are long (6-10cm).  The stalk of the plant reaches a height of twelve (12) to eighteen (18) inches as its fruit, the black seed, matures.

 

Nigella sativa reproduces with itself and forms a fruit capsule which consists of many white triagonal seeds.  Once the fruit capsule has matured, it opens up and the seeds contained within are exposed to the air, becoming black in color (black seeds).

History of Black Seed


The earliest written reference to black seed is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.  Isaiah contrasts the reaping of black cumin with wheat:  For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over the cumin, but the black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and the cumin with a rod. (Isaiah 28:25,27 NKJV).

Nigella sativa has a long history of healing human-kind, a reference to its value above wheat is found in the Old Testament, Book of Isaiah. For thousands of years the seed and its oil have been used for health conditions ranging from asthma and allergies to wounds and worms. 


Black seed has been traditionally and successfully used in the Middle and Far East countries for centuries to treat ailments including:


Bronchial Asthma and Bronchitis.

Rheumatism, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and various other inflammatory diseases.

Treat digestive disturbances, and fight parasitic infestation. 

Support the body's immune system.

Increase milk production in nursing mothers.


The many nutritional and healing properties contained in the seed can help build the body's immune system over time, supplying it with the optimum resources it needs to help prevent and fight illness. 

Primary Properties of Black Seed

The five major components that are found in Black Seed are:

 

  • Nigellin and Melanthin - promotes intestinal cleansing.
  • Sterols - Supports secretion throughout the body.
  • Nigellone and Thymoquinone - These two volatile oils have anti-spasmodic and broncho-dialating properties.  Additionally, they work as an antihistamine.
  • Essential Fatty Acids - Rich in supply of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They regulate metabolism, carry toxins to the skin for elimination, balance insulin levels, regulate cholesterol, improve blood circulation and help liver functions. 
  • Prostglandin - Produces E1 that regulates hormone secretion and lowers blood pressure.

Nutritional Value of Black Seed:
Black seed is rich in nutritional values

 

  • Monosaccharides (single molecule sugars) in the form of glucose, rhamnose, xylose, and arabinose are found in the black seed.
  • The black seed contains a non-starch polysaccharide component which is a useful source of dietary fiber.
  • It is rich in fatty acids, particularly the unsaturated and essential fatty acids (Linoleic and Linoleic acid).
  • Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body alone, and therefore we acquire these from food.
  • Fifteen amino acids make up the protein content of the black seed, including eight of the nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized within our body in sufficient quantities and are thus required from our diet.
  • Black seed contains Arginine which is essential for infant growth.
  • Chemical analysis has further revealed that the black seed contains carotene, which is converted by the liver into vitamin A, the vitamin known for its anti-cancer activity.
  • The black seed is also a source of calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Required only in small amounts by the body, these elements' main function is to act as essential cofactors in various enzyme functions.  


Black Cumin seeds are very nutritious; they contain 
35% oil, most of which are Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and 21% protein. The EFA’s like Linoleic Acid (LA) and Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) acid help strengthen and maintain cell integrity, heal skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, reduce wrinkles, and heal wounds

Black Seed Uses

Black seed (Nigella sativa) has been used as a natural remedy in the Middle and Far East for more than 2000 years.  Black seed provides nutritional support for the body's defense system.


In 1959, the active ingredient in black seed, Crystalline Nigellone, was first isolated and identified as providing many health benefits. Clinical trials have validated the efficacy of black seed in promoting health and wellness.


Black seed, in its complete, natural form, acts on the principle of assisting the body's own natural healing process in overcoming illness or maintaining health. It works on the part or system of the body affected without disturbing its natural balance elsewhere.    


The effect of black seed's combined nutritional and medicinal value is that not only does it help relieve the current condition at hand, but also helps the body build further resistance against future ailments or disease.


While historical evidence suggests black seed's potential use for a wide variety of ailments, we have limited our descriptions of its primary healing properties here to the most recent research findings on black seed. The health benefits of black seed oil are many. 

Black Seeds are Anti-Bacterial

In 1989, a report appeared in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmacy about anti-fungal properties of the volatile oil of black seed. 1992 saw researchers at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting a study in which the antibacterial activity of the volatile oil of black seed was compared with five antibiotics: ampicillin, tetracycline, cotrimoxazole, gentamicin, and nalidixic acid.
 
The oil proved to be more effective against many strains of bacteria, including those known to be highly resistant to drugs: V. cholera, E. coli (a common infectious agent found in under-cooked meats), and all strains of Shigella spp., except Shigella dysentriae. Most strains of Shigella have been shown to rapidly become resistant to commonly used antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa) and Immune System

 

Immune System Strengthening:

Studies begun just over a decade ago suggest that if used on an ongoing basis, black seed can play an important role to enhance human immunity, particularly in immuno-compromised patients.

 
In 1986, Drs. El-Kadi and Kandil conducted a study with human volunteers to test the efficiency of black seed as a natural immune enhancer.
 
 The first group of volunteers received black seed capsules (1 gram twice daily) for four weeks and the second group were given a placebo.  A complete lymphocyte count carried out in all volunteers before and four weeks after administration of black seed and the placebo revealed that the majority of subjects who took black seed displayed a 72% increase in helper to suppressor T-cells ratio, as well as an increase in natural killer cell functional activity.  The control group who received the placebo experienced a net decline in ratio of 7%.  They reported, "These findings may be of great practical significance since a natural immune enhancer like the black seed could play an important role in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and other disease conditions associated with immune deficiency states."
 
These results were confirmed by a study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal in 1993 by Dr. Basil Ali and his colleagues from the College of Medicine at Kin Faisal University.
 
In the field of AIDS research specifically, tests carried out by Dr. Haq on human volunteers at the Department of Biological and Medical Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1997) showed that black seed enhanced the ratio between helper T-cells and suppressor T-cells by 55% with a 30% average enhancement of the natural killer (NK) cell activity.
 

Black Seed (Nigella sativa) and Diabetes

 

 

Black seeds are high in essential fatty acids - Polyunsaturated fatty acids regulate metabolism, carry toxins to the skin for elimination, balance insulin levels, regulate cholesterol, improve blood circulation and help liver functions.

 

Researchers are currently evaluating the benefits of black seed oil and the treatment of type II diabetes for two main reasons. 

 

 

Reason one (1): To ensure that patients who use these alternative medicines are not at risk of detrimental side effects. 


Reason two (2): To evaluate the effectiveness of alternative remedies, since available pharmaceutical options are limited, have unwanted side effects and are ineffective in the long term.

 

Research on the benefits of black seed oil is considered preliminary, as studies are being done, but the results are promising.  Black seed seems to help inhibit the absorption of glucose in the intestines and improve glucose tolerance in laboratory animals, according to a study published in the January 2009 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology.”  Another study in a 2009 issue of the “Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology,” reveals that crude Nigella sativa extracts reduce damage to beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for the production of insulin.  This might lower the risk of type 1 diabetes, the study says.  An article in the April 2011 issue of the “Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism,” reaffirms that thymoquinone found in black seeds can prevent the development of type 1 diabetes and increase the insulin sensitivity of liver cells, which helps prevent type 2 diabetes.  Black seed extracts also possess significant antioxidant activity and might protect the pancreatic cells against the harmful effects of free-radicals, the study says.

 

Click here to view current research and review the FDA Patents on black seed oil and diabetes.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa) and Lungs

Black seeds contain Nigellone and Thymoquinone.  These two volatile oils have anti-spasmodic and bronchi-dialating properties.  Additionally, they work as an antihistamine. 

 

Histamine is a substance released by bodily tissues, sometimes creating allergic reactions and is associated with conditions such as bronchial asthma.

                                                                 
In 1960, scientists Badr-El-Din and Mahfouz found that dimer dithymoquinone isolated from black seed's volatile oil, under the name of "Nigellone," and given by mouth to some patients suffering from bronchial asthma, suppressed the symptoms of the condition in the majority of patients. 
Following the results of this early study, crystalline nigellone was administered to children and adults in the treatment of bronchial asthma with effective results and no sign of toxicity.  It was observed, however, that although effective, crystalline nigellone displayed a delayed reaction.

 

In 1993, Nirmal Chakravarty, M.D., conducted a study to see if this delay could be attributed to the possibility of crystalline nigellone being an inhibitory agent on histamine.  His hypothesis proved correct. Dr. Chakravarty's study found that the actual mechanism behind the suppressive effect of crystalline nigellone on histamine is that crystalline nigellone inhibits protein kinase C, a substance known to trigger the release of histamine. 

 

In addition, his study showed that crystalline nigellone decreased the uptake of calcium in mast cells, which also inhibits histamine release.  The importance of these results are that people who suffer from bronchial asthma and other allergic diseases may benefit from taking crystalline nigellone.  Black seed oil helps to fight allergies.  It works like any other allergy medicine to reduce such symptoms sufferers are experiencing.  It clears congestion, reduces swelling and combats irritation.  Taking black seed oil in small amounts (about half a teaspoon) twice a day can work wonders for a person’s allergies.

 

The antihistamine combined with the antibacterial properties of the oil, help combat coughs too.  Both properties relieve tension in the lungs by relaxing the muscles, and fights the bacteria that may be developing.  The oil can be taken daily whenever one is affected to not only reduce the symptoms, but fight the core problem.  For a cough, you can either ingest the oil straight, drink it with some hot tea, or rub it into your chest.  Black seed oil, as an asthma remedy, should be inhaled in the steam of boiling water.

 

And for those suffering from the flu, black seed oil can work wonders to provide healing.  Fevers can be brought down and broken by simply ingesting the oil.  Flu symptoms are decreased through all the properties of black seed oil.  It also fights pollutants in the body and help to cleanse it of toxins.  The colling effect will make a sufferer feel a great deal better during their sickness. Whenever flu symptoms arise, simply taking a teaspoon of the oil can heal and soothe.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa) and Stomach Problems

 

Black seeds contain Nigellin and Melanthin, both of which promotes intestinal cleansing.

 

In 1989, a report appeared in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmacy about anti-fungal properties of the volatile oil of black seed. 1992 saw researchers at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting a study in which the antibacterial activity of the volatile oil of black seed was compared with five antibiotics: ampicillin, tetracycline, cotrimoxazole, gentamicin, and nalidixic acid.

 
 
The anti-bacterial properties of the black seed oil proved to be more effective against many strains of bacteria, including those known to be highly resistant to drugs: V. cholera, E. coli (a common infectious agent found in under-cooked meats), and all strains of Shigella spp., except Shigella dysentriae. Most strains of Shigella have been shown to rapidly become resistant to commonly used antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents.
 
In light of the above research findings, it is of interest that homeopaths have long been known to make a tincture from the black seed for digestive and bowel complaints. Traditionally, the black seed is still used to help relieve vomiting and diarrhea, as well as flatulent colic, and to help counteract the griping action of purgatives (e.g. certain laxatives, fruits such as apricots when over consumed).
 
This oil can help to moderate digestion, soothing upset stomachs and reducing nausea.  Stomach ailments such as these are common, and sometimes they have deeper causes than just the apparent problem, but black seed oil can be the perfect remedy.  Besides the fact that its antibacterial and immune system strengthening properties are very potent, it also provides relief.  It stimulates the digestive system and helps excess gas to be released, thereby minimizing the tension and the pain.
 
Diarrhea and other bowel-related problems can also be effectively treated by the oil.  Black seed oil relieves sore muscles and regulates your digestive system, helping it to stabilize and balance out again. By taking just a teaspoon of the oil twice a day, you will get rid of diarrhea very quickly.  In light of the above research findings, it is of interest that homeopaths have long been known to make a tincture from the black seed for digestive and bowel complaints.  Traditionally, the black seed is still used to help relieve vomiting and diarrhea, as well as flatulent colic, and to help counteract the griping action of purgatives (e.g. certain laxatives, fruits such as apricots when over consumed).
 
Anti-Tumor Principles
A study of black seed's potential anti-tumor principles by the Amala Research Center in Amala Nagar, Kerala (India) in 1991 lent further impetus to Dr. Chakravarty's suggestion for the possible use of black seed in the treatment of cancer.

Using an active principle of fatty acids derived from black seed, studies with Swiss albino mice showed that this active principle could completely inhibit the development of a common type of cancer cell called Ehrlich ascites carcinoma (EAC). A second common type of cancer cell, Dalton's lymphoma ascites (DLA) cells were also used.

Mice which had received the EAC cells and black seed remained normal without any tumor formation, illustrating that the active principle was 100% effective in preventing EAC tumor development.  Results in mice who received DLA cells and black seed showed that the active principle had inhibited tumor development by 50% less compared to mice not given the active principle.

The study concluded, "It is evident that the active principle isolated from nigella sativa seeds is a potent anti-tumor agent, and the constituent long chain fatty acid may be the main active component."
 
Anti-Inflammatory
As early as 1960, Professor El-Dakhakny reported that black seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it could be useful for relieving the effects of arthritis.  

In 1995, a group of scientists at the Pharmacology Research Laboratories, Department of Pharmacy, Kings College, Lond, decided to test the effectiveness of the fixed oil of Nigella sativa and its derivative, thymoquinine, as an anti-inflammatory agent. Their study found that the oil inhibited eicosanoid generation and demonstrated anti-oxidant activity in cells.

The inhibition of eicasanoid generation, however, was higher than could be expected from thymoquinone alone. Their study suggested that other compounds within the oil might also be responsible for the enhanced anti-inflammatory reactions in cells.  The scientists speculated that the unusual C20:2 unsaturated fatty acids contained in black seed were possibly responsible for boosting the oil's effectiveness.

In 1997, studies conducted at the Microbiological Unit of the Research Center, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, found that externally in an ointment form, the anti-inflammatory activity of the black seed was found to be in the same range as that of other similar commercial products. The tests also demonstrated that the black seed is non-allergenic. 

DISCLAIMER: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

References:

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702918/

 

Al Mofleh IA, Al Haider AA, Mossa JS, Al-Sohaibani MO, Al-Yahya MA, Rafatullah S, et al. Gastroprotective effect of an aqueous suspension of black cumin Nigella sativa on necrotizing agents-induced gastric injury in experimental animals. Saudi J Gastroenterol. 2008;14(3):128–34.

 

Wallace JL, Granger DN. The cellular and molecular basis of gastric mucosal defense. FASEB J. 1996;10:731–40.

Goswami S, Jain S, Santani D. Antiulcer activity of cromakalim against experimentally induced gastric and duodenal ulcers in rats and guinea pigs. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1967;49:195–9.

 

Houghton PJ, Zarka R, Heras B, Hoult RS. Fixed oil of Nigella sativa and derived thymoquinone inhibit eicosanoid generation in leucocytes and membrane lipid peroxidation. Planta Med. 1995;61:33–6.

 

Tariq M, Khan HA, Elfaki I, Arshaduddin M, Al Moutaery M, Al Rayes H, et al. Gastric antisecretory and antiulcer effects of simvastatin in rats. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2007;22:2316–23.


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