Black Seed Uses & Remedies
Commonly known as the “seed of blessing,” 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.
The most pertinent point to be made about black seed is that it should be regarded as part of an overall holistic approach to health and ideally should be incorporated into one’s everyday lifestyle. In this way, 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.
Black seed as a daily health supplement
Most medicines work best when given a chance to run their full course, and this too, is the case with black seed. In cognizance of its substantial nutritional components, as well as its specific medicinal properties, the body’s ability to maintain health and promote healing of a lasting nature is best increased through regular use of black seed.
Black seed as an energy source
Ibn Sina (980-1037), in describing the black seed as that which “stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue or disspiritedness,” still holds true for Tibb (Islamic Medicine) health practitioners today. The rich nutritional value contained in black seed as outlined by scientific analysis of black seed, also points to it as a great source of energy.
From the Tibb health perspective, the black seed has an ability to maintain and restore body heat. Our Western diet, predominantly made up of cold foods — ice in our drinks, yogurt, pizza, cheese — all deplete the innate heat our body requires in order to optimally function. Tibb holds the view that a reduced metabolic rate (innate heat) is the cause of most illnesses. The body, in losing energy, also loses its ability to fight off toxins, resulting in a greater chance of contracting illness.
Black seed and other medication
Black seed may be used in conjunction with conventional or other forms of natural medicine. It is not recommended that black seed be used exclusively in the treatment of serious medical complaints which may require more immediate action. For example, conditions like bronchitis sometimes require conventional antibiotics to prevent the condition from becoming more severe. However, black seed may be used as a therapeutic aid together with this and other forms of treatment to help counteract any side effects experienced from the use of antibiotics or other potent, chemically based medicines.
Pregnancy and lactation
The black seed is not recommended during pregnancy, however during lactation. It is an excellent form of added nutrition for both mother and the growing child while its immune system boosting properties serve as a natural, safe way to build resistance against illness. In addition, as studies have shown, black seed helps increase milk production during breastfeeding.
Initial trials have shown that black seed may have an ability to increase the male sperm count.
Babies and toddlers
In addition to its many nutritional components, black seed contains carotene, which is essential for infant growth. During the toddler years, black seed provides children with all the energy they require for this active stage of life. Regular usage of black seed, which increases its immune system strengthening effect on the body, will decrease the length and severity of natural childhood illnesses, particularly during winter when children are most susceptible to contracting colds and flu.
Black seed for the elderly person
With its rich nutritional, energy-giving value, in combination with immune system strengthening properties, black seed is an ideal health supplement for the elderly person.
Primary Properties of Black Seed
As the evidence presented in this section will show, it is quite probable that as medical science increasingly learns more about black seed, one or more of its more active ingredients may become combined into a pharmacy prescription for specific conditions. In the event that this does occur, it is also likely that this particular extract of black seed will be chemically compounded and thus become a more potent medicine.
While it may be argued that chemical additives may increase black seed’s effectiveness in treating specific conditions, the healing principles of black seed in its pure, natural form should also be taken into account
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 nutitrional 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.
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.
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 immunocompromise 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 suppresser 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 suppresser T-cells by 55% with a 30% average enhancement of the natural killer (NK) cell activity.
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.
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 cells called Ehrlich ascites carcinoma (EAC). A second common type of cancer cells, 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.”
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 undercooked 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 chemotheraputic 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).
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.
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.
A study by Agarwhal (1979) showed that black seed oil increases the milk output of breastfeeding mothers.
A literature search by the University of Potchefstroom (1989), including biological abstracts, revealed that black seed’s capacity to increase the milk flow of nursing mothers could be attributed to a combination of lipid portion and hormonal structures found in the black seed.