Black seed or nigella sativa, a standard food condiment, comes from a plant native to south-east Asia. You can consume whole black seed and black seed oil as a healthy dietary supplement. It has traditionally been used for more than just cooking. There’s a long-established history of its therapeutic advantages dating back to the times of King Tut with minimum to no side effects. Ironically, black seed oil benefits and uses faded away with time until recently when the focus has shifted back to research backed natural remedies. It is no coincidence that the black seed is also called HABBATUL BARAKAH, which means – the seed of blessing. Black seed oil benefits in trivial health issues such as indigestion, headache, toothache, diarrhoea to severe respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, metabolic conditions like diabetes, liver diseases, skin diseases, fungal and resistant bacterial infections, etc. It is also a serious contender in the war against cancer.

Depending on where you live, you may have heard of this tiny but incredibly potent seed as follows:

  • Black cumin
  • Black caraway
  • Black sesame
  • Black Onion seed
  • Schwarzkummel
  • Roman coriander
  • Kalonji
  • Habbatus Sauda
  • Graine De Nigelle

What is Black Seed Oil?

It is the oil extracted commercially from black cumin seeds produced by compression. It can also be made at home using standard home appliances, or you can buy it online.

It contains many therapeutically potent chemicals which contribute to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-histaminic, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. It includes the most critical phytochemicals, which are:

Thymoquinone- It is well-known as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer (1). It helps with diabetes, asthma and cancer (2).

Thymohydroquinone- Potent natural acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor (3). Medically, AChE inhibitors (4) are used in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Schizophrenia, neurodegenerative diseases and autism.

Thymol- It is a natural monoterpene which kills the tubercle bacilli which causes tuberculosis and other viruses. It is also a disinfectant, used in pesticides (5), mouthwashes, cosmetics and perfumes.

Apart from the above, it also contains myristic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, arachidonic acid, few proteins, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B9 (folate) and minerals like zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus and calcium.

What to look for while you buy black seed oil?

Whenever you buy any product or health supplement, there are a few points that need to be kept in mind. In the case of black seed oil, make sure you buy good quality oil, preferably branded which has been extracted organically by cold pressing and has no additives.

Also, make sure that it is kept in the dark glass bottle, preferably Miron glass, to prevent light-induced degradation.

How to use Black Seed Oil?

Black seed oil can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Use it orally in a dose of 1 teaspoon twice a day.
  • Use it as a salad dressing instead of olive oil.
  • Apply it locally on skin and hair.
  • Use it as a moisturising agent for the face.

Black Seed Oil benefits

1. Respiratory System

  • Asthma- Studies suggest that oral intake of black seed oil improves asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing and lung function (6). This is due to its anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the inflammation of the respiratory tract and allow you to breathe comfortably (7).
    Take 2gm of ground black seed daily for 12 weeks or 15ml per kg of black seed extract daily for 3 months.  However, the black seed itself may not be as effective as therapeutically given drugs like Salbutamol and Theophylline.
  • Bronchitis- Owing to its anti-inflammatory action, black seed oil benefits people suffering from bronchitis too.
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) – Studies show that Immerfit by PhytImmun, when taken orally, improves the symptoms of allergy in people suffering from allergic rhinitis. It happens because this drug contains black seed oil and other components which are anti-inflammatory (8). 

2. Cardiovascular System

  • Hypertension- Research shows that oral intake of black seed is associated with the mild reduction in blood pressure (9). Take 2 g of black seed powder daily for up to 12 weeks or black seed oil 150mg twice daily for 8 weeks.
  • Cardioprotective- Research proves that this miraculous seed protects myocardial (heart tissue) injury due to a drug called (10).

3. Reproductive System

  • Infertility in men- Of the many factors causing male infertility is low sperm count. Black seed not only increases the sperm count but improves their motility (11). Daily intake of 2.5ml black seed oil for 2 months improves sperm quality and function with no documented adverse effects (12).
  • Breast Pain (Mastalgia) – Applying black seed oil based gel (containing 30% black seed oil) topically on breasts during menstrual cycle reduces the pain in females complaining of breast pain.
  • Increases breast milk flow- Useful in mothers struggling to produce enough milk especially after delivery where they don’t want to take any drugs that might affect the baby through milk (13).

4. Skin & Hair

  • Eczema- Dry, itchy, inflamed skin characterises this skin condition. Research suggests that by taking black seed oil along with vitamin E, beta-carotene and biotin, one can get relief from eczema symptoms (14). A regular topical application doesn’t provide any relief.
  • Psoriasis- Extract of black seed helps psoriasis by increasing the epidermal skin thickness (15).
  • Hair loss It has shown to improve both male and female pattern balding probably because of its anti-oxidant properties. It strengthens hair follicle and roots.
  • Protection of skin from UV rays- Melanin is a brown pigment responsible for giving colour to our skin and iris. This pigment also acts as a barrier between the harmful UV rays and your skin, preventing sunlight-induced damage to skin cells. Black seed oil promotes melanin production (16) which in turn protects you from the harmful effects of sunrays.
  • Scars- Black seed oil is being studied for its anti-scarring properties post operations (17).

5. Central Nervous System

  • Seizures- Early research shows that taking black seed extract by mouth every 8 hours for 4 weeks reduces the incidence of seizure episodes in epileptic children (18). Black seed oil hasn’t shown the same results.
  • Opioid Withdrawal- According to a study, taking black seed extract orally 3 times/day for 12 days after opioid cessation is associated with reduced incidence and intensity of withdrawal symptoms like a headache, irritability, etc.(19).
  • Anxiety- Black seeds increase a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA (20) which stabilises mood, improves cognition and decreases anxiety in healthy adolescent males (21) (22).
  • Depression- Research on animal shows that black seed oil benefits depressed people by combating depression.
  • Memory- Black seed extract increases attention span, cognition and enhances memory (23). A dose of 500 mg twice a day over 9 weeks showed a definite improvement in the memory function of elderly.
  • Neuroprotective function- Black seed protects the brain and its neurons against toxic substances like alcohol or drugs in the body (24).

6. Autoimmune Diseases

  • Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s diseases) – It is a disease where the immune system of one’s body starts destroying its thyroid tissue. This causes a decrease in thyroid hormone levels and associated issues. Black seed powder taken orally helps improve some but not all aspects of thyroid function.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis- Early research shows that black seed oil reduces stiffness and joint pain in people who have rheumatoid arthritis and are already on conventional therapy (25).

7. Gastrointestinal System

  • Indigestion- Black seeds are an age-old treatment for indigestion. When taken orally with honey and water, they reduce symptoms such as gas, bloating and stomach pain.
  • Tonsillopharyngitis- In this disease the throat becomes sore, tonsils get inflamed, and swollen and it becomes difficult for people to swallow food. Taking the black seed and chanca piedra orally for 7 days relieves pain.

8. Metabolic Effects

  • Diabetes Mellitus- Early stages of research have shown black seed oil benefits on people with diabetes (26). It helps in the regeneration of pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin. Thus helping to lower blood sugar levels in both type 1 and type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (27). Take 1g black seed powder twice daily for up to 1 yr.
  • Hypercholesterolemia- In this condition, blood carries an excess amount of cholesterol which is potentially harmful to your heart and other organs. Regular consumption of crushed black seeds reduces the total ‘bad’ cholesterol or LDL (28) and triglycerides in people with borderline high cholesterol.
  • Weight LossAccording to a research, black seed oil has naturally occurring anti-obesity properties (29). It helps your body shed those excess pounds without any side effects (30) (31).
  • Osteoporosis- This is a disease where the bones start losing their minerals and become week over time. It usually occurs in women after menopause and in the elderly. Black seed oil has shown potential anti-osteoporotic effects (32).

9. Renal System

  • Kidney stones- Black seed oil benefits people suffering from kidney stones. Its consumption prevents the formation of stones in the kidney, and it is therapeutic even after kidney stones are formed (33).
  • Gentamycin induced toxicity- Gentamycin is a very potent antibiotic used in infections. But this drug produces harmful effects on kidney as a side effect. People who take black seed are protected against such drug-induced damage to some degree (34).

10. Hepatic system

The liver is the chief detoxifying organ in our body. It converts the toxic substances like alcohol, drugs like paracetamol into their non-toxic forms. It also produces bile that helps in fat absorption and digestion, produces various proteins essential to the body.

Poor liver function increases the morbidity and mortality in people. Black seed oil benefits liver function and prevents it from further damage (35).

11. Cancer

Black seed oil benefits people who are suffering from cancer disease. Black seed has anti-tumour activity. Research carried out on mice suggests that it could reduce the tumour cell burden by 52% (36).

It inhibits the growth of existing tumour cells by causing their early demise, by stopping them when they multiply, by generating reactive oxygen species that cause tumour cell damage, by preventing their spread to other organs and by inhibiting blood flow to tumour cells causing them to shrink.

It has shown some efficacy in colon cancer (37), prostate cancer, brain cancer (38), pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bone cancer called osteosarcoma (39), stomach cancer (40), breast cancer (41) and lung cancer when given with conventional chemotherapy.

Research showed some efficacy in leukaemia (42).

12. Infections

One of the black seed oil benefits is that it can boost your immune system (43)

  • Anti-fungal- Black seed oil is known to be one of the most potent naturally occurring antifungal agent. In a study conducted to determine antifungal properties of Nigella sativa, it was found that all 30 pathogens tested were inhibited by the constituents of black seed oil (44). It is helpful in treating various dermatophytes or skin moulds and candida infections.
  • Anti-bacterial- Black seed oil kills pathogenic bacteria.
    • MRSA-It is so effective that research claims that it can even kill MRSA or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Methicillin is a very powerful antibiotic but the superbug MRSA posed a problem to humanity because it seemed resistant to every drug present as on date.
      MRSA (45) caused great mortality especially in kids and elderly, who are in extremes of their age and have a weak immune system. But not anymore MRSA, not on Nigella Sativa watch! (46)
    • Teeth cavity-causing bacteria- It also kills the bacteria that cause cavities in teeth.
    • Helicobacter pylori- It is the culprit bacteria for causing chronic gastritis and ulcers in the stomach. Research shows black seed oil is effective in patients with chronic H. pylori infection without ulcers (47).
  • Anti-viral- Black seed has been shown to reduce viral load in patients with Hepatitis C (48), infectious laryngotracheal virus (49) and cytomegalovirus (50).
  • Antiparasitic- Black seed oil fights the Plasmodium parasite which causes malaria and mansoni which causes schistosomiasis (51) (52).

Side Effects

Black seed and its oil are one of the very safe naturally occurring therapeutic agents. Short-term use in small quantities has shown no side effects. There is no documented information available for larger quantities or long-term use.

Oral ingestion of black seed oil may cause mild symptoms like stomach upset, vomiting or constipation.

Precautions and Warnings

  • Pregnancy- Consuming black seed in food amounts is usually safe during pregnancy. However, do not consume black seed oil in pregnancy. It is linked to abortions and can also prevent the uterus from contracting leading to delayed labour and other conditions harmful to your baby.
  • Breastfeeding- There’s been no study regarding the safety of black seed oil during breastfeeding periods but staying on the safer side is always the best option.
  • Bleeding Disorders- Black seed oil may hamper your blood clotting system and increase the risk of bleeding. Consult your healthcare provider before taking black seed oil. Stop if you see any signs of bleeding. For the same reason stop black seed oil before any surgery and consult your surgeon regarding the same.
  • Diabetics- People with diabetes need to strictly monitor their blood sugar levels because black seed oil reduces blood sugar. This might cause a condition called hypoglycaemia where the blood sugar levels dip below normal. Consult your doctor before consuming black seed oil.

Over to you on black seed oil benefits

Black seed oil benefits on our health are no less than a miracle. From a healthy heart to a glowing skin, from fighting cancer to fighting bacteria, fungi and virus, it’s a winner. Use it with food, salad or as oil. Keep in mind to use moderate amounts as too much of anything can be bad. Consult your doctor before consumption whether you have a pre-existing condition or not. Remember, safety first.