Black seeds or Nigella sativa make appearances in an impressive variety of traditional curries, pickles, breads, and more. They are also found in liquors and candies. Aside from the culinary use, the health benefits of black seeds and black seed oil are incredible. Discover why.
Black seed, black cumin, black caraway seed, shonaiz, kalajira, kalonji, Roman coriander, black onion, Habbatul Barakh, melanthion, gith, Seed of Blessing… whatever the name you choose – and black seed is our selection – nigella sativa seeds are captivating. They are tiny, elegantly shaped, matte black in colour, and the delicate pale blue and white flowers of the mother plant can be found growing in regions worldwide from Eastern Europe, to Western Asia, and then to the Middle East.
Black cumin has been used in natural healing for thousands and thousands of years. Common belief holds it throughout the Islamic and Arabic worlds that black seed is a universal healer, as endorsed by none other than the Prophet Mohammad, who said that it could cure anything except death itself. As impressive as this is, the Prophet is kept in good company by several legendary Greeks: physician Hippocrates, the natural philosopher Pliny the Elder and the pharmacologist, physician, and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides, author of “De Materia Medica”, a five-volume encyclopaedia covering herbal medicines, which was referred to for over 1,500 years. If that weren’t enough splendour and distinction, the Holy Bible also mentions black seed as a remedy. And, archeologists fount it in King Tut’s tomb.
If you felt these were quite long lists of names, places, and masterly thinkers and writers, you should see the list of ailments and aches that black seed has been used to address historically! It would take over this entire article, so we will refrain. But that claim of universal healing gives you a good sense of the benefits of black seed oil. In the contemporary Middle East, cancer patients commonly take black seed to supplement chemotherapy.
Over the last fifty years, researchers have been conducting extensive scientific studies to investigate the health benefits of black cumin – one count estimates the number at more than 630 peer-reviewed studies. They have determined that black seed contains over 100 elements and that a special combination of proteins, alkaloids, saponins, and fine strains of various constituents gives black seed its extraordinary medicinal properties.(1)
In one final list, we would like to say that research has given basis to the analgesic, antifungal, antihistamine, contraceptive, hepatoprotective, bronchodilator and calcium antagonist, diuretic, antilipemic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer actions of black seed – among others!(2)
Alongside the various ingredients found in black cumin, the phytochemical compound thymoquinone is prominent in its healing capacities. Thymoquinone is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Studies have suggested that it may be effective in fighting glioblastoma, the most common type of cancerous brain tumour, as well as other types of tumours. It does this by increasing certain proteins which inhibit cancerous cells.(3)
How do I use black seed oil in food?
Aside from its outstanding and health-giving characteristics, black seed oil is wonderfully versatile as a household staple. In the kitchen, you can add cold-pressed black seed oil to a wide variety of dishes. Its incredible potency means that one to three teaspoons per day is a sufficient dosage; when applied to skin, you should dilute it in a carrier oil.
Black seed oil benefits for hair and skin
As a cosmetic ingredient, black seed oil may be effective in fighting acne, unclogging pores, and combatting inflammation. It can help regulate facial oil, as well as reduce redness; a favourite homemade mask of ours combines black seed oil, ground apricot kernels, and honey. We regularly add this oil into our massage oils as well.
As for hair, Cleopatra is said to have used it on hers! Just add a few drops to your shampoo or conditioner to boost your hair and scalp. Numerous scientific studies back the benefits of black seed oil to the hair and scalp in two main areas: it can feed and nourish the hair and scalp, and at the same time combat the environmental causes of hair loss. This is mainly thanks to the spectacular emollient, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties of this oil.(4)
With a peppery scent, black seed oil is lovely as a base note for homemade fragrances made with essential oils.
Black seed oil benefits for the immune system
To add the testimony of one more luminary of the ages, we cite Avicenna, the Persian thinker who has been said to be the father of early modern medicine. In his Canon of Medicine, written in 1025 A.D., he writes that black seed oil supports physical vigour and aids recuperation from exhaustion. Today, we interpret that to mean black seed boosts the immune system.
Fight microbes, moulds, and fungi with black seed oil
We have all heard about superbugs, but what are they? Strains of bacteria and viruses have become resistant to antibiotics and other drugs. These are new bugs which are very difficult to treat. And this is particularly alarming because superbugs are a real problem for those who are already sick. In the US, between 5% and 10% of all hospital patients will come down with an infection. Today, hospital deaths in the US as a result of infection are up to 90,000 from 13,300 in 1992.(5)
This gives a sense of suitable proportion to the news that research done at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College tested the effectiveness of black seed oil, as well as a number of antibiotics, on 144 varieties of superbugs. The study found that most bugs were indeed resistant to antibiotics, but that black seed oil succeeded in stopping the growth of 97 out of 144.(6)
Black seed oil is effective in this way thanks to the previously mentioned thymoquinone, but also due to the presence of thymohydroquinone, an incredibly potent acetylcholinesterase (AChe) inhibitor which helps to halt or slow enzyme activity in the brain; pharmaceutical-grade AChes are used to combat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and glaucoma. These two substances make a powerful trio with thymol, a natural disinfectant which can be used against viruses and as a pesticide.
Research has shown that individually, each of these phytochemicals is quite effective against fungi and moulds.(7) All three showed full inhibition of the 30 pathogens included in the research. When they work together in black seed oil, they are phenomenal!
Black seed oil benefits for liver
The liver takes care of nearly all of the contaminants that we ingest through diet and environmental pollution and pollutants. It is also responsible for assimilating fats; keeping this organ healthy is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves. Unfortunately, the liver is quite sensitive. Factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, medication or disease can easily damaged the liver. And here lies another way that black seed oil benefits us, because research has found that in rats, black seed oil boosted liver function and protected it from further damage.(8) Although the liver is an important part of the immune system, it also has significance in its own place.
Taken together with the effect of black seed oil on moulds, fungi and superbugs and its overall boosting of the entire immune system, it becomes clear why black seed oil is so popular for its ability to detoxify. Long live the liver!
"Common belief holds it throughout the Islamic and Arabic worlds that black seed is a universal healer."
Erbology Black Seed Oil
Erbology Black Seed Oil is organic and cold-pressed. It is vegan, gluten-free and clean of any preservatives or genetic modifications. Black seed oil has a quite strong, piquant flavour that awakens all of the senses whether ingested or applied externally. It lingers in the mouth and greatly stimulates.
Side effects of black seed oil
This oil is so potent that it may irritate; we encourage a patch test when using black cumin oil on the skin. For some, it may cause upset stomach, constipation or vomiting when taken internally. Anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, on medication, or has surgery scheduled within the next two weeks should not ingest black seed oil. If you are diabetic, have low blood pressure or a bleeding disorder, consult your doctor before taking black seed oil.
Key black seed oil benefits
- Shore up your immune system
- Nourish skin and hair
- Remarkably effective against microbes and fungi
- Cleanse and boost liver function
- Excellent for general wellness and detoxification
Black seed oil recipes
If you’ve been following our products and the dishes that we enjoy showcasing them in, you probably know that we are lovers of a Buddha bowl whatever the occasion or the season. Often, we lean towards keeping the flavours as clean and simple as possible. This especially hits the spot after travelling or a busy few days at work. Sometimes though, you long for a zing of alive energy.
This Buddha bowl recipe is indeed clean, but kimchi and black seed oil bring strong, unexpected flavours to the substantial, nutritious vegetables and pulses that form the base. Both ingredients are of course renowned for their ability to cleanse the body and restore balance. The agave nectar and apple cider vinegar tie everything together with an appealing sweetness. One to keep in the arsenal for these days when you want to shake things up just a bit.
(1) Khader, Mohannad and Eckl, Peter M, “Thymoquinone: an emerging natural drug with a wide range of medical applications”, Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, December 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387230/.
(2) Tariq, Mohammad, “Nigella Sativa Seeds: Folklore Treatment in Modern Day Medicine”, The Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology, July 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702918/.
(3) Racoma et al, “Thymoquinone Inhibits Autophagy and Induces Cathepsin-Mediated, Caspase-Independent Cell Death in Glioblastoma Cells”, PLOS One, September 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767730/.
(4) Various studies listed at https://bit.ly/2Fe90P7.
(5) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 27 March 2014, https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/antimicrobial-resistance-quick-facts.
(6) Salman et al, “Antimicrobial activity of Nigella sativa Linn. seed oil against multi-drug resistant bacteria from clinical isolates”, Natural Product Radiance, January 2008, https://bit.ly/2RczZRs.
(7) Taha et al, “Antifungal effect of thymol, thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone against yeasts, dermatophytes and non-dermatophyte moulds isolated from skin and nails fungal infections”, Egyptian Journal of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, December 2010, https://bit.ly/2Ha1jeO.
(8) Hamed et al, “Effects of black seed oil on resolution of hepato-renal toxicity induced bybromobenzene in rats”, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, March 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23543440.