07 Jan 2019

Black seed oil benefits

author Ashley Owen
Black seeds or Nigella sativa make appearances in an impressive variety of traditional curries, pickles, breads, and more. Besides their use in cooking, these little seeds can have an impressive effect on your health. Particularly when it comes to your immune system! Let's take a look at black seed oil's benefits.

Black seed oil cures

Black cumin seeds are tiny, elegantly shaped and matte black in colour. 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 the Middle East. 

They may be known by many names (black seed, black cumin, black caraway, shonaiz, kalajira, kalonji among them). But, however they are known to you, black seeds have a rich history when it comes to health. Many cultures, particularly in the Middle East, traditionally believe that black seed oil cures a range of ailments.

Black seed oil benefits in Islam

Throughout the Islamic and Arabic worlds, black seeds are thought to be a universal healer. They have been used in traditional healing for thousands of years. Fascinatingly, they were even  mentioned by none other than the Prophet Mohammad, who claimed that black seeds could cure 'anything except death itself.'

However, this is not the only example of a historical figure extolling the virtues of black seeds. Many others agreed, including the Greek physician Hippocrates, the natural philosopher Pliny the Elder and the pharmacologist, physician, and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides. The latter is the 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, the Holy Bible also mentions black seed as a remedy. What's more, archeologists found it in the tomb of the boy Pharaoh, Tututankhamun.



Benefits of eating black seeds

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 of peer-reviewed studies at more than 630!

Scientists have determined that black seed contains over 100 elements. Of these, they think that a special combination of proteins, alkaloids, saponins, and other compounds give black seeds their extraordinary medicinal properties.(1)

Modern research has also provided the data to back up what traditional users of black seed oil have known for generations. Recent studies have provided a scientific basis for black seed's use as a painkiller, antifungal, antihistamine, contraceptive, anti-inflammatory and diuretic, among a host of other health benefits.(2)

One compound found in black cumin, called thymoquinone, is thought to be involved in many of black seed's healing properties. Thymoquinone is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

It's important to note that nowadays black seed oil is more associated having preventative health benefits as part of a healthy lifestyle than as a medical treatment for illness. There is no evidence that black seed oil can treat or cure any disease.

How do I use black seed oil in food?

Aside from its powerful potential in healthcare and wellbeing, 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. If you'd like to apply it directly to your skin, you should dilute it in a carrier oil.

Black seed oil benefits for hair and skin

You also might like to try black seed oil to care for your skin and hair.

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 black seed 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.

What's more, scientific studies have identified two main ways that black seed oil can help your hair and scalp. Firstly, it can feed and nourish the hair and scalp, and secondly, it combats the environmental causes of hair loss. This is mainly thanks to its spectacular emollient, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties.(4)

With its peppery scent, black seed oil is also lovely as a base note for homemade fragrances made with essential oils.

Health benefits of black seed oil for the immune system

If black seed oil didn't have enough ancient luminaries as fans, let us introduce you to Avicenna, the Persian 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

The secret to black seed oil's impressive immunity-boosting properties may lie in its ability to fight off bugs. This is particularly important given that antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in modern medicine.

'Superbugs' are strains of bacteria and viruses which have become resistant to antibiotics and other drugs. They are often new bugs which, because of their ability to fight off normal medications, are very difficult to treat.

Superbugs present 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)

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 ogf the bugs were indeed resistant to antibiotics, but that black seed oil succeeded in inhibiting the growth of 97 out of 144.(6)

But how does it do this? Scientists think that black seeds' natural antimicrobial properties are thanks to a trio of compounds. Alongside the previously mentioned thymoquinone is  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. The final member of the trio is 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. Working in tandem, they provide black seed oil with powerful anti-microbial properties.

Black seed oil benefits for liver

The liver takes care of nearly all of the contaminants that we ingest through diet and environmental pollution . It is also responsible for assimilating fats and plays an important role in our immunity.. Keeping this organ healthy is one of the best things that we can do for our wellbeing.

Unfortunately, the liver is also quite sensitive. Factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, medication or disease can easily damage it.

Luckily, black seed oil might be able to help here, too. Research has found that, in rats, black seed oil boosted liver function and protected it from further damage.(8)

When combined with black seed oil's antimicrobial and immunity-boosting properties, this benefit starts to reveal why black seed oil has been used as a traditional healing tool for generations.


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