Nigella Sativa – Are The Black Cumin Seed Health Benefits Real?


Nigella sativa is the scientific name of the plant that is commonly referred to as black cumin. Some of the other names used to refer to it are Roman coriander, black caraway, black sesame, ajaji just to name a few.

It is an annual flowering plant belonging to the plant family Ranunculaceae that is native to the south and southwest Asia. The plant grows to an approximate height of 20-30 centimeters high and produces delicate flowers which are usually pale blue to white having five to ten petals.

Nigella sativa is a large capsule that carries a number of seeds which have been used since time immemorial as a nutritional flavoring agent and also as a natural remedy for various illnesses.

Several active components have been isolated from the plant which includes: thymoquinone, thymol, thymohydroquinone, dithymoquinone, nigellidine, alpha-hederin and some which are not mentioned which can help in explaining the pharmacological effects exhibited by this plant seed and its extracts.



Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as the name implies does not respond to the antibiotic methicillin and hence becomes a problem in the health sector. However, Nigella sativa provides a solution to this according to a study done by the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan.

It was discovered that N. sativa has somewhat inhibitory effects against MRSA with a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 0.2-0.5mg/ml.


2. Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is one of the chronic conditions that continues to affect a lot of individuals the world over. According to recent research, it was found out that two milligrams per day of black seed resulted in significantly reduced levels of fasting blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, and insulin resistance while the beta cells functionality, which is to produce the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose levels, was greatly increased.

3. Asthma

Boiled water extracts of the black cumin were shown to be effective as bronchodilators in asthmatic human subjects as per research that was done by the Mashad University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

It was also established in an animal model of asthma that the potency of thymoquinone in black cumin is way more than the one exhibited by the drug fluticasone. More research needs to be done in this area of study.

4. Helicobacter Pylori Infection

A number of ailments are associated with H.pylori including peptic ulcer, gastric cancer, and chronic active gastritis. Research done in Saudi Arabis at the Fahd Hospital of the University Al-Khobar established that black cumin seeds possessed more clinically potent anti-helicobacter pylori components than triple therapy.

Since there are cases of antibiotic resistance by h.pylori, suggestions have been put to further the study of using a combination of N. sativa with antibiotics.

5. Epilepsy

According to an article published in the Medical Science Monitor, there was a study that showed that water extracts of the black cumin seeds reduced the frequency of seizures in epileptic children who were not responding well to the conventional medication for the condition.

6. Cancer

N. sativa seeds have been shown to be effective in the treatment and/or suppression of a number of cancers. Thymoquinone, an active constituent of black seed has been linked to reduced tumor growth in individuals suffering from breast cancer and also in accelerating apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

The same bioactive component has also been shown to increase cell death in patients with leukemia, oral cancer and in brain cancer where induces apoptosis in glioblastoma, ranking among one of the most aggressive brain tumors of all time.

Further research also indicates that black seed inhibits the proliferation of colon cancer cells. In one animal model study, the black seed oil was used to successfully combat colon cancer in rats with no side effects evident which is not a common scenario in the treatment of cancer using conventional medication. In addition, black seed extracts compare favorably to chemo agent 5-fluoruracil in the suppression of colon cancer.



7. Hypertension

Hypertension, or in other words, high blood pressure was found to respond to the daily use of 100 to 200mg of black seed extracts twice on a daily basis. Individuals suffering from mild hypertension found relief as the extracts were able to reduce their blood pressure significantly.

8. Acute Tonsillopharyngitis

A sore throat which is usually viral in origin has been found to respond well when using black cumin seed capsules together with Phyllanthus niruri which provide relief from throat pain and hence no need for pain killers in human subjects.

Other than the medical benefits, black cumin seed oil is put among clothes to aid in repelling moths.

Side Effects

Contact dermatitis is one of the known side effects of using Nigella sativa. It is usually characterized by the appearance of redness at the site of topical application of the black cumin seed oil and irritation. The skin may, in some instances, feel itchy and dry which may result to the skin flaking off.

Kidney and liver damage was observed in a study that was done on animal models. Nigella sativa oil extracts from the seed may cause the above condition when used in high doses. It is advisable to seek medical attention when you start experiencing signs and symptoms of liver or kidney damage which include jaundice, abdominal or back pains, fatigue and itchy skin just to mention a few.

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Final Words

The above uses and benefits of Nigella sativa are just but a few. The plant and its extracts have quite a number of uses and benefits. It is recommended that you seek medical advice before initiating the use of Nigella sativa seeds and its extracts.

There is a contraindication however for pregnant women as the use of black cumin has not been evaluated in such scenarios. With further research, the full potential of the Nigella sativa plant can be unlocked for the health benefit of the whole human population.

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