Black seed, derived from the plant Nigella sativa, is a staple in traditional medicine. It also has a firm presence in a handful of cuisines around the world, usually in powdered form, such as Indian, Polish, and Middle Eastern. It has a bitter taste, but is said to work well when paired with other spices.
The plant is known by several other names, including black fennel, black caraway, kalonji, and even just ‘nigella’.
It is a seed of the plant N. sativa, and despite sometimes being referred to as ‘black cumin’, they are not related as actual black cumin comes from the plant bunium bulbocastanum.
N. sativa belongs to the Ranunculaceae family and is an annual flowering plant—with white or pale blue flowers—completing its lifecycle in the span of a solar year.During this cycle is when it bears the fruit with the seed that is so highly coveted.
The fruit is a thorny pod, encapsulating countless tiny, black seeds.
A Brief HistoryBlack seeds have a long, fruitful history which can be traced back over 3000 years to Ancient Egypt. Most famously, black seed oil has been associated with the famous King Tutankhamun, as a container of the oil was found in his tomb after it was discovered.
It is believed that the oil was historically used to treat a number of ailments, ranging from conjunctivitis to body aches.
In Arab countries, it is known as ‘Habbatul barakah’, or ‘the seed of blessing’, and that may be a highly appropriate name for a number of reasons.
Despite its long history, it wasn’t until a few years ago that its true list of potential benefits reached the public. Ever since new research came up, detailing how it could provide relief in many ways, it has been widely marketed around the world, popping up in dozens of countries. It is usually sold in bottled oil form or as soft capsules.
There are multiple bioactive agents in black seed oil. Two of the most notable constituents are thymol and thymoquinone. Thymol is known for its antiseptic properties, whereas thymoquinone is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Black seed oil also contains linoleic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid.
It is also a source of saponins, which can help boost the immune system, reduce bone loss and cancer risks, and help control blood cholesterol.Trace amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin C are also present.
Inflammation can cause people to develop certain diseases, while also being an effect other illnesses. The pain associated with inflammation makes it difficult for many people to do everyday things.
Black seed oil’s anti-inflammatory properties help significantly ease these symptoms. A study done in Iran in 2014 found that black seed oil also eased inflammation amongst patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Its antimicrobial properties can be effective against a number of pathogens and parasites. One such case would be how it was found to be effective in patients suffering from sinusitis.
Its antiseptic properties combine to help decongest sinuses and lungs, easing breathing, clearing bacteria, and reducing inflammation.
People suffering from allergies can obtain relief through consumption of black seed oil, which has been shown to help relieve many symptoms.
These include runny nose itching, sneezing, turbinate hypertrophy, and more.
In asthmatics, it has been shown to improve control of the illness, whilst also boosting pulmonary function.
- Ease complications related to diabetes
The oil can help enhance insulin production and glucose tolerance, while treating complications that may arise due to diabetes, such as nephropathy (which damages the kidneys).
- Reduce cardiometabolic risk factors
Alongside battling diabetic complications, it can prevent atherosclerosis.
- Aid digestion/ease gastrointestinal problems
It has carminative benefits, relieving upset stomachs, bloating, and heartburn.
It can also inhibit infections from various parasites in the digestive tract, as its antimicrobial properties can help keep fungal and bacterial menaces at bay.
Its therapeutic properties involving gastrointestinal diseases are quite extensive.
- Renoprotective effects
Inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to many renal diseases. Studies show that black seed oil can help reduce the risk and protect the kidneys.
In addition to the above-mentioned points, black seed oil can contribute to the betterment of general health. From improving memory and skin complexion, to clearing respiratory pathways, black seed oil can greatly enhance health, enabling a more active lifestyle.
How to use
Mix half a teaspoon of black seed oil with equal amounts of pure bee honey and consume daily, preferably after a meal. This is, in fact, the traditional way to consume black seed oil, compromising none of its medicinal properties.
The many wonders of black seed oil are still being researched and newer benefits keep appearing. It is no wonder then that this a must-have for anyone opting for a healthier lifestyle.
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