Black seed extract is made from the seeds of the black cumin (Nigella sativa) plant. It is one of the most revered medicinal seeds in the history of mankind, owing to its well-established, and miraculous uses for over 3,000 years. It is mentioned in various historical texts as a curative for many diseases and has solid scientific research to back up its medicinal uses.
Black Cumin Seed Oil Snapshot
- Solid evidence for reducing allergies
- A safe antihistamine
- Evidence against bacterial, fungal, and viral, and parasitic infections
- Black cumin seeds can likely help reduce slightly increased blood pressure and blood lipids
- The evidence for weight loss benefits, reducing inflammation and pain is still limited but sufficient
- Shows some anti-cancer activity (but limited to cell studies)
- Black cumin seed oil can lower blood sugar. Although this can be beneficial, diabetics should consult with their physicians before they start supplementing.
- Black Cumin Seed oil is not safe to use during pregnancy
Our extract prevails in black cumin seed extract comparison
Recent research published in Frontiers of Pharmacology identified our Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) seed extract, as being the most effective of the 10 Nigella sativa(NS) extracts used in an in vitro study which suppressed the release of the most active cytokines and identified a prostanoid with inflammatory properties which may possess a favorable effect in the context of asthmatic conditions.
Researchers evaluated 10 different NS extracts, and top-ranked the extract provided. It surpassed the second-ranking extract in terms of the active constituent, thymoquinone (TQ), by more than 300%.
Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties are among the most valued in anti-asthma herbal products.
Our extract had the highest effects in suppressing the release of cytokines IL-2, IL-6 and PGE2 in T-lymphocytes and also in monocytes hindering the expression on IL-2 and PGE2. These are among the most active cytokines involved in asthmatic conditions. The investigators noted a positive relationship between the TQ level in the preparations and its inhibitory potency on IL-6 and PGE2.
However, PGE2 does exhibit beneficial bronchodilatory effects in human lung epithelial cells and our extract showed an enhanced PGE2 expression in A549 human epithelial cells lines, demonstrating an interesting activity behavior of the maximum-TQ containing extract.
The results presented in this paper formed the biochemical basis of a subsequently conducted clinical trial.
Asthma is a debilitating disease afflicting 25 million people in the USA, alone and 334 million globally according to some estimates. It tends to flare up sharply due to external factors such as pollution and allergens.
Nigella sativa and its preparations have been referenced extensively in traditional healthcare systems ranging from Ayurvedic and Unani to Arabic and Prophetic for prevention and treatment of asthma, making it a candidate for study by modern researchers. Lack of standardization has, however, hampered researchers in evaluating the material’s efficacy in the past.
Highlights of Black Cumin Research:
1) Black Cumin Reduces Allergies
Several quality human studies back up the benefits of black cumin for safely reducing allergic symptoms, especially in those with breathing difficulties.
A boiled extract of the seeds was able to improve all asthmatic symptoms in a study (RCT, 15 mL/kg of 0.1 g% boiled extract daily) of 29 asthmatic patients. It reduced the frequency of asthma symptoms, wheezing, and improved lung function over 3 months. The patients who took black cumin seed extract also had a reduced need for additional medications and inhalers.
In another review (of 4 studies, a total of 152 patients with allergic diseases), black cumin seed oil reduced subjective allergy symptoms, including asthma, eczema, and stuffy nose. Patients received black cumin oil capsules 40 to 80 mg/kg daily, which would be about 2 – 4 g of oil daily for someone who weighs about 110 lbs.
In a study of 66 patients with allergic rhinitis (DB-CT), black cumin oil reduced symptoms such as itching, running nose, sneezing, and congestion after 2 weeks. And in 39 patients with similar symptoms (RCT), 2 g daily of black seed cumin seeds after immunotherapy reduced symptoms and increased neutrophils.
The results of the second study were different and showed only a trend towards an improvement in lung function tests in the Nigella treatment group (Javan & Koshak). The second study did show that patients treated with Nigella had normalization of their peripheral blood eosinophils count. Eosinophils are a subset of the white cell count and raised eosinophil counts are associated with allergic conditions such as asthma.
2) Black Seed Can Protect the Heart
Daily use of black seed extract for 2 months (DB-RCT) lowered blood pressure in patients with mildly elevated blood pressure (diastolic BP 140 – 159 mmHg). The test group received either 100 mg or 200 mg of the extract 2 times per day. Aside from reducing blood pressure, the extract also lowered LDL cholesterol levels, helping to protect the heart.
In another study (DB-RCT, 64 participants), powdered black seed capsules seemed to slightly lower blood pressure, lipids, and BMI. The oil also lowered blood pressure in 70 healthy volunteers (DB-RCT) after 2 months with no adverse effects. The treated group took 2.5 ml of black seed oil twice daily.
In elderly patients with moderately high blood pressure (diastolic BP 160 mmHg), however, black seed extract had a very slight – and statistically insignificant – effect. In this study (DB-RCT, 76 participants), 300 mg of the extract was given 2 times per day for a month.
A large review (SR-MA, 11 RCTs) of over 800 patients concluded that black seed can effectively lower mildly elevated blood pressure, with black seed powder having a stronger effect than the oil. Overall, black seed seems to help lower blood pressure in only mild cases and may take 2 months to achieve its benefits.
Animal studies point to additional potential benefits of black seed for the heart. For example, black cumin seeds improved the recovery of damaged heart tissue in rats (in response to a heart surgery or post-heart attack treatment). Both exercise and black increased heart blood flow and new blood vessels in rats, potentially helping to prevent heart attacks.
How It Works
Based on the available scientific evidence, black seed may protect the heart by:
- Flushing excessive fluids from the body (diuretic)
- Reducing the fight-or-flight (sympathetic) response
- Increasing blood vessel-relaxing nitric oxide
- Lowering blood lipids
- Acting as an antioxidant
And although opinions differ as to whether the oil or powder has a stronger effect, both formulations seem to be safe and beneficial for heart health.
3) Black Seed May Help Diabetes
Explained in a recent article published by the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers from the Indian Council of Medical Research highlight that black seed oil “causes gradual partial regeneration of pancreatic beta-cells, increases the lowered serum insulin concentrations and decreases the elevated serum glucose.” This is actually quite profound because Nigella sativa is one of the few substances on the planet that is suggested to help prevent both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
In fact, according to the study, black seed “improves glucose tolerance as efficiently as metformin; yet it has not shown significant adverse effects and has very low toxicity.” This is huge because metformin, one of the most commonly prescribed type 2 diabetes drugs, can cause a wide slew of side effects, including:
- Flushing of the skin
- Nail changes
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain
Black Cumin quite popular among traditional medicine practitioners for reducing diabetic symptoms, such as high blood sugar, as well as insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.
Research does back up the benefits for diabetes, but remember that sudden drops in blood sugar can be dangerous if you have diabetes. If you are already on diabetes medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before supplementing with black cumin.
Several large analyses (SR-MA and SR) on thousands of people confirmed that black cumin is a good option for keeping glucose levels in check, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. It helped lower both blood glucose and blood lipids, possibly with long-term benefits (by also reducing HBA1C).
In a study (prospective) of 60 patients with insulin resistance, black cumin oil (5 ml daily) improved fasting blood glucose levels. However, here it was only given as an add-on to glucose and lipid-lowering medications (metformin and atorvastatin).
Even in patients with type 2 diabetes on oral anti-diabetes drugs, black cumin supplementation helped to reduce heart complications. In a study of 114 patients (SB-NRCT), 2 g of black cumin seeds daily over one year reduced lipids, blood pressure, and BMI.
In rats, black cumin seed extract helped sensitize the muscles to insulin and activated energy balance pathways – both important for fighting type 2 diabetes (AMPK).
4) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Inflammation
However, only several small studies (with 4 and 1 patients) confirmed that black cumin oil can help with inflammatory conditions like arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effect can be attributed to the active ingredient, thymoquinone (based on animal studies).
Black cumin seed essential oil reduced inflammation and pain in mice. It also reduced autoimmune brain inflammation in rats with Multiple Sclerosis.
In rats with arthritis, the active ingredient, thymoquinone lowered numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines (including IL-6, IL-1β, TNF alpha – Th1 cytokines) while increasing anti-inflammatory ones (IL-10).
It may reduce brain inflammation by blocking NF-κB , one of the most important factors that lead to inflammation. It reduces inflammation by preventing the immune cells from creating more nitric oxide, which is overly produced in inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
5) Black Cumin Oil Is an Antioxidant
Black cumin acts on many antioxidant pathways (according to numerous animal and cell studies):
- Increasing liver antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione
- Protecting various tissues from oxidative injuries, such as the stomach, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels
- Lowering homocysteine
Black cumin extract also restored antioxidant enzymes (in red blood cells) in mice with malaria, helping to clear the parasite infection. The oil neutralized harmful Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and brain injury in mice.
6) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Anxiety
Black Cumin seeds decreased anxiety and improved mood and cognition in a study of 48 adolescent male volunteers after 4 weeks (RCT). The treated group took 1g of black cumin daily in capsule form.
It also reduced anxiety, fatigue, and increased thyroid function in mice.
Black cumin seed calmed and protected the developing brain in rats, even those who were under stress.
Black cumin probably works to reduce anxiety thank to its active ingredient, thymoquinone, which increased GABA in mice.
7) Black Seed May Boost Memory and Protect the Brain
In a study of 20 elderly volunteers (RCT), 1 g of black cumin daily improved cognition, attention, and memory after nine weeks.
Thymoquinone and other components of black cumin seeds protected the brain from damage in several animal studies and cell studies. It prevented brain damage from lead in growing mice, as well as from arsenic. In growing rats with poor thyroid function, it helped prevent learning difficulties and brain damage.
8) Black Cumin May Protect the Gut and Help Digestion
A tincture prepared from the seeds is traditionally used for indigestion, loss of appetite, and diarrhea, while black seeds are traditionally used to stop vomiting. So far, there is some evidence to support its use in those with indigestion to a Helicobacter pylori infection.
In a study of 88 patients with indigestion and positive for Helicobacter pylori, black cumin helped eradicate the bacteria and symptoms as well as standard triple antibiotic therapy. A minimal dose of 2 g of the seeds (in combination with omeprazole) was effective, while 3 g daily had a similar effect.
Some reviews suggest that it may also help protect the stomach lining from damage and ulcers, mostly based on findings from animal studies and clinical experience.
Black cumin seed protected the stomach lining from the harmful effects of alcohol in rats. The oils also prevented gut damage in rats.
9) Black Cumin May Help Weight Loss
The evidence is limited when it comes to black cumin and weight loss, a traditional indication.
In one study of overweight men, black cumin did improve weight loss and reduced appetite after 3 months. In another study of 64 patients (DB-RCT), the seeds reduced BMI and the waist-hip ratio, but the benefits were modest. In fact, several studies did not find that black seed can help increase weight loss.
Black seed oil weight loss claims actually do have some science behind them though. The Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders published a study systemically reviewing the literature for plants that have anti-obesity properties and discovered that black seed oil was among the most effective natural remedies on the planet.
Another systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2018 highlights the findings of at least 11 placebo-controlled clinical trials that reveal the ability of a black seed supplement to help lower body weight. Supplementation was also shown to decrease body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. It’s also important to note that there were no serious side effects of black seed supplementation reported in any of the studies. This could be attributed to the ability to increase conversion of T3 to T4, enhance liver health, reduce insulin sensitivity and slightly lower appetite.
10) Black Cumin Oil May Help Fight Infections
Quite possibly, the most promising research has been done connecting Nigella sativa to multi-drug resistant bacteria. This is a really big deal because these so-called “superbugs” are becoming a significant public health risk. According to the National Institute of Health:
- Strains of bacteria and viruses that are antimicrobial-resistant are becoming virtually impossible to treat, including HIV, staphylococcal, tuberculosis, influenza, gonorrhea, candida and malaria.
- Between 5 percent to 10 percent of all hospital patients develop an infection from superbugs.
- More than 90,000 of these patients die every year, up from 13,300 patient deaths in 1992.
- People infected with superbugs typically have longer hospital stays, require more complicated treatment and don’t recover as well.
A study conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College researchers set out to determine just how potent black seed oil is against some of these superbugs and paired it against several antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin, Gatifloxacin, and Tetracycline. According to the study, “Out of 144 strains tested, most of which were resistant to a number of antibiotics, 97 were inhibited by the oil of black cumin.”
Next to oregano oil, few things on the planet can boast this type of potency to microbes. The study uncovered that it was especially effective against multi-drug resistant strains of P. aeruginosa and S. aureus.
The key to understanding why black seed oils benefits the body in this way is because it’s rich in three key natural chemicals: thymoquinone (TQ), thymohydroquinone (THQ) and thymol. Let’s take a closer look at these amazing components of black seed oil.
The Power Behind Black Seed Oil Benefits: Phytochemicals
In an effort to offer a solution to the growing antifungal resistant problem people have with yeasts and molds, a recent study was conducted with the purpose of determining if Nigella sativa seed oil could help. Published in the Egyptian Journal of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, scientists tested thymol, TQ and THQ against 30 human pathogens and were surprised to discover that:
- Each compound showed 100 percent inhibition for the 30 pathogens evaluated.
- Thymoquinone was the best antifungal compound against all of the tested dermatophytes and yeasts, followed by thymohydroquinone and thymol.
- Thymol was the best antifungal against molds followed by TQ and THQ.
What this study tells us is that Nigella sativa oil carries a very unique chemical constituency that is not only effective individually, but more importantly also collectively. Essentially proving that fungus and molds cannot exist in the presence of these phytochemicals, it is no wonder why researchers are seeking to solve the superbug problem with black seed oil.
Black cumin has been researched for fighting various bacteria, viruses, and parasites, but the majority of studies were in animals, microorganisms, or cells.
Black Cumin seeds act against:
- Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of skin infections.
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a big problem when it comes to hospital-acquired infections that are hard to treat.
- H.pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers (see benefit #7).
- The formation of “Biofilms”.
Black cumin oil can also be applied to the skin to prevent infections and relieve pain.
Black cumin seeds can also fight some fungal infections.
Black Cumin seed safely improved symptoms and reduced viral load in patients with Hepatitis C in a study of 30 people. In another study of 75 patients with hepatitis C, black cumin alone (500 mg) or combined with ginger (500 mg) had similar beneficial effects.
Black cumin helped fight the herpes-causing cytomegalovirus virus (CMV) in mice.
Black cumin helped clear a malaria-causing parasite in mice.
The oil may protect against a parasite that damages the liver in mice.
In test tubes, black cumin protected against several parasites that can cause serious gut issues in humans.
11) Black May Boost the Immune System
Many cell studies confirm the immune-boosting benefits of black cumin’s active ingredient, thymoquinone. Its effects on immunity are wide-ranging (affecting both cellular and humoral immunity), increasing immune cell activity and antibody levels.
Black cumin seed was able to increase the immune response in cells (IL-3 from lymphocytes).
12) Can Black Cumin Oil Fight Cancer?
The simple answer is: we don’t really know yet. Black cumin has mostly been studied in animal and cells when it comes to its cancer-fighting potential. The research we bring up is promising, but keep in mind that human studies are limited.
Black Cumin oil blocks tumor growth and spreading in rats. It seems to activate phase I and II detox genes.
Black Cumin seed (Thymoquinone) reduced liver and bladder cancer in rats.
In cells, it could kill cervical cancer, bone cancer, breast cancer, and stomach.
13) Black Cumin May Increase Testosterone and Male Fertility
In a study of 68 infertile men (DB-RCT), daily intake of 5 ml (1 tsp) of black seed oil for two months improved semen quality without any adverse effects.
In diabetic rats, black seed increased testosterone. It also improved sperm quality and motility in another rat study, probably due to its antioxidant activity.
14) Thymoquinone May Improve Arthritis
Black cumin seeds (Thymoquinone) reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in a study of 40 female patients, at a dose of 500 mg of the oil 2X day. It reduced overall symptoms, joint stiffness, and swelling.
Combined with its anti-inflammatory effects, black cumin may help those suffering from inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
15) Black Seed Protects the Kidneys and Prevents Kidney Stones
Black Cumin seeds have been traditionally used for the treatment and prevention of kidney stones.
It helped fight kidney stones in rats and protected the kidneys from damage and injury.
16) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Seizures
Black cumin oil (Thymoquinone) reduced seizures in children with epilepsy in a pilot study (DB) of 22 children.
Black cumin (Thymoquinone) also had an anti-seizure effect in mice. It probably reduces seizures by boosting GABA in the brain.
17) Black Cumin Oil May Protect Against Radiation
Black Cumin oil protected against the immune-suppressing and damaging effects of radiation in rats.
18) Black Seed May Help with Opioid Dependence
Black Seed helped reduce the symptoms of opioid dependence and withdrawal in a study of 35 opioid-dependant patients. Importantly, it also helped reduce weakness, infections, and improve appetite.
19) Black Cumin May Help with Breastfeeding
Traditionally, it was used to help increase milk production during breastfeeding in nursing mothers. Human studies have not tested this claim, but black cumin seeds could stimulate milk production in rats.
20) Black Seeds Relax Muscles
Black Seed reduced spasms in muscle tissues in various studies. It has an effect only on smooth muscles, such as the heart, gut, and airways. This is the reason black seed is used for asthma, breathing difficulties, gut issues, high blood pressure, and potentially urinary tract issues.
It acts by blocking the effects of calcium on the tissues and blocking histamine and cholinergic pathways.
- Decreases LOX (Lysyl Oxidase).
- Inhibits iNOS (inducible Nitric oxide synthase).
- Inhibition of NF-κB (NF-kappa B).
- Activates PPAR-γ (Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma).
- Increases PTEN (Phosphatase and tensin homolog).
- Increases BAK/BAX.
- Decreases Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL.
- Suppresses the expression of AR and E2F-1.
- Inhibits both p44/42.
- Inhibits MAPKs.
- Increases GABA (Gama Amino Butyric Acid) activity.
Activity in the Lungs and Trachea
- Inhibits phosphodiesterase (PDE).
- Inhibits COX2 expression.
Thymoquinone: An active ingredient in black seed, researchers have been investigating TQ since the 1960s. It is well-known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties that have been reported to help with encephalomyelitis, diabetes, asthma and carcinogenesis.
Interestingly, thymoquinone acts as a free radical or an effective superoxide radical scavenger, in addition to preserving antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase. Both glutathione peroxidase and S-transferase are heralded for being major detoxifiers and greatly aid in cellular antioxidant defense systems because they protect the liver from toxins.
Thymohydroquinone: Akin to thymoqinone, thymohydroquinone is one of the most potent natural acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors on the planet. AChE inhibitors are chemicals that stop enzyme activity, which increases the amount of time and the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylecholine remains active in the brain. To give you an idea of their usefulness, pharmaceutical-grade acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used medicinally to treat a wide range of conditions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Myasthenia gravis
- Neurodegenerative conditions
- Postural tachycardia syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
Considering that the pharmaceutical approach to these diseases comes at a great cost to the patient, it offers much hope to literally millions to learn that safe, plant-based solutions are a viable alternative!
Thymol: The active ingredient that gives thyme essential oil its medicinal properties, thymol is a natural monoterpene that holds a number of useful qualities. For example:
- It is commonly used as a tuberculocide and virucides to kill TB and various viruses.
- It is used as a medical and general-purpose disinfectant.
- It is a rapidly degrading, non-persisting pesticide.
- It is also used in food flavorings, perfumes, mouthwashes and even cosmetics.
Nigella sativa is unique in its way of supporting the immune system. It contains the antioxidants, beneficial acids, and B-vitamins you would expect in a natural remedy, but has an additional benefit. Unlike herbs like elderberry or echinacea that require caution for those with autoimmune disease, black seeds seem to balance the immune system — increasing immune function but not encouraging immune reactions against the body’s healthy tissue.
It has been used in alternative HIV protocols for years and it is often recommended on various autoimmune disease forums (with testimonials from those it has helped). I first found research on black seed oil when researching my own autoimmune thyroid disease.
Problems with Seed Oils
There can be problems with any vegetable or seed oil, including black cumin seed oil if it isn’t extracted, processed, or packaged correctly. It can easily go rancid if any of these factors are not correct and it is also important that the oil is stored in a dark glass bottle (preferably miron glass).
Thymoquinone in Nigella sativa seeds has also been shown to have a protective effect on the heart, promote healthy cholesterol levels and help normalize blood pressure.
More Highlights from Research:
Cardioprotective Effects of nigella sativa oil on Cyclosporine A-Induced Cardiotoxicity in Rats
“The results of our study show that pre-treatment with N. sativa oil reduced the subsequent cyclosporine A injury in rat heart, demonstrated by normalized cardiac histopathology, decrease in lipid peroxidation, improvement in antioxidant enzyme status and cellular protein oxidation.”
Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2008 Sep 17.
This means: NS (nigella sativa) has a protective effect on the heart following its injury.
Nigella sativa relieves the deleterious effects of ischemia reperfusion injury on liver
“Our results suggest that nigella sativa treatment protects the rat liver against to hepatic ischemia-reperfusion injury.”
World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Sep 7;14(33):5204-9.
This means: NS has a protective effect on potential liver injury caused by a (sudden) restrictive blood supply.
Antihypertensive effect of nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension
“The results suggest that the daily use of NS seed extract for 2 months may have a blood pressure-lowering effect in patients with mild HT (hypertension).”
Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Aug;22(4):447-52.
This means: NS displays blood pressure-lowering effects in people with hypertension (high blood pressure)
Role of nigella sativa and a number of its antioxidant constituents towards azoxymethane-induced genotoxic effects and colon cancer in rats
“Although the exact mechanisms involved in the protective role of nigella sativa against the initiation of colon carcinogenesis are not clearly understood, the results suggest that its inhibitory effects might depend on the combined competitive inhibition of various antioxidant constituents of this plant.”
Phytother Res. 2008 Oct;22(10):1311-23.
This means: NS and other molecules from the plant have a combined preventative effect against cancer initiation in the colon.
Symptomatic treatment of acute tonsillo-pharyngitis patients with a combination of nigella sativa and Phyllanthus niruri extract
“At the end of treatment (Day 7), a significantly greater proportion of patients in the NSPN group than in the placebo group had their sore throat completely relieved. NSPN extract was also found to be safe and well tolerated in acute tonsillopharyngitis patients. This study proved significant benefits of NSPN extract in the treatment of acute tonsillopharyngitis as compared to placebo.”
Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jun;46(6):295-306.
This means: NS plays a role in the relief of sore throat and tonsillitis.