Since the start of time, we have used plants for medicinal purposes. Black cumin seeds are one of those age-old plant remedies that fortunately is also backed by hundreds of scientific peer-reviewed articles.
Black cumin seed is noted for its therapeutic attributes and ability to support the body in its own natural healing processes. I love that!
Interestingly, the book of Isaiah in the Bible mentions cumin (caraway) seed, and reportedly, the Prophet Mohammed said, “Hold on to the use of the black seed for indeed it has a remedy for every disease except death.”
Which – yes, sounds like a big claim. This oil does, however, have some widespread health benefits. Black cumin seed oil — sometimes called black seed oil is said to boost the immune system, promote balanced blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and wards off harmful organisms.1
I started looking at this oil when coaching couples who were wanting to conceive and then I started using it to help balance out some of the impact that high-stress levels, had had on my health. Currently, I pop it in my smoothie, other folks just take it orally. Let’s take a look at how it works.
What Is Black Cumin Seed Oil?
Black cumin seeds come from the plant Nigella sativa, which is part of the buttercup family and native to countries throughout southern Europe and southern Asia. Some people call it black seed, caraway, or kalonji.
Even though this much loved ancient herb contains a multitude of active compounds including alkaloids, saponins, sterols, B vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6 fats, researchers have been able to isolate the various active compounds that make up black seed oil and believe its major actions come from three naturally occurring phytochemicals. These naturally occurring compounds include2:
- Thymoquinone, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Thymohydroquinone, which naturally inhibits acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down certain neurotransmitters. Physicians use pharmaceutical acetylcholinesterase for neurological diseases, and scientists are studying thymohydroquinone as a natural alternative.
- Thymol, which is naturally antibacterial and antifungal.
Black cumin seed oil contains other nutrients like folate, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, proteins, and essential amino acids.
Black Cumin Seed Oil Benefits
The properties of black cumin seed oil apparently make it a great natural remedy. From weight loss to lung health and immune system support, here are some of the top benefits you might see from using black seed oil.
Boosts the Immune System
The antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in black cumin seed oil may bolster the immune system. Several studies explore this effect in both animal and human models, including one study of rats that were over-exercised on a treadmill.3 Rats given black seed oil had a stronger immune system response immediately after the exercise compared to those who did not get it. People with autoimmune disorders may see greater benefits from black cumin seed oil than elderberry and echinacea.
Immune and Autoimmune Disorders. Black cumin seed has been shown helpful in autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis, and also allergic asthma, sinusitis, and eczema. In a 2018 placebo-controlled clinical trial, anti-TPO antibodies reduced from an average 295 to 148 (IU/ml, p=0.019) and TSH decreased from 6.42 to 4.13 (mIU/l, p-0.03) in patients receiving 2g/d powdered black cumin seed for 8 weeks.33
Black cumin seed oil’s soothing powers might make it a natural and complementary remedy for lung health. One study found Nigella sativa oil reduces airway inflammation and encouraged easy breathing.4 In another study of people with allergies, researchers found that the oil reduced nasal congestion, itching, runny nose, and sneezing.5
Resists Harmful Organisms
The antimicrobial properties of black cumin seed oil make it effective for warding off a range of pathogens in the body, including fungal pests like Candida. A 2008 study found Nigella sativa resisted the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection.6 This activity against harmful organisms is a characteristic that black cumin seed oil shares with another oil that’s popular among natural health enthusiasts — oregano oil. We have a fascinating blog on the power of Oregano oil, which in the time of Corona and other viruses – ideally should be our BF. So make sure you have a read.
Supports Liver Function
The liver is the body’s main organ for detoxification. It breaks down many types of toxins from food, pharmaceuticals, and the environment that make their way into the bloodstream. It’s good to know that this important organ has an ally in black cumin seed oil. In one study of liver oxidative stress markers (in rats), researchers found that the oil reduced liver disease complications and slowed its progression, helping to restore healthy liver function.7
Improves Gut Health
Black cumin seed oil also appears to aid digestion. Studies have found that Nigella sativa may increase mucus secretion in the gut, helping digestion run more smoothly and reducing the risk of stomach ulcers by slowing gastric acid secretion.8 The antioxidant properties of black seed oil may also help conditions like colitis.9
Brain health and cognitive function – A study on mice demonstrated potential neuroprotective effects of Thymol on cognitive function.31
Hormonal and reproductive organ health – A systematic review of research done during a 14-year span shows that the antioxidant properties of TQ support male fertility by helping to protect against free radical and DNA damage.32
The study indicated that “NS can positively influence sperm parameters, semen, Leydig cells, reproductive organs and sexual hormones. The main potential mechanism is through the antioxidant properties of NS. Thymoquinone (TQ) and unsaturated fatty acids are the main antioxidant components of NS. NS and TQ derived from NS can improve male fertility parameters through promoting antioxidant defence.”
Discourages Abnormal Cell Growth
One scientific review found that black cumin seed oil’s antioxidants — specifically thymoquinone — had anti-carcinogenic properties. Specifically, thymoquinone inhibited tumour cell activity.11 In another study of cells in Petri dishes, thymoquinone slowed the growth and replication of glioblastoma brain tumour cells.12
Black cumin seed oil may help reduce the damaging effects of radiation. Black cumin seed oil and its phytonutrients may protect against the oxidative stress and tissue injury caused by radiation. Multiple studies have found that these immune system protecting effects extend to animals undergoing aggressive medical therapies involving radiation.13,14 Whether these effects apply to humans is unknown.
Encourages Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Black cumin seed oil has an incredible ability to help balance your blood sugar levels.15,16 Most studies focus on thymoquinone, the main phytonutrient in black seed oil, which might reduce glucose absorption in the intestine while supporting insulin production by the pancreas.17 Balancing blood sugar is critical for people with diabetes, prediabetes, or metabolic syndrome. However, even in healthy people, balancing your blood sugar helps you keep diseases at bay, maintain your energy, and reduce so-called oxidative stress in the body, which leads to aging.
Assists With Weight Loss
Black cumin seed oil is becoming an increasingly popular supplement for weight loss. A 2018 review of studies found that this oil appears to moderately reduce body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist size.18 The seed has traditionally been used to stimulate appetite, but preliminary studies nevertheless show that — despite this — it helps people lose weight.10
Promotes Heart Health
Several studies found that black cumin seed, in either oil or powder form, can help promote healthy cholesterol levels — especially the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol associated with heart disease.19,20 When people used black cumin seed oil and exercised, it was more effective at improving people’s lipid profile — balancing their cholesterol levels as well as triglyceride levels — compared with exercise alone.19 Overall, it appears that black seed oil can support your overall heart health and cardiovascular function.
Supports Normal Blood Pressure
Some studies demonstrate that black cumin seed oil can normalize blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.21 In one study, taking black cumin seed oil for two months effectively-balanced blood pressure levels in healthy volunteers, without any harmful side effects.22
Reduces Redness and Swelling
Black cumin oil appears to help reduce redness, swelling, and irritation inside the body, particularly in the joints. A review of animal studies and human clinical trials found that it may be a therapy for autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that black cumin oil rubbed on the skin reduced swelling in the joints for people with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes joint discomfort.23 When scientists gave rats with ulcerative colitis black cumin seed oil directly into their colon, the rats experienced normalized levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.24
While black seed oil may potentially benefit your health, it is not without its own side effects. A study published in Phytotherapy Research notes that topical application caused contact dermatitis in two persons. However, no adverse effects have been reported regarding internal use.29
Pregnant women may consume real black seeds as part of a healthy diet, but high doses for therapeutic applications are generally not recommended, as it may slow down or stop the uterus from contracting. Likewise, breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid black seed oil, as there’s not much information about its effects on you and your child’s health.30
Uses for Black Seed Oil
You can make your own wellness remedies with top-quality organic black cumin seed oil. DIY (do-it-yourself) products reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals that are so prevalent in most commercial products.
For internal use, you can take a tablespoon on its own as stated on the label. Or, you can take one teaspoon two or three times a day, as many experts recommend for a daily tonic. Ideally, take it on an empty stomach 30 minutes before meals and at bedtime. Some people like to combine it with a small amount of raw honey. Alternatively, you can add it to yogurt, tea, smoothies, or drizzle over your salad. Don’t use black seed oil for cooking as heat may damage the valuable compounds. If you’d like to add it to foods, always do so after cooking.
Open Your Airways: Since black cumin seed oil may help you breathe easier, consider having this oil in your natural medicine cabinet. Reach for it to bring relief to your lungs, runny nose, or other breathing-related condition. How to Use: For easier breathing, take 500 mg of black cumin seed oil twice daily for four weeks for relief.25 For relief from seasonal allergies, apply one drop in each nostril three times a day.
Round Out Your Nutrient Intake: This oil has makes a great addition to your day as an all-purpose nutritional supplement. To ensure the highest quality, safest, and most effective oil, look for supplements that are certified-organic, GMO-free, pure pressed oils without chemical extraction, and with no additives. Look for packaging, such as dark-coloured glass, that protects against rancidity. How to Use: Take one teaspoon of black cumin seed oil once or twice daily. You can also mix one teaspoon of oil into a drink or smoothie.
Enhance Your Complexion: Several studies show that black cumin seed oil reduces redness and itching on the skin.8,26 The bacteria species, Propionibacterium acnes, feed on dead skin cells, leading to more redness and irritation. Black cumin seed oil not only repels this harmful organism, but it may also reduce scarring and improve your complexion. Black seed oil can generally be safely applied directly to the skin — in fact, some people like to dab a drop directly onto acne. I recommend testing a drop of the oil on your inner wrist to see if your skin shows any sensitivity first. If redness or swelling occurs, try diluting in a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil. How to Use: For a homemade acne remedy, mix one tablespoon of black cumin seed oil with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. First, apply a hot towel to your face to open the pores, then apply the mixture to your face. After 15 minutes, rinse your face with water
Support Your Weight Loss Efforts: You might have heard stories about black cumin seed oil’s effectiveness as a weight-loss aid. If you’re trying to reach a healthy body weight, consider mixing it into a beverage for easy sipping. How to Use: Add four to five drops of black cumin seed oil, one teaspoon honey, and a squeeze of lemon to a cup of warm water. Drink daily before breakfast.
Thicken the Look of Your Locks: Whether you are a man with a receding hairline or a woman with alopecia, black cumin seed oil may help prevent hair loss and support new hair growth.27How to Use: For a homemade all-natural hair loss treatment, combine one teaspoon black cumin seed oil with one teaspoon olive oil and massage into balding areas. Let sit for thirty minutes before shampooing. Test a small area of the scalp first to make sure you don’t develop an allergic reaction.
Remember, the chemical compounds in essential oils are very concentrated compared to how much you would find in powdered cumin spice. When used in small amounts as a food supplement, black cumin seed oil is quite safe for the long term. If you wish to take larger amounts, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Discontinue use of black seed oil if you develop any of the following side effects:
- Allergic rash
- Upset stomach
For children, black cumin seed oil should only be used sporadically in recommended amounts. Because of the effect black cumin seed oil has on blood sugar, if you are diabetic, check with your doctor since its use lowers blood sugar and could lead to hypoglycemia. If you have low blood pressure, know that this supplement has the potential to lower it further.21,22 Discontinue use of black cumin seed oil two weeks before any scheduled surgery, since it may slow blood clotting.28
Points to Remember
If you are looking for a natural way to address a particular health issue, or simply support overall health, black cumin seed oil is one of the most loved ancient natural remedies. Black cumin seed oil can promote normal blood pressure, manage blood sugar, support the immune system, soothe allergies and lung issues, and discourage infection.10 You can use it for acne, hair growth, and to support weight loss and lung health. Make homemade DIY recipes with this amazing essential oil to create a healthier you. Black seed oil is generally safe to use for most people, so go ahead and see if this age-old cure makes a difference in your life.
I like Solutions 4 Health Black Seed Oil (which they combine with Oregano oil) and Dr. Mercola’s Organic Black Seed Oil.
1 Effects of black seeds (Nigella sativa) on male infertility: A systematic review. Journal of Herbal Medicine 5(3) · March 2015
Padhye S, et al. “From here to eternity – the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond.” Cancer Ther. 2008;6(b):495–510.
2 Jukic M, et al. “In vitro acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties of thymol, carvacrol and their derivatives thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone.” Phytother Res. 2007 Mar;21(3):259-61.
3 Gholamnezhad Z, et al. “Effect of Nigella sativa on immune response in treadmill exercised rat.” BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014; 14: 437.
4 Koshak A, et al. “Medicinal benefits of Nigella sativa in bronchial asthma: A literature review.” Saudi Pharm J. 2017; 25(8): 1130-1136.
5 Nikakhlagh S, et al. “Herbal treatment of allergic rhinitis: the use of Nigella sativa.” Am J Otolaryngol. 2011; 32(5): 402-7.
6 Hannan A, et al. “Antibacterial activity of Nigella sativa against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008; 20(3): 72-4.
7 Hamed MA, et al. “Effects of black seed oil on resolution of hepatorenal toxicity induced by bromobenzene in rats.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Mar;17(5):569-81.
8 Shakeri F, et al. “Gastrointestinal effects of Nigella sativa and its main constituent, thymoquinone: a review.” Avicenna J Phytomed. 2016;6(1):9–20.
9 Aljabre SHM, et al. “Dermatological effects of Nigella sativa.” JDDS. 2015; 19(2): 92–98.
10 Effects of black seeds (Nigella sativa) on male infertility: A systematic review. Journal of Herbal Medicine 5(3) · March 2015
Ahmad A, et al. “A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb.” Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2013;3(5):337-352.
11 Khan A, et al. “Anticancer activities of Nigella sativa (black cumin).” Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 226–232.
12 Racoma IO, et al. “Thymoquinone inhibits autophagy and induces cathepsin-mediated, caspase-independent cell death in glioblastoma cells.” PLoS One. 2013; 8(9): e72882.
13 Cikman O, et al. “Radioprotective effects of Nigella sativa oil against oxidative stress in liver tissue of rats exposed to total head irradiation.” J Invest Surg. 2014;27(5):262-6.
14 Üstün K, et al. “Radio-protective effects of Nigella sativa oil on oxidative stress in tongue tissue of rats.” Oral Dis. 2014;20(1):109-13.
15 Bamosa AO, et al. “Effect of Nigella sativa seeds on the glycemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010;54(4):344-54.
16 Sangi SM, et al. “Antihyperglycemic effect of thymoquinone and oleuropein, on streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus in experimental animals.” Pharmacogn Mag. 2015;11(Suppl 2): S251-7.
17 Mathura ML, et al. “Antidiabetic properties of a spice plant Nigella sativa.” J Endocrinol Metab. 2011; 1(1): 1-8.
18 Namazi N, et al. “The effects of Nigella sativa L. on obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2018; 219:173-181.
19 Farzaneh E, et al. “The effects of 8-week Nigella sativa supplementation and aerobic training on lipid profile and VO2 max in sedentary overweight females.” Int J Prev Med. 2014; 5(2): 210–216.
20 Asgary S, et al. “Ameliorative effects of Nigella sativa on dyslipidemia.” J Endocrinol Invest. 2015; 38(10): 1039-46.
21 Dehkordi FR, Kamkhah AF. “Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension.” Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2008; 22(4): 447-52.
22 Fallah Huseini H, et al. “Blood pressure-lowering effect of Nigella sativa L. seed oil in healthy volunteers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Phytother Res. 2013;27(12):1849-53.
23 Mahboubi M, et al. “Nigella sativa fixed oil as alternative treatment in management of pain in arthritis rheumatoid.” Phytomedicine. 2018; 46: 69-77.
24 Isik F, et al. “Protective effects of black cumin (Nigella sativa) oil on TNBS-induced experimental colitis in rats.” Dig Dis Sci. 2011; 56(3): 721-30.
25 Koshak A, et al. “Nigella sativa supplementation improves asthma control and biomarkers: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” Phytother Res. 2017;31(3):403-409.
26 Dwarampudi LP, et al. “Antipsoriatic activity and cytotoxicity of ethanolic extract of Nigella sativa seeds.” Pharmacogn Mag. 2012; 8(32): 268–272.
27 Rossi A et al. “Evaluation of a therapeutic alternative for telogen effluvium: A pilot study.” JCDSA. 2013; 3(3A): 9-16.
28 Muralidharan-Chari V, et al. “Thymoquinone modulates blood coagulation in vitro via its effects on inflammatory and coagulation pathways.” Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(4):474.
31 Muhammad Ayaz,1,* Abdul Sadiq,1 Neuroprotective and Anti-Aging Potentials of Essential Oils from Aromatic and Medicinal Plants. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017; 9: 168.
32,33 Mahdieh Abbasalizad Farhangi, et al. Powdered black cumin seeds strongly improves serum lipids, atherogenic index of plasma and modulates anthropometric features in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Lipids in Health and Disease volume 17, Article number: 59 (2018)