Have you ever heard of black seed oil? Nigella seeds are its main ingredient. They are tiny, black, angular seeds of the Nigella sativa plant, also known as black seed, black cumin (should not be confused with the black cumin seeds), or kalonji.
Nigella seeds are a common ingredient in the Middle East, India, and North African cuisines. They have an aromatic and savory taste and are commonly used in stews, soups, curries, and bread.
They have also been used traditionally for medicinal purposes due to their high antioxidant content, which helps fight free radicals that contribute to disease formation and premature aging.
Here’s more on the benefits of nigella seeds.
1. They may help fight infections
Research shows that nigella seeds contain powerful antibacterial properties and may help fight disease-causing pathogens such as those involved in chest infections like bronchitis, ear, and skin infections, among others.
These seeds may also protect against multi-drug resistance, a primary health concern when treating various bacterial infections.
One study found that Nigella seed extract could kill MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), one of the most dangerous and common bacteria that is difficult to treat and resistant to antibiotics.
Nigella seeds can also boost the immune system by activating and suppressing different immune cells and interfering with various pathways, leading to disease.
2. It’s high in antioxidants
Antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress, which increases the risk of developing disease.
Nigella seeds are packed with antioxidants, including thymol and thymoquinone, which have been shown to protect against cellular damage that may result in disease formation, including neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and certain cancers, including breast and pancreatic cancer.
3. They may help fight inflammation
Inflammatory responses are usually meant to protect against infection or injury. However, chronic inflammation may contribute to various chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Kalonji has been shown to offer anti-inflammatory benefits and may help lower this risk.
In one study, thymoquinone, an active compound in Nigella seeds, lowered inflammation in pancreatic cancer cells.
In another study involving 42 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, consuming 1000 milligrams of Nigella seeds daily was found to lower oxidative stress and reduce inflammatory markers.
4. It may offer cancer-fighting properties
Antioxidants in kalonji may help fight oxidative stress, which may cause cell damage, including mutations leading to cancer. For example, thymoquinone, the active ingredient in Nigella seeds, may induce cancer cell death in leukemia.
Further research shows that Nigella seeds may be effective against various cancers, including cervical, pancreatic, prostate, colon, skin, and lung cancers.
Also, Nigella seed extract may help inactivate breast cancer cells.
5. May promote blood sugar regulation
Too much blood glucose for prolonged periods may cause inflammation and damage various blood vessels supplying vital organs in the body. If left untreated, it may further increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, nerve issues, kidney disease, and vision problems.
Research shows that Nigella seeds could keep your blood sugar steady, thus lowering your risk of complications.
In one study, consuming 2 grams of Nigella seeds daily for three months improved insulin resistance and reduced regular blood sugar and fasting blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, researchers believe that the ability of Nigella seeds to lower blood lipids and improve glucose metabolism may effectively prevent complications associated with type 2 diabetes.
6. Nigella seeds may offer liver protection
The liver is an essential organ for various functions, including detoxification, processing nutrients from food, storing sugar for later use, cholesterol production, and protein synthesis, among other chemical processes supporting health.
So it’s only essential that your liver is in good condition, and research shows that consuming Nigella seeds may help protect the liver against damage and injury.
For instance, the antioxidant content in Nigella seeds may protect the liver against inflammation and oxidative stress.
It may also prevent induced liver damage and even kidney damage.
In one lab study, rats were injected with a toxic substance, with or without kalonji. The group that received kalonji had reduced toxicity and improved liver protection than the control group. This shows the potential benefits of kalonji for enhanced liver health; however, more human studies may be necessary.
7. It may lower cholesterol
If not controlled, cholesterol buildup within your arteries can limit blood flow, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
Various studies show that Nigella seed supplementation may lower blood triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol.
One of the studies found that kalonji reduced LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A similar study showed that as little as 2 grams of kalonji consumed daily might lower total and LDL cholesterol within 2 months.
8. It may protect against stomach ulcers
Stomach ulcers occur when stomach acid destroys the digestive tract lining. Common causes include the H.pylori bacteria, prolonged intake of anti-inflammatory medications, and prolonged high stress levels.
Consuming Nigella seeds may help preserve your stomach lining, thus preventing ulcers.
In one study, consuming Nigella sativa was shown to heal 83 percent of the ulcers, to the same extent stomach ulcer medications would.
Nigella sativa oil has also been shown to protect the stomach lining against alcohol-induced damage.
How to use black seeds?
There are different and easy ways to include these seeds in your diet, such as
- Include lightly toasted and ground nigella seeds in various recipes like curries or bread recipes or use whole seeds just like you would sesame seeds
- Sprinkle them on smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt
- Eat them raw or mix with honey and some water
Always ensure your seeds are kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool and dry place.
Risk and side effects:
Nigella seeds are considered safe to use. However, black seed oil may cause an allergic reaction when applied to the skin or ingested. Always do a patch test by applying a small amount fast to see whether you’ll experience any reaction.
Kalonji may also facilitate blood clotting, so avoid it if you take blood-clotting medications, or talk to your doctor first.
Also, its safety in pregnancy has not been well established. Lab studies show it may slow uterine contraction when used in large amounts.
Final thoughts on nigella seeds
Nigella seeds come from the nigella sativa tree and are commonly used to prepare the famous black seed oil.
Traditionally, these seeds have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
They are rich in health-promoting nutrients, including various powerful antioxidants.
Regular consumption may boost your health in various ways. These include fighting infections, preventing inflammation, protecting against cancer, improving liver health, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood glucose levels, and protecting against stomach ulcers.
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