Nigella sativa (aka black seed or black cumin) has been linked to many curative properties, traced back to the Old Testament. Today, research confirms that the herb delivers benefits. “Nigella is a relatively little-known but increasingly popular botanical in the Western medicinal herb and dietary supplement industry,” said Stefan Gafner, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of ABC and Technical Director of BAPP, in a press release announcing the BAPP Bulletin on Nigella Seed and Seed Oil Adulteration. “As more human clinical studies are published to support its health benefits, particularly in the areas of glycemic control, improvement of lipid profiles, and reduction of biomarkers of inflammation, nigella seed oil appears to be destined to become a more important ingredient in the coming years."

Nigella has a long history of use as a food and traditional medicine. 

It is especially popular in the Middle East, the American Botanical Council (ABC) reported. Among the uses ABC highlights:

Whole or powdered nigella seeds are used:

      • as a treatment for inflammation and respiratory conditions
      • as a carminative to ease bowel and digestive problems
      • for neurological disorders
      • as a diuretic and diaphoretic (perspiration-inducing) agent.

Nigella seed oil is used:

          • externally as a remedy for skin diseases
          • internally to treat stomach problems, respiratory ailments, and allergies, as well as to improve circulation.

Here, a look at more of the modern-day findings on black seed.

Black seed benefit: Immune support

Touting the many benefits of black seed, experts at Natural Grocers share, "It’s a powerful immune modulator, keeping the immune system in balance so it doesn’t overreact or underreact. Black seed oil also quenches dangerous inflammation and boosts appropriate immune function, resulting in enhanced protection against infections, while it also eases coughs, bronchitis symptoms, and colds. New research is showing that via its immune-regulatory, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits, black seed oil is a powerful immune ally, especially when it comes to respiratory health."

Black seed benefit: Glycemic control

Black seed oil may help prevent type 2 diabetes. In 9 Proven Black Seed Oil Benefits that Boost Your Health, Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN, points to a study published by the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Researchers at the Indian Council of Medical Research found that black seed oil can “improve glucose tolerance as efficiently as metformin,” which is  one of the common medications for type 2 diabetes.  

Black seed benefit: Liver support

"For those who have struggled with poor liver function due to medication side effects, alcohol consumption or disease, black seed oil could greatly speed the healing process,"shares Dr. Axe. "In a recent animal model study, scientistsdiscoveredthat black seed oil benefits the function of the liver and helps prevent both damage and disease."

Two separate studies show that consuming the branded black seed ingredient  ThymoQuin or a combination of ThymoQuin and omega-3 helps decrease fatty  deposits in the liver and provides additional hepatic  benefits, according to a white paper provided by TriNutra, which offers the branded, standardized ingredient. The  synergistic  combination  of  omega-3s  and ThymoQuin provides added benefits over either of the ingredients individually, according to the research. 

Black seed benefit: Heart care

"Black cumin seed favorably affects several parameters related to heart disease risk, including lowering total and LDL cholesterol, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing plaque formation," reports Kara Fitzgerald, N.D., in The Power of Black Cumin Seed.

Black seed benefit: Libido lift

"Supplementing with black seed oil has been shown to support hormone balance which canboost libido and sexual desire," says Taz Bhatia, M.D., in7 Incredible Benefits of Black Seed Oil for Women. "Onestudyreviewed 24 articles and found that black seed oil promotes healthy levels of progesterone and testosterone in women, which are two hormones crucial for fertility and sexual desire." What's more, adds Dr. Taz,researchsuggests that black seed oil can help sperm swim faster and boost sperm count.

Black seed benefit: Digestive aid

Black seed may help relieve digestive upset. Dr. Taz shares, "Black seed oilmay help relievestomach cramps, gas, and bloating due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and therapeutic properties."

Quality is key with black seed oil

Due to its popularity, concerns have grown over adulteration issue surrounding black seed oil. In October, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) released a prevention bulletin, warning consumers about the use of adulteration among black seed products. Many have linked this rising issue to financial motivation. According to the bulletin, written by Nilüfer Orhan, Ph.D, nigella seed oil can be 10 to 30 times more expensive than other vegetable oils. The whole seed can be adulterated by seeds of other Nigella species and lower-cost plant seeds that resemble a similar color and size. It is often adulterated with oils like palm, corn, sunflower, soybean, or canola. 

Dr. Gafner noted, "Due to the relatively high cost of nigella seed oil compared to other vegetable oils, there is a risk that some nigella seed oil in the global market is diluted or outright substituted with some of these lower-cost oils, similar to what has been reported with the popular botanical ingredient saw palmetto.” 

When stocking black seed products, it's important to stock from reliable suppliers and brands. WF