Black cumin seed: The ultimate medicine from Mother Nature By Olivia Cook for Super Foods
Numerous studies, including one published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, have found black cumin seed and its main active component, thymoquinone, to be medicinally effective against various human and animal ailments.
These include chronic illnesses and infectious diseases caused by bacterial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections. (Related: 10 medicinal uses of black cumin seed essential oil.)
High-value bioactive phytochemicals of black cumin seed
Black cumin seed (Nigella sativa) has major amino acids (arginine, aspartate and glutamate) and minor amino acids (cysteine and methionine). Mother Nature’s ultimate medicine also contains significant levels of calcium, copper, folic acid, iron, niacin, phosphorous, pyridoxine, thiamin and zinc.
In addition, chemical analyses of N. sativa have identified hundreds of phytoconstituents, mainly alkaloids, saponins, sterols and essential oil, of which the major beneficial fatty acids are linoleic acid and palmitic acid.
Loaded with all these, science has documented that black cumin seed is medically effective against the following:
Neurological and mental illness
A study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine considered black cumin seed as one of the greatest forms of therapeutics (preventing and combating disease or alleviating pain or injury) for nervous system diseases, including memory impairment, epilepsy, neurotoxicity, and pain – due to the presence of thymoquinone.
Clinical trial results showed black cumin seed and thymoquinone have therapeutic effects against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ischemic stroke and acute injury, depression, epilepsy and schizophrenia. They also displayed antidepressant, anxiolytic, anti-schizophrenic and anti-convulsive activities.
Additionally, black cumin and thymoquinone were shown to protect against chemical-induced neuronal injuries in experimental conditions – mostly stemming from their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.
A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology summarized evidence of thymoquinone’s anti-inflammatory effects in atherosclerosis, a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including myocardial infarction, heart failure, ischemic stroke and peripheral arterial disease.
A study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine focused on recent findings on the ability of N. sativa as an effective agent in controlling tumor initiation, growth and metastasis, or the spread of primary cancer cells and cancer cell lines from the original (primary) tumor and forming new tumors in other organs or tissues of the body – hence, a wide range of cancers.
Researchers also highlighted the molecular mechanisms of action and signal transduction pathways implicated in the suppression of tumorigenesis by black cumin seed.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed the positive effect of N. sativa on Type 2 diabetes to improve laboratory parameters of hyperglycemia and diabetes control with a significant fall in fasting blood glucose and a significant rise in serum insulin.
A study published in the journal Nutrients showed N. sativa and thymoquinone to be effective against arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis – exhibiting a significant decrease in the inflammation score and neutrophil infiltration or the diffusion/accumulation of white blood cells in tissues or cells in response to a wide variety of substances released at the sites of inflammatory reactions.
A randomized controlled trial on Iranian infertile men with abnormal sperm morphology (the size and shape of sperm) – less than 30 percent or less sperm motility – published in the journal Phytomedicine found that a daily intake of 5ml of black cumin seed oil for two months improved abnormal semen quality in infertile men without any adverse effects.
A study of 24 male rats, published in the International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, showed that the alcoholic extract of N. sativa seed increased fertility, luteinizing hormone, which is important for producing sperm, and testosterone concentration, which plays important roles in regulating libido (sex drive), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass, strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm in male rats which received graded doses of 200-400 mg/kg body weight on a daily basis for 60 days.
A Rio de Janeiro study published in Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz demonstrated the strong biocidal effects of N. sativa seeds against all stages of the parasite Schistosoma mansoni – miracidia, cercariae (the human infectious stage) and adult worms – and also showed an inhibitory effect on the egg-laying adult female worms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who are repeatedly infected with schistosomiasis can develop anemia, malnutrition and learning difficulties. Moreover, after years of infection, the parasite can damage the liver, intestines, lungs and bladder. Rarely, parasitic eggs are found in the brain or spinal cord – causing seizures, paralysis or spinal cord inflammation.
Data revealed that the enzyme activities of crushed black cumin seeds rendered the parasite vulnerable to damage by the host and played a role in N. sativa’s anti-schistosomal potency.