The first time I heard about black seed oil, I was at the Fancy Food Winter trade show in San Francisco. I thought the oil was tasty, but wondered why anyone would cook with it. “Oh I don’t cook with it,” the person behind the booth said, “I take black cumin seed oil medicinally. About 1 shot every day or every other day made my grey hair disappear!”
Naturally, I felt the need to investigate. What I found was a rich, long history and an interesting bit of science backing up some rather crazy sounding health claims.
Black Seed Oil: History of Uses and Health Benefits
Black cumin seed comes from the Nigella Sativa plant, a small flowering shrub that grows in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South Asia. The fruit of the plant contains small black seeds known as kalonji seed, black caraway, black cumin seed, and black onion seed. Revered for thousands of years for medicinal and culinary uses, it’s believed the seed oil was used as a beauty aid by Cleopatra and a hepatic (liver) and digestive aid by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The seeds are mentioned in the Old Testament and were even found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. It’s said the prophet Muhammad proclaimed they could cure “anything but death”.
What’s so special about these precious little seeds? Besides being a staple ingredient in Indian, Middle Eastern and South Asian cooking, it’s the extensive amount of published, peer reviewed research extolling their many promising benefits and uses. According to a review published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, black cumin seed has been extensively studied for its therapeutic and nutritional value. It’s been used for centuries in India, North Africa and the Middle East “for the treatment of asthma, cough, bronchitis, headache, rheumatism, fever, influenza and eczema and for its antihistaminic, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory activities.” The oil and seed have shown “potent anti-inflammatory effects” on encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon/large intestine), peritonitis (inflammation of the lining that forms the abdominal cavity), edema (fluid buildup/swelling), and arthritis (inflammation and stiffness of the joints). The black seed oil promotes and supports a healthy immune system, and “most importantly, both the oil and its active ingredients expressed anti-microbial and anti-tumor properties toward different microbes and cancers.” (source)
Let’s break that down into a bit more detail.
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #1: Fights Type 2 Diabetes
Standard treatment for diabetes includes medications which don’t necessarily lower blood sugar to desired levels. A 2017 study showed that taking black cumin seed along with standard treatment caused significant reductions in fasting glucose and postprandial (after eating) glucose levels as well as a reduction in HbA1c (an indication of average blood sugar level over 2-3 months). In other words, it helped lower blood sugar levels and kept them low! (source)
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #2: Lowers Blood Pressure
A 2008 study conducted a randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial (literally the best kind of medical science study there is) to see how black cumin seed extract affected blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. After 8 weeks, they found showed that for people with mild hypertension, black cumin seed extract significantly lowered blood pressure.
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #3: Eradicates H-Pylori and Reduces Ulcers
Black cumin seed has been shown to aid and protect the lining of the stomach from harmful substances by providing significant protection to the gastric mucosa, aka the lining of the stomach (source). It reduces the volume and acidity of gastric secretions which play a major role the formation of ulcers (source). And, ground black cumin seed has been shown to have a positive effect in eradicating H-Pylori, the bacteria known to cause ulcers (source).
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #4: Improves Asthma Control
Black seed oil is starting to sound suspiciously awesome, isn’t it? But I swear I’m only halfway through the list of health benefits!
According to yet another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 2017 study, black cumin seed showed significant improvement in asthma control markers associated with “a remarkable normalization of blood eosinophlia,” a white blood cell that fights disease (source). Remember, these kinds of trials are literally the gold standard in scientific medical research!
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #5: Reduces Inflammation and Pain Associated with Arthritis
Black seed oil can be an effective treatment for both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Its anti-inflammatory compounds support immune cells that target and destroy abnormal, diseased cells. In treating rheumatoid arthritis, black seed oil showed a “marked improvement” in the number and duration of swollen joints and morning stiffness compared to a placebo (source). And a 2016 study showed that the topical use of black seed oil is more effective in reducing knee pain from osteoarthritis than acetaminophen (which you may know as Tylenol)!
Notice a trend here? In double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, black seed oil has a surprising number of health benefits. And in studies where the control substance is an effective painkiller like Tylenol? Black seed oil is still more effective!
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #6: Fights Cancer
As crazy as this sounds, they’ve done animal studies that show that black seed oil shrinks tumors!
This study on animals shows that black seed oil prevents the formation of colorectal tumors, and this study shows that black seed oil slows the growth of liver cancer cells, while this study done on human colorectal cancer cells and this study on human pancreatic cancer cells found that black seed oil actually triggers the death of cancer cells!
That’s right. It’s out there pulling some kung-fu, ninja level attacks on cancer cells.
Black Seed Oil Health Benefit #7: Reverses Grey, Thinning Hair
So remember the tidbit of information that made me fall down this rabbit hole? Turns out it’s true.
Yes, they’ve even conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study about this. Turns out that black seed oil is scientifically proven to make your hair grow in thicker (like, thicker individual strands), fuller (more hair density for you folks fighting baldness), and with the right pigmentation (your natural hair color, not grey)!
Where to Buy Black Seed Oil
Not all black seed oils are created equal. Some are diluted with other oils. Some aren’t sourced well. I prefer to buy from a brand I know and trust.
Over the past decade, I’ve spent many hours and days working beside Sandeep Agarwal of Pure Indian Foods. He’s a joyful friend, an honest business partner, and my guru for all things Ayurveda. That’s him in the picture above with Courtney from Revived Kitchen and me. His family has been making ghee from grass-fed cows for over 100 years, and he prides himself on only sourcing the highest quality spices, oils, dairy, and herbs for Pure Indian Foods.
He’s my go-to source for organic black seed oil, so I asked him for a coupon to pass on to you guys. He delivered!
Get $2 off Organic Black Seed Oil
Just use coupon code FRBLACKSEED at checkout to get $2 off every bottle of Black Seed Oil you buy. Easy!
- Tiruppur Venkatachallam, Suresh Kumar et al. “Chemical composition of Nigella sativa L. seed extracts obtained by supercritical carbon dioxide.” Journal of food science and technology vol. 47,6 (2010): 598-605. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0109-y
- Rachman, P N R, et al. “The Efficacy of Black Cumin Seed (Nigella Sativa) Oil and Hypoglycemic Drug Combination to Reduce HbA1c Level in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome Risk.” IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, vol. 259, 2017, p. 012018., doi:10.1088/1757-899x/259/1/012018.
- Dehkordi, F. R. and Kamkhah, A. F. (2008), Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension. Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, 22: 447-452. doi:10.1111/j.1472-8206.2008.00607.x
- Bukar MA, Ishaya HB, Dibal NI, Attah MO. Gastroprotective effect of Nigella sativa seed on ethanol-induced gastric ulcer in rats. Libyan J Med Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2019 Jun 4];1:63-7. Available from: http://www.ljmsonline.com/text.asp?2017/1/3/63/221495
- Tariq, Mohammad. “Nigella sativa seeds: folklore treatment in modern day medicine.” Saudi journal of gastroenterology : official journal of the Saudi Gastroenterology Association vol. 14,3 (2008): 105-6. doi:10.4103/1319-3767.41725
- Salem EM, Yar T, Bamosa AO, Al-Quorain A, Yasawy MI, Alsulaiman RM, Randhawa MA. Comparative study of NigellaSativa and triple therapy in eradication of Helicobacter Pylori in patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia. Saudi J Gastroenterol [serial online] 2010 [cited 2019 Jun 4];16:207-14. Available from: http://www.saudijgastro.com/text.asp?2010/16/3/207/65201
- Koshak, A., Wei, L., Koshak, E., Wali, S., Alamoudi, O., Demerdash, A., Qutub, M., Pushparaj, P. and Heinrich, M. (2017). Nigella sativaSupplementation Improves Asthma Control and Biomarkers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Phytotherapy Research, 31(3), pp.403-409.
- Gheita, T. and Kenawy, S. (2011). Effectiveness of Nigella sativa Oil in the Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Placebo Controlled Study. Phytotherapy Research, 26(8), pp.1246-1248.
- Kooshki A, Forouzan R, Rakhshani MH, Mohammadi M. Effect of Topical Application of Nigella Sativa Oil and Oral Acetaminophen on Pain in Elderly with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Crossover Clinical Trial. Electron Physician. 2016;8(11):3193–3197. Published 2016 Nov 25. doi:10.19082/3193
- Salim, E. and Fukushima, S. (2003). Chemopreventive Potential of Volatile Oil From Black Cumin (Nigella sativa L.) Seeds Against Rat Colon Carcinogenesis. Nutrition and Cancer, 45(2), pp.195-202.
- Gali-Muhtasib, H., Diab-Assaf, M., Boltze, C., Al-Hmaira, J., Hartig, R., Roessner, A., & Schneider-Stock, R. (2004). Thymoquinone extracted from black seed triggers apoptotic cell death in human colorectal cancer cells via a p53-dependent mechanism. International Journal of Oncology, 25, 857-866. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijo.25.4.857
- Torres, M., Ponnusamy, M., Chakraborty, S., Smith, L., Das, S., Arafat, H., & Batra, S. (2010). Effects of Thymoquinone in the Expression of Mucin 4 in Pancreatic Cancer Cells: Implications for the Development of Novel Cancer Therapies. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 9(5), 1419-1431. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.mct-10-0075
- Mohamed M. Sayed-Ahmed, Abdulaziz M. Aleisa, Salim S. Al-Rejaie, et al., “Thymoquinone Attenuates Diethylnitrosamine Induction of Hepatic Carcinogenesis Through Antioxidant Signaling,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 254-261, 2010. https://doi.org/10.4161/oxim.3.4.12714.
- A. Rossi, L. Priolo, A. Iorio, E. Vescarelli, M. Gerardi, D. Campo, D. Nunno, S. Ceccarelli, S. Calvieri, A. Angeloni and C. Marchese, “Evaluation of a Therapeutic Alternative for Telogen Effluvium: A Pilot Study,” Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, Vol. 3 No. 3A, 2013, pp. 9-16. doi: 10.4236/jcdsa.2013.33A1002.