By Mark Taylor
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Black Cumin?
- 2 Black Cumin Dosage
- 3 What Are The Top Benefits?
- 4 What Are The Potential Side Effects?
- 5 Supplementing Your Diet With Black Cumin
- 6 Black Cumin Alternatives
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 Scientific & Reference Citations
What Is Black Cumin?
Herbs, flowers, seeds, and other parts of plants have been made into poultices, teas, or eaten for their medicinal properties for centuries. They are still important to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practitioners in Asia and other countries around the world. While pharmaceuticals are prescribed by doctors around the world, many people are re-discovering how to use plants to heal their ailments. They are turning away from pharmaceuticals because they don’t want chemicals in their bodies that can potentially be more harmful than helpful.
Natural medicine is becoming more mainstream with Americans spending about $12.8 billion1 on natural supplements. Some of the top research hospitals in the United States, such as Johns Hopkins, Duke, Yale, and many others are promoting the use of alternative medicine2 and natural remedies as well. There are many herbal supplements that have a wide range of medicinal uses, including black cumin.
Upon hearing the name, you might assume that black cumin is in the same family as cumin, the spice found in dishes from Mexico, the Middle East, and India. However, it isn’t related to the spice, and there are two plants called black cumin that have therapeutic properties: Nigella sativa and Bunium bulbocastanum. When referring to black cumin, also known as fennel flower or black caraway, people are usually speaking about Nigella sativa. This plant is even mentioned in the Koran3 by the Prophet Muhammad as being able to heal fall diseases except for death. Nigella sativa is a flowering plant native to parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. It grows to be about three feet high with wispy foliage, and it flowers in several colors like white, yellow, pale blue, and pale purple. The fruit it produces contains small black seeds, which are said to have curative properties.
It is the volatile oil, black cumin seed oil, found in the nigella seeds that contains most of the plant’s curative ingredients. The ingredient which contains most of the seeds’ pharmacological effects is Thymoquinone4 or TQ. The quinine found in TQ is said to be an:
To learn more about black cumin and its properties, watch this video:
Black Cumin Dosage
People who use it has a preventative often take two teaspoons of the oil twice a day. If you’ve never had it before, start out by taking a half tsp per day with food for one week. The second week, take one tsp per day and then progress to taking two tsp per day with food to avoid any possible stomach upset.
A dosage of two tsp per day, twice a day5 is recommended if you’re fighting disease, infection, or inflammation. One to two tsp per day should be sufficient for people using it as a preventative.
A dosage of two tsp per day, twice a day is recommended if you’re fighting disease, infection, or inflammation. One to two tsp per day should be sufficient for people using it as a preventative.
What Are The Top Benefits?
Whether you use the black cumin seeds or the black cumin seed oil, it has many benefits. Some of the benefits are medicinal, but some people use it for cosmetic purposes and as a spice as well.
Relieves Allergies and Asthma
Many studies have been done about the ability of black cumin seed oil to relieve both allergies and asthma. A study conducted in Iran with 50 asthmatic patients showed that boiled extracts of black cumin were found effective6 for improving their pulmonary function.
Another study, which was a double-blind study involving 40 patients who were chemical war victims7, found significant improvement in the respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function of those given the boiling water extract of black cumin seeds. The study also found that the extract reduced the need for drug treatments.
Several studies on the anti-cancer effects of Nigella sativa have been conducted around the world. In a study about breast cancer, a TQ extract from the oil showed to slow tumor growth and increase cell death8 in mice.
In a colon cancer study using rats, the volatile oil from N. sativa could inhibit the growth of cancer cells and fight colon cancer without adverse side effects9. There wasn’t any damage found in the rats’ organs after the study ended. Also, their blood, urine, and body weight gain were unaffected.
A study on brain cancer published in PLoS One found that TQ from N. sativa seed oil could kill glioblastoma cells10. Glioblastoma is an aggressive malignant brain tumor that has an average survival rate of 15 months.
Other studies found black cumin to be effective in killing cancer cells in the stomach, cervical, oral, and pancreatic cancers, as well as leukemia. It was also used to protect patients from some of the dangers of radiation treatments.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatment
When studying the effects of black cumin on diabetes, researchers found that when used with their regular diabetes medications, the participants experienced a significant reduction in their blood sugar readings11.
With a dosage of two grams per day of N. sativa seeds, both their fasting blood sugar and blood sugar tests two hours after eating showed a significant reduction. The hemoglobin A1C tests also showed a significant reduction in participants, and there was no significant change in body weight.
Studies with black cumin show it may be effective in fighting diseases that have become resistant to most antibiotics. One study found that an extract of black cumin seeds was effective in treating MRSA12 and had inhibitory effects on it.
Another study was done to find out how effective N. sativa is in fighting superbugs, which are bacteria that are resistant to other antibiotics like Amoxicillin, Tetracycline, and Gatifloxacin. Researchers evaluated the effects of black seed oil on 144 different bacterial strains and found it was effective in treating 97 of them13.
Provides Heart Protection
Many studies have been conducted using N. sativa to find out its effects on cardiovascular health in both humans and rats. It was found to help improve the recovery of heart tissue, it lowered blood pressure readings in those with mild hypertension, and it helped reduce total cholesterol and triglycerides. Another study showed the potential for black cumin to reduce hardening of the arteries14.
Beneficial for Mental Health
Many studies show that black cumin is not only good for treating many medical conditions, but it can aid in several mental health ones as well. It has been shown to help decrease anxiety, improve moods, and help fight depression.
Studies also show it can help fight fatigue by providing users with more energy. It also acts as a memory enhancer, improves cognition, and help users focus better. Another study conducted with healthy older adults showed it improved their memory.
The study had 40 participants, 20 of which were given a 500mg capsule containing N. sativa seeds twice a day for nine weeks. The participants were given several tests before and after taking the capsules to help determine the effectiveness of black cumin seeds.
The test results after the study showed significant improvements in memory, cognition, and attention15 spans. Researchers concluded N. sativa has potential in helping to prevent or slow the process of Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves Hair Condition
While black cumin has been proven effective in treating many medical and mental health conditions, women also use it for cosmetic purposes. Whether it is in the form of soft gel capsules containing the oil or applying the oil directly, black seed oil for hair has shown to help strengthen it, give it more luster, and help it grow longer.
It also strengthens fingernails, and softens and firms skin when applied topically. The oil can also minimize dark spots or discolorations on the skin. Some studies have also found it effective in treating skin irritations and preventing the formation of scars on wounds.
What Are The Potential Side Effects?
There have not been any significant adverse side effects in study participants, either human or animal, who took black cumin in therapeutic dosages. When given high doses of the black seed oil, two grams per kilogram or more, there was some kidney and liver damage16 found in mice and rats.
Also, a study examining its toxicity found that two people in the study who used the black oil topically did report some contact dermatitis17. However, those people were most likely allergic to black cumin.
The effects of black cumin on pregnant women have not been tested extensively, so they should be cautious or speak with their doctors before taking it. Patients undergoing chemotherapy should also discuss taking the supplement with doctors because it may interfere with radiation treatments.
Supplementing Your Diet With Black Cumin
Black cumin seed supplements are available as seeds, powder, in soft gel capsules which contain the oil, and as cold-pressed black cumin seed oil. The recommended dosage will depend on why the supplement is being taken.
Although it has no significant side effects, people should be cautious about taking it with certain medications or who have certain conditions.
- Pregnant women should avoid taking black cumin products because it can slow or stop contractions. Also, it could affect breastfeeding as well.
- Since it can lower blood pressure, people who have problems with low blood pressure should not take it.
- Since it has shown to lower blood sugar levels, Type 2 diabetics should be careful about taking it with medications that lower blood sugar, like metformin, glipizide, or insulin, as it can lower their blood sugar to dangerous levels.
- If you plan to have surgery, stop taking black cumin products about two weeks prior to the date of your procedure.
- Do not take black cumin if you have a bleeding disorder as it can make it worse. Also, be cautious about taking it with blood thinners like warfarin, coumadin, and aspirin.
Black Cumin Tea
If you’re concerned about trying herbal supplements, like black cumin, instead of taking it as a capsule or using the oil, you can make a tea from it. The tea will provide many of the benefits of the supplement, but many people find it easier to take.
To make black cumin tea18, pour one cup of hot water into a mug and add a teaspoon of the seeds. Cover the cup and allow it to steep about 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t like the taste, you can try sweetening it with a little raw honey to taste.
The tea works well for maintenance, or if you’re having trouble sleeping, brew it and drink a cup of the tea before bedtime. Another recipe for black cumin tea with mint19 is:
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 mint tea bag or a teaspoon of peppermint leaves in a tea ball or spoon
- 1 to 1 ½ tsp of black cumin oil
- 2 tsp raw honey
Combine the hot water and the mint tea in a cup and steep it for 10 minutes. Remove the tea and stir in the black seed oil and honey, then enjoy. This recipe can help with tension, digestive issues, and alleviate heartburn.
Black Cumin Alternatives
The only controversy surrounding this supplement is that there are other products calling themselves black cumin. As mentioned earlier, Bunium bulbocastanum is also known as black cumin, or pig nut, and has many therapeutic properties.
It has been studied for its antifungal, antibacterial20, and phytotoxic abilities, and to determine how well it does in causing red blood cells to clot. It has also studied for its antioxidant properties.
Kala jeera, or Bunium persicum, is also known as black cumin and it is primarily used as a spice in Indian cuisine. The seeds can also be pressed into an oil and used as a topical treatment for infections21, for digestive issues, and for its antioxidant properties.
Since Nigella sativa has so many medical benefits, almost anyone can take it to maintain their health or to treat various diseases. It can also improve memory, give people more energy, and it can make hair, skin, and nails stronger and more beautiful.
As long as it is taken as recommended, it doesn’t seem to have any adverse side effects. For this reason, we are recommending using this supplement to maintain and improve your health.
Scientific & Reference Citations