People have been enjoying the benefits of black seed oil for almost three thousand years. Made from the seeds of a pretty annual plant with blue or white flowers, the oil has been used for a range of ailments, from acne and inflammation to weight loss and high blood pressure. Ground seeds are used in many countries as a spice for a range of dishes.
Black seed oil is used almost universally today. It is easily available and it is affordable. Its mother plant is now growing almost all over the world. Let’s learn more about this highly respected natural plant product, what to use it for and how.
What is black seed oil (Black Cumin Oil)?
Black seed oil is produced from the black seeds of Nigella sativa, an annual plant from the Ranunculaceae family, native to Bulgaria and Romania and other Eastern European countries. It is also growing in Cyprus, Iran, Turkey and Iraq and is also naturalized over Europe, northern Africa and Asia.
Nigella is also called black caraway, black cumin, Roman coriander and fennel flower.
The black seed oil has been widely used in traditional and folk medicine for the treatment of a wide range of ailments. For that reason, nigella is sometimes considered a “panacea” — a universal healer.
The power of Nigella sativa oil comes from a number of active ingredients: oleic acid, linoleic acid, trans-anethole, palmitic acid, minor quantities of nigellicine, nigellimine, nigellidine, nigellimine N-oxide and aromatics (terpenes) such as thymoquinone, p-cymene, carvacrol, dihydrothymoquinone, α-thujene, thymol, β-pinene, α-pinene, and trans-anethole and various alkaloids. Each ingredient plays a particular role in treating different health issues.
A high level of antioxidants is another benefit of black seed oil. Antioxidants help protect our cells against constant damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, protecting us from heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and a range of other health issues. The black seed oil ingredient thymoquinone is a powerful antioxidant and has strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Benefits of black seed oil?
Benefits for weight loss
A review of a number of studies shows that black seed oil supplements can assist in lowering body mass index and waist circumference. No side effects were reported by people taking this supplement.
A 2021 study on rats suggests that black seed oil may help significantly reduce insulin resistance and body weight.
The research shows that black seed oil may help improve symptoms of acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions. It also helps soften skin, hydrate hair, and works as a moisturizer. A gel containing black seed oil is proven particularly helpful with acne.
Scientists believe that skin and hair improvement caused by the use of black seed oil is due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects.
While it is not understood how it works, the research shows that black seed oil helps speed up the healing of wounds. The theory is that it is due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the black seed ingredient thymoquinone. It also helps that black seed oil increases the formation of collagen.
Two small studies show that another effect of the anti-inflammatory effect of the black seed oil is the lowering of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Black seed oil may help in treating asthma
A small study of 80 asthma patients shows that the black seed oil active ingredient thymoquinone may help in treating symptoms of asthma by relaxing muscles in the airway and reducing inflammation.
The study shows that taking capsules of 500 mg of black seed oil two times a day for four weeks greatly improved the control of asthma.
Although the results are promising, there is a need for much longer and larger studies to prove the long-term effectiveness and safety of black seed oil in asthma treatment.
Benefits of black seed oil for treating cancer
Research shows that the black seed oil ingredient thymoquinone affects cell death in some types of cancer cells such as brain cancer cells, breast cancer cells and leukemia.
So far the research on the black seed oil effects on cancer used animals and in-vitro cells but not live humans. It is still not knows whether the same effectiveness will show in treating cancer in people.
The effects of black seed oil on liver and kidney function
According to a number of small studies, black seed oil’s antioxidant properties may have a positive role in protecting the kidneys and the liver.
In one key process, thymoquinone reduces oxidative stress levels caused by an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body.
Oxidative stress is linked to a number of liver issues such as cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis, and some others. It is also linked to kidney issues such as kidney toxicity and chronic kidney disease.
One study conducted in 2019 shows that black seed oil is potentially helpful in reducing kidney stone sizes and even completely eliminating kidney stones.
The folk medicine practice shows that black seed oil is helpful in reducing symptoms of gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, nausea, bloating, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. It is believed that this effect is due to the black seed oil’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Some studies show that black seed oil may also have an effect on pancreatitis, colitis, and other gastrointestinal disorders. To find out exactly how this works more research is needed.
Benefits of black seed oil in treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are known as important risk factors for potential heart disease, so the fact that black seed oil has a positive effect on both is good news.
In the analysis of ten randomized controlled trials, the administration of the black seed oil supplement showed a reduction in diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
Another clinical trial that focused on older adults who suffered from high blood pressure did not find any reduction in blood pressure after using the black seed oil supplement. It is clear that more research is needed, but if you would like to try black seed oil to treat your high blood pressure, talk to your physician first.
Studies of women with obesity and adults with type 2 diabetes show that taking capsules with 2–3 grams of black seed oil daily for two to three weeks seriously reduced bad and total cholesterol levels.
Another study of people with high cholesterol found that taking 10 grams of black seed oil after breakfast for six weeks drastically reduced bad cholesterol.
One study found that 2.5 mL of black seed oil two times a day for eight weeks drastically reduced blood pressure. Nevertheless, more research is necessary to find out the optimal dose.
A 2014 clinical trial of men with infertility and poor sperm count found that black seed oil can potentially increase sperm movement, sperm count and the volume of semen.
The research on mice confirmed the theory that the results are due to the effect of thymoquinone, one of the key ingredients of black seed oil.
A 2019 review of studies demonstrated that the black seed has the potential to reduce blood glucose, improve insulin resistance and regulate hemoglobin.
If used with conventional diabetes treatments, the research believes that black seed oil could be used as a successful treatment for type2 diabetes.
It is suggested that two grams of crushed whole black seeds per day may reduce significantly fasting blood sugar levels as well as hemoglobin HbA1c, which is a measure of blood sugar average over two to three months.
Besides black seed in capsules, using black seed oil can also be taken with the same results. A small study of people with type 2 diabetes suggests that 1.5 mL and 3 mL of black seed oil per day for about 20 days reduced HbA1c hemoglobin levels.
Allergies & Nasal Inflammation
A small 2014 study used drops of black seed oil in the noses of people with allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever. The results show that after six weeks, almost 100 percent of participants reported improved condition, with less sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and all other symptoms. Some reported that the symptoms of their hay fever disappeared completely.
Potential side effects and risks
Black seed oil and ground nigella seeds are used as a spice in many cuisines. When used in fairly small amounts, nigella proved to be safe for almost all people.
When it comes to its therapeutic use, there is a need for much more research to ensure that the use of black seed oil is safe in larger quantities, as well as to find out the most appropriate dosage for various conditions.
So far, the three months or less of use of black seed oil did not show any adverse side effects. One study shows that the use of 5 mL of black seed oil daily for eight weeks caused bloating and nausea in some participants.
Some medical practitioners are concerned that black seed oil may potentially interact with certain medications processed through the “cytochrome P450 pathway.” That includes warfarin and beta-blockers like Lopressor.
Another concern is that too much black seed oil could be bad for kidneys although most studies show no ill effects of black seed oil on kidneys. Only one patient with type 2 diabetes had kidney failure after using black seed capsules with 2–2.5 grams of black seed every day for six days. On the contrary, there is a suggestion that black seed oil might protect kidneys from damage.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should abstain from using black seed oil, except for very small amounts as a food flavoring, due to the lack of sufficient research.
In spite of millennia of use of black seed oil for a range of ailments, modern medicine is reluctant to confidently recommend it as a standard treatment without further long-term and larger research.
There is no established dosage for using black seed oil for various ailments. Different practitioners suggest different dosages and there is no sufficient data to show what dose is the most effective.
Most commonly, black seed oil has been used orally in doses of 1-2.5 grams daily for one to three months.
People with asthma who are taking capsules of 1000 mg of black seed oil capsules every day for four months reported this dose to be effective and safe.
When it comes to weight loss and blood sugar control, studies suggest that doses of two to three grams of black seed oil daily for eight to twelve weeks are the most effective.
For thousands of years, black seed oil has been used safely and with great success in many parts of the world. The benefits of black seed oil range from improving skin and hair condition and helping with weight control to controlling diabetes, high blood pressure and affecting cancer cells.
While there is a wide range of studies being conducted in many countries regarding the effectiveness of black seed oil for various ailments, so far the research has been limited in size and duration. The produced results are encouraging but insufficient to help recommend the use of black seed oil as standard medication.
Nevertheless, the black seed oil is widely used as herbal medicine and a supplement. The patients who are interested in using it should consult their physicians to ensure that it does not interfere with other medicines they are using.
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