Not only are nigella seeds used similarly to cumin, sesame and fennel seeds in cooking, but they’re also the main ingredient found in black seed oil and kalonji, a natural remedy that has been used throughout history to support the immune system.
In Islam, the black seeds were refereed to by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when he said, “The black seed can heal every disease, except death”. So what makes them so special?
First, what are Black Seeds?
"Nigella seeds are small, angular black seeds that look like dark sesame seeds. They are grown on the Nigella sativa plant, which is in the Ranunculaceae plant family."
These plants grow throughout parts of the Middle East, such as in Turkey and Syria. The plants’ seeds are considered to be the most valuable part and contribute to its vast beneficial health effects.
Most often nigella seeds are used in Indian, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. These tiny seeds have a flavor that’s described as strongly aromatic and savory with “notes of onion, oregano, and black pepper.”
What are nigella seeds also known as?
- onion seed
- black cumin
- black onion seed
- black sesame seeds
- habat-ul sauda (its Arabic name)
- habat-ul baraka (another Arabic name)
What are they good for? Below are some of the benefits associated with the blackseeds:
1. High in Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
Like other darkly colored seeds, such as black beans or pomegranate seeds, nigella seeds contain a number of antioxidants, such as thymoquinone, the most pharmacologically active ingredient found abundantly in these seeds.
Studies have found that these antioxidants, especially thymol and dithymoquinone, have the potential to protect against cellular damage, which may lower the risk for developing certain diseases, including heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases and some types of cancer, such as pancreatic and breast cancer.
Some of the compounds in blackseeds have potent anti-inflammatory abilities that make them helpful for fighting pain and swelling, symptoms that occur in people with conditions such as arthritis. A 2016 study, for example, demonstrated that Nigella sativa could improve inflammation and reduce oxidative stress in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting the seeds can be a beneficial adjunct therapy in this population of patients.
2. May Help Fight Infections
According to one review, Nigella sativa is one remedy that holds benefits including the ability to boost functioning of the immune system, activate and suppress immune specialized cells, and lead to improvement in immune responses and defense system.
There’s evidence that certain compounds found within nigella seeds have natural antibacterial properties, making them useful for fighting strains of bacteria that can contribute to infections like bronchitis, ear and skin infections.
Promising research has connected Nigella sativa to multi-drug-resistant bacteria. This is a really big deal because these so-called “superbugs” are becoming a significant public health risk.
3. Support Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health
A 2017 meta-analysis found evidence that Nigella sativa supplementation can help with management of healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels due to its hypotensive, calcium channel blockade and diuretic properties that help manage blood flow and blood lipid levels.
4. Can Soothe the Digestive System
Traditionally, blackseeds has been used to help treat diarrhea, stomach ulcers, kidney dysfunction and liver-related problems.
Some studies suggest its compounds may protect against liver and kidney toxicity damage and support general gut health due its ability to fight against oxidative stress and inflammation.
5. Help Soothe Inflamed Skin
Black seed oil and kalonji may help with common skin concerns like acne and eczema thanks to their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people also find they’re helpful for psoriasis and rosacea.