Black seed (Nigella sativa L.) is an annual herb belonging to the family of Ranunculaceae and
also called black caraway, black cumin, kalonji, and black onion seeds. It is native to Southwest
Asia, North Africa, Southern Europe.

By Hafsa Javaid, Athar Mahmood

It is also cultivated in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries such as Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Syria. The plant and its seeds has been long used as an edible herb, condiment and relieving g agent for different ailments in different countries and cultures. The seed and oil of N. sativa has been frequently described and recommended in Tibb-e-Nabvi, African and Eastern medicines, Unani medicines, Arabic, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines for different diseases.

Miraculous plant

Nigella sativa has also been described as the miraculous plant and considered by earliest herbal specialists as “The herb from heaven”. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) had described the curative powers of the black seed as “Hold on to use this black seed, as it has a remedy for every illness except death”

Seeds and the oil of N. sativa is used in traditional medicines to control diabetes, hypertension and oxidative stress, epilepsies, ulcers, asthma, inflammatory disorders, fatty liver, cancers, and arthritis, rheumatism, piles, jaundice, dyspepsia, helminth infestations and skin diseases. Black seed oil contains thymoquinone, a compound that is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory  and can also have tumour reducing effects. People may ingest black seed oil in capsule form or apply it topically for skin gain. Massage oils, shampoos, homemade skin care items and fragrances can also be applied with the oil. High quality black seed oil is also suitable for use in cooking, baking, and beverages.

Role in the treatment of asthma

Asthma, a respiratory disorder which may be associated with genetic or environmental factors, affect more than 0.3 billion people throughout the world. Seeds as a whole, oil and herbal tea of N. sativa have been actively used in different regions for the treatment of acute and chronic asthma. The boiled extracts of N. sativa seeds efficiently improved asthma related disorders in asthmatic patients at daily administration for three months. In a similar study, fifteen patients with asthma were given boiled extracts which revealed improved bronchodilatory responses. Partial improvement in asthmatic conditions of patients was observed with 1–2 g day-1 provision of N. sativa. The seed oil also contributed to controlled asthma in patients when they were treated with a 500 mg capsule twice per day. In animal trials, ethanolic extracts and oil significantly reduced histamine release and improved asthmatic problems in rats.

Effect on diabetes

Diabetes is one of the deadliest causes of deteriorating health conditions. People around the world who usually have no cure, but preventive steps and a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of associated secondary disorders. This affects more than 400 million people worldwide. Satisfactory results with N. sativa is well known on diabetic patients. Searched Oral prescribing N. sativa capsule delayed substantially blood glucose level and criteria involved with patients with type 2 diabetes.

Among other research N. sativa oil gave beneficial effects on Type 2 diabetes lipid profile and glycemic conditions. Diabetic patients treated with oral supplement N. sativa that proved effective for cholesterol regulation and other parameters. Boiled extracts of N. sativa seeds efficiently improved asthma related disorders in asthmatic patients at daily administration for three months. N. sativa as safe against cancer therapy provides realistic outcomes. The role of N. sativa in cancer treatments and attributed the anticancer properties of the plant to thymoquinone which is a major constituent of N. sativa. In human ovarian cancer cell lines, extracts of N. sativa seeds were reported to possess antagonistic potentials against the spreading cells.


Numerous studies have shown obesity to be a risk factor for diabetes. N. sativa seed (black seed) oil is not only considered to treat a lot of illnesses but also helps to lose weight. In various studies N. sativa oil is ideal for weight loss and reduced body mass index (BMI) in diabetes subjects, suggesting that it has an antiobesity effect.

Antiparasitic activity

An ointment from alcoholic extract of N. sativa seeds were applied daily for 15 weeks to cutaneous leishmaniasis that was experimentally developed in mice by subcutaneous leishmania major inoculation at the dorsal base of the tail. The lesion morphology and the mice’s body weight were tracked regularly. There was no substantial difference between mice obtaining average weight of N. sativa ointment extract and controls but the diameter of the lesion and inflammatory symptoms were severe lesser in the test group as compared to the controls.

Antioxidant activity

N. sativa is listed for its cost effective, in vivo and in vitro antioxidant activity. Black cumin, with its strong constituent, Thymoquinone, showed reduced oxidizing stress, blocking of calcium channels and increasing urine production. Action that may have been related to reduction in blood pressure. Medicinal herbs like black cumin may be a possibility source of safer and novel biological compounds and less of the side effects. The volatile black cumin oil and Dose-reliant anti-inflammatory thymoquinone was used in different doses against carrageenan-induced hind paw edema in rats’ parallel to indomethacin. Black cumin is amongst the motivating medicinal plants, that showed strong antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and antiparasitary steps.

Infertility is the incapability of a copulate to attain offspring after 12 months of intercourse without contraception. It is more common among men than women. The big problem with sperm dysfunction is infertility of men which accounts for 60 percent of all reasons. Sperm structure, function, motility, and survival are deleteriously affected by oxidative stress, can contribute to infertility. Evidence shows that some herbal medicines by saving free radicals can reduce negative effects of oxidative stress. Of the various common species, N. sativa has been found to exhibit significant antioxidant effect. Black cumin thought to cause an increase in hormones of spermatogenesis on the pituitary gland, and an increase in reproductive organ weight. The analysis also indicates N. sativa can affect enzymes with oxidativephosphorylation and may increase sperm motility.

Anticancer activity

The anticancer activity of N. sativa was revealed, for the first time, when an enhancement of the natural killer (NK) cell activity was observed in advanced cancer patients receiving multimodality immunotherapy program in which N. sativa seed was one of the components.The topical application of N. sativa and Crocus sativus extracts inhibited two-stage initiation/promotion of [dimethylbenz anthracene (DMBA)/croton oil] induced skin carcinogenesis in mice, delayed the onset of papilloma formation and reduced the number of papillomas per mouse.

Later, the protective effect of bee honey and Nigella was studied on the oxidative stress and carcinogenesis induced by methylnitrosourea (MNU) in Sprague Dawely rats. It was observed that MNU produced oxidative stresses ranging from severe inflammatory reaction in lung and skin to colon adenocarcinoma in four out of six animals. The serum malondialdehyde (MDA) and nitric oxide (NO) were also raised. Treatment with N. sativa seed given orally protected against MNU-induced oxidative stress and carcinogenesis by 80% (12/15), whereas honey and N. sativa seed together protected 100% (12/12); and serum MDA and NO also significantly decreased in both cases compared to active controls.

Wound Healing

N. sativa seed and its oil have been found to encourage wound farm animals recovery. In addition, an ether extract of N. sativa seed applied topically to the skin contaminated with staphylococcal in mice improved healing, reducing totaland absolute WBC counts, local infection and inflammation, bacterial expansion and degradation of the tissues. Using human gingival fibroblast as a monolayer, aqueous extract of N. sativa exhibited low free radical scavenging activity and induced gingival fibroblast proliferation with accelerated wound closure activity despite its non-significant effect on collagen synthesis. It also resulted in elevation of basic fibroblast growth factor and transforming growth factor beta.

Cosmetic application

Use pH meter, corneometer, tewameter, methyl nicotinate microinflammatory model in human skin, and stratum corneum stripping film, the in vivo and ex vivo properties of emulsions with N. sativa seedcake extracts is evaluated. Emulsions with the Borago officinalis, and N. sativa seedcakes extreme reduced skin irritation and increased skin hydration and function of the epidermal barrier compared with placebo. Because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, proposed the possible use of seedcakes in anti-aging, moisturizing, reducing and defensive cosmetics.

Authors : Hafsa Javaid, Athar Mahmood University of Agriculture Faisalabad