Kalonji (Nigella sativa) is also known as black caraway, black cumin, nigella, black seed, kalojeera, kalonji or kalanji. It belongs to the family Ranunculaceae. It is an annual flowering plant used as spice, for flavoring and for medicinal purposes.

By Ayesha Athar, Maria Naqve, Samra Gulzar


It is an annual plant grows to 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) tall,with finely divided and linear leaves. The pale blue and yellow flowers are delicate with five to ten petals. The fruit is large and inflated capsule composed three to seven united follicles which containing seeds used as spice,and as a replacement for black cumin. Black seed is native to eastern Europe and western Asia.


Black seed native to eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania) and western Asia (Turkey, Iran and Iraq), but naturalized over a wider area, including parts of Europe, northern Africa and east to Myanmar.

Archaeological evidence about the earliest cultivation of black seeds dates back three millennia. It is found in several sites from ancient Egypt. Seeds were found in a Hittite  flask in Turkey from the second millennium BC.The Persian physician Avicenna in his Canon of Medicine described black seed as a treatment for dyspnea. In Middle East it is also used as a traditional medicine.

The Muslims scholar Al-Biruni composed early origins of Indian and Chinese drugs, mention Black Seed is a kind of grain. The Cannon of Medicine, written by Ibn Sina is one of the greatest books of ancient medicine refers  Black Seed as the one that stimulates the body’s energy and helps to recover from fatigue. 


Oils are 32% to 40% of the total composition of N. sativa seeds.  N. sativa oil contains linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and trans-anethole, and other minor constituents, such as nigellicine, nigellidine, nigellimine, and nigellimine N-oxide. Aromatics include thymoquinone,  p-cymeneα-thujene, thymol, α-pineneβ-pinene. Protein and various alkaloids are also present in the seeds.

Culinary uses:

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration classifies Nigella sativa L. (black cumin, black caraway) as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as a spice, natural seasoning, or flavouring. The seeds of N. sativa are used as a spice in many cuisines. In Palestine, the seeds are ground to make bitter qizha paste.

The dry-roasted seeds flavour curries, vegetables, and pulses. They can be used as a seasoning in recipes with pod fruit, vegetables, salads, and poultry. In some cultures, the black seeds are used flavour bread products, and used as part of the spice mixture panch phoron (mixture of five spices) and alone in many recipes in Bengali cuisine and most recognizably in naan. 

Nigella is also used in tresse cheese, a braided string cheese called majdouleh or majdouli in the Middle East.

Medicinal uses:

Kalonji is high in antioxidants, which help to neutralize harmful free radicals that may contribute to the development of diseases like cancer. Test-tube studies have found some impressive results regarding the potential anti-cancer effects of kalonji and thymoquinone, its active compound.

Packed With Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. Research shows that antioxidants can have a powerful effect on health and disease. In fact, some studies indicate that antioxidants may protect against the several types of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Several compounds found in kalonji, such as thymoquinone, carvacrol, t-anethole and 4-terpineol, are responsible for its potent antioxidant properties. One test-tube study found that kalonji essential oil also acted as an antioxidant.

May decrease heart disease risk

In addition to promising weight loss benefits, N. sativa contains compounds that may benefit heart health and herb may reduce heart disease risk through its beneficial effects on blood pressure and blood fat levels. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance present in the body. Kalonji oil was effective significantly reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, while the powder increased HDL (good) cholesterol in healthy participants and in people with conditions like diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

May promote healthy blood sugar level

Kalonji may promote healthy blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It

improve blood sugar management by increasing the action of insulin and delaying the absorption of sugar into the blood.

Islamic point of view:

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who once stated, “The black seed can heal every disease, except death.

Health benefits of black seeds:

Kill the bacteria that cause harmful infection.

Alleviate Inflammation that effect spinal cord and joints.

Preserve the lining of the stomach and prevent from stomach ulcer.

Oil use to fix many skin problems.

Increase memory

Relieve in asthma

Traditional uses:



nasal congestion

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Side effects:

Taken high amount of black seeds can cause

Allergic rashes

Stomach upset