The numerous powerful healing attributes of Nigella Sativa, or black seed, have been well-known throughout history. Nigella Sativa is known by many different names around the world including black cumin, black seed and onion seed. It is only just recently that Western medicine has begun paying attention to this humble spice of many names, and a number of clinical trials are being conducted to verify its efficacy at treating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, MRSA, asthma, arthritis, hypertension, insomnia and epilepsy.
Black Seed contains a phytochemical known as thymoquinone that is not found in any other plant and is the compound responsible for the black seed’s legendary healing abilities. There are accounts of Nigella Sativa seeds being found as far back as ancient Egypt including inside the tomb of Tutankhamen. The seeds are used medicinally by a number of cultures worldwide, as well as being featured in a variety of Indian and Arabic cuisines. International food and beverage company Nestle — of chocolate fame — have recently applied for a patent on thymoquinone, which has led to widespread controversy amongst alternative health enthusiasts and natural health practitioners who claim that the corporation is attempting limit the public’s access and earn a profit from a natural cure.
Healing Properties of Nigella Sativa
The seeds of Nigella Sativa are often pressed and made into oil for medicinal use. It is widely used in Islamic medicine, and one of the most famous quotes regarding the herb comes from the prophet Muhammad who stated that the seeds had the ability to “cure everything except death.” Black seeds are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial as well as being anti-inflammatory, making them one of nature’s best weapons for fighting a wide range of common health conditions. They are used throughout Asia and the Middle East to treat digestive complaints, headaches, bronchitis, improving memory, for gum disease and intestinal worms. Clinical trials have found them to be rich in antioxidants, provide protection and support to the liver and kidneys, provide relief from pain and can even help to heal the body after it has been exposed to chemical weapons.
Nigella Sativa and Cancer
Black seed is employed widely for use in the treatment of many cancers. A large number of studies have been performed regarding the use of black seed as an alternative treatment for cancer, and it has performed well on both laboratory rats and human cancer cells.
Breast Cancer – A 2004 study performed in Switzerland at the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for the Study of Biological Complexity found that thymoquinone was able to slow the growth of new human cancer cells and cause apoptosis in existing ones.
Fibrosarcoma – Thymoquinone added to drinking water at a concentration of 0.01% inhibited tumor growth by up to 43% in laboratory rats. The study commissioned by the International Study Group for the Detection and Prevention of Cancer also found that the phytochemical inhibited the survival of fibrosarcoma cells.
Skin Cancer – The Amala Cancer Research Center in India found that topical application of black seed oil combined with oral administration of saffron extract reduced the formation of skin cancer tumors by 33%.
A number of other trials have been conducted to test the effects of Nigella Sativa on a number of other diseases such as:
Diabetes – Shaqra University in Saudi Arabia proved the benefits of a diet containing black seeds and garlic on diabetic rats, where after 28 days the rats showed decreased lymphocyte proliferation. Another study performed in Saudi Arabia found that 2 grams of black seed per day reduces blood glucose and lowers insulin resistance after a period of 3 months.
Asthma – The Tanta University in Egypt found that oral administration of black seed oil significantly reduces airway hyper-responsiveness in guinea pigs and that it was a promising potential treatment for bronchial asthma in humans.
Arthritis – A placebo controlled study on 40 female patients found that two 500mg capsules of Nigella Sativa oil taken in the morning and evening reduces swollen joints and morning stiffness in arthritic patients and significantly decreased the disease’s activity.
Hypertension – Human trials into the effects of black seed oil on hypertension found that 300mg administered twice a day significantly lowered blood pressure levels in patients with mild hypertension. The Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences in Iran performed the trials and concluded that black seed oil could effectively lower blood pressure levels after just 2 months.
Nestle Patent Attempt
Nestle has filed hundreds of patents attempting to gain ownership of the black seed’s powerful healing potential. The food giant claims that they are not trying to patent the plant, but merely the phytochemical thymoquinone when it is used to treat food allergies. An online petition to prevent Nestle from gain patents on black seed has been slowly gathering pace. You can add your voice at the following link: http://action.sumofus.org/a/nestle-nigella-sativa/.
How to Take Nigella Sativa
Black seed oil is available in capsule form from most health food stores or online, and should be taken as directed by the manufacturer. Virgin, cold pressed black seed oil is also available and this can be applied topically to various skin conditions such as insect bites, dermatitis and eczema, or a teaspoon can be taken with fresh orange juice or honey for general health and wellbeing. The Muslim Health Network suggests cooking black seeds in vinegar, and then adding black seed oil. Rinse the mouth out with this solution to provide relief for toothache and gum disease. It also suggests a teaspoon of black seed oil can be taken with a cup of tea or coffee three times per day to relive stress and nervous tension. For specific health conditions, speak with a natural health practitioner familiar with the use of black seed.
Possible Side Effects and Interactions
Black seed is generally considered safe and does not have any side effects when used responsibly. Some reports have suggested it may be toxic in extremely high doses of 25 grams or more. Pregnant woman should avoid taking it as there have not been any studies performed on its safety on unborn children, and those with a low blood pressure should exercise caution as it can cause it to dip further.
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