The Black Seed is scientifically known as Nigella Sativa, the herd grows about 16-24 inches in height. From it comes a small rectangular Black Seed which is also known as the Blessed Seed (Arab: Habbat ul Baraka, or Habbat ul Sauda).
The ancient Egyptians knew and used the Black Seed and described it as a panacea (cure for problems/disease). The Romans also knew this seed and called it Greek Coriander. Documented by the Greek physician of the 1st century, Dioscoredes, as an ailment for general health problems such as toothaches, headaches and was mainly used as a dietary supplement.
In English-speaking countries with large immigrant populations, it is also variously known as kalonji in Hindi/Urdu कलौंजी kalauṃjī or كلونجى/कलोंजी kaloṃjī) or mangrail (Hindi मंगरैल maṃgarail), ketzakh (Hebrew קצח), chernushka (Russian), çörek otu (Turkish), habbat al-barakah (Arabic حبه البركة ḥabbat al-barakah, seed of blessing), siyah daneh (Persian سیاهدانه siyâh dâne), karim jeerakam in Malayalam.
A Prophetic Medicine as recommended 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet (saw) said:
Use the Black Seed for indeed, it is a cure for all diseases except death. [Sahih Bukhari - 7:591]
Black Seed is also found in the Bible in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament: "For the Black Cumin is beaten out with a stick and the Cumin with a Rod. [Isaiah 28: 25, 27 NKJV]
Easton's Bible Dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for Black Cumin, "Ketsha" refers to "without doubt the Nigella Sativa", a small annual of the order Ranunculaceae which grows wild in the Mediterranean Countries. However although many people and cultures knew of black seed it was not scientifically researched until about forty years ago. Since then more than 200 studies have been conducted in universities all over the world. One such study conducted at the Munich Institute for Research on Newer Therapeutic Methods [Münchner Institut zur Erforschung neuer Therapieverfahren] has confirmed by means of the most modern analytic methods that Black Seed oil contains over 100 active health-promoting substances and displays superior clinical effectiveness as a nutritional supplement.
Among the many amazing discoveries researchers have found, is that the Black Seeds are superior to almost every other natural remedy when used for autoimmune disorders; conditions in which patients suffer greatly because their own systems attack their bodies. Black Seed, especially when combined with Garlic, is regarded as a harmonizer of the imbalance which allows immune cells to destroy healthy cells. The technical language to describe this property is "Immunomodulatory Action." The difference between Black Seed and interferon is that there are no known side effects with Black Seed when administered in normal dosages.
All in all Black Seed has been known and used throughout many cultures for over two thousand years.
Narrations for Black Seed
Aisha (ra) said that she heard the Messenger (saw) say,
This black seed is a cure for every disease except death. [Sahih Bukhari - 5687]
Khalid bin Sa'd (ra) said, "We went out and with us was Ghalib bin Abjar (ra). He fell sick along the way and when we came to al-Madinah, he was sick. Ibn Abu 'Atiq (ra) came to visit him and said to us, 'You should use this black seed. Take five or seven (seeds) and grind them then apply them to his nostrils with drops of olive oil on this side and on this side for Aisha (ra) narrated to them that she heard the Messenger (saw) say, This black seed is a cure for every disease except death. [Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah - 3449]
Ibn Qaiyum (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, "It has immense benefits and his statement that it is a cure for every disease except death is like the statement of Allah."
What does the hadith "In it is a cure for everything except death" mean?
There are a number of hadith pertaining to Black Seed and Hijama etc that state: "In it is a cure for everything except death." So why do these remedies not cure cancer, diabetes and all the illnesses in the world?
This is a common question for most people but what we should know is that if something does not seem right in the Quran and Sunnah, it's not the Quran or Sunnah but usually our understanding of it. I would remind our readers to be careful when things are translated from Arabic to another language, in this case English and always try to return to the original Arabic to resolve any issues. In regards to these hadith the Prophet (saw) did not say "Al Shifa" rather the Arabic word 'Shifa' (cure) came without the definite article which means that it is an indefinite word that covers most cures. This means that the Black Seed contains a benefit that contributes to the cure of every disease. However some people may misunderstand the translation and end up confusing themselves as well as others. From a medical point of view, these remedies contribute to the total cure - and not that they are the total cure themselves alone. For example Black Seed strengthens the immune system and so if the immune system is strengthened so will your bodies resilience against disease. Similarly, Hijama removes chemical impurities from the body and if this is done on a regular basis as recommended in the Sunnah, then it greatly reduces the likelihood of diseases gaining a permanent hold in your body. So the correct understanding of the hadith is that these remedies contain a benefit that contribute to the cure (shifa) of every disease.
Research has found that there is not another herb known to work with such a wide range of healing capabilities. Nigella Sativa are known by many names for example, Black Seed or Black Cumin. Habbat ul barakah in Arabic countries (the Blessed Seed) due to the saying of the Holy Prophet (saw) and habbat as-sawda. It is referred to as Schwarzkummel in Germany and Corek Otu in Turkey. It is often named Black Onion Seed because of its similarity to onion seed in appearance but they share no relation to each other.
Warning Regarding Black Seed Oil
Dear reader please note the hadith makes no mention of the word oil. The Prophet (saw) never used black seed oil! This is an important distinction as many people today are selling the oil and quoting the hadith as if it refers to the oil, which is causing confusion amongst people. In the hadith the Prophet (saw) specifies a dose of 7 seeds in each nostril for infection gives us an indication of the dose and the fact it is the seeds and not the oil. We are trying to emphasise the hadith and its meaning.
Isn't the oil is just the same as the seeds as it contains the same active ingredients?
On the face of it this may sound like a good argument but apart from going against the hadith it is also a scientifically flawed argument. No one would compare eating olives to consuming olive oil, or the derivative of a product to the whole product. The fact that the product is derived should be enough for a person to understand something is missing. To make it even simpler to understand how about comparing eating whole coconut to coconut oil or even whole fish to fish oil.
So is Black Seed oil useless?
We would advise that on balance, there have been medical studies done using the oil and some of those studies have indicated some benefits. So if one wants to use the oil form then they should follow the guidance from those studies as they have knowledge regarding the correct dosage for the conditions treated with the oil and can provide the statistics for the level of success. However the oil tends to be a very strong product and anyone who has tasted it can attest that it has a sharp and bitter taste. And for many people the oil causes stomach upsets etc, so we advise it should not be consumed on a long term basis without a compelling medical basis for doing so.
Black Seed Medical benefits
For thousands of years, people around the world have recognized the tremendous healing properties of this Legendary Herb: "Nigella Sativa or Black Seed."
Another profound discovery is that the ingredients (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) of the oil lead to increased production of the messenger substance Prostaglandin E1, a hormone-like substance, that functions as a general regulator on several body functions such as:
1. Brain function
2. Nerve function
3. Lowering blood pressure
4. Activation of the immune system.
Rich in Nutritional Values.
Monosaccharides (Single Molecule Sugars) in the form of Glucose, Rhamnose, Xylose, and Arabinose are found in the Black Seed.
The Black Seed contains a non-starch Polysaccharide component which is a useful source of dietary fiber. It is rich in fatty acids, particularly the unsaturated and essential fatty acids (Linoleic and Linoleic Acid). Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body alone, and therefore we acquire these from food.
Fifteen amino acids make up the protein content of the Black Seed, including eight of the nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized within our body in sufficient quantities and are thus required from our diet.
Black Seed contains Arginine which is essential for infant growth.
Chemical analysis has further revealed that the Black Seed contains Carotene, which is converted by the liver into Vitamin A, the Vitamin known for its Anti-Cancer activity.
The Black Seed is also a source of Calcium, Iron, Sodium, and Potassium. Required only in small amounts by the body, these elements' main function is to act as essential co-factors in various enzyme functions.
Immune System Strengthening
Studies begun just over a decade ago suggest that if used on an ongoing basis, Black Seed can play an important role to enhance human immunity, particularly in immunocompromise patients.
In 1986, Drs. El-Kadi and Kandil conducted a study with human volunteers to test the efficiency of Black Seed as a natural immune enhancer. The first group of volunteers received Black Seed capsules (1 gram twice daily) for four weeks and the second group were given a placebo. A complete lymphocyte count carried out in all volunteers before and four weeks after administration of Black Seed and the placebo revealed that the majority of subjects who took Black Seed displayed a 72% increase in helper to suppresser T-cells ratio, as well as an increase in natural killer cell functional activity. The control group who received the placebo experienced a net decline in ratio of 7%. They reported, "These findings may be of great practical significance since a natural immune enhancer like the Black Seed could play an important role in the treatment of Cancer, AIDS, and other disease conditions associated with Immune Deficiency states."
These results were confirmed by a study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal in 1993 by Dr. Basil Ali and his colleagues from the College of Medicine at Kin Faisal University.
In the field of AIDS research specifically, tests carried out by Dr. Haq on human volunteers at the Department of Biological and Medical Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1997) showed that Black Seed enhanced the ratio between helper T-cells and suppresser T-cells by 55% with a 30% average enhancement of the natural killer (NK) cell activity.
Histamine is a substance released by bodily tissues, sometimes creating allergic reactions and is associated with conditions such as Bronchial Asthma.
In 1960, scientists Badr-El-Din and Mahfouz found that dimer dithymoquinone isolated from Black Seed's volatile oil, under the name of "Nigellone," and given by mouth to some patients suffering from Bronchial Asthma, suppressed the symptoms of the condition in the majority of patients.
Following the results of this early study, Crystalline Nigellone was administered to children and adults in the treatment of Bronchial Asthma with effective results and no sign of toxicity. It was observed, however, that although effective, Crystalline Nigellone displayed a delayed reaction.
In 1993, Nirmal Chakravarty, M.D., conducted a study to see if this delay could be attributed to the possibility of Crystalline Nigellone being an inhibitory agent on Histamine. His hypothesis proved correct. Dr. Chakravarty's study found that the actual mechanism behind the suppressive effect of Crystalline Nigellone on Histamine is that Crystalline Nigellone inhibits Protein Kinase C, a substance known to trigger the release of Histamine. In addition, his study showed that Crystalline Nigellone decreased the uptake of Calcium in mast cells, which also inhibits Histamine release.
The importance of these results are that people who suffer from Bronchial Asthma and other Allergic Diseases may benefit from taking Crystalline Nigellone.
A study of Black Seed's potential anti-tumor principles by the Amala Research Center in Amala Nagar, Kerala (India) in 1991 lent further impetus to Dr. Chakravarty's suggestion for the possible use of Black Seed in the treatment of Cancer.
Using an active principle of fatty acids derived from Black Seed, studies with Swiss Albino Mice showed that this active principle could completely inhibit the development of a common type of cancer cells called Ehrlich ascites carcinoma (EAC). A second common type of cancer cells, Dalton's lymphoma ascites (DLA) cells were also used. Mice which had received the EAC cells and Black Seed remained normal without any tumor formation, illustrating that the active principle was 100% effective in preventing EAC tumor development.
Results in mice who received DLA cells and Black Seed showed that the active principle had inhibited tumor development by 50% less compared to mice not given the active principle.
The study concluded, "It is evident that the active principle isolated from Nigella Sativa Seeds is a potent anti-tumor agent, and the constituent long chain fatty acid may be the main active component."
In 1989, a report appeared in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmacy about Anti-Fungal Properties of the volatile oil of Black Seed. 1992 saw researchers at the Department of Pharmacy, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting a study in which the antibacterial activity of the volatile oil of Black Seed was compared with five antibiotics: Ampicillin, Tetracycline, Cotrimoxazole, Gentamicin, and Nalidixic Acid.
The Black Seed Oil proved to be more effective against many strains of bacteria, including those known to be highly resistant to drugs: V. Cholera, E. Coli (a common infectious agent found in undercooked meats), and all strains of Shigella spp., except Shigella Dysentriae. Most strains of Shigella have been shown to rapidly become resistant to commonly used antibiotics and chemotheraputic agents.
In light of the above research findings, it is of interest that homeopaths have long been known to make a tincture from the Black Seed for digestive and bowel complaints. Traditionally, the Black Seed is still used to help relieve vomiting and diarrhea, as well as flatulent colic, and to help counteract the griping action of purgatives (e.g. certain laxatives, fruits such as apricots when over consumed).
As early as 1960, Professor El-Dakhakny reported that Black Seed Oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it could be useful for relieving the effects of Arthritis.
In 1995, a group of scientists at the Pharmacology Research Laboratories, Department of Pharmacy, Kings College, Lond, decided to test the effectiveness of the fixed Oil of Nigella Sativa and its derivative, thymoquinine, as an anti-inflammatory agent. Their study found that the oil inhibited eicosanoid generation and demonstrated anti-oxidant activity in cells.
The inhibition of Eicasanoid generation, however, was higher than could be expected from Thymoquinone alone. Their study suggested that other compounds within the oil might also be responsible for the enhanced anti-inflammatory reactions in cells.
The scientists speculated that the unusual C20:2 unsaturated fatty acids contained in Black Seed were possibly responsible for boosting the oil's effectiveness.
In 1997, studies conducted at the Microbiological Unit of the Research Center, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, found that externally in an ointment form, the anti-inflammatory activity of the Black Seed was found to be in the same range as that of other similar commercial products. The tests also demonstrated that the Black Seed is non-allergenic.
A study by Agarwhal (1979) showed that Black Seed Oil increases the milk output of breastfeeding mothers. A literature search by the University of Potchefstroom (1989), including biological abstracts, revealed that Black Seed's capacity to increase the milk flow of nursing mothers could be attributed to a combination of lipid portion and hormonal structures found in the Black Seed.
Black Seed - Summary of Actions:
- Analgesic: Relieves or dampens sensation of pain.
- Anthelmintic: (Also know as vermicide or vermifuge) destroys and expels intestinal worms.
- Anti-bacterial: Destroys or inhibits the growth of destructive bacteria.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Reduces inflammation.
- Anti-Microbial: Destroys or inhibits the growth of destructive microorganisms.
- Antioxidant: Prevents or delays the damaging oxidisation of the body's cells - particularly useful against free radicals.
- Anti-Pyretic: (Also known as ferbrifuge) - exhibits a 'cooling action', useful in fever reduction.
- Anti-spasmodic: Prevents or eases muscle spasms and cramps.
- Anti-tumour: Counteracts or prevents the formation of malignant tumours*
- Carminative: Stimulates digestion and induces the expulsion of gas from the stomach and the intestines.
- Diaphoretic: Induces perspiration during fever to cool and stimulate the release of toxins.
- Diuretic: Stimulates urination to relieve bloating and rid the body of any excess water.
- Digestive: Stimulates bile and aids in the digestive process.
- Emmenagogue: Stimulates menstrual flow and activity.
- Galactogogue: Stimulates the action of milk in new mothers.
- Hypotensive: Reduces excess blood pressure.
- Immunomodulator: Suppresses or strengthens immune system activity as needed for optimum balance.
- Laxative: Causes looseness or relaxation of the bowels.