Nigella sativa

Black Seed

Nigella sativa

Black Seed

Nigella sativa is an annual with pale blue to purple flowers and thin, divided leaves that is commonly called Black Seed, Black Cumin Seed, and Black Caraway Seed. Nigella is a member of the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup family along with Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, and Yellowroot, and should not be mistaken as a relative of cumin or caraway, both Apiaceae, or carrot family plants. N. sativa grows wild in parts of northern Africa and the middle east. The seeds, perhaps due to their antioxidant content, maintain viability even in extreme temperatures and sun exposure. Nigella sativa has an extensive and rich history of use. Evidence of the use of N. sativa dates back to 1650 B.C. at an archeological site in Turkey, where the seeds were found mixed with honey & propolis (a practice of which still persists in the region to modern day). N. sativa seeds were found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun. The cultivation and processing of N. sativa seeds is referenced in chapter 28 in the Book of Isaiah of the Hebrew Bible. Dioscorides (40-90 CE), a renowned Greek herbalist, described the use of N. sativa seeds both medicinally and culinarily in his pharmacopeia of medicinal plants titled De Materia Medica. Evidence of the importation of N. sativa seeds was even found in an archeological site of a 2nd century roman settlement near the Rhine river in Germany. Use of N. sativa was also written about by Galen & Hippocrates, both renowned ancient physicians who lived in ~200 A.D. Rome, and ~400 B.C Greece, respectively.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Black Seed

Immune Support, Respiratory Support, Heart Support

What is Black Seed Used for?

The use of Nigella sativa (NS) seeds is prominent in the medicinal systems native to the regions where NS grows wild, such as in Ayurvedic, traditional Arabic and Islamic, Iranian, Sudanese, Unani, and Siddha medicine. The seeds are rich in both essential fatty acids but also unique phytochemicals, giving NS a diffuse range of benefits. Many of these systems had shared uses of NS seeds, such as for supporting heathy digestion, cardiovascular system, immune response, glycemic response, the health of the lungs and sinuses, and as a nutritive tonic. These systems developed unique uses as well. In Arabic medicine, the seeds would be ground and mixed with other herbs to support the resilience of a new mother. In Yemen, the seeds were thought to be protective if worn in an amulet. In Ayurvedic & Unani medicine, the seeds are used as a galactagogue, the oil was used for skin irritations, and as a local anesthetic. In the western humoral view, NS helps to modulate and normalize to balance both ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ conditions. Thymoquinone (TQ), a compound found in NS, is an antioxidant that supports a healthy glycemic response and healthy lipid profiles, actions that support healthy endothelial tissue and function. A healthy endothelial system in turn helps to support a healthy cardiovascular system, blood pressure, and heart rate as shown in a 6-week clinical trial of cold-pressed NS seed oil supplementation. Further study has shown that NS oil is more efficient at supporting a healthy inflammatory response than extra virgin olive oil. TQ has been shown to have beneficial modulatory activity on mast cells and their release of inflammatory histamine, cytokines, and eicosanoids, the effects of which can prominently be seen in the respiratory tract. Clinical trials have demonstrated that NS can support the lungs and sinuses through the mediation of mast cell activity. By modulating oxidative stress through antioxidant activity, NS can support a healing response in the lower respiratory tract following tissue damage. NS is popular for respiratory support; however, its uses are vast. In two clinical trials, consumption of NS seeds and oil was found to have beneficial effects for the liver when compared to placebo. Preliminary studies on the supplementation of crushed NS seeds in healthy adolescent males has demonstrated positive modulation on both mood and cognition. As more research is performed, modern science continues to validate the traditional uses and reverence for Nigella sativa.

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Active Constituents of Black Seed

Fatty acids (including oleic, linoleic, and palmitic acids), Terpenes (including p-cymene, thymoquinone, nigellone, a-pinene, and carvacrol).

Parts Used


Additional Resources

1.) 2.) Ahmad, A., Husain, A., Mujeeb, M., Khan, S. A., Najmi, A. K., Siddique, N. A., Anwar, F. (2013). A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 3(5), 337-352. doi:10.1016/s2221-1691(13)60075-1 3.) Tambe Satish et al. (2013). Traditional uses of Nigella sativa, in Malegaon region of Nashik - A Review. International Journal of Pure & Applied Bioscience. 1 (2): 19-23. ISSN: 2320 – 7051 4.) Salih, B., Sipahi, T., & Dönmez, E. O. (2009). Ancient nigella seeds from Boyalı Höyük in north-central Turkey. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 124(3), 416-420. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.05.039 5.) Botnick, I., Xue, W., Bar, E., Ibdah, M., Schwartz, A., Joel, D. M., Lewinsohn, E. (2012). Distribution of Primary and Specialized Metabolites in Nigella sativa Seeds, a Spice with Vast Traditional and Historical Uses. Molecules, 17(9), 10159-10177. doi:10.3390/molecules170910159 6.) Zohary D., Hopf M. Domestication of Plants in the Old World. 3rd. Oxford University Press; New York, NY, USA: 2000. p. 206. 7.) Engels, Gayle & Brinckman, Josef. 2017. Herb Profile: Nigella sativa. HerbalGram: The Journal of the American Botanical Council. Issue 114, p. 8-16. 8.) Michel Redde. Rural Landscape and Borderland Farming on the upper Rhine Frontier in roman Times: Evaluating the case of Oedenburg (Haut-Rhin, France). 2015. HAL ID: hal-01171544. 9.) Ghazanfar, Shahina. 1994. Handbook of Arabian Medicinal Plants. CRC Press, Inc. P. 180 – 181. 10.) Nadkarni, K.M. Dr. K.M. Nadkarni’s Indian Materia Medica. Vol. 1. 3rd Edition. Bombay Popular Prakashan. 1976. 11.) Kapoor L, ed. CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1990. 12.) Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: The Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, CA. 2008. 13.) Ikhsan, M., Hiedayati, N., Maeyama, K., & Nurwidya, F. (2018). BMC Research Notes, 11(1). doi:10.1186/s13104-018-3858-8 14.) Bordoni, L., Fedeli, D., Nasuti, C., Maggi, F., Papa, F., Wabitsch, M., Gabbianelli, R. (2019). Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Nigella sativa Oil in Human Pre-Adipocytes. Antioxidants, 8(2), 51. doi:10.3390/antiox8020051 15.) Darand, M., Darabi, Z., Yari, Z., Saadati, S., Hedayati, M., Khoncheh, A., Hekmatdoost, A. (2019). Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 44, 204-209. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.04.014 16.) Mohebbati, R., & Abbasnezhad, A. (2020). Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 252, 112585. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2020.112585 17.) Bush, B., Peña, T., Bush, R., et al. 2020. Effects of Standardized Black Seed Oil Cold Press Supplement Over A Six Week Period on Blood Pressure and Heart Rate in Healthy Patients: A Nonrandomized Clinical Trial. Food Sci Nutr Res. 3(1): 1-5. 18.) Sayeed, M. S., Shams, T., Hossain, S. F., Rahman, M. R., Mostofa, A., Kadir, M. F., Asaduzzaman, M. (2014). Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety and cognition in healthy adolescent males. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 152(1), 156-162. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.050 19.) Bordoni, L., Fedeli, D., Fiorini, D., & Gabbianelli, R. (2019). Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Nigella sativa Oil Produced in Central Italy: A Comparison of the Nutrigenomic Effects of Two Mediterranean Oils in a Low-Grade Inflammation Model. Antioxidants, 9(1), 20. doi:10.3390/antiox9010020 20.) Gholamnezhad Z, Shakeri F, Saadat S, Ghorani V, Boskabady MH. Avicenna J Phytomed, 2019; 9(3): 195-212.

Important Precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take medications please consult with your doctor prior to use.


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

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