Medicinal plants

Black cumin - black cumin oil: effect and application

Black cumin - black cumin oil: effect and application

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Black cumin (Nigella sativa) grows wild in Iraq and Turkey. It is grown in Southern Europe, South Asia, Iran and North Africa, especially in Egypt. Its seeds serve as a spice and a remedy and give, for example, the typical taste of Iranian sangak bread. The Romans called black cumin Panacea, which means "heals everything".

Profile of black cumin

  • Scientific name: Nigella sativa
  • family: Buttercup family
  • Common names: Black cumin, Katharinenblume, Kookämer, Kookäem
  • distribution: Originally West Asia (Turkey, Iran, Iraq), cultivation in Southern Europe, India, Pakistan and North Africa
  • Parts of plants used: Seeds and the oil extracted from the seeds
  • application areas: Diarrhea, stomach upset, indigestion, skin problems, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, worms and intestinal parasites, protection against ticks, lice and mites

Black cumin - the most important facts

  • Nigella sativa has been in demand in the Orient as a spice and medicinal plant.
  • Black cumin is a buttercup family and is not related to real cumin.
  • In the medicine of Egypt, Arabia, India and Iran, the seeds and the oil obtained from them serve as a remedy for flatulence, intestinal complaints, menstrual problems, male impotence and cancer.
  • It has been scientifically proven that black cumin contains valuable essential oils, fatty oils, vitamins and minerals.
  • Recent studies have shown effects against lipid metabolism disorders, metabolic syndrome, obesity, hepatitis C, epilepsy, various forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
  • Black cumin oil has an antioxidant and antimicrobial effect (against viruses, bacteria and fungi).
  • From a scientific point of view, the main component, thymoquinone, prevents diseases of the nervous system as well as those of the liver and kidneys.
  • Black cumin oil and black cumin seeds have a unique taste as a spice and also promote digestion. So they are also suitable for making heavy food more digestible.

Nigella sativa - ingredients

The seeds of Nigella sativa contain up to 2.5 percent essential oil, which consists of about 30 percent thymoquinone and five percent α-pinene. There are also alkaloids such as damascenin, nigellicin, nigeglanin and nigellidine. The fat oil in the seeds makes up up to 50 percent and mainly offers glycerol esters of palmitic, linoleic and linolenic acid. Arachidonic acid is also present in small quantities - but less than in evening primrose oil or borage. Added to this are the triterpenoid hederagenin, saponins, sugar and tannins.

Iranian Nigella sativa seed oil found eight fatty acids and 32 other components, according to a study by the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services in Tehran. 55.6 percent of the fatty acids made up linoleic acid, 23.4 percent oleic acid and 12.5 percent palmitic acid. The essential oils contained 38.3 percent trans-anethole, 14.8 percent p-cymen, 4.3 percent limonene and four percent carvone.

Vitamins and minerals

Black cumin also provides provitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamins C and B. These are important for the immune system (vitamin C prevents colds) and for good nerve and brain function. Added to this is vitamin E, which has an antioxidant effect and tightens the skin as well as folic acid and biotin. Black cumin oil contains a certain amount of vitamin E - the so-called tocotrienols. These are believed to have positive effects in cancer screening and inflammatory diseases.

In addition to selenium and zinc, the seeds contain a lot of magnesium in mineral substances - this helps to build up the muscles and function of the nerves and boosts the energy metabolism.

Black cumin - effect

Black cumin is said to inhibit inflammation, promote the immune system, help with cancer and diabetes and reduce histamine. The main active ingredient, thymoquinone, promotes the excretion of liver bile and uric acid. At the same time, however, thymoquinone is slightly toxic. The essential oils are considered antibacterial.

In studies, both the seeds themselves and the thymoquinone showed multiple useful effects in the treatment of various diseases from the spectrum of inflammation and autoimmune diseases as well as in the metabolic syndrome, a collective term for dangerous cardiovascular diseases.

The metabolic syndrome is based on indicators such as excessive obesity with fat storage in the abdomen, high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels and impaired fat metabolism. In addition, there are often low-grade inflammations, increased blood clotting and increased uric acid.

Studies on black cumin oil and black cumin seeds

Antiepileptic effects have been proven by scientific studies. The effects of Nigella sativa against excessively high blood sugar levels and disturbed fat metabolism such as fat accumulation (causes of the metabolic syndrome) are not only proven, but so well understood that medicine is making clinical trials or is already developing new medicines with black cumin. Other traditional effects require further clinical studies.

Cell culture studies and animal studies have indicated various therapeutic potentials, including those against cancer, microbes, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Positive effects could be seen against pain and against fever, as well as to increase male potency and cough.

Anti-cancer activity has been demonstrated for blood, breast, liver, lung and prostate cancer, as well as for fibrosarcomas and other carcinomas in cell studies and in animal studies for kidney, skin, lung and breast cancer. Antimicrobial effects were shown against Schistosoma, viruses, parasites and pathogenic fungi.

Black cumin promoted the healing of symptoms in diseases such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, bronchial asthma, cramps and natural and chemical poisoning.

Black cumin oil and seeds - application

We either eat the seeds or consume the oil, usually by adding tea to it. Applied externally, the oil helps against psoriasis and neurodermatitis. Taken internally, it slows down the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer, helps against indigestion and high blood pressure. Black cumin oil capsules can be purchased in pharmacies, and the whole seeds can often be found in spice shops, drugstores, pharmacies.

How safe are black cumin products?

For a study of the effects of Nigella sativa oil on blood pressure in healthy subjects, the participants consumed five milliliters of black cumin oil per day for eight weeks. The oil has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels without adversely affecting the liver, kidneys or digestive tract.

As can be seen from a systematic review, patients with type 2 diabetes did not experience any liver or kidney problems after 40 days of taking the oil, nor did it affect the number of white blood cells.

In the complementary treatment of children with lymphoblastic leukemia (blood cancer), the side effects were even less than in the case of pure treatment with L-asparaginase and conventional therapy. In this respect, black cumin powder as an anti-cancer agent is a good support for L-asparaginase.

Treatment of people with seasonal allergic rhinitis with black cumin seeds for two weeks showed no negative side effects. There were no positive or negative effects in the treatment of postmenopausal symptoms in women. There were no harmful side effects when treating abnormal semen quality.

Known side effects include a slight increase in enzyme levels in the liver and kidneys. Flatulence, nausea and a burning sensation were isolated in patients with gastric diseases. In summary, black cumin is a safe medicine.

Medical history and folk medicine

In ancient Rome, Nigella sativa was called Panacea. That means "heals everything". The Arabs called the seeds Habba Sawda, the "seeds of blessing". This already shows that ancient cultures valued black cumin as a medicinal plant. A vessel with the oil was found in the tomb of Tutenchamun.

In Indian Ayurveda and in Chinese historical medicine, seeds and oil should help with various diseases, but especially against cancer. Scientific research in recent decades has been able to confirm effects against carcinomas.

Muslims claim that Mohammed said that black cumin heals every disease except death. Avicenna, probably the greatest doctor of his time, mentioned black cumin in "The Book of the Recovery of the Soul" in the Middle Ages.

The Egyptians use tea with black cumin seeds or oil for flatulence and to urinate. In the Arab world, the oil is used to cure diseases of the upper airways. In Ayurveda, it should above all increase milk production for breastfeeding women.

Black cumin oil

We get two types of oil from the seeds of the plant, one is essential fragrance oil and the other is fatty oil. The essential oil contains around 30 percent thymoquinone. To produce three kilos of this essential oil you need a ton of seeds. The fatty oil is traditionally cold pressed and produces larger quantities. These are expressly foods that have no rules on the proportion of ingredients. This can fluctuate greatly depending on the origin of the plant.

Black cumin in the kitchen

Black cumin tastes unique. It can best be described as intensely nutty with hints of thyme and anise. In the boom in vegan and vegetarian cuisine, seeds are found in more and more dishes in Europe.

The medicinal and spice plant also has a preserving function in oriental cuisine. In hot countries, antimicrobial spices such as black cumin are added to foods. Indians, Iranians and Arabs have known for a long time: Nigella sativa is ideal for refining basic vegetables such as beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, lentils, beans and peas with little taste. Black cumin goes well with various vegetables - with pumpkins such as spinach, cucumber and zucchini, as well as with chickpeas and wild rice.

It harmonises equally well with hot sauces and sweet pastries, cakes, bread and other baked goods. Nigella sativa is found in curries with lamb and chicken.

One tip: Roast the seeds briefly. This enhances the taste without destroying the ingredients. The roasted seeds can be sprinkled over lettuce or put on grilled fish like pepper. Black cumin gives yogurt, ayran, cream cheese, vegetable meatballs or kofte a taste. Iranians love mild sheep soft cheese with pressed walnuts and black cumin seeds.

Which spices go with black cumin?

Black cumin is supplemented with mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, with fennel, thyme, fenugreek, orange and lemon peel. Chilli and turmeric are also compatible with it. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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