The use of medicinal plants to help treat various diseases is a practice that’s as old as mankind. For example, the Egyptian medical book known as the Ebers Papyrus, written in 1550 B.C., details the use of 700 different plant species for therapeutic purposes. Mentioned plants include pomegranate, garlic, willow, coriander, juniper and onion. During the seventh century, Slavic people used cucumber, nettle and yarrow to help fight against various insect bites.1
Another plant that has stood the test of time is black cumin, also known as the Nigella sativa (N. sativa) plant. In Indian Ayurveda and Unani traditional medicine, black cumin figures greatly in their practice. For Muslims, black cumin seed is known as the “Habbatul barakah” or the blessed seed. In fact, it is believed that the prophet Mohammed considered it to be a “remedy for all diseases except death.”2 One of black cumin’s most popular applications is as an herbal oil, which is extracted from the seeds.
Potential Benefits of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Plenty of research has been conducted regarding the potential benefit of black cumin seed oil. Here are some of the most notable ones:
Helps fight fungal infections: In a study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences, researchers studied the cytoprotective effect of black cumin seed oil in male rats. Results show that the group of rats treated with the oil experienced reduced effects of AFB1 (aflatoxin-B1), a toxin produced by the Aspergillus flavus group of fungi.3,4
Helps manage diabetes: In a study published from Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia, researchers tested the ability of black cumin seed oil to manage diabetes in rats. They discovered that upon administration of the oil, all immunological parameters (serum glucose, Pan T- and B-lymphocytes and innate cell marker) were reduced while simultaneously increasing serum insulin levels.5
Controls inflammation: Black cumin seed oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may help manage certain conditions, an observation exhibited in a study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology. Researchers noted that the oil was able to reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis in test subjects.6
Helps reduce cancer risk: Various studies have been conducted regarding the potential anticancer benefits of black cumin seed oil. Researchers have found that it may be helpful against these cancers:7
Regular black cumin seeds may also be helpful in preventing certain cancers. Studies have found that black cumin seed may help fight these cancers:8
Promotes healthy blood pressure: Black cumin seeds have been traditionally used for helping relieve hypertension, and this hypothesis was tested out in a study published in Phytotherapy Research. In a double-blind, randomized experiment, results showed that test subjects who were treated with black cumin seed oil showed a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to those who only took placebos.9
Helps ease skin infections: Research has shown that black cumin seeds contain strong antibacterial properties that may help fight Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacteria that can cause a variety of topical infections.10
Historical and Culinary Uses of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Black cumin seeds have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. According to the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, the seeds and the oil were historically used to treat various disorders pertaining to the following areas:11
Culinary uses of black cumin seed oil include drizzling over salads and adding to juices or shakes. It can be taken on its own by consuming a teaspoon of it. When used for eating, remember that you should not cook the oil because the heat may damage the valuable compounds.12
Black cumin seed oil can be diffused to help with asthma attacks. A study published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal notes that black cumin seeds contain anti-inflammatory properties that show promising results against asthma inflammation.13
The Composition of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Scientists have been able to isolate the various active compounds that make up black cumin seed oil. Chief among them include:14
Thymoquinone (30 to 48 percent)
P-cymene (7 to 15 percent)
Carvacrol (6 to 12 percent)
4-terpineol (2 to 7 percent)
T-anethol (1 to 4 percent)
Sesquiterpene longifolene (1 to 8 percent)
According to published in vitro tests, thymoquinone (often shortened to TQ) is considered a potent antioxidant. A study in Drug and Chemical Toxicology notes that TQ may be helpful in eliminating superoxide anions.15 Another study indicates that alpha-hederin, a pentacyclic triterpene saponin, has been reported to have strong potential in fighting tumor growth.16 Black cumin seeds are also rich in various unsaturated fatty acids, including:17
- Linoleic acid (50 to 60 percent)
- Oleic acid (20 percent)
- Eicosadienoic acid (3 percent)
- Dihomolinoleic acid (10 percent)
How to Make Black Cumin Seed Oil at Home
Making homemade black cumin seed oil is a great way of obtaining the benefits while avoiding the problems that come with commercially made oils. This also means that your stock is always fresh, since you can always make the oil whenever the need arises. The only things you need are an oil press machine and organic black cumin seeds. Once you have both, follow this procedure:18
1. Clean and dry the black cumin seeds to ensure that you get a pure oil.
2. Clean the oil press machine thoroughly to prevent contaminants from getting into the final product.
3. Place the oil bottle in the receptacle, as well as a container to catch the waste from the seeds.
4. Heat up the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then place the seeds into the funnel.
5. Turn on the machine, then allow it to extract the oil from the seeds.
6. Continue the process until your container is full.
7. Leave the oil to sit in a warm, dry place, then allow the remnants to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
How Does Black Cumin Seed Oil Work?
Black cumin seed oil contains different fatty acids, nutrients and active compounds that work together to benefit your health. Several studies have looked into how black cumin seeds oil work and discovered that TQ plays a crucial role in its health benefits.
In one example published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, TQ was tested against 11 human pathogenic bacteria strains. Researchers were able to observe that TQ exhibited significant antibacterial activity, especially against Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 25923.19 In another study, TQ has been found to be effective in fighting against fungi, most notably Candida albicans strain.20
Other studies have examined the cancer-fighting abilities of TQ. Researchers found that it induced a growth inhibition and apoptosis in human osteosarcoma cells,21 as well as cytotoxicity in human cervical squamous carcinoma cells.22
Potential Side Effects of Black Cumin Seed Oil
While black cumin seed oil may potentially benefit your health, it is not without its own side effects. A study published in Phytotherapy Research notes that topical application caused contact dermatitis in two persons. However, no adverse effects have been reported regarding internal use.23
Pregnant women may consume real black cumin seeds as part of a healthy diet, but high doses for therapeutic applications are generally not recommended, as it may slow down or stop the uterus from contracting. Likewise, breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid black cumin seed oil, as there’s not much information about its effects on your and your child’s health.24
Go Ahead and Give Black Cumin Seed Oil a Try
Based on published studies, as well as thousands of years of history, it’s safe to say that black cumin seed oil may potentially benefit your health in various ways. If you want to try it, remember that it should not be heated or you will risk damaging the beneficial compounds. Furthermore, try making your own black cumin seed oil at home to ensure freshness at all times if you have the resources to do so.
Frequently Asked Questions About Black Cumin Seed Oil
Q: What is black cumin seed oil good for?
A: Based on numerous studies, black cumin seed oil may help in various ways such as fighting microbes and managing inflammation promoting healthy blood pressure.
Q: Where can you buy black cumin seed oil?
A: Black cumin seed oil can be purchased online. However, what’s more important is to thoroughly review the product you’re buying and make sure it’s made from high-quality ingredients by a reputable company.