May 7, 2011 Maija Haavisto
Nigella Sativa - H. Zell / Wikimedia CommonsBlack seed or kalonji (Nigella sativa) has e.g. antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, anticonvulsant and anticancer properties.
Nigella sativa is known by many names, the most common being nigella, kalonji, black seed, blessed seed, black onion seed, black cumin and kala jeera, but the last two names can also refer to other unrelated species.
Nigella sativa contains several antioxidants, especially thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone. Its constituents are anti-inflammatory yet it can improve immune system function (e.g. NK cell activity). Based on studies nigella has the potential to be used in the treatment and prevention of some common illnesses. It may even help weight loss.
Some nations take "national pride" in certain herbs. As a result, Chinese medical journals always publish very positive studies about ginseng and Russian journals about eleuthero, often found suspicious by Western doctors. Many studies of nigella come from nations where black seed has been traditionally considered a precious herbal remedy.
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Nigella also appears to inhibit the growth of e.g. liver cancer, primary effusion lymphoma, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer), colon cancer, cervical cancer, pancreatic cancer and doxorubicin-resistant breast cancer. In combination with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin it has demonstrated efficacy in lung cancer.
Nigella may also reduce organ damage caused by cancer drugs, such as liver injury from the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, heart damage caused by the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide and testicular damage from methotrexate. The latter two are also used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Nigella for Infections
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Thymoquinone from nigella has antibacterial activity against many bacteria, especially staphylococci (including MRSA). It prevents the formation of biofilms, which are often behind hard-to-treat sinus infections.
In animal studies nigella has reduced inflammation in sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial infection, and significantly reduced mortality.
Several studies have also found nigella to have antifungal effects, including against several Candida species. It has not been tested in humans (or even animals) in this use, however. Nigella also has antimalarial effects.
The antiviral potential of nigella has not been studied much, but it seems to have activity against cytomegalovirus.
Nigella for Weight Loss, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Protection
Nigella has several different antidiabetic effects. One of them appears to be agonism of PPARgamma similar to diabetes drugs pioglitazone and rosiglitazone. Nigella may help prevent the development of diabetic neuropathy.
In one study nigella reduced weight in Indonesian men with central obesity (Datau et al, 2010).
Nigella can also reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and inhibit excessive blood clotting. It may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
Effects on the Nervous System
Nigella has neuroprotective effects and can alleviate epileptic seizures. In an Iranian study thymoquinone was found to reduce frequency of intractable (treatment-resistant) seizures in children (Akhondian et al, 2011). It can potentiate the effects of the anticonvulsant drug valproate.
Nigella appears to elevate brain serotonin levels. In animal studies it has reduced anxiety. It may be a mild sedative.
Nigella has analgesic effects and has been used in the treatment of opioid dependence.
Nigella and the Immune System
Besides cancer, another main focus of nigella studies has been allergies, especially allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Several studies have found it effective in reducing hay fever symptoms. It may improve the efficacy of allergen-specific immunotherapy. It also reduces lung inflammation in asthma.
Nigella appears to reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis by several different mechanisms. It has shown efficacy in experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, the animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS), and experimental colitis, the animal model of ulcerative colitis.
Nigella's Other Uses
Like many herbs, several studies show nigella is gastroprotective (prevents stomach ulcers and helps them heal faster). In one study a 2 gram dose was almost as effective as the traditional triple therapy in eradication of H. pylori (Salem et al, 2010).
Nigella can protect the heart, liver and kidneys from chemical and other damage. It appears to increase hemoglobin by several different mechanisms. It has anti-sickling activity and could have potential as a treatment of sickle-cell anemia.
Taking Nigella as a Supplement
Nigella is available as capsules, but it can also be taken by chewing the seeds, an inexpensive option as large bags can be purchased very cheaply from Asian/Middle Eastern stores and spice vendors. They have a spicy but not particularly strong taste.
Some people like the taste of nigella oil and use it as a supplement, others find the flavour nasty. The oil can also be used externally for rashes and inflammation.
Read more at Suite101: Health Benefits of Nigella Sativa (Black Seed)
Suite101.com http://www.suite101.com/content/health-benefits-of-nigella-sativa-black-seed-a369837#ixzz1MFl2QbUd Nigella supplements are sometimes advertised as a good source of minerals like calcium and magnesium, but in commonly used doses the amounts are far too small to have any effect.
Nigella Side Effects and Drug Interactions
Nigella appears to inhibit CYP450 enzymes CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This means it can affect the metabolism of several popular medications, including many psychiatric drugs, statins, blood pressure drugs, opiates, sedatives and cancer treatments. Thus if you are taking any medications and considering using nigella, discuss it with your doctor.
Very large doses of thymoquinone have been suggested to cause liver damage, immunosuppression and even have mutagenic effects. Like most supplements, nigella can rarely cause stomach upset. Some people are allergic to nigella.
Butt MS, Sultan MT. Nigella sativa: reduces the risk of various maladies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Aug;50(7):654-65.
Datau EA, Wardhana, Surachmanto EE et al. Efficacy of Nigella sativa on serum free testosterone and metabolic disturbances in central obese male. Acta Med Indones. 2010 Jul;42(3):130-4.
Akhondian J, Kianifar H, Raoofziaee M et al. The effect of thymoquinone on intractable pediatric seizures (pilot study). Epilepsy Res. 2011 Jan;93(1):39-43.
Salem EM, Yar T, Bamosa AO et al. Comparative study of Nigella Sativa and triple therapy in eradication of Helicobacter Pylori in patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia. Saudi J Gastroenterol. 2010 Jul-Sep;16(3):207-14.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.