If you suffer from asthma, using nigella sativa as a complementary treatment may help to improve your symptoms. Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin or kalanji, is a medicinal spice that has been used in African, Middle Eastern, European, Asian and Indian herbal medicine and cooking for thousands of years. Medical research is now supporting many of the folk uses of nigella sativa, including the treatment of lung problems, allergies and asthma. Talk with your doctor and registered medical herbalist to determine if nigella sativa is right for you.
Nigella sativa has a specific antiasthmatic action in humans, working directly on the lungs to open up air passages. In a study published in "Phytomedicine" in 2010, researchers from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran discovered that nigella sativa was significantly effective in reducing the asthmatic symptoms in 15 patients. Nigella sativa improved the results of all pulmonary function tests in the treated patients, indicating that the plant may work in the same way as bronchodilatory drugs. However, compared to pharmaceutical medications, the effects of nigella sativa extract are only mild to modest in strength. Talk with your physician before combining nigella sativa with prescribed bronchodilators, as it may potentiate their action.
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When you suffer from an attack of asthma, the release of immune and inflammatory chemicals in the lungs causes constriction and inflammation to occur. However, when taking nigella sativa, the hyper-responsiveness of the immune system is dampened. In a study published in "The Journal of Ethnopharmacology" in 2011, researchers from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran treated guinea pigs with nigella sativa to test the effect of the plant on the lung tissues and immune system. Nigella sativa prevented inflammation and reduced immune responsiveness in lung tissues of the animals by suppressing the expression of white blood cells and inflammatory chemicals.
In a review of research published in "Phytotherapy Research" in 2003, researchers compared the results of four studies using nigella sativa to treat 152 patients with allergies. People treated with nigella sativa noticed a significant difference in their symptoms, regardless of whether they suffered from asthma, eczema or hay fever. Nigella sativa also had a mild positive effect on triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels. While researchers do not know precisely how this plant works, it is clear that nigella sativa has a significant antiallergy action that benefits a wide range of allergy sufferers.
Safety and Toxicity
According to Drug Information Online, nigella sativa is considered safe, nontoxic and well-tolerated by the majority of the population. Some cases of adverse reactions have been reported, but these have been from the topical use of the nigella sativa seed oil. No drug interactions are currently known, but you should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before combining herbal remedies with prescription medications.
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"Phytomedicine"; Antiasthmatic effect of Nigella sativa in airways of asthmatic patients.; M.H. Boskabady, et al; 2010
"The Journal of Ethnopharmacology"; The effect of Nigella sativa alone, and in combination with dexamethasone, on tracheal muscle responsiveness and lung inflammation in sulfur mustard exposed guinea pigs; Boskabady, et al; 2011
"Phytotherapy Research"; Effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseases.; U. Kallus, et al; 2003