Black Cumin Oil is one of my favorite supplements. It can be used as a spice, extract, or oil. Black seed may help with a diverse array of issues, such as inflammation, allergies, infections, and weight loss. Although it’s touted as a miraculous herb, some traditional benefits have not yet been validly backed up by scientific studies. Learn more about the potential benefits, risks, and dosage of black seed.
What Is Black Cumin?
Nigella sativa, commonly known as Black Cumin, Black Seed, or Black Cumin Seed is flowering plant native to South Asia. Its fruit is large and contains numerous small black seeds [R].
Raw seeds, seed oil, or seed extract have been traditionally used alone or in combination with other ingredients for various health conditions, such as eczema, cough, headache, diabetes, asthma, infections, and high blood pressure [R].
Some of the claims that come from its traditional reputation in various cultures have been researched, while others lack scientific evidence. And although this herb has sparked the curiosity of scientists worldwide, most of the research on black cumin so far has only been carried out in cells or animals [R].
Black Cumin Active Ingredients
The main and most researched active ingredient in black cumin seed oil is thymoquinone. Thymoquinone has been studied for protecting the liver, reducing inflammation, fighting cancer, and as an antioxidant. The seeds also contain alpha-Hederin, a potential cancer-fighting ingredient [R, R].
Black cumin seeds are also rich in [R]:
- Various vitamins and minerals, such as copper, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and carotene (provitamin A).
- Fatty acids make about 30% of the seeds. These are mostly unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid and oleic acid, and some saturated fatty acids.
Black Cumin seeds have been used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and European folk medicine as a natural remedy for a wide range of diseases for over 2000 years. In Islamic cultures, its use even has a strong religious background. In Islamic literature, regular use of black seed is considered a cure for every disease (except death!), earning it the Arabic approbation “The Blessed Seed”. Black cumin is also considered an important remedy in Ayurveda [R].
Black cumin has a specific bitter taste and smell and is often added to confectionery and liquors. The oil can be used to add flavor to various dishes, but can also be applied on the skin as a painkiller and antiseptic.
Black Cumin Seed Oil Snapshot
- Solid evidence for reducing allergies
- A safe antihistamine
- Evidence against bacterial, fungal, and viral, and parasitic infections
- Black cumin seeds can likely help reduce slightly increased blood pressure and blood lipids
- The evidence for weight loss benefits, reducing inflammation and pain is still limited
- Shows some anti-cancer activity (but limited to cell studies)
- Black cumin seed oil can lower blood sugar. Although this can be beneficial, diabetics should consult with their physicians before they start supplementing.
- Black Cumin Seed oil is not safe to use during pregnancy
Health Benefits of Black Cumin
1) Black Cumin Reduces Allergies
Several quality human studies back up the benefits of black cumin for safely reducing allergic symptoms, especially in those with breathing difficulties.
A boiled extract of the seeds was able to improve all asthmatic symptoms in a study (RCT, 15 mL/kg of 0.1 g% boiled extract daily) of 29 asthmatic patients. It reduced the frequency of asthma symptoms, wheezing, and improved lung function over 3 months. The patients who took black cumin seed extract also had a reduced need for additional medications and inhalers [R].
In another review (of 4 studies, a total of 152 patients with allergic diseases), black cumin seed oil reduced subjective allergy symptoms, including asthma, eczema, and stuffy nose. Patients received black cumin oil capsules 40 to 80 mg/kg daily, which would be about 2 – 4 g of oil daily for someone who weighs about 110 lbs [R].
In a study of 66 patients with allergic rhinitis (DB-CT), black cumin oil reduced symptoms such as itching, running nose, sneezing, and congestion after 2 weeks [R]. And in 39 patients with similar symptoms (RCT), 2 g daily of black seed cumin seeds after immunotherapy reduced symptoms and increased neutrophils [R].
Black Cumin may also help with breathing problems that are not caused directly by allergies. The boiled extract of the seeds improved breathing and lung function, reducing the need for inhalers, in a study of 40 chemical war victims (RCT) who had breathing difficulties [R].
Black Cumin extracts relaxed the airways in a tissue study (on guinea pig trachea), which can shed some light on its respiratory benefits [R].
2) Black Seed Can Protect the Heart
Daily use of black seed extract for 2 months (DB-RCT) lowered blood pressure in patients with mildly elevated blood pressure (diastolic BP 140 – 159 mmHg). The test group received either 100 mg or 200 mg of the extract 2 times per day. Aside from reducing blood pressure, the extract also lowered LDL cholesterol levels, helping to protect the heart [R].
In another study (DB-RCT, 64 participants), powdered black seed capsules seemed to slightly lower blood pressure, lipids, and BMI [R]. The oil also lowered blood pressure In 70 healthy volunteers (DB-RCT) after 2 months with no adverse effects. The treated group took 2.5 ml of black seed oil twice daily [R].
In elderly patients with moderately high blood pressure(diastolic BP 160 mmHg), however, black seed extract had a very slight – and statistically insignificant – effect. In this study (DB-RCT, 76 participants), 300 mg of the extract was given 2 times per day for a month [R].
A large review (SR-MA, 11 RCTs) of over 800 patients concluded that black seed can effectively lower mildly elevated blood pressure, with black seed powder having a stronger effect than the oil. Overall, black seed seems to help lower blood pressure in only mild cases and may take 2 months to achieve its benefits [R].
Animal studies point to additional potential benefits of black seed for the heart. For example, black cumin seeds improved the recovery of damaged heart tissue in rats (in response to a heart surgery or post-heart attack treatment) [R]. Both exercise and black increased heart blood flow and new blood vessels in rats, potentially helping to prevent heart attacks [R].
Black seed can protect the heart not only by lowering blood pressure but by also reducing blood lipids. This prevents the lipids from building up and hardening the arteries.
According to a review of clinical studies (SR-MA, 17 RCTs), black seed supplementation helps lower [R]:
Black seed oil had a stronger effect on lowering lipids than the powder, but only the powder was able to also increase HDL cholesterol.
For example, in a small study of 10 patients with high cholesterol, 1 g of black seed powder before breakfast for 2 months reduced all of the above blood lipids [R]. And in a study of 88 similar patients (RCT), 2 g of black seed capsules lowered cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides after a month [R].
The active ingredient in black cumin (thymoquinone) prevented the hardening of arteries from high cholesterol in rabbits. Even on a high cholesterol diet, the treated rabbits maintained normal blood lipid levels and blood vessels [R].
How It Works
- Flushing excessive fluids from the body (diuretic)
- Reducing the fight-or-flight (sympathetic) response
- Increasing blood vessel-relaxing nitric oxide
- Lowering blood lipids
- Acting as an antioxidant
And although opinions differ as to whether the oil or powder has a stronger effect, both formulations seem to be safe and beneficial for heart health.
3) Black Seed May Help Diabetes
Research does back up the benefits for diabetes, but remember that sudden drops in blood sugar can be dangerous if you have diabetes. If you are already on diabetes medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before supplementing with black cumin.
Several large analyses (SR-MA and SR) on thousands of people confirmed that black cumin is a good option for keeping glucose levels in check, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. It helped lower both blood glucose and blood lipids, possibly with long-term benefits (by also reducing HBA1C) [R, R].
In a study (prospective) of 60 patients with insulin resistance, black cumin oil (5 ml daily) improved fasting blood glucose levels. However, here it was only given as an add-on to glucose and lipid-lowering medications (metformin and atorvastatin) [R].
Even in patients with type 2 diabetes on oral anti-diabetes drugs, black cumin supplementation helped to reduce heart complications. In a study of 114 patients (SB-NRCT), 2 g of black cumin seeds daily over one year reduced lipids, blood pressure, and BMI [R].
4) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Inflammation
However, only several small studies (with 4 and 1 patients) confirmed that black cumin oil can help with inflammatory conditions like arthritis. The anti-inflammatory effect can be attributed to the active ingredient, thymoquinone (based on animal studies) [R].
In rats with arthritis, the active ingredient, thymoquinone lowered numerous pro-inflammatory cytokines (including IL-6, IL-1β, TNF alpha – Th1 cytokines) while increasing anti-inflammatory ones (IL-10) [R].
It may reduce brain inflammation by blocking NF-κB (R), one of the most important factors that lead to inflammation. It reduces inflammation by preventing the immune cells from creating more nitric oxide, which is overly produced in inflammation and autoimmune diseases [R].
5) Black Cumin Oil Is an Antioxidant
- Increasing liver antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione
- Protecting various tissues from oxidative injuries, such as the stomach, liver, kidneys, and blood vessels
- Lowering homocysteine
Black cumin extract also restored antioxidant enzymes (in red blood cells) in mice with malaria, helping to clear the parasite infection [R]. The oil neutralized harmful Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and brain injury in mice [R].
The exact benefits of its antioxidant activity in humans still remain to be researched.
6) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Anxiety
Black Cumin seeds decreased anxiety and improved mood and cognition in a study of 48 adolescent male volunteers after 4 weeks (RCT). The treated group took 1g of black cumin daily in capsule form [R].
It also reduced anxiety, fatigue, and increased thyroid function in mice [R].
Black cumin seed calmed and protected the developing brain in rats, even those who were under stress [R].
7) Black Seed May Boost Memory and Protect the Brain
In a study of 20 elderly volunteers (RCT), 1 g of black cumin daily improved cognition, attention, and memory after nine weeks [R].
Thymoquinone and other components of black cumin seeds protected the brain from damage in several animal studies and cell studies [R]. It prevented brain damage from lead in growing mice, as well as from arsenic [R, R]. In growing rats with poor thyroid function, it helped prevent learning difficulties and brain damage [R].
8) Black Cumin May Protect the Gut and Help Digestion
A tincture prepared from the seeds is traditionally used for indigestion, loss of appetite, and diarrhea [R], while black seeds are traditionally used to stop vomiting [R]. So far, there is some evidence to support its use in those with indigestion to a Helicobacter pylori infection.
In a study of 88 patients with indigestion and positive for Helicobacter pylori, black cumin helped eradicate the bacteria and symptoms as well as standard triple antibiotic therapy. A minimal dose of 2 g of the seeds (in combination with omeprazole) was effective, while 3 g daily had a similar effect [R].
Some reviews suggest that it may also help protect the stomach lining from damage and ulcers, mostly based on findings from animal studies and clinical experience [R].
9) Black Cumin May Help Weight Loss
The evidence is limited when it comes to black cumin and weight loss, a traditional indication [R].
In one study of overweight men, black cumin did improve weight loss and reduced appetite after 3 months [R]. In another study of 64 patients (DB-RCT), the seeds reduced BMI and the waist-hip ratio, but the benefits were modest [R]. In fact, several studies did not find that black seed can help increase weight loss [R].
10) Black Cumin Oil May Help Fight Infections
Black cumin has been researched for fighting various bacteria, viruses, and parasites, but the majority of studies were in animals, microorganisms, or cells.
Black Cumin seeds act against:
- Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of skin infections [R].
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a big problem when it comes to hospital-acquired infections that are hard to treat [R].
- H.pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers (see benefit #7) [R].
- The formation of “Biofilms” [R].
Black cumin oil can also be applied to the skin to prevent infections and relieve pain [R].
Black cumin seeds can also fight some fungal infections [R].
Black Cumin seed safely improved symptoms and reduced viral load in patients with Hepatitis C in a study of 30 people [R]. In another study of 75 patients with hepatitis C, black cumin alone (500 mg) or combined with ginger (500 mg) had similar beneficial effects [R].
Black cumin helped fight the herpes-causing cytomegalovirus virus (CMV) in mice [R].
Black cumin helped clear a malaria-causing parasite in mice [R].
The oil may protect against a parasite that damages the liver in mice [R].
In test tubes, black cumin protected against several parasites that can cause serious gut issues in humans [R].
11) Black May Boost the Immune System
Many cell studies confirm the immune-boosting benefits of black cumin’s active ingredient, thymoquinone. Its effects on immunity are wide-ranging (affecting both cellular and humoral immunity), increasing immune cell activity and antibody levels [R].
12) Can Black Cumin Oil Fight Cancer?
The simple answer is: we don’t really know yet. Black cumin has mostly been studied in animal and cells when it comes to its cancer-fighting potential. The research we bring up is promising, but keep in mind that human studies are limited.
13) Black Cumin May Increase Testosterone and Male Fertility
In a study of 68 infertile men (DB-RCT), daily intake of 5 ml (1 tsp) of black seed oil for two months improved semen quality without any adverse effects [R].
14) Thymoquinone May Improve Arthritis
Black cumin seeds (Thymoquinone) reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in a study of 40 female patients, at a dose of 500 mg of the oil 2X day. It reduced overall symptoms, joint stiffness, and swelling [R].
Combined with its anti-inflammatory effects, black cumin may help those suffering from inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
15) Black Seed Protects the Kidneys and Prevents Kidney Stones
Black Cumin seeds have been traditionally used for the treatment and prevention of kidney stones [R].
16) Black Cumin Oil May Reduce Seizures
Black cumin oil (Thymoquinone) reduced seizures in children with epilepsy in a pilot study (DB) of 22 children [R].
17) Black Cumin Oil May Protect Against Radiation
Black Cumin oil protected against the immune-suppressing and damaging effects of radiation in rats [R].
18) Black Seed May Help with Opioid Dependence
Black Seed helped reduce the symptoms of opioid dependence and withdrawal in a study of 35 opioid-dependant patients. Importantly, it also helped reduce weakness, infections, and improve appetite [R].
19) Black Cumin May Help with Breastfeeding
Traditionally, it was used to help increase milk production during breastfeeding in nursing mothers [R]. Human studies have not tested this claim, but black cumin seeds could stimulate milk production in rats [R].
20) Black Seeds Relax Muscles
Black Seed reduced spasms in muscle tissues in various studies [R]. It has an effect only on smooth muscles, such as the heart, gut, and airways. This is the reason black seed is used for asthma, breathing difficulties, gut issues, high blood pressure, and potentially urinary tract issues.
Black Cumin Oil Synergies
Black Cumin seed (Thymoquinone) in combination with radiation had a stronger effect against breast cancer cells [R].
Garlic Extract and Black cumin oil may work better together to combat parasites [R].
Consumption of garlic extract and crude Black seeds may have beneficial antioxidant effects in healthy postmenopausal women [R].
Black Cumin and Garlic together work together to lower high cholesterol [R].
The combination of Black Cumin oil and PYR (Pyrimethamine) both fight parasites (toxoplasmosis) [R].
I use the oil and I recommend 1 tsp (5ml) 2X daily for a 150-pound person.
A typical dose of the oil is 2.5 – 5 ml 2X daily.
As crushed or powdered seeds, the dosage is typically about 1 g per day.
Nutritional Value of Black Seed
- Is rich in fatty acids particularly the unsaturated and essential fatty acids (Linolenic and Linoleic acid)
- Is also a source of Calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium [R].
- Contains Carotene (provitamin A) [R].
- Contains B-complex vitamins like Thiamin (B1), Niacin and Folic acid [R].
- Is a good source of Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) [R].
Since black cumin can reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, people on medications for high blood pressure or diabetes should consult their doctor before supplementing.
Pregnant women should avoid taking black cumin seed extract or oil. Although safe in moderation, black cumin seeds can cause abortions in larger amounts [R]. Clinical studies have not confirmed that it is safe to use in pregnancy even in smaller amounts, nor in small children.
- Decreases LOX (Lysyl Oxidase) [R].
- Inhibits iNOS (inducible Nitric oxide synthase) [R].
- Inhibition of NF-κB (NF-kappa B) [R].
- Activates PPAR-γ (Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma) [R].
- Increases PTEN (Phosphatase and tensin homolog) [R].
- Increases BAK/BAX [R].
- Decreases Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL [R].
- Suppresses the expression of AR and E2F-1 [R].
- Increases the activity of Myeloperoxidase, Glutathione-S-transferase, Adenosine deaminase [R].
- Increases enzymes like Superoxide dismutase (SOD), Catalase and Glutathione peroxidase [R].
- Increases GABA (Gama Amino Butyric Acid) activity [R].
Activity in the Lungs and Trachea
My Own Experiments
I noticed Black Cumin oil was a potent anti-inflammatory the first time I took it a while back. Ever since I’ve always made sure to have it in stock.