“Black cumin heals every disease except death.”- Prophet Mohammed1.
Black cumin, black seed or Habbatus sauda, also known as Nigella sativa (NS), is an annual herb belonging to the Ranunculaceae family. Its traditional use dates back to the Biblical era and since then it has been used widely in Southeast Asia, Middle East, Europe, Africa and Arabic countries for spice and flavoring agents in foods as well as folklore medicine for various ailments2,3.
The therapeutic use of NS in folk medicine ranged from maintenance of general well-being to treating inflammation, fever, pain (chronic headache and back pain), dizziness, influenza, asthma, bronchitis, cough, vomiting, nasal abscesses, infections, eczema, skin eruptions, loss of appetite, dropsy, amenorrhea/dysmenorrhea, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatism, kidney and liver ailments, gastrointestinal problems, paralysis and nervous disorders2-4.
The universal therapeutic role of NS is attributed to its bioactive compound, thymoquinone, which possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory activities and other health benefits3. This has led to the extensive scientific study of thymoquinone-containing NS.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted in 114 type-2 diabetic patients with oral hypoglycemic drugs (control group= 57, NS group= 57) for 1 year. The study showed statistically significant reductions in fasting blood glucose, HbA1c and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances; and an increase in glutathione, total antioxidant capacity and superoxide dismutase levels in NS supplemented (2 g/day) group when compared to the control group. Therefore, the researchers concluded that long term supplementation with NS could improve glucose homeostasis and enhance antioxidant activity in type-2 diabetic patients5.
Another research on 94 type-2 diabetic patients demonstrating the hypolipidemic effect of NS at different doses (1, 2 and 3 g/day) for 12 weeks, resulted in a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) after 4 weeks of treatment with 1 g/day of NS. Whereas, the 2 g and 3 g/day of NS supplemented patients showed a marked decrease in total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) and triglycerides (TG), in addition to a significant increase in HDL-c levels6.
In a study of 29 asthmatic patients (NS group= 15, control group= 14) the bronchodilatory effect of NS was evaluated. After 3 months, the group that administered 15 mL/kg of 0.1 g% boiled NS extract demonstrated significant improvements in all symptoms of asthma, frequency of asthma symptoms/week, the severity of asthma, chest wheezing and pulmonary function test when compared to the placebo group7.
The health benefits of NS also encompass anticancer activity, antioxidant effect, antihypertension, neuroprotection, analgesic effect and anti-inflammation, antitussive, antipyretic, antimicrobial (antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic) effect and anti-toxicity effect (natural and chemical). NS is also found effective in male infertility, metabolic syndrome, obesity, gastrointestinal disorders (Celiac disease, dyspepsia), skeletal disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, osteopenia/osteoporosis) and skin diseases (vitiligo, eczema, arsenical keratosis)2,8.
The relatively safe profile without any adverse side-effects and wide therapeutic uses of NS has provided ample attention of the scientific community towards this herb. The hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic and bronchodilatory effects of NS have been studied extensively with the advancement for subsequent clinical trial phases and/or development of drugs. Other therapeutic uses of NS are still short of clinical and animal studies and demand further research studies8.
1. QuranX.com The most complete Quran / Hadith / Tafsir collection available! [Internet]. Quranx.com. 2019 [cited 6 November 2019]. Available from: https://quranx.com/Hadith/Bukhari/USC-MSA/Volume-7/Book-71/Hadith-592
2. Yimer EM, Tuem KB, Karim A, Ur-Rehman N, Anwar F. Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin): A Promising Natural Remedy for Wide Range of Illnesses. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2019;2019:1528635.
3. Darakhshan S, Bidmeshki Pour A, HosseinzadehColagar A, Sisakhtnezhad S. Thymoquinone and its therapeutic potentials. Pharmacological Research. 2015;95-96:138–158.
4. Ahmad A, Husain A, Mujeeb M, Khan SA, Najmi AK, Siddique NA, Damanhouri ZA, Anwar F. A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2013;3(5):337-52.
5. Kaatabi H, Bamosa AO, Badar A, Al-Elq A, Abou-Hozaifa B, Lebda F, Al-Khadra A, Al-Almaie S. Nigella sativa improves glycemic control and ameliorates oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: placebo controlled participant blinded clinical trial. PLoS One. 2015;10(2):e0113486.
6. Kaatabi H, Bamosa AO, Lebda FM, Al Elq AH, Al-Sultan AI. Favorable impact of Nigella sativa seeds on lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients. Journal of Family and Community Medicine. 2012;19(3):155–161.
7. Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh H. The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patients. Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology. 2007;21(5):559-566.
8. Tavakkoli A, Mahdian V, Razavi BM, Hosseinzadeh H. Review on Clinical Trials of Black Seed (Nigella sativa ) and Its Active Constituent, Thymoquinone. Journal of Pharmacopuncture. 2017;20(3):179–193.