Nigella Seed - The Miracle Herb


Above: nigella seeds (and nigella seed oil) – also known as black cumin, black caraway and fennel-flower.

Until relatively recently, I have mostly enjoyed these seeds in a culinary context. And because I absolutely love the warm, rich, peppery taste and scent of nigella, getting serious about using the oil for skincare was a no-brainer when a special offer from a supplier appeared.

And then I started researching.

oh.

my.

goodness.

Looking at this plant and its properties is a non-stop journey of happy discoveries that just keeps getting better. Not only is Nigella Sativa a bit of a miracle herb, there's a whole heck of a lot of science behind the claims.

With the results this modest-looking seed is showing in studies, it's understandable why everyone is getting increasingly excited about the prospects.

As a matter of fact, it wasn't even a passionate 'greenie' (such as myself) that dubbed Nigella the Miracle Herb, but a scientific paper from the National Library of Medicine.

Are you starting to get a little excited too?

Then join me and we'll take a peek at the headlines of what Nigella has to offer in the way of health and beauty miracles.


Scads of Active Components

Nigella seeds contain fixed and essential oil, proteins, alkaloids, saponin, lineolic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, vitamin E, and a pile of actives.

Here are some of the active components that have been isolated:
  • thymoquinone: antibacterial and showing promising results in battling cancer
  • thymohydroquinone: showing promising results in battling cancer (tumors)
  • dithymoquinone: showing promising results in treatment of multi drug-resistant cancers
  • thymol: antimicrobial activity (also present in thyme)
  • carvacrol: antibacterial (also present in oregano)
  • alpha-hederin: studied for its anti-cancer activity

Properties

Nigella seed is (rightly) attributed with the following properties
  • antisceptic
  • antinflammatory
  • immunostumilant
  • promotes good cohesion of skin cells
  • helps lock in moisture
  • nourishing
  • regenerating
  • promotes tanning (!?)
  • envigorating
  • paracitiside
  • insect repellant


Shall we catch our breath a moment?

I told you it just keeps getting better, and this is why we're 'just' looking at the headlines of what nigella has to offer in todays post.


What Science Says

Here are a few more facts about this fabulous ingredient. Scientific studies (links below) have shown that Nigella Seed Oil:
  • decreases blood pressure and increases respiration 
  • promotes wound healing
  • helps treat acne with a reduction of 10% 
  • significantly decreased vitiligo over a 6 month period with topical application
  • is effective for treating psoriasis
  • significantly reduced skin irritation and improved hydration and epidermal barrier function in an emulsion with borage oil (2010 study)
  • shows promise in minimizing tumors (2007 study)


Bonus fact: Nigella Seeds are characterized by a very low degree of toxicity

Preservative Power

Due to its history of use in folk medicine, some sources say nigella has been used as an effective preservative for hundreds of years. Some claim centuries.

The Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants attributed nigella with a history of use as a food preservative in 1956, but it was the isolation of thymoquinone in 1965 that established a basis for modern science to study nigella's antibacterial properties.

A study in 1991 showed the oil to be antibacterial with high activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

An additional study in 2014 confirmed this.

Even though there may be many versions of how effective and how long nigella has functioned as an antibacterial agent, there is no discussion as to the fact that it has several effective antibacterial components that are showing results in scientific studies.

I know what you're thinking.

But before you start using nigella seed oil as an all-natural preservative in your products, you're going to want to do some research on dosing percentages as well as finding appropriate fungicides that can work in synergy with it.

But I totally agree with you. The idea is indeed intriguing.


Meantime, there's even more good news about nigella to be had.

What Science Might Also be Saying Soon

With all the fabulous properties this miracle herb continues to show, there are many ongoing studies. A few of these are currently trying to establish if nigella can
  • help relieve allergic reactions
  • help relieve epliepsy in children
  • be neuroprotective
  • help relieve the rashy, itchy reaction from nickel allergy

Recommended Uses 

Nigella seed oil is recommended for all kinds of skincare, helping strengthen fragile nails, bringing new life and bounciness to dull brittle hair as well as soothing joint pain.

I have been trying the oil in different percentages in face and body oils over the past months, but do have a few bars and balms planned that we may just do a how to or two right here on the blog.


Warnings


  • Dilute the oil before use (because of the high content of essential oil)
  • Do not use near the eyes
  • Consult your physician before using nigella seed oil for any ailments!


Do Tell

Have you worked with nigella seed oil? How do you use it?



References

National Library of Medicine, Review on therapeutic potential of nigella sativa

Pharmacological and Toxicological Properties of Nigella Sativa (PubMed)

Plants for a Future: Nigella Sativa

Journal of Dermatology, Dermatological Effects of Nigella Sativa, 2015, (Science Direct)

M.S. Hanafi, M.E. Hatem, Studies on the anti-microbial activity of the Nigella sativa seed (Black Cumin), J. Ethnopharmacol., 34 (2–3) (1991), pp. 275–278

S. Amin, S.R. Mir, K. Kohli, B. Ali, M. Ali, A study of the chemical composition of black cumin oil and its effect on penetration enhancement from transdermal formulations, Nat. Prod. Res., 24 (12) (2010), pp. 1151–1157

Brazilian Journal of Medicine and Biological Reserach, Antitumor properties of nigella seed extracts

Chopra RN, Nayar SL, Chopra IC. Glossary of Indian medicinal plants. New Delhi: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; 1956

Mohammad Akram Handawa, AntiCancer Activity of Nigella Sativa

Thymoquinone in the clinical treatment of cancer  - fact or fiction? US National Library of Health and Medicine

Thymoquinine  - 50 years of success in the battle against cancer models, Science Direct

American Journal of Physiology, Thymoquinone, a bioactive component of Nigella sativa, normalizes insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells under glucose overload via regulation of malonyl-CoA

Ivankovic S, Stojkovic R, Jukic M, Milos M, Milos M, Jurin M., The Anti-tumor activity of thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone, Sept 2006, PubMed

Use of the naturally-occurring quinones thymoquinone and dithymoquinone as antineoplastic and cytotoxic agents, University of Kentucky Research Foundation Application for Patent

Thymol (Wikipedia)


Plant photo: By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Comments

Rebecca Wright said…
I love using Nigella sativa. I use the oils in many of my products but I have also crushed the seeds up and used them in scrubs too. I love the peppery scent and you can actually feel it working on the skin too (though it might be placebo :-) )
Caprice said…
I have used the seeds and oil with great results, in face creams,balms and the crushed seeds in scrubs.
Caprice said…
I have used the seeds and oil with great results, in face creams,balms and the crushed seeds in scrubs.
Lise M Andersen said…
HI @Rebecca - I love the idea if using the seeds in scrubs!

Hi @Caprice - You're a fan of the seeds in scrubs as well! I'm going to have to give this a try :)
Zan said…
Hi Lise!

Such a great find. I never knew Nigella sativa can be used in skin care. I've been consuming the oil everyday since I can remember. Just three drops of oil in half cup of warm water, on empty stomach every morning. It greatly improves my asthma and prevent coughing during dry weather. I'm going to try using the oil in my face cream formula later.


Zan.
Lise M Andersen said…
HI Zan - great to hear form you! How wonderful that you are using this internally and it helps you -- thank you for sharing this.
Black Cumin Seed Oil is the star ingredient in an 'everything balm' that I make and it is fabulous!
Lise M Andersen said…
oooh it sounds like your everything balm is fabulous!