Black Seed: Ancient Remedy, Modern Marvel

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Black seed, also known as Nigella sativa, has been used for millennia to treat a wide range of health conditions. Modern scientific research has confirmed many of black seed's traditional uses and revealed even more therapeutic benefits. With over 450 studies on its impressive effects indexed on the GreenMedInfo Black Seed database, this humble seed proves to be one of nature's most potent healing agents.

Black seed has a long history of use dating back to ancient Egypt. Black seeds were even found in Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, dating back approximately 3,300 years ago.[i] In Arabic cultures, black seed is known as Habbatul barakah, meaning the "seed of blessing." The Islamic prophet Mohammed is quoted as saying that black seed is "a remedy for all diseases except death."[ii] Its first known cultivation and use was in ancient Egypt, but it has played an important role in traditional medicine across North Africa, parts of Asia, and parts of Europe over the centuries.

Traditional and Modern Uses

Dubbed "the remedy for everything but death" in Arabic cultures, black seeds were even found in Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb from approximately 3,300 years ago.[iii] Black seed oil's medicinal versatility stems from its more than 30 pharmacologically active constituents, notably thymoquinone.  

Science confirms black seed's value in managing an array of health issues:

  • Type 2 Diabetes - By improving glucose control, insulin resistance, and pancreatic cell function[iv]
  • Helicobacter pylori infection - With antibacterial effects comparable to some antibiotic regimens[v]  
  • Epilepsy - Due to anticonvulsive properties; extracts reduced seizure activity in epileptic children[vi]
  • High blood pressure - Daily intake lowered blood pressure in those with mild hypertension[vii]
  • Asthma - Thymoquinone improved asthma measures better than conventional medications in animal models[viii]
  • Tonsillitis - Alleviating throat pain and reducing the need for analgesics[ix]
  • Chemical weapons injuries - Boiled extracts improved respiratory symptoms and reduced medication needs[x]  
  • Cancer - Comparing favorably to some chemotherapies in suppressing growth of colon, liver, brain, oral and other cancers in cellular and animal models[xi], [xii], [xiii]
  • MRSA - Direct killing of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains[xiv]
  • Opiate addiction/withdrawal - Shown to reduce morphine conditioned reward in rat models, pointing to usefulness in dependency treatment[xv]

Emerging Research  

Recent studies reveal even more conditions that may potentially benefit:

  • Radiation damage - Protects brain tissue through antioxidant effects[xvi]
  • Heart attack - Improved heart tissue measures in animal models[xvii]
  • Kidney damage - Protects the kidneys against toxicity in diabetic models[xviii]
  • Post-surgical adhesions - Oil extract reduced adhesive formations by up to 55%[xix]
  • Alzheimer's disease - Extract improved Aβ peptide and p-Tau-linked pathology and cognitive decline in animal models[xx]
  • Breast cancer - Thymoquinone suppressed tumor progression and stimulated programmed cell death; synergistic with chemotherapy[xxi], [xxii]
  • Parkinson's disease - Protected neurons against α-synuclein toxicity associated with Lewy Body disease[xxiii]
  • Leukemia - Stimulated leukemia cell death by mitochondrial apoptosis activation[xxiv]

And at least 10 more conditions ranging from liver disease to cervical cancer.

The broad healing abilities of this small seed may eventually make black seed oil as much of a medicine cabinet staple as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. As researchers continue to validate applications through human clinical trials, black seed's modern ascent seems likely to eclipse even its ancient celebrity.

Black Seed Can Be Used Topically As Well as Orally for Remarkable Benefits

Using Black Seed Oil Topically for Pain Relief

The research highlighted in this article specifically looked at using black seed oil topically to treat knee pain from osteoarthritis. The results showed that massaging just 1 gram of black seed oil into the knee joint area three times a day reduced pain more effectively than taking 325mg acetaminophen orally three times a day.

Some key points:

  • Massaging black seed oil directly onto painful joints may provide better pain relief than pain medication taken orally
  • Only a small amount is needed - in this study just 1 gram per application (roughly 1/5th teaspoon)
  • Applying 3 times a day and massaging for 5 minutes provided reduction in pain and stiffness
  • The oil's anti-inflammatory compounds are able to penetrate through the skin barrier to reduce joint swelling and discomfort
  • Massage also enhances blood flow and may stimulate healing factors that further soothe tender joints and muscles

More research is still needed, but using black seed oil topically shows promise as an all-natural, safe way to find relief from chronic join and muscle pains. Along with eliminating any potential side effects from pain drugs, massaging with this medicinal oil provides additional benefits of increasing blood circulation and direct delivery of potent medicinal compounds from this ancient natural remedy.


[i] Domestication of plants in the Old World (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. 2000. p. 206. ISBN 0-19-850356-3.

[ii] Black Seed - 'The Remedy for Everything but Death'

[iii] Domestication of plants in the Old World (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. 2000. p. 206. ISBN 0-19-850356-3.

[iv] Abdullah O Bamosa, Huda Kaatabi, Fatma M Lebdaa, Abdul-Muhssen Al Elq, Ali Al-Sultanb. Effect of Nigella sativa seeds on the glycemic control of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct-Dec;54(4):344-54. PMID: 21675032

[v] Eyad M Salem, Talay Yar, Abdullah O Bamosa, Abdulaziz Al-Quorain, Mohamed I Yasawy, Raed M Alsulaiman, Muhammad A Randhawa. 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. PMID: 20616418

[vi] Javad Akhondian, Ali Parsa, Hassan Rakhshande. The effect of Nigella sativa L. (black cumin seed) on intractable pediatric seizures. Med Sci Monit. 2007 Dec;13(12):CR555-9. PMID: 18049435

[vii] Farshad Roghani Dehkordi, Amir Farhad Kamkhah. Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2006 Apr;39(4):421-9. Epub 2006 Apr 3. PMID: 18705755  

[viii] Rana Keyhanmanesh, Mohammad Hossein Boskabady, Mohammad Javad Eslamizadeh, Saeed Khamneh, Mohammad Ali Ebrahimi. The effect of thymoquinone, the main constituent of Nigella sativa on tracheal responsiveness and white blood cell count in lung lavage of sensitized guinea pigs. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Oct 29;126(1):102-7. Epub 2009 Aug 8. PMID: 19711253  

[ix] M Dirjomuljono, I Kristyono, R R Tjandrawinata, D Nofiarny. Symptomatic treatment of acute tonsillo-pharyngitis patients with a combination of Nigella sativa and Phyllanthus niruri extract. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jun;46(6):295-306. PMID: 18541126

[x] Mohammad H Boskabady, Javad Farhadi. The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed aqueous extract on respiratory symptoms and pulmonary function tests on chemical war victims: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Nov;14(9):1137-44. PMID: 18991514  

[xi] Elsayed I Salim, Shoji Fukushima. Chemopreventive potential of volatile oil from black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seeds against rat colon carcinogenesis. Nutr Cancer. 2003;45(2):195-202. PMID: 12881014  

[xii] Subramanian Raghunandhakumar, Arumugam Paramasivam, Selvam Senthilraja, Chandrasekar Naveenkumar, Selvamani Asokkumar, John Binuclara, Sundaram Jagan, Pandi Anandakumar, Thiruvengadam Devaki. Thymoquinone inhibits cell proliferation through regulation of G1/S phase cell cycle transition in N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced experimental rat hepatocellular carcinoma. 2013 Oct 23;223(1):60-72. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2013.08.018. Epub 2013 Sep 3. PMID:24012840

[xiii] Ehab Abdelfadil, Ya-Hsin Cheng, Da-Tian Bau, Wei-Jen Ting, Li-Mien Chen, Hsi-Hsien Hsu, Yueh-Min Lin, Ray-Jade Chen, Fu-Jenn Tsai, Chang-Hai Tsai, Chih-Yang Huang. Thymoquinone induces apoptosis in oral cancer cells through p38β inhibition  

[xiv] Abdul Hannan, Sidrah Saleem, Saadia Chaudhary, Muhammad Barkaat, Muhammad Usman Arshad. Anti bacterial activity of Nigella sativa against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008 Jul-Sep;20(3):72-4. PMID: 19610522

[xv] Sibghatullah Sangi, Shahida P Ahmed, Muhammad Aslam Channa, Muhammad Ashfaq, Shah Murad Mastoi . A new and novel treatment of opioid dependence: Nigella sativa 500 mg. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad. 2008 Apr-Jun;20(2):118-24. PMID: 19385474

[xvi] Adem Ahlatci, Abdurahman Kuzhan, Seyithan Taysi, Omer Can Demirtas, Hilal Eryigit Alkis, Mehmet Tarakcioglu, Ali Demirci, Derya Caglayan, Edibe Saricicek, Kadir Cinar. Radiation-modifying abilities of Nigella sativa and Thymoquinone on radiation-induced nitrosative stress in the brain tissue. Phytomedicine. 2013 Nov 21. pii: S0944-7113(13)00432-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.10.023. [Epub ahead of print]  

[xvii] Mohammad Akram Randhawa, Mastour Safar Alghamdi, Subir Kumar Maulik. The effect of thymoquinone, an active component of Nigella sativa, on isoproterenol induced myocardial injury. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2013 Nov;26(6):1215-9.  

[xviii] Ola M Omran. Effects of Thymoquinone on STZ-induced Diabetic Nephropathy: An Immunohistochemical Study. Ultrastruct Pathol. 2013 Oct 17.  

[xix] Ahmet Sahbaz, Firat Ersan, Serdar Aydin. Effect of Nigella sativa oil on postoperative peritoneal adhesion formation. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2013 Oct 7. doi: 10.1111/jog.12172.  

[xx] Norsharina Ismail, Maznah Ismail, Musalmah Mazlan, Latiffah Abdul Latiff, Mustapha Umar Imam, Shahid Iqbal, Nur Hanisah Azmi, Siti Aisyah Abd Ghafar, Kim Wei Chan. Thymoquinone Preventsβ-Amyloid Neurotoxicity in Primary Cultured Cerebellar Granule Neurons. 2013 Nov;33(8):1159-69. doi: 10.1007/s10571-013-9982-z. Epub 2013 Oct 8.  

[xxi] Shashi Rajput, B N Prashanth Kumar, Kaushik Kumar Dey, Ipsita Pal, Aditya Parekh, Mahitosh Mandal. Molecular targeting of Akt by thymoquinone promotes G1 arrest through translation inhibition of cyclin D1 and induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells. 2013 Nov 13;93(21):783-90. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2013.09.009. Epub 2013 Sep 15. PMID: 24044882  

[xxii] Chern Chiuh Woo, Annie Hsu, Alan Prem Kumar, Gautam Sethi, Kwong Huat Benny Tan. Thymoquinone Inhibits Tumor Growth and Induces Apoptosis in a Breast Cancer Xenograft Mouse Model: The Role of p38 MAPK and ROS. 2013 Oct 2;8(10):e75356. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075356. PMID: 24098377  

[xxiii] A H Alhebshi, A Odawara, M Gotoh, I Suzuki. Thymoquinone protects cultured hippocampal and human induced pluripotent stem cells-derived neurons againstα-synuclein-induced synapse damage. Neurosci Lett. 2013 Sep 27. pii: S0304-3940(13)00873-2. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2013.09.049. PMID: 24080376  

[xxiv] Landa Zeenelabdin Ali Salim, Syam Mohan, Rozana Othman, Siddig Ibrahim Abdelwahab, Behnam Kamalidehghan, Bassem Y Sheikh, Mohamed Yousif Ibrahim. Thymoquinone induces mitochondria-mediated apoptosis in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in vitro. . 2013 Sep 12;18(9):11219-40. doi: 10.3390/molecules180911219. PMID: 24036512

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
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