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Black Seed (Nigella Sativa): 6 Science-Based Health Benefits

Black seed, aka Nigella sativa or black cumin, is a famous medicinal herb with a prominent role in traditional medicine across the globe.

Found in parts of the Mediterranean, Northern Africa and Southwest Asia, this potent seed holds a well-earned reputation as a safe, reliable and nutritious “healer.” Its influence stretches far beyond its native regions, making it one of the most cherished medicinal plants in the world.

Photo by Mockupo on Unsplash

Let’s explore the powerful health benefits of the black seed, from its positive impacts on the immune system to its antimicrobial influences, in our Living Proof Guide to Black Seed:

Part 1: Immunomodulator

The immune system is your body’s line of natural defense against foreign invaders like viruses,  bacteria and other pathogenic microbes. For a long, healthy and disease-free life, you need your immune system in tip-top shape, ready to defend you at any moment. 

Black seed is helpful in this pursuit because it is a natural immunomodulator, meaning it modifies your body’s immune responses to ensure your immune system is as effective as possible.

It achieves this by regulating your histamines, cytokines, oxidative stress and inflammation levels, making it easier for your immune system to quickly identify and eradicate foreign invaders that can cause various illnesses.

Nigella sativa, along with other health promoting lifestyle habits - a nutrient-rich diet, proper sleep, regular exercise and stress management, can play a pivotal role in sharpening your immune responses for a healthier, more productive you. 

Pro Tip: Check out Living Proof’s What to Feed Our Immune Cells blog for more information on actively protecting your immune system through your diet.

Part 2: Anti-Inflammatory

Speaking of inflammation, let’s take a closer look at exactly how black seed fights against harmful inflammation:

According to research from the National Research Centre, Nigella sativa “regulat[es] several downstream and upstream inflammation pathways,” reducing the lifespan of persistent inflammation.

This regulation is so beneficial because it naturally mitigates the harmful effects of inflammation, potentially enhancing the use of other treatments (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, etc.) or reducing the need for them in the first place.

Similarly, as part of a healthy lifestyle monitored by a medical professional, black seed can even help lower the chances of developing chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis, Crohn’s disease and many others. 

Preliminary studies detailed by WebMD further show black seed may also be able to fight inflammation of the brain (aka, neuro-inflammation), possibly halting the development of severe neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s.

While Nigella sativa alone cannot prevent or cure inflammation, its anti-inflammatory potential warrants consideration when developing a meal plan best suited to your body’s needs.

Part 3: Nutritional & Antioxidant Qualities

Black seed also offers a range of nutritional and anti-oxidative benefits to the human body:

Each serving of Nigella sativa packs an excellent mix of essential vitamins and nutrients. The seed has a healthy combination of active ingredients, including:

  • Thymoquinone
  • Protein & Amino Acids
  • Essential Minerals: iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, calcium
  • B Vitamins
  • Fiber

According to research from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), these ingredients make black seed one of “the most treasured nutrient-rich herbs in history around the world and in numerous scientific studies.”

Alongside a well balanced diet composed of other nutritious foods, black seed’s nutritive value offers potential benefits such as a well functioning metabolism, better insulin levels, healthier blood sugar levels and enhanced cholesterol control (as we will soon discuss).

Alongside its nutritional benefits, Nigella sativa also offers essential antioxidative properties:

According to the studies published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), studies on rats and humans reveal black seed boosts the presence and efficiency of antioxidants, making it easy for your body to identify and fight off free radicals that pose harm to your body’s cells.

Part 4: Cholesterol Control

High cholesterol levels can be a strong risk factor for developing severe heart disease that can reduce your quality of life and lifespan.

Thankfully, research consistently shows black seed can help you better regulate your cholesterol:

According to a wide-ranging report on Nigella sativa by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), high-cholesterol patients who take black seed in available studies often experience beneficial changes in their overall cholesterol levels, bringing them closer to ideal, healthy ranges.

These changes typically include increases in good cholesterol (HDL-c) and decreases in potentially harmful cholesterol (TC, TG, LDL-c) over a period of weeks to months.

While we need more research to determine just how large a role black seed can play in the pursuit of healthy cholesterol among the general population, these early results are promising and only increase the value of Nigella sativa to your diet. 

Photo by RF._.studio

Part 5: Blood Sugar & Diabetes

High blood sugar and diabetes are synonymous with one another. Thankfully, a daily serving of black seed may be able to help treat both:

National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports on glucose homeostasis and Type-2 Diabetes (T2D) reveal that Nigella sativa can enhance the ability of T2D patients to regulate their blood sugar levels and inhibit the development of complications from their disease.

These findings indicate black seed may represent an excellent supplement to a T2D patient’s current treatment plan, possibly increasing the efficacy of their oral diabetic medications.

According to the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, as little as 2 grams of Nigella sativa per day can notably reduce a T2D patient’s “fasting blood glucose (FBG), blood glucose level 2 hours postprandially (2 hPG), and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c),” thereby improving the overall treatment of their condition.

These promising findings will likely inspire further research into black seed’s hypoglycemic capabilities, only improving doctors’ abilities to treat Type-2 Diabetes.

Pro Tip: For information on maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and reducing your risk of Type-2 Diabetes, check out Living Proof’s 5 Natural Compounds that Lower Blood Sugar blog.

Part 6: Antimicrobial Effects (antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial)

Last but not least, black seed offers a range of powerful antimicrobial effects (anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial):

In a National Library of Medicine (NLM) report often cited in other PubMed Central studies, verified findings show Nigella sativa has strong antifungal capabilities that can reduce the power of pathogenic fungi on its own and even more so in conjunction with other antifungal treatments.

Similarly, other NLM studies find that Nigella sativa has strong antiviral capabilities. In experiments on humans and mice involving several common viral strands, the seed shows a consistent ability to boost the presence of helpful T-cells, enhance the oxidative status of red blood cells and generally reduce viral loads.

Lastly, peer-reviewed NLM research further indicates Nigella sativa also has antibacterial potential. Thanks to its generous serving of thymoquinone, black seed repeatedly shows “a clear and undeniable antibacterial effect” on many pathogenic bacterial infections that pose great harm to the human body.

For any questions about nutrition, self-care or other healthy living protocols, feel free to contact us at any time.

About the Author: Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee

Lisa Jubilee is a New York State Certified Dietician-Nutritionist, who has been counseling individuals on sustainable weight management and disease prevention for over 20 years. Her mission is to empower individuals to obtain healthy food relationships and to clearly understand the concept of food as medicine. Lisa chose to create a functional nutrition practice where what, why and how we eat are all part of the conversation. There is no One-Size-Fits-All dietary approach, but Ms Jubilee has experienced great success utilizing specific dietary protocols such as intermittent fasting, time restricted eating, low carb/ketogenic dietary regimens and AIP (autoimmune protocol) in her practice.

In 2005, Lisa co-created Living Proof Nutrition Strength Pilates, a private nutrition, HIST (high intensity strength training) and Pilates studio, located in midtown Manhattan. The inspiration behind Living Proof was to create a private fitness and wellness space, where the importance of nutrition and functional movement are emphasized in tandem.

As of March 2020, in order to continue to service her clients and the public at large during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ms Jubilee is offering all of her nutrition counseling and support services remotely. Feel free to contact Lisa with any questions: Lisa@livingproofnyc.com