Black Cumin has been used for thousands of years by various cultures and civilizations around the world as a natural healing aid and as a supplement to help maintain good health and well-being.
Black cumin (nigella sativa) was discovered in Tutankhamen's tomb, implying that it played an important role in ancient Egyptian practices.
The exact role of black cumin in Egyptian culture is not known, however, items entombed with a king were of importance as they were carefully selected to assist him in the afterlife. It is said that Cleopatra used black cumin for it's health and beauty giving qualities.
The extraordinary healing powers of black seed or black cumin have been known for centuries in the Middle East and Africa. Its botanical name is Nigella Sativa. There are several common names attributed to Nigella sativa. These names differ between different regions and countries. In Europe it is called black caraway, fennel-flower, nutmeg flower or sometimes "Love in the Mist."
In America it is called black cumin or black seed. Its name in Egypt is Habaat el Baraka and in the rest of the Arabic world it is called Habaa Sawdaa. The earliest written reference to Blackseed is found in the book of Isiah in the Old Testament.
It is most famous for the saying of the holy prophet Muhammad P.B.U H. 'Hold on to use of the Blackseed, for it has a remedy for every illness except death.' The wording 'hold onto' indicates a long term use.
The Ancient civilizations also took notice of the importance of the black seed as a medicine. These civilizations included the Roman empire, in which Nigella Sativa was named with the Latin word "Panacea" meaning cure all; and for centuries in the Arabian peninsula where this healing plant has been used as a nutritional plant.
The Greek physician Dioskorides used Blackseed to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache and intestinal parasites. Black seeds were also used, he reported, as a diuretic to promote menstruation and increase milk production.
The Muslim scholar Al-biruni (973-1048), who composed a treatise on the early origins of Indian and Chinese drugs, mentions that the black seed is a kind of grain called alwanak in the sigzi dialect. Later, this was confirmed by suhar bakht who explained it to be habb-i-sajzi (viz. sigzi grains). This reference to black seed as grains points to the seed's possible nutritional use. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, Hypocrates, the grandfather of today’s scientific medicine regarded Nigella Sativa as a valuable remedy in hepatic and digestive disorders.
Ibn Sina, the author of the Canon of Medicine, one of the most famous books in the history of medicine recommended Blackseed as it stimulates the metabolism and to recover from dispiritedness and lethargy.
Black seed is also included in the list of natural drugs of al-Tibb al-n abawi, and, according to tradition, "hold onto the use of the black seed for in it is healing for all illnesses except death" (Sahih Bukhari vol 7 bk 71 #592). This prophetic reference in describing black seed as having a healing for all illnesses is not exaggerated as it at first appears. the many uses of black seed has earned for this ancient herb the Arabic approbation habbatul barakah, meaning the seed of blessing.
Black Cumin is a small plant, of the order Ranunculaceae which grows in the wild, originating in the Middle East like so many other spice plants and culinary herbs. Nigella Sativa is cultivated in France and Germany and it is found abundantly growing wild in Egypt, Asiatic Turkey and the Balkan States.
The taste of the seeds are of hot, peppery or spicy flavor.
The parts used are
the seeds. Nigella sativa belongs to the order Ranunculaceae and is an annual
herb, 8 to 12 inches high, with leaves cut into numerous, narrow, pinnate
segments. The flowers are solitary, terminal, without an involucre; the petals
blue and white, with greenish glands. The capsule is formed of 3 to 6 carpels,
opening by the ventral suture. The plant grows on the Mediterranean coasts, in
Egypt, but has been cultivated into other parts of the world including Saudi
Arabia, northern Africa and parts of Asia, whence it has spread to India The
seeds are tiny and hairy ( 1-2 mm long), black, 3 sided and look a bit like
pieces of flint under a microscope Nigella sativa is sometimes mistakenly
confused with the fennel herb plant (Foeniculum vulgare).
The plant has finely divided foliage and pale bluish purple or white flowers. The flowers grow
terminally on its branches while the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs, on either side of the stem. Its lower leaves are small and petiole, and the upper leaves are long (6-10cm). The stalk of the plant reaches a height of twelve to eighteen inches as its fruit, the black seed, matures.
Nigella sativa reproduces with itself and forms a fruit capsule which consists of many white trigonal seeds. Once the fruit capsule has matured, it opens up and the seeds contained within are exposed to the air, becoming black in color (black seeds).
The constituents of the black seed give it the importance of being an immune system booster. The seeds contain the components Nigellone and Thymoquinone. Black seed contains numerous esters of unsaturated fatty acids with terpene alcohols. Furthermore, traces of alkaloids (nigelline-N-oxide, nigellone, nigellimine) are reported. In the essential oil thymoquinone was identified as the main component besides p-cymene, α-pinene, dithymoquinone and thymohydroquinone.
Oil is cold pressed from the seeds. Oil of
Nigella Sativa is a yellowish to dark amber liquid.
It does not show fluorescence, not even when diluted with alcohol. A fixed oil is produced by hydraulic expression of the seeds of nigella sativa.
The reported oil content of N. sativa seeds ranges from about 0.1-1.5%, depending also on the isolation method and duration of distillation (2-4). The pharmaceutical properties of this species have recently been reviewed (3,5). Thymoquinone has generally been recognized as one of the more abundant components of the oil, and the one responsible for the pharmaceutical interest of the plant.
Nigella Sativa is traditionally known in Middle Eastern countries as "Habbat al Barakah" - 'The Blessed Seed', due to it's powerful healing qualities for many ailments. It is an excellent natural medicine used for millenniums to treat a variety of conditions related to respiratory health, skin, stomach and intestinal disorders, kidney & liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and to maintain and improve overall health.
It acts as a stimulant, aromatic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, excitant, galactatagogue, purgative, resolvent, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, and vermifuge. Black seed has been traditionally used in the middle and Far east countries for centuries to treat ailments including bronchial asthma and bronchitis, rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to treat digestive disturbances, to support the body's immune system, to promote digestion and elimination, and to fight parasitic infestation. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and is used topically to treat cold symptoms.
Recent research has provided evidence that most illnesses arise because of an imbalanced or dysfunctional immune system which cannot perform its primary function of defending the body optimally. Research also indicates that black seed contains an ability to significantly boost the human immune system - if taken over time.
Great research has been done on Nigella Sativa in regards to it's anti-cancer properties, especially breast cancer with promising results. , one of the largest experimental studies so far proved that Nigella Sativa oil had enormous success in tumour therapy without the negative side effects of common chemo-therapy. They found that it increased the growth rate of bone marrow cells by a staggering 250% and it inhibited tumour growth by 50%. It stimulated immune cells and raised the interferon production which protect cells from the cell destroying effect of viruses. They confirmed the strongly anti-bacterial and anti-micotic effects and that it has an effect in lowering the blood sugar level which is essential for the treatment of diabetes.
The oil of nigella sativa is so beneficial due to it's content of over a hundred components such as aromatic oils, trace elements, vitamins and enzymes. It contains 58% of essential fatty acids including omega 6 and omega 3. These are necessary for the forming of Prostaglandin E1 which balances and strengthens the immune system giving it the power to prevent infections and allergies and control chronic illnesses. Healthy cells are protected from viruses thus inhibiting tumours. Blackseed oil also contains about 0.5 - 1.5% volatile oils including nigellone and thymochinone which are responsible for its anti-histamine, anti-oxidant, anti-infective and broncho-dilating effect.
The healing secrets of black seed oil have been found to provide medicinal properties ranging from immunostimulant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-ulcerative, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumourous, anti-pyretic (an agent that relieves or reduces fever) hypoglycaemic, immunomodulatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-depressant, anti-spasmic, respiratory system rebuilder, hepato (liver) protective, anti-parasitic worm and bronchodilator. As an oil it is digested through the lymphatics consequently purifying and unblocking the lymphatic system.
Experiences of doctors in Munich displayed that 70% of patients with allergic conditions, among them being pollen and dust allergies, asthma and neuro-dermitis were cured by Nigella Sativa.
For upper respiratory conditions, at least a few of its constituents have shown an antihistamine-like action, which explains is positive effects for upper respiratory diseases including asthma, bronchitis, and cough. The oils of the seed increase milk flow which explains its folk use as a galactagogue. In large quantities, however, the seeds have also been used to abortion.
Externally the seeds can be ground to a powder, mixed with a little flour as a binder and applied directly to abscesses, on the forehead for headache, nasal ulcers, orchitis, and rheumatism. The seeds also are a rich source of sterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which is known to have anticarcinogenic activity. This substantiates its folk use for indurations and/or tumors of the abdomen, eyes and liver.
In India, Nigella seeds are combined with various purgatives to allay gripping and colic and also help kill and expel parasites.
The seeds are used both as a condiment in bread and cakes and various confections and like pepper or combined with pepper such as cayenne in sauces. In Algeria, the roasted seeds are combined with butter for cough and honey and taken for colic.
Still another use is to sprinkle them with woolen garments as a moth repellant.
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