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Nigella Sativa

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Nigella Sativa

In herbal medicine, a natural substance known as nigella sativa is sometimes used to treat certain health conditions. Also called black seed, black cumin and fennel flower, nigella sativa grows throughout India, Arabia, and Europe and has long been used as a spice and food preservative. While research on nigella sativa's health effects is limited, findings from animal studies show that nigella sativa may offer immune-boosting and antioxidant benefits.

Uses for Nigella Sativa

Nigella sativa is typically touted as a natural remedy for these health problems:

The Science Behind Nigella Sativa

To date, there is a lack of clinical trials testing nigella sativa's health effects. However, the available research suggests that nigella sativa holds promise for treatment and/or prevention of the following conditions:

1) Asthma

Nigella sativa may help ease symptoms of asthma, according to a small study published in 2007. For three months, 29 adults with asthma took either a placebo or a nigella sativa extract daily. Study results showed that those treated with nigella sativa had significantly greater improvements in the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms (such as wheezing).

See other Natural Remedies for Asthma.

2) High Blood Pressure

In a small study published in 2008, researchers found that nigella sativa may help keep blood pressure in check. After eight weeks of twice-daily treatment with nigella sativa extract, patients with mild hypertension had a greater reduction in blood pressure (compared to those assigned to a placebo supplement).

Learn about other Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure.

3) Pancreatic Cancer

Findings from test-tube research indicate that nigella sativa may help hinder the development of pancreatic cancer. In a series of lab tests, scientists discovered that thymoquinone (the chief constituent of nigella sativa oil) significantly reduced levels of pro-inflammatory compounds found in pancreatic tumors.

Find out more about Pancreatic Cancer and Alternative Medicine.

Safety

Available in supplement, tea, and whole-seed form, nigella sativa is generally considered safe. However, tests on animals indicate that high doses of nigella sativa may damage the kidney and/or liver. What's more, taking nigella sativa during chemotherapy may hamper the effects of chemotherapy drugs.

Using Nigella Sativa for Health

Due to a lack of scientific support for its health effects, it's too soon to recommend nigella sativa as a principal standard treatment for any condition. If you're considering the use of nigella sativa for treatment or prevention of a specific health problem, make sure to consult your doctor before you start your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Ali BH, Blunden G. "Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa." Phytother Res. 2003 17(4):299-305.

Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh H. "The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patients." Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2007 21(5):559-66.

Chehl N, Chipitsyna G, Gong Q, Yeo CJ, Arafat HA. "Anti-inflammatory effects of the Nigella sativa seed extract, thymoquinone, in pancreatic cancer cells." HPB (Oxford). 2009 11(5):373-81.

Dehkordi FR, Kamkhah AF. "Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension." Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2008 22(4):447-52.

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