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Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil

What Should You Know About It?

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Updated July 28, 2013

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

Black seed oil is a substance sourced from the seeds of Nigella sativa, a plant native to Asia. Long used in herbal medicine, black seed oil is said to offer a wide range of health benefits. One of the key components of black seed oil is thymoquinone, a compound with antioxidant effects.

Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil:

Although research on the health effects of black seed oil is fairly limited, there's some evidence that black seed oil may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies:

1) Arthritis

Black seed oil may aid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2012. For the study, 40 women with rheumatoid arthritis took a placebo every day for one month. Then, the participants took capsules containing black seed oil each day for an additional month. Study results showed that treatment with black seed oil led to a significant improvement in certain symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint swelling and morning stiffness.

More about Natural Remedies For Rheumatoid Arthritis.

2) Allergies

Black seed oil shows promise in the treatment of allergies. In a 2009 study published in Pulmonary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, for instance, tests on rats determined that black seed oil may help control the allergic response by reducing inflammation in the airways.

See Natural Remedies For Allergies.

3) Diabetes

Black seed oil may be of some benefit to people with diabetes, according to an animal-based study published in Planta Medica in 2002. In tests on diabetic rats, the study's authors found that black seed oil may help lower blood sugar levels.

Find out more about Natural Remedies For Diabetes Prevention and Natural Treatments For Type 2 Diabetes.

4) Cancer

Preliminary research suggests that thymoquinone extracted from black seed oil may offer anti-cancer benefits. For example, a study published in Experimental Biology & Medicine in 2010 found that treating human prostate cancer cells with thymoquinone helped trigger apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

In addition, a 2004 study published in the International Journal of Oncology found that thymoquinone extracted from black seed oil helped induce apoptosis in human colon cancer cells.

See my other articles on complementary/alternative therapies for cancer.

Uses for Black Seed Oil

Black seed oil is touted as a natural remedy for the following health conditions:

In addition, black seed oil is said to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Black seed oil is also used in cooking.

Safety

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of black seed oil when used in amounts higher than normally found in food. However, there's some evidence that applying black seed oil directly to the skin may cause allergic reactions (such as a rash) in some individuals.

It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with black seed oil and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of black seed oil in treatment of a chronic condition (such as diabetes), make sure to consult your primary care provider.

Where To Find Black Seed Oil

Widely available for purchase online, black seed oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

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

El-Dakhakhny M, Mady N, Lembert N, Ammon HP. "The hypoglycemic effect of Nigella sativa oil is mediated by extrapancreatic actions." Planta Med. 2002 May;68(5):465-6.

Gali-Muhtasib H, Diab-Assaf M, Boltze C, Al-Hmaira J, Hartig R, Roessner A, Schneider-Stock R. "Thymoquinone extracted from black seed triggers apoptotic cell death in human colorectal cancer cells via a p53-dependent mechanism." Int J Oncol. 2004 Oct;25(4):857-66.

Gheita TA, Kenawy SA. "Effectiveness of Nigella sativa oil in the management of rheumatoid arthritis patients: a placebo controlled study." Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):1246-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3679.

Koka PS, Mondal D, Schultz M, Abdel-Mageed AB, Agrawal KC. "Studies on molecular mechanisms of growth inhibitory effects of thymoquinone against prostate cancer cells: role of reactive oxygen species." Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2010 Jun;235(6):751-60.

Shahzad M, Yang X, Raza Asim MB, Sun Q, Han Y, Zhang F, Cao Y, Lu S. "Black seed oil ameliorates allergic airway inflammation by inhibiting T-cell proliferation in rats." Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Feb;22(1):37-43.

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