What is black seed?
Black seeds ( Latin name Nigella sativa) come from small blue or white flowers native to Europe and parts of Asia. They are known under a variety of name: black cumin, nigelle, habbatu sawda in Arabic, and kalonji in Ayurvedic medicine. They belong to the family of Ranunculaceae and the seeds are usually harvested in late summer, after the flowers have turned into seed pods. The seeds look slightly like poppy seeds, but they have a triangular shape and a more nutty flavour, so they are usually used with savoury food and bread.
I get my own black seed oil from Blessed Seed, which has excellent quality products available in several strengths. I would always recommend you start with a low strength product and wait for a few weeks to see how our body responds. Then, possibly increase the strength if needed. You can also find the seeds in Asian and Middle Eastern shops, where they are sometimes called habba sawda (‘Black seed’ in Arabic) or Kalonji.
Health benefits of black seed oil
Black seed oil is a natural remedy that has been used for millennia for a whole range of ailments. In Muslim cultures, it is said that black seed is the remedy for everything apart from death (hadith reported by Abu Huraira)! Ancient Greeks used it for digestive disorders. In a nutshell, the main reported benefits of black seed oil are:
- healthy hair, nail and skin. Topical use of the oil also seems to help with psoriasis, vitiligo and eczema, as it is anti-inflammatory.
- relief from digestive issues such as gas and bloating. It can also reduce stomach ulcers.
- treatment of allergies due to anti-histamine properties (see this 2003 study)
- Prevention and treatment of cancer, thanks to one of its main constituents, thymoquinone (see this 2006 study for reference)
- improving symptoms of auto-immune disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS): a recent review found that black seed oil “suppressed inflammation and enhanced remyelination”
How to use black seed oil?
Used as a supplement, black seed oil should be taken daily. I am going to be completely honest here: black seed oil has quite a strong taste and it is not particularly pleasant. My husband has a sensitive gut and he tends to get acid reflux if he takes it every day. It is generally advised to take a spoon of oil first thing in the morning on a empty stomach, but you can also incorporate it into food if you don’t like the taste. I personally use it in bread recipes very regularly (both the oil and seeds) and I find it works really well. It adds a lovely depth of flavour, and it is actually often used in Middle Eastern recipes. Of course, you can also use capsules (taken daily), which is probably the easiest way to take black seed oil if you don’t want to mix it with your food.