It’s not every day that renowned medical experts deem a humble herb “a miracle,” but that’s how researchers from the University of Kashmir describe Nigella sativa, also known as black seed. Ancient herbalists referred to black seed as “the herb from heaven,” and the Greek physician Galen recommended it to ease respiratory problems back in the second century. Most intriguingly, legend has it Cleopatra used the oil from black seed, otherwise known as black seed oil, to maintain her famed beauty.
For the past few centuries in the Western world, black seed oil has fallen off the radar. It’s only recently that scientists have rediscovered the astonishing benefits of this ‘little oil that could.’ Here’s how it could help your health.
What is black seed oil?
“Black seed oil comes from a plant that’s native to eastern Europe parts of Asia and the Middle East, and its oil has a rich history as healing remedy,” notes Taz Bhatia, MD, author of The Hormone Shift.
“It’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it’s helpful for so many different health conditions.” Indeed, its anti-inflammatory abilities lower blood sugar, tame high blood pressure, ease joint pain and more. And Dr. Taz has seen its benefits first-hand in her patients. Black seed oil is available as an oil that you can take by the spoonful and also as capsules, which some people prefer to avoid the taste.
What makes black seed oil capsules so powerful?
Black seed oil is a source of beneficial omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids, potassium, iron, copper, B vitamins and vitamin E, Dr. Taz notes. But it also contains a unique compound called thymoquinone that’s credited with many of its study-backed benefits.
Meanwhile, researchers reporting in the Journal of Pharmacopuncture point out thymoquinone also has antimicrobial effects against bacteria, viruses and parasites. Plus it helps keep the immune system in balance. And these are just a few of black seed oil’s healing secrets!
Are black seed oil capsules safe?
A review of clinical trials concluded black seed and its oil were generally safe, though side effects such as skin rashes, nausea and bloating have been reported. And while Dr. Taz notes black seed oil can be taken daily, she adds that dosages can differ from person to person. It’s best to start slow to minimize side effects. (For more guidance on study-backed dosages, keep scrolling.)
Finally, black seed oil may interact with prescription drugs such as blood thinners and blood pressure medications. For these reasons, its best to check with your doctor before supplementing.
What are the advantages of black seed oil capsules over liquid?
Black seed oil is available in liquid form, and some people take it straight from the spoon. But its flavor can be off-putting: In one study, authors described it as “bitter, peppery, metallic, and pungent”.
Comments on social media are less diplomatic: Twitter users say black seed oil tastes like gasoline, jet fuel and oil wood.
Luckily, black seed oil capsules bypass the taste buds. And as Dr. Taz notes, they contain the therapeutic doses that deliver impressive health benefits.
What are the benefits of black seed oil capsules?
Faster weight loss
Findings in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine reveal that taking black seed oil capsules tames appetite. Women in the study who supplemented with 1,000 mg. of black seed oil before lunch and dinner felt 20% fuller for two hours afterwards compared to women who took a placebo. And as a result, they lost significantly more weight and body fat within eight weeks.
A separate study in the journal Food & Function underscored black seed oil’s slimming abilities: Dieters who took 1,000 mg. black seed oil 3 times daily for 2 months lost 67% more weight and whittled 103% more inches off their waistlines than those who took sunflower oil capsules.
Lower blood pressure
“We’ve seen great results with black seed oil when it comes to lowering blood pressure, especially in people who aren’t responding to things like magnesium and low salt diets,” says Dr. Taz.
What makes it such an effective remedy? Black seed oil’s thymoquinone helps blood vessels relax and widen to tame high blood pressure, according to a report in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Indeed, a study published in Food Science and Nutritional Research found that subjects who took 500 mg. black seed oil capsules daily experienced dramatic reductions in blood pressure within two days. And after 6 weeks, their systolic (top number) blood pressure dropped by 16 points while their diastolic (bottom number) pressure dropped by 11 points.
Fewer allergy symptoms
An immune system substance called IgE play a major role in triggering seasonal allergy symptoms. Fortunately, research in The American Journal of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery suggests taking 500 mg. of black seed oil daily lowers allergy sufferers’ IgE levels by 89% in 15 days. Plus, taking the oil for 6 weeks produced marked improvements in severity of symptoms such as nasal itching, congestion, sneezing and runny nose.
Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory action, black seed oil is an affordable option for soothing stiff, swollen joints. So say investigators reporting in Phytotherapy Research, who studied the effects of black seed oil capsules on arthritis patients. The results: Subjects who took 500 mg. twice daily noted significant pain improvements within one month. What’s more, their morning stiffness eased by 42% and joint swelling decreased by 46%.
A happier mood
As if the above benefits of black seed oil capsules aren’t enough to smile about, black seed oil lifts blue moods too. A study in the Journal of Research in Medicine and Science determined subjects who took 1,000 mg. daily tested a whopping 2,192% better on scores of depression than those who didn’t receive the supplement. Plus, those taking black seed oil experienced superior improvements in levels of stress and anxiety.
A healthier gut
Black seed’s antimicrobial action makes it a successful treatment for H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for 70% of stomach ulcers and 90% of intestinal ulcers. Experts reporting in the Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology found supplementing with black seed eradicated H. pylori as effectively as prescription drugs.
To get the benefits, Rosario Ligresti, MD, chief of the gastroenterology division at Hackensack University Medical Center, recommends supplementing with 1,000 mg. of black seed oil twice daily after meals.
A more active thyroid
Taking 1,000 mg. of black seed twice daily improves measurements of thyroid function by 36% in 8 weeks, according to a study in BMC Complementary Medicine. The research conducted on patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis found black seed increased levels of T3, the active thyroid hormone. Plus, it lowered levels of immune system antibodies that can cause thyroid function to falter.
What are the benefits of black seed oil applied topically?
While black seed oil capsules are your best bet for treating health issues — they deliver a concentrated dose of the herb to heal your body from the inside out — you can also use black seed oil liquid topically to alleviate skin and hair concerns. Here’s how the oil can help:
It soothes irritated skin
Researchers reporting in the Journal of Tropical Medicine note that black seed oil helps to heal acne, psoriasis and eczema when applied to the skin daily. Credit goes to its soothing fatty acids and its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Taz not only recommends the oil to patients for these purposes, she’s used it successfully herself.
“I developed a little bit of psoriasis on my arm, and I started using black seed oil,” she says. “It really does help — so much so that I picked up a bottle for my mom to help her skin conditions, too!”
It boosts hair growth
“You can rub black seed oil into the scalp, and there have been studies showing it helps reverse hair loss,” Dr. Taz reveals.
In one such study published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, the strategy boosted hair density for 90% of participants in three months by taming inflammation that can hamper growth. Plus, massaging black seed oil into the scalp daily increases the thickness of hair strands by 100%.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.