I’m always on the lookout for foods that can boost my immune system to keep colds and viruses at bay. Don’t get me wrong, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit can be enough to do the trick. But as a foodie, I like to try out new ingredients and flavors that are also nutritious — so was excited when I recently learned that Nigella seeds have immune-boosting benefits that can help combat illnesses like COVID-19.
What are Nigella seeds good for?
Nigella seeds come from the pods of a flowering plant called Nigella sativa that’s native to the southern parts of Asia. It goes by several different names including black cumin, roman coriander, and black caraway. They resemble black sesame seeds, but have a distinct smoky and nutty taste. That taste, plus all the health benefits of nigella seeds, will quickly make them one of your go-to pantry staples.
Research published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology highlighted two key compounds within these seeds: thymoquinone (TQ) and N. sativa. These compounds have anti-inflammatory perks for the body, which can help boost your immune system to fight off colds and illnesses including COVID.
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine put this to the test by giving 86 adult patients with mild COVID symptoms 500 mg. of Nigella seed oil and instructing them to consume it twice a day for 10 days. Researchers found that patients who took the oil recovered faster from symptoms like fever, sore throat, and fatigue compared to those who did not. They credited this result to the N. sativa and TQ providing an inflammation-fighting effect to ward off this virus quicker.
If you’re like me, Nigella seeds sound like a winner for all year round immune protection. The great news is, they can be used in a variety of ways in recipes.
How to Cook With Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds are available to buy in stores and online. (One to try: Starwest Botanicals, Organic Nigella Seeds Buy from iHerb.com, $11.33 for a one-pound bag.) Before cooking with the seeds, toast them in a dry pan over medium-low heat for about a minute or two. Then grind them with a blender until the seeds are crushed into a more manageable size to chew. (Psst: Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place if you’re not using all of the seeds right away!)
This toasting and grinding process allows the natural oils in seeds to come out and infuse dishes like homemade flatbread, roasted butternut squash, or a hearty stew with even more flavor. You can also try mixing one teaspoon of Nigella seeds with the same amount of honey, which makes a great topping for yogurt or oatmeal.
Whether you enjoy Nigella seeds in sweet or savory meals, one thing’s for sure: Your immune system will have an extra boost to keep you healthy at all times!
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