Black Seed: “Seed of Blessing”
By The Institute of Tibb Medicine, 
Johannesburg, South Africa

 A seed few people in the U.S. have heard of has a fascinating history and is used by a large portion of the world’s population. References to this seed can be found in some of the oldest religious and medical texts. It is called Black Seed. Black Seed (Nigella sativa) is a tiny seed from an herbaceous annual, which reaches a height of twelve to eighteen inches. It is believed to be indigenous to the Mediterranean but is cultivated in other parts of the world including North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. The common English name for Nigella sativa is Love in a Mist. It is also called Black Cumin.

History of Black Seed
Black Seed was discovered in the tomb of the legendary Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, implying that it played an important role in ancient Egyptian practices. Although its exact role in Egyptian culture is not known, we do know that items entombed with a king were carefully selected to assist him in the afterlife. The earliest written reference to black seed is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament: (Isaiah 28:25,27 NKJV).

Traditionally Black Seed has been used for a variety of ailments including bronchitis, asthma, rheumatism and related inflammatory conditions, increasing milk production in nursing mothers, digestive and eliminative disturbances, parasite infection and supporting immunity. Its oil is used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and is used topically to treat cold symptoms. The classic text Medicines of the Prophet lists as many as fifty illnesses for which Black Seed has effective healing qualities.

Because of its complex chemical structure — it has over one hundred active ingredients — black cumin has positive effects on the respiratory, immune, circulatory, digestive, and urinary systems. It is potentially effective against asthma, stomach ailments, and numerous skin conditions, ranging from acne to psoriasis. Its many uses has earned it the popular title “Seed of Blessing”.

Modern Research
Over 150 research papers on Black Seed have been published in recent times confirming many of the healing properties traditionally attributed to Black Seed.

In 1987, a study conducted at I.I.M.E.R. Panama City, Florida verified the immune-supporting action of Black Seed. Two randomized groups of volunteers received one-gram of Black Seed capsules twice daily or a placebo. A complete lymphocyte count carried out before and after four weeks of administration revealed that the majority of subjects who took Black Seed displayed a 72% increase in helper-to-suppressor T-cell ratio as well as an increase in NK (natural killer) cell functional activity.

In the field of AIDS research, human clinical trials conducted at the Department of Biological and Medical Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1997) showed that Black Seed enhanced the ratio between helper T-cell by 55% with a 30% enhancement of NK cell activity. These findings suggest that Black Seed could play an important role in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and other immune deficiency states.

In 1997 a study undertaken on the anti-cancer activity of the Black Seed undertaken at the International Immuno-Biology Research Laboratory, South Carolina concluded, “the activity of NS (Black Seed) blocked the tumor growth and dissemination in metastasis and have remarkable promises for clinical use.”
Histamine is a substance released by body tissues, which often causes allergic reactions and is associated with conditions such as bronchial asthma. In 1960, scientists discovered that a substance called Nigellone (dimer dithymoquinone) isolated from Black Seed’s volatile oil suppressed asthma symptoms in a majority of patients when given orally.

As early as 1960, it was reported that Black Seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and that it could be useful for relieving arthritis pain. Following up on these claims, a group of scientists from Kings College, Department of Pharmacy, London, decided to test Black Seed oil and its derivative thymoquinone as an anti-inflammatory agent. It was discovered that the agents possessed anti-oxidant activity and inhibited eicosanoid generation in cells. Certain eicosanoids (short lived local tissue hormones) are responsible for the inflammatory response whereas anti-oxidants help to slow cartilage degeneration.

The inhibitory effect on eicosanoid generation, however, was higher than could be expected from thymoquinone alone. This suggests that other compounds in the oil might be responsible for the enhanced anti-inflammatory reactions in cells. Researchers concluded that pharmacological properties of Black Seed and its derived products support the traditional use of Black Seed as a treatment for rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases.

In Europe ongoing scientific research has fueled immense public interest into the health benefits of using Black Seed, particularly in Austria and Germany, where Black Seed supplements are sold in most health stores and it is popularly regarded as an effective alternative medicine. It also has been the subject of intensive scientific research indicating that it strengthens and stabilizes the immune system and is greatly beneficial in the treatment of allergies. It has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of impotence when the causes are primarily physiological.

It seems Black Seed can be helpful for just about anything. However its use is not recommended during pregnancy.  While much still remains to be investigated, studies conducted thus far, confirm Black Seed as a natural panacea.

Suggestions for using Black Seed
Black Seed is available as pure oil and capsules. Either form may be taken preventively and for immune support. For arthritis, swallow capsules; apply pure oil to affected area.

For respiratory problems, dilute  oil (1 part Black Seed oil to 5 parts olive oil), rub on chest and back; heat some oil and inhale the vapors. For head cold, rub forehead and sides of face close to the ears with Black Seed oil.

As an energy tonic, take the oil in orange juice in the morning. In spite of it being used for energy, Black Seed also relieves insomnia. For sleep disturbances, take one teaspoon of Black Seed oil and one teaspoon of honey in warm milk. Rub the temp-les with the oil and turn of the lights.

Whole seeds can be found in many Indian and Persian markets and can be used in baked goods and pickles. Crush the seeds to use in beverages, curries or as a pepper substitute.

Until recently not many people knew of Ginseng. Now, the name is practically a household word. Will Americans discover Black Seed and accept it as an invaluable health tonic? Historical records and modern scientific research cannot be discounted.

For more information, visit your health store retailer or check out . Books on Black Seed: Healing Power of Black Cumin by Sylvia Luetjohann (Lotus Light 1998) and Black Cumin: The Magical Egyptian Herb for Allergies, Asthma, Skin Conditions and Immune Disorders by Dr. M. Saleh (Egypt) and P. Schleicher (Germany). (Inner Traditions, 2000).

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