Black seeds, generally known as kalonji seeds, are obtained from the plant Nigella sativa of the family Ranunculacea. Nigella sativa is a flowering plant used in folk or herbal medicine and it wasn’t until the late 1900’s that researchers really began to explore the extraordinary benefits of this wonder seed.
The height of the plant is approximately half a meter and it has blue flowers. The herb originated from Turkey and Italy. Later on, it was brought to Asia by physicians and cultivated in India. In present days, this plant is cultivated throughout India, where it is also wildly grown. Seeds are triangular in shape, black in color and possess a severe pungent smell. They contain a considerable amount of oil.
The seeds are a rich source of minerals – selenium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, sodium, magnesium and potassium. Vitamins include – vitamin A, B1, B2, B3 and C. Nigella seeds contain 38% carbohydrates, 35% oil and 21% protein (these amazing seeds contain 15 amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins).
Health benefits of kalonji oil (black seed)
In Ayurveda, N. sativa has been used in a wide variety of diseases like hepatitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, cough, fever and tapeworm disease, to mention only a few of them. It is also said to enhance immunity.
Prevents cancer – the seed extracts have antimicrobial and antitumoral properties. In 2003, researchers from Jackson State University in the United States tested Nigella sativa on breast cancer cells. Ending results showed promising advances in the treatment of breast cancer. (1) In 2010, another research project was conducted in Tanta, Egypt, on the use of N. sativa against colon cancer in rats. The herb notably reduced the size of the tumors and also reduced the tumors in the lungs and alimentary canals. (2)
Weight loss – it has an antioxidant enzyme called Nigellone. As Nigellone can break the fat cells and suppress the weight accumulation in the body, it is very effective in weight loss. There was a study in 2010 by the Department of Internal Medicine, Indonesia, conducted to find out the efficacy of seeds in central obese men on serum free testosterone, waist circumference, body weight, uric acid, lipid, blood sugar, hs-CRP, adiponectin. The result demonstrated the effectiveness of the plant for weight loss and it is suggested that larger dose and longer duration of N. sativa consumption will give better results. (3)
Diabetes – these seeds reduce the glucose absorption by intestines. Explained in a 2011 article published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research highlight that black seed oil causes gradual partial regeneration of pancreatic beta-cells decreases the elevated serum glucose and increases the lowered serum insulin concentrations. This is actually quite interesting because this plant is one of the few herbs on the planet that is suggested to help prevent both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. (4)
Skin health – produced in the retina, epidermis and choroid, melanin is a pigment that protects the skin from damage. You probably know that it is the major chemical responsible for giving our eyes and skin their individual color. Known to promote and inhibit melanin production (melanogenesis), black seed oil benefits on the skin and other cells are profoundly healing. For example, in a 2013 study conducted by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, this plant was found as efficient as the skin cream Betamethasone in improving the quality of life and decreasing the severity of hand eczema. (5)
Antibacterial activity – a 2010 research at the Department of Microbiology, University of Health Sciences, Pakistan, revealed that the black seed oil was effective for patients with h.pylori infections (without ulcers). Studies have also shown that N. sativa was potent against MRSA. (6) Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, is a bacterium that causes infections in various parts of the body. MRSA is particularly troublesome in prisons, hospitals, and nursing homes, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at higher risk of nosocomial infection than the general public.
Antioxidant properties – thymoquinone is one of the active ingredients of black cumin, possessing antineoplastic, anti-inflammatory, neuro and hepatoprotective properties. What’s more, thymoquinone has been found to alleviate the toxicity of several anticancer drugs by reducing their toxicity to the central nervous system, kidney, heart, and liver. In addition, this compound also suppresses arthritis. Further, in a 2013 study by the Department of Pharmacology, Saudi Arabia, concluded that thymoquinone protects the heart from injury induced by isoproterenol (a medication used for the treatment of slow heart rate). (7)
How to use kalonji
Kalonji is used to make pickles and also used in foods like breads and vegetables. The oil can be taken around 500 mg of the oil twice a day. It can be applied topically in joint pains, arthritis or skin infections like psoriasis, eczema or infections of the scalp. A teaspoon of these can be taken once or twice a day as a dietary supplement. The seeds can be combined with any food or they can be used as a spice.
Side effects of kalonji oil (black seed)
When taken in diabetes, the blood sugar levels should be closely monitored as these seeds lower blood sugar levels. Though they do not have any side effects in pregnancy and lactation, they should not be taken by pregnant women whose wombs are sensitive.
According to the Memorial Sloan – Kettering Cancer Center, the herb may decrease the efficacy of standard chemotherapy treatments. They also mention that the plant may lower the blood pressure to the point of hypotension.
One potential side effect of kalonji is contact dermatitis, as an adverse reaction to either an allergen or irritant. (8)
These little black seeds have immense health benefits from various aspects. If taken in moderate amounts, either in the form of seeds or oil, they can improve the body’s health and prevent from various disorders and diseases.