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Described in an ancient text as “a cure for every disease except death,” black seed oil, also called black cumin oil, has a long history of many uses. The seeds are a traditional Middle Eastern spice used in pastries, dairy products, salads, and other foods. And for thousands of years, the oil has been applied topically and taken internally for virtually any ailment, from bruises, bad hair, colds, and snake bites to headaches, indigestion, and a variety of skin conditions, including leprosy.
Since 1965, nearly a thousand scientific articles have been published on Nigella sativa, the Latin name for black seed, documenting anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, and immune-enhancing properties. In the past few years, human studies have pinpointed some specific benefits.
1. Fights Bacterial Infections
Black seed oil has an unusual ability to fight bacterial infections, even drug-resistant ones such as MRSA. “Certainly not all oils or supplements are going to have that kind of antimicrobial benefit,” says Trevor Cates, ND, author of Clean Skin from Within. “We’re always trying to look at ways that we can reduce the use of antibiotics and just use them when they’re specifically indicated,” she says. “And a lot of times we can get by using natural things that have antimicrobial benefits.”
2. Reduces Scars
To prevent scarring from a minor cut, Cates recommends applying the oil topically once the cut has started to heal. “It’s not something you would put on when you have an open wound, but once it starts to heal, to make sure it heals properly,” she says.
3. Relieves Allergies
In studies of 152 people suffering from various allergies, black seed oil relieved both respiratory symptoms and eczema. Effective doses ranged from 18–36 mg per pound of body weight per day.
4. Enhances Weight Loss
A study of 90 obese women found that adding black seed oil to a low-calorie diet produced more weight loss than the diet alone. And a study of 250 men found that black seed oil by itself, or in combination with turmeric, produced some weight loss and reduced risk factors for diabetes.
5. Relieves Breast Pain
Cyclic mastalgia—breast pain that may be a symptom of PMS—can be relieved with the topical use of black seed oil, according to a study of 52 women. The oil, applied to painful areas twice a day, was as effective as diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug.
6. Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Taking 500 mg of black seed oil in capsules, twice per day, reduced swollen joints and morning stiffness in a study of 40 women suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The disease is an autoimmune reaction, and the oil helps modulate the immune system.
7. Relieves Indigestion and Heartburn
Black seed oil can relieve dyspepsia, a combination of symptoms that can include indigestion and/or heartburn. A study of 70 people suffering from the condition found that 5 milliliters of the oil daily brought relief and reduced infection from H. pylori, a bacterium that can lead to ulcers.
8. Improves Memory
A study of 20 healthy volunteers found that taking black seed oil daily improved memory and attention. The dose was 500 mg, twice daily. Researchers concluded that it should be studied for its potential to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Enhances Men’s Fertility
Black seed oil is a traditional treatment for male infertility and a study found that it is, indeed, effective. In a group of 64 men with fertility problems, the oil significantly improved sperm count and other fertility markers.
10. Lowers Cholesterol
Black seed oil lowered cholesterol in a study of 88 adults with levels above 200 mg/dl, with total cholesterol dropping by an average of 4.78 percent, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 7.6 percent, and triglycerides by 16.65 percent. The dose was 2 grams daily.
Choose It & Use It
Cates recommends buying a high-quality, food-grade oil designed for internal use, which can also be used topically. (Never ingest an oil intended only for external use.) She cautions that black seed oil can turn rancid and should be stored in a cool place, in a dark-colored bottle. The usual dose is 1 Tbs. daily. Both the oil and seed extracts are also available in pills. Black seed oil is also called black cumin oil, or by its Latin name, Nigella sativa.
The chief active ingredient in the oil is thymoquinone, a substance that has demonstrated anticancer effects in lab and animal studies. Some oils are formulated to have a higher percentage of thymoquinone, and specify so on the label. Some brands to try: