What is Black Seed?
Black seed is a plant. People have used the seed to make medicine for over 2000 years. It was even discovered in the tomb of King Tut.
Historically, black seed has been used for headache, toothache, nasal congestion, and intestinal worms. It has also been used for “pink eye” (conjunctivitis), pockets of infection (abscesses), and parasites.
Today, black seed is used for treating digestive tract conditions including gas, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, and hemorrhoids. It is also used for respiratory conditions including asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, flu, swine flu, and congestion.
Other uses include lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, treating cancer, and boosting the immune system. You may read that a patent has been issued to cover the use of black seed to improve immunity but don’t be misled. The presence of a patent doesn’t mean black seed has been shown to be effective for this use.
Women use black seed for birth control, to start menstruation, and to increase milk flow.
Black seed is sometimes used in combination with cysteine, vitamin E, and saffron to ease the side effects of a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin.
Some people apply black seed directly to the skin for joint pain (rheumatism), headache, and certain skin conditions.
In foods, black seed is used as a flavoring or spice.
WHAT OTHER NAMES IS BLACK SEED KNOWN BY?
Ajenuz, Aranuel, Baraka, Black Cumin, Black Caraway, Charnuska, Cheveux de Vénus, Cominho Negro, Comino Negro, Cumin Noir, Fennel Flower, Fitch, Graine de Nigelle, Graine Noire, Kalajaji, Kalajira, Kalonji, La Grainer Noire, Love in a Mist, Mugrela, Nielle, Nigella sativa, Nigelle de Crête, Nigelle Cultivée, Nutmeg Flower, Poivrette, Roman-Coriander, Schwarzkummel, Small Fennel, Toute Épice, Upakuncika.
POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE FOR…
Asthma. Research suggests that taking black seed extract by mouth improves coughing, wheezing, and lung function in people with asthma. However, black seed may not be as effective as the drugs theophylline or salbutamol.
INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO RATE EFFECTIVENESS FOR…
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing black seed oil, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and biotin (Immerfit by Phyt-Immun) by mouth daily might improve allergy symptoms in people with hay fever.
Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing black seed oil, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and biotin (Immerfit by Phyt-Immun) by mouth daily might improve symptoms in people with itchy and inflamed skin. However, applying 15% black seed oil ointment to the skin for 4 weeks does not appear to improve itching or disease severity in similar patients.
Seizures (epilepsy). Early research suggests that taking black seed extract by mouth every eight hours for 4 weeks might reduce the number of seizures in children with epilepsy.
High cholesterol. Evidence regarding the effectiveness of black seed for high cholesterol is conflicting. Some early research suggests that taking whole crushed black seed 1 gram twice daily before meals for 4 weeks reduces cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides in people with high cholesterol. However, other research shows that taking powdered black seed 1 gram twice daily for 6 weeks does not improve cholesterol.
High blood pressure. Early research suggests that taking black seed extract twice daily for 8 weeks might slightly improve blood pressure in some people.
Metabolic syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a specific black seed oil product twice daily for 6 weeks might reduce total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
Relieving symptoms related to narcotic drug withdrawal (opiate withdrawal). Early research suggests that taking black seed extract by mouth three times daily for 12 days might reduce symptoms of opiate withdrawal.
Sore throat and swollen tonsils (tonsillopharyngitis). Early research suggests that taking a combination of chanca piedra and black seed by mouth for 7 days relieves pain in people with sore throat and swollen tonsils.
Digestive problems including intestinal gas and diarrhea.
Boosting the immune system.
Increasing breast-milk flow.
Achy joints (rheumatism).
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of black seed for these uses.
HOW DOES BLACK SEED WORK?
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that black seed might help boost the immune system, fight cancer, prevent pregnancy, and lessen allergic reactions by acting as an antihistamine, but there isn’t enough information in humans yet.
ARE THERE SAFETY CONCERNS?
Black seed, when taken by mouth in small quantities, such as a flavoring for foods, is LIKELY SAFE for most people. Black seed oil and black seed extract are POSSIBLY SAFE when medical amounts are used short-term. There isn’t enough information to know if larger, medicinal quantities are safe. Black seed can cause allergic rashes when applied to the skin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Black seed seems to be safe in food amounts during pregnancy. But taking larger medicinal amounts is LIKELY UNSAFE. Black seed can slow down or stop the uterus from contracting.
Not much is known about the safety of using black seed during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Black seed oil is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth short-term and in recommended amounts.
Bleeding disorders: Black seed might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. In theory, black seed might make bleeding disorders worse.
Diabetes: Black seed might lower blood sugar levels in some people. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use black seed.
Low blood pressure: Black seed might lower blood pressure. In theory, taking black seed might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.
Surgery: Black seed might slow blood clotting, reduce blood sugar, and increase sleepiness in some people. In theory, black seed might increase the risk of bleeding and interfere with blood sugar control and anesthesia during and after surgical procedures. Stop using black seed at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
ARE THERE ANY INTERACTIONS WITH MEDICATIONS?
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Black seed might lower blood sugar in some people. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking black seed along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and others.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Black seed might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, black seed might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Black seed might slow blood clotting. Taking black seed along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Medications used for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Black seed might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking black seed along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Do not take too much black seed if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.
Some medications for high blood pressure include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.
Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk with your health provider.
Black seed might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Using black seed along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
DOSING CONSIDERATIONS FOR BLACK SEED.
The appropriate dose of black seed depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for black seed. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).