You may already be familiar with castor oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil, red palm oil and many other oils currently on the market. However, one of the most widely-used oils with great medicinal properties is Nigella Sativa, more commonly known as black cumin. The shrub of this plant produces a fruit with tiny black seeds that can be pressed to extract the oil. Black cumin has become one of the top-ranked, evidence-based herbal medicines to date, and there have been over 600 scientific, peer-reviewed articles published about black seed oil benefits.
What Is Black Seed Oil?
The black cumin plant is native to southern Europe, northern Africa and southwest Asia, and its use can be traced back to King Tut. There is some evidence that the oil and seeds of the plant have been used internally for centuries, in addition to evidence that it was used topically by Egyptians to enhance their skin (the herb was even found in Cleopatra’s tomb!).
The seeds of the plant have also been used as a spice and condiment in both Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Black cumin seeds can be dry-roasted to flavor curries and can also be used to flavor bread products or mixed into many other recipes.
Black seed oil’s most active ingredients include the antioxidants thymoquinone, nigellone and beta-sitosterol. The oil also contains iron, selenium, arginine, carotene, calcium, potassium and several other amino acids. In addition, black seed oil contains fatty acids, including omega-9 and omega-6 acids.
Black Seed Oil Benefits
Black seed oil’s medicinal properties stem from the presence of thymoquinone—one of the major active chemical components of the essential oil. Thymoquinone is believed to have a wide range of medical applications and benefits.
Black seed oil can be applied topically to promote skin, nail and hair health, acting as a moisturizer and helping to protect the skin from free radical damage. The antioxidants and omega fatty acids in black seed oil also promote healthy aging of the skin and cell regeneration. Black seed oil can also be applied on the chest to inhale as a vapor or mixed into hot water and inhaled.
Additional black seed oil benefits include:
It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements like black seed oil, particularly if you have a medical condition.
Black Seed Oil Side Effects and Precautions
If you have allergies to black cumin or black caraway seeds, black seed oil may cause a rash if applied topically and cause upset stomach, vomiting or constipation if ingested. Black seed oil may thin the blood, so those on blood thinning medications or who have a bleeding disorder should speak with a doctor before taking it. In addition, women who are on birth control, pregnant or nursing should also speak with a doctor before incorporating black seed oil into their routines, as should people with a history of seizures or epilepsy. Additional side effects of black seed oil include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and low blood pressure.
How to Choose a Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil can come in a liquid, capsule or softgel and the raw seeds can also be purchased. Supplements made from black seeds are usually made up of the basic seed extract in either a crushed powder or oil form.
The best way to consume black seed is via the liquid oil because it contains the most thymoquinone and fatty acids. Check the label of the oil for the amount of thymoquinone per serving. Here are some additional purchasing tips:
In general, adults can take one teaspoon of black seed oil twice daily. If using it for the first time, consider taking a half-teaspoon serving with a small amount of food and gradually increase the dose over a few days or as directed by your medical care professional. You should also check the dosing instructions on the label of whatever black seed oil you purchase. In pill form, the suggested dose is generally two pills twice daily for adults, but it may vary based on brand and your doctor’s recommendations.
Black Seed Oil Storage and Cooking Tips
Black cumin seeds can be eaten raw, boiled, heated, ground as a seasoning or sprinkled on bread and pastries. As an oil, it can be mixed with yogurt, put in salads and added to soups or curries. It can also be used as both a spice or preservative. Be sure to store your black seed oil in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and don’t confuse it with other spices like black cohosh, cumin, curcumin or nutmeg.
Black Cumin Seed Salad Dressing
Ready to try cooking with black seed oil? Here’s an easy salad dressing recipe.
Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and mix/shake until blended together.