Black seeds have been around for thousands of years but have recently resurfaced as a health superfood. The oil from these black seeds has numerous health-promoting properties.
While the seeds themselves can be eaten whole, the oil is a more popular remedy.
What Is Black Seed Oil?
Black seed oil comes from nigella sativa, a small shrub with flowers that is native to parts of Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. The flowers produce the tiny black seeds that are harvested and used for medicinal properties. Black seed is also referred to as black cumin, black caraway, or kalonji.
Black seeds can be eaten whole and have an earthy flavor that is reminiscent of cumin or turmeric. When oil is extracted from black seeds, it is referred to as black seed oil, and it has notable antioxidant levels that can fight inflammation internally and topically.
12 Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil is an age-old remedy that has been used for numerous conditions that are rooted in inflammation. It still has healing and medicinal properties today.
The main mechanism of health benefits come from the presence of thymoquinone, a potent form of antioxidant.
Asthma is a complex condition, but one component involves inflammation that narrows air pathways. When black seed oil is regularly consumed, it may help to decrease inflammation in the lungs and airways and could lead to decreased symptoms of asthma.
Black seed oil does not by any means replace the need for an inhaler or prompt medical care if an attack is imminent. Black seed oil can also improve other lung-related conditions, like bronchitis and allergic rhinitis.
After two weeks of daily use, research showed that it was able to lower sinus inflammation, irritation, itching, and sneezing.
2. Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Black seed oil can help to lower blood pressure levels when it is consistently mildly elevated. In order to produce blood pressure lowering results, it needs to be consumed daily for two to three months.
Black seed oil can also balance cholesterol levels by promoting an increase in HDL levels and lowering LDL thanks to the presence of linoleic acid and oleic acid.
It can also help to promote weight loss and balanced triglyceride levels, which are often tied to obesity and other weight-related problems, like diabetes. Specifically, black seed oil has been shown to lower BMI and waist circumference, which is the most dangerous area to carry extra weight.
3. Healthy Skin and Hair
Black seed oil can reduce site irritation on the skin from minor wounds and can also decrease the presence of bacteria, which can speed healing time. It can also encourage the growth of new, healthy skin.
If eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions are present, the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of black seed oil can help decrease symptoms and volume of skin irritation.
Black seed oil can also promote healthy, shiny hair and can be used as a treatment or hair mask. It can soothe coarse, dry, and damaged hair as well as serve as a protector for already healthy hair.
4.Arthritis and Chronic Pain
Rheumatoid arthritis and other pain conditions are often rooted in inflammation. Black seed oil is rich in antioxidants that can lower systemic inflammation levels and can alleviate widespread pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other pain conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Research has shown that it can lower inflammatory lab markers and noticeably relieve swelling in joints. It can also reduce oxidative damage to tissues.
Black seed oil can be paired with a carrier oil and used for topical massage, especially when chronic pain is present. It has some analgesic properties which, when used regularly, can be a successful therapeutic tool in managing pain without prescription medication.
5. Digestive Pain
Black seed oil can effectively reduce unpleasant digestive symptoms like stomach upset, nausea, cramping, gas, belching, bloating, and even the development and presence of ulcers.
This is because the antioxidants help to cut inflammation and the bitter components of black seeds actually serve as a digestive aid.
6. Acne and Psoriasis
Black seed oil’s benefits extend well beyond internal use. Black seed oil is a common component of natural lotion aimed at addressing acne, blemishes, and other skin conditions like psoriasis and even eczema.
With regular use over the course of a few months, acne appearance can be diminished, and the overall vibrant appearance of skin can be enhanced and naturally supported. Plaque psoriasis responds to consistent use, too.
Even if you have no skin conditions, black seed oil is a common component of deep moisturizing lotions and products because of its ability to penetrate deep into the skin, relieving dry skin and other inflammatory symptoms from the root cause.
Have a scar? Black seed oil can be applied with a carrier oil to your already-healed scar to help diminish the appearance and reduce sensitivity around the area.
7. Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of symptoms that are associated with conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Obesity, high blood pressure, and high glucose levels are typically components of metabolic disorders.
Black seed oil can be a therapeutic tool in the fight to restore normalcy in metabolic syndrome, backed by solid research in the Journal of Endocrinology and Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.
Black seed oil can improve glucose tolerance and insulin resistance as effectively or more so than metformin, which is typically used with type 2 diabetes. And it can do this without the dozen uncomfortable side effects that the pharmaceutical options cause.
Black seed oil can also help to restore lipid balance and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Significantly more research is needed, but initial studies show that black seed oil can naturally destroy cancer cells thanks to the antioxidant properties it contains.
The active ingredient in black seed oil—thymoquinone—was shown by one study to reduce tumor cells by more than 50 percent. (source) It has also been shown to cause cell death in cancer specifically related to leukemia, brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer.
Black seed oil is antibacterial and can fight serious strains of dangerous bacteria, including MRSA and staph infections.
Research has shown that all strains of these deadly bacteria responded to the presence of black seed oil and couldn’t develop a resistance to it. Topically or internally, black seed oil is one of nature’s antibiotics.
10. Mental Health
Black seed oil, when taken internally, can help to protect brain health, including working to defend against Alzheimer’s and boosting cognitive function. The thymoquinone antioxidant in black seed oil can fend off cognitive decline and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease when taken regularly.
It has even been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, provide a level mood, and increase brain energy to fight mental fatigue.
Black seed oil can naturally boost fertility in both men and women. In men, it can increase sperm count, motility, and semen volume and can improve general reproductive function.
In women, it impacts fertility by supporting a healthy menstrual cycle, including helping to regulate abnormal ones and decreasing associated pain like cramps and backaches.
When paired with a carrier oil, it can also relieve painful breasts that are sometimes associated with hormonal imbalances.
To use black seed oil to boost fertility, men should take 2.5 mL daily for three months. Women can take 1.5 to 2 mL daily for two to three months to notice improvements in their menstrual cycle.
Women who are pregnant or could be pregnant, as well as breastfeeding women, should never use black seed oil either topically or internally.
12. Dental Health
Bacteria in the mouth can wreak havoc, leading to gum disease, cavities, and even—if left unchecked for years—heart problems. Getting control of mouth bacteria goes well beyond brushing and flossing, too.
Black seed oil can be paired with coconut oil to create an antibacterial oil pulling base. By adding black seed oil to the mix, not only are toxins being drawn out of the tissues in the mouth, but the black seed oil will help to kill germs and reduce inflammation. It can be especially helpful for sore and bleeding gums.
To use for oil pulling, pair a few drops of black seed oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Swish and swirl in the mouth for at least 15 to 20 minutes and then spit into a trash can.
Do not swallow the oil mixture, and do not spit down the drain as coconut oil can solidify and clog the pipes.
How to Use Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil does warrant some caution because it can increase certain effects from medications in the body, such as those in the cytochrome P450 pathway—which is the pathway utilized for most common, daily-use medications.
If you take any prescription medication, it’s essential to ensure that your practitioner clears black seed oil for your use and that it won’t interfere with your current regimen. Examples of medications that black seed oil can interact with include:
- Beta blockers
- Blood thinners
- Liver or kidney medication
Black seed oil is generally considered safe, although if it interacts with your medication it can cause serious issues. It can also be damaging to the kidneys and liver if used in excessive doses. It should not be used in anyone who has an existing disease or issues with the liver or kidneys.
Black seed oil can rarely cause topical allergic reactions, like a worsened rash or itching, so if you’ve never used it before, test it before broadly applying.
Black seed oil has an almost peppery or cumin scent, but it can pair well with almost any other essential oil thanks to its somewhat neutral smell.
How to Purchase Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil is available at most health food stores and online. Some pharmacies may carry it, too. It should always be 100 percent pure black seed oil, with no added fillers or extra ingredients. Choose organic when possible.
Black seed oil can be found in capsule form but also in liquid, which can be taken internally or used topically. Ensure that the product you purchase is listed as safe for your intended use.
Always follow the recommended dosages on products, but also consider that not enough research exists to show that it’s safe for daily, long-term consumption.
It is most broadly considered to be safe for topical use and when the seeds are eaten whole. Caution should be used with internal ingestion of the oil.
It is possible, however, to have an allergic reaction to topical use, so before widely applying, use a small area and wait 48 hours before applying it again.
Pregnant women, women who desire to become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and children should not use black seed oil for any reason, internally or topically.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.