Nigella sativa is a flowering shrub that is believed to have originated in Egypt. Its seeds—Blackseed—have been used for centuries as a spice and for their medicinal properties. The ancient Egyptians used Blackseed to aid digestion, treat colds, headaches, and infections. It has been found at numerous archaeological sites in Egypt including in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Blackseed was also used for its beauty benefits: Queen Nefertiti, who was admired for her wonderful complexion, is said to have used Blackseed oil on her skin every day.
Nutritionally, Blackseed is surprisingly complex. These small seeds contain more than 100 nutrients, including essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. Packed with antioxidants, Blackseed helps to fight free‑radicals—one of the main causes of the ageing process—and maintain skin elasticity and hydration.
Blackseed can also help to support the cardiovascular system, act to control blood sugar, and counteract inflammation.
The main active ingredient in Blackseed is the powerful antioxidant Thymoquinone, which, along with Carvacrol, t-anethole, and 4-terpineol may help to control high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure can contribute to many cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
According to this article published in 2013, Blackseed may help to lower blood pressure due to its diuretic and calcium channel blocking properties.
Blood sugar regulation
The body uses insulin to keep our blood sugar in a normal range and help the cells to take up sugar and store it. If our bodies do not produce enough insulin, or insulin does not work properly (insulin resistance), the sugar levels in our blood build up. High levels of blood sugar can be harmful to our health, and left untreated can eventually cause serious consequences, such as nerve and eye damage.
There is some proof that Blackseed could help to prevent this type of cell damage by keeping blood sugar at the right level. A 2010 study of 94 patients with type 2 diabetes found that taking Blackseed daily for three months markedly reduced their fasting blood sugar levels, average blood sugar levels, and improved any insulin resistance.
Acute inflammation is healthy as it protects us when the body encounters infectious agents, trauma, and malignant cells. Chronic inflammation however, damages cells throughout the body, and can lead to a variety of diseases.
Some studies have found that the thymoquinone in Blackseed may have powerful anti‑inflammatory properties. In this study, 42 people with rheumatoid arthritis that were given 1,000 mg of Blackseed oil a day for 8 weeks. The researchers found that it reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. And this test-tube study demonstrated that thymoquinone helped to reduce inflammation in pancreatic cancer cells.
Further reading: The ultimate guide to collagen