Nigella seeds, also known as black seeds, black cumin, black caraway or black coriander is a popular spice that is packed with a whole lot of health benefits. Although small in size, they pack a powerful punch that helps in not only improving your general health but also in protecting your body against numerous diseases. These seeds in fact may have the potential to be used as a remedy for almost any health problem. They have been used to make medicines for over thousands of years. Nigella seeds exhibit a broad spectrum of activities such as antioxidant, antidiabetic, analgesic, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anthelmintics, antitumor, bronchodilator, immunomodulatory, renal protective, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, spasmolytic and diuretic effects. With its rich religious and historical background along with a wide range of therapeutic potential, nigella has emerged as a miracle plant among other plants used for medicinal purposes.
Nutritional value of Nigella seeds
Nigella seeds are made up of several health benefiting components including carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, volatile oils, fiber, alkaloids, and saponin. They also contain various minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, iron, manganese and sodium. They are a good source of vitamins like vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 and folic acid. Nigella seeds are one of the best sources of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. They also contain active elements such as thymoquinone that has strong antioxidant properties.
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Health benefits of Nigella seeds
Nigella seeds have been used in traditional medicines throughout the world for several thousands of years. Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and traditional medicines of many other countries have been using them as a remedy for many diseases. Nigella seeds are not only used as a spice but are also consumed for its super health benefits. The following are some of the reasons why you should include this amazing spice in your regular diet:
- Nigella helps control diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people all over the world. Nigella seeds have been used as an effective treatment for this disease. According to studies, having two grams of these seed daily could be beneficial in reducing fasting blood sugar levels, increasing beta-cell function in the pancreas along with and decreasing insulin resistance. Being a natural remedy, this type of treatment produces no adverse side effects whatsoever. According to a study publishes in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology”, the extracts of nigella seeds help in improving glucose tolerance in lab animals by inhibiting the absorption of glucose in the intestines. These extracts also help lower the risk of type 1 diabetes by reducing damages to beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin. Another study suggests that the compound thymoquinone found in black seeds has the ability to prevent the development of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Nigella seeds also shows potent antioxidant activity that helps in protecting the pancreatic cells against damages caused by free-radicals.
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- Skin benefits of Nigella seeds
Nigella seeds are rich in essential fatty acids like linoleic acid and linolenic acid, which helps in keeping your skin radiant and youthful. Applying a face mask made with nigella seed paste and honey helps your skin get an instant glow. The antibacterial properties of these help in getting rid of acne and pimples. Nigella seeds have antioxidant properties that help in preventing the development of aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines. They provide excellent moisturization to the skin and hence helps in preventing dry skin, psoriasis and eczema.
- Nigella seeds protect your heart
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two most important factors that increase your risk of heart diseases. Studies indicate that nigella seeds cause significant reduction in blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, thus offering effective cardiovascular protection. Another study suggests that thymoquinone extract obtained from Nigella offers protection against damage caused by isoproterenol induced myocardial injury.
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- Nigella seeds for treating seizures
Not many medications available are effective against seizures in children. Nigella seeds are found to have anti-convulsant properties and hence can be used for the treatment of seizures. Thymoquinone, a major chemical found in these seeds show anti-convulsant effects in rats. According to one study, nigella seeds are effective in reducing the frequency of seizures in children who showed resistance to conventional treatment. The study found that the water extract of nigella showed anti-epileptic properties and improved seizure control in children with refractory epilepsy.
- Nigella seed is cancer’s worst nightmare
Although not proven in humans, nigella seeds are considered to be useful in the treatment of various types of cancers. They also may offer protection against the side effects of radiation therapy. Animal studies indicate that these seeds can inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well as reduce the occurrence of tumors. Thymoquinone is the main ingredient in nigella seeds that not only induces cell death but also prevents the incidence of cancers. Studies on the anti-cancer effects of nigella shows that the seeds are effective against various types of cancers, such as pancreatic, oral, breast, colon, cervical, prostate, and brain cancers.
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- Nigella seeds can help with asthma
Several studies have found that nigella seeds possess anti-asthmatic effects and can potentially be used for the treatment of asthma. The symptoms associated with asthma had significantly improved in patients who took nigella oil after one, two and three months. The oral asthma medications available nowadays work by inhibiting lipoxygenase, which means that they interfere with the action of biochemicals known as leukotrienes that sustain inflammatory conditions when they are triggered, which in turn may lead to asthmatic bronchial inflammation. The phytochemicals such as nigellone and thymoquinone found in nigella seeds have the ability to inhibit lipoxygenase activity and the release of histamines, thus helping to prevent asthma attack.
- Nigella seeds show anti-microbial properties
Several studies indicate that nigella seed extracts or its oil show a wide spectrum of activity against a number of microbes. The oil has been found to inhibit the growth of organisms like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus albus, Shigella niger, Salmonella typhi and Vibrio cholera. Another study confirmed that nigella was effective against both Gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The oil, when given intraperitoneally is found to be active against murine cytomegalovirus infection in mice. Nigella seed oil was exhibits excellent anti-fungal properties, especially against Aspergillus species. Scientists data has suggested the potential of suggest that nigella seeds can be used for the production of new anti-fungal drugs.
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- Nigella seeds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Scientific research shows that the active ingredients, such as thymoquinone, found in nigella seeds and its oil possess strong antioxidant effects. These compounds detoxify your body and get rid of the harmful free radicals, thus reducing oxidation damage to cells and DNA. They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects which help in treating conditions like arthritis, edema, colitis (inflammation of the colon), encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the inside of the abdomen and all internal organs). Studies on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of nigella seeds on acute inflammation in animal models showed that these seeds had therapeutic and antioxidant effects.
- Nigella seeds protect your liver
The liver, one of the most important organs in the body is the place every toxic substance gets processed and eliminated. The bile produced in the the liver is equally important as it helps in digesting fats and keeping you healthy. Studies have shown that nigella seed oil supports the proper and healthy functioning of the liver as well as prevent liver damage. According to a Turkish study, the consumption of nigella seeds may offer protection against liver fibrosis, a chronic condition that may accompany liver failure, liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension. Nigella seed oil is really a godsend for those struggling with liver problems caused by diseases, excess alcohol consumption or side effects of medications.
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- Nigella seeds promote weight loss
In addition to boosting your health, nigella seeds are also beneficial in reducing weight. According to a study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology”, the ether extract of nigella seeds have a mild anorexic effect, which helps in reducing your appetite. The weight loss benefits of these seeds can be attributed to their blood sugar lowering effects, which not only helps you lose weight but also help improve your health, A study published in “The Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders” suggests that nigella seed oil has anti-obesity properties and is one of the most effective natural remedies for weight loss. The anti-inflammatory properties of nigella seeds are also found to help people lose weight. Nigella seeds promote weight loss by controlling the various factors that trigger weight gain such as appetite, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar levels, liver gluconeogenesis, and glucose absorption in the intestines.
Most people were unaware of the healing properties of Nigella and that’s why it has been a much neglected herb for many years. However, as research brought to light many of its health benefits and medicinal properties, nigella seeds have been slowly gaining popularity all over the world. The very fact that about 630 peer-reviewed scientific articles have been published about nigella seed indicates the healing power of this miracle seed. Simple and humble, yet immensely powerful, Nigella seeds are considered to be the remedy for everything but death!