Have you ever heard of black seed oil? Well, nigella seeds are the main ingredient for this wildly popular supplement.
The tiny, black, angular seeds of the Nigella sativa plant are also known as black seed or kalonji.
Nigella seeds are also called black cumin seeds, but this is a common misnomer.
They should not be confused with actual black cumin seeds, Bunium bulbocastanum, which does not have as many health benefits.
Nigella seeds are a common ingredient in the Middle East, India, and North African cuisines.
They have an aromatic and savory taste and are commonly used in stews, soups, curries, and bread.
Nigella Seeds Benefits
Nigella seeds have also been used traditionally for medicinal purposes due to their high antioxidant content, which helps fight free radicals that contribute to disease formation and premature aging.
Here’s more on the benefits of nigella seeds.
1. They may help fight infections
Research shows that nigella seeds contain powerful antibacterial properties and may help fight disease-causing pathogens such as those involved in chest infections like bronchitis, ear, and skin infections, among others.
These seeds may also protect against multi-drug resistance, a primary health concern when treating various bacterial infections.
One study found that Nigella seed extract could kill MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), one of the most dangerous and common bacteria that is difficult to treat and resistant to antibiotics.
Other studies have also shown that kalonji can inhibit the growth of MRSA and different bacterial strains.
Nigella seeds can also boost the immune system by activating and suppressing different immune cells and interfering with various pathways, leading to disease.
2. High in antioxidants
Antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress, which increases the risk of developing disease.
Nigella seeds are packed with antioxidants, including thymol and thymoquinone, which have been shown to protect against cellular damage that may result in disease formation.
These can include neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and certain cancers, including breast and pancreatic cancer.
3. They may help fight inflammation
Inflammatory responses are usually meant to protect against infection or injury.
However, chronic inflammation may contribute to various chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Kalonji has been shown to offer anti-inflammatory benefits and may help lower this risk.
In one study, thymoquinone, an active compound in Nigella seeds, lowered inflammation in pancreatic cancer cells.
In another study involving 42 individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, consuming 1000 milligrams of Nigella seeds daily was found to lower oxidative stress and reduce inflammatory markers.
4. May offer cancer-fighting properties
Antioxidants in kalonji may help fight oxidative stress, which may cause cell damage, including mutations leading to cancer.
For example, thymoquinone, the active ingredient in Nigella seeds, may induce cancer cell death in leukemia.
Further research shows that Nigella seeds may be effective against various cancers, including cervical, pancreatic, prostate, colon, skin, and lung cancers.
Also, Nigella seed extract may help inactivate breast cancer cells.
5. May promote blood sugar regulation
Too much blood glucose for prolonged periods may cause inflammation and damage various blood vessels supplying vital organs in the body.
If left untreated, it may further increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, nerve issues, kidney disease, and vision problems.
Research shows that Nigella seeds could keep your blood sugar steady, thus lowering your risk of complications.
In one study, consuming 2 grams of Nigella seeds daily for three months improved insulin resistance and reduced regular blood sugar and fasting blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, researchers believe that the ability of Nigella seeds to lower blood lipids and improve glucose metabolism may effectively prevent complications associated with type 2 diabetes.
6. Nigella sativa seeds may offer liver protection
The liver is an essential organ for various functions, including detoxification, processing nutrients from food, storing sugar for later use, cholesterol production, and protein synthesis, among other chemical processes supporting health.
So, it’s only essential that your liver is in good condition, and research shows that consuming Nigella seeds may help protect the liver against damage and injury.
For instance, the antioxidant content in Nigella seeds may protect the liver against inflammation and oxidative stress.
It may also prevent induced liver damage and even kidney damage.
In one lab study, rats were injected with a toxic substance, with or without kalonji.
The group that received kalonji had reduced toxicity and improved liver protection than the control group.
This shows the potential benefits of kalonji for enhanced liver health; however, more human studies may be necessary.
7. May help lower cholesterol
If not controlled, cholesterol buildup within your arteries can limit blood flow, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
Various studies show that Nigella seed supplementation may lower blood triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol.
One of the studies found that kalonji reduced LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.
A similar study showed that as little as 2 grams of kalonji consumed daily might lower total and LDL cholesterol within 2 months.
8. It may protect against stomach ulcers
Stomach ulcers occur when stomach acid destroys the digestive tract lining.
Common causes include the H.pylori bacteria, prolonged intake of anti-inflammatory medications, and prolonged high stress levels.
Consuming nigella seeds may help preserve your stomach lining, thus preventing ulcers.
In one study, consuming nigella sativa was shown to heal 83 percent of the ulcers, to the same extent stomach ulcer medications would.
Nigella sativa oil has also been shown to protect the stomach lining against alcohol-induced damage.
How to use black seeds?
There are different and easy ways to include these seeds in your diet, such as:
1. Add them to salads
Adding nigella seeds to a salad gives it a delicious, slightly bitter flavor that is perfect for adding an extra dimension of flavor. Here are four tips on how to add them:
- Start by soaking the nigella seeds in water overnight. This will allow them to swell and soften, making them easier to grind.
- Once they have soaked, drain and place them in a food processor with a pinch of salt. Pulse until they are ground into a fine paste.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the paste with enough olive oil to make a spreadable consistency.
- Use the mixture to season salads and enjoy!
2. Include them in your stir-fries
Adding nigella seeds to stir-fry can give a herbaceous, peppery flavor that can be quite delicious.
To add nigella seeds to your stir-fry, first rinse them off and place them in a small bowl.
Add enough water to cover the seeds and then soak them for 30 minutes. After they have soaked, drain them and place them in a dry skillet.
Next, heat up your skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the nigella seeds and cook for 1 minute or until they start to brown.
Then add the vegetables and spices to the skillet and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
3. Add them to a sandwich
If you’re a fan of sandwiches, then you’ll love the addition of nigella seeds to your repertoire.
Not only do they add an interesting flavor and texture to your sandwich, but they also provide some valuable health benefits.
If you’re looking for a way to make your sandwich even more filling and nutritious, adding nigella seeds is a great way to go.
Here are some tips on how to add them to your sandwich:
- Start by heating up some oil in a pan. Add the nigella seeds and sauté for a few minutes until they start to brown.
- Then, add some sliced cheese and let it melt into the seeds.
- Finally, add them to your sandwich and add other ingredients of choice.
4. Make pesto
Nigella seed pesto is a delicious and easy way to add a little bit of flavor to your food. It is perfect for adding on top of pasta, rice, or anything else you might want to enjoy!
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the nigella seeds and cook for 1 minute until they start to pop.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute until fragrant.
- Add walnuts, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and cook for 2-3 minutes until the nuts are lightly toasted.
- Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Serve with pasta or any dish of choice
5. Make nigella seed curry
If you’re looking to add a little bit of heat to your curry, then you’ll want to try adding nigella seeds.
These tiny black seeds are packed with flavor and can really amp up the heat in your dish. Here’s how to use them:
- Start by heating some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the nigella seeds and cook for about 1 minute, frequently stirring, until they start to get fragrant.
- Add your chosen curry ingredients to the pan and stir everything around until everything is hot and cooked through. Be sure to add just enough water or stock so that the curry is thickened and soupy but not too watery.
- Top with some chopped fresh herbs and serve warm!
Remember to use nigella seeds sparingly when seasoning your curry – too much can overpower the other ingredients.
6. Add them to smoothies
Smoothies are a popular way to consume fruits, herbs, and vegetables.
They can be made with different ingredients like nuts, grains, dairy, or fruit juice. You can also include lesser-used ingredients like nigella seeds.
So, if you’re looking for a healthy way to add flavor to your smoothies, you’ll want to try incorporating nigella seeds into your diet.
Not only are these seeds packed with antioxidants and other nutrients, but they also add a delicious twist to any smoothie recipe.
Start by adding the seeds to your blender or food processor and pulse until they’re finely ground. Add the fruit of your choice and liquid then blend until smooth.
7. Include them in baked foods
If you love the flavor of black pepper, you’ll love the flavor of nigella seeds.
They’re a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, where they are used to add a pungent taste to breads, cakes, and pastries.
Nigella seeds can also be used in your baking recipes to add a subtle smoky flavor.
Here are ways to use nigella seeds in your baking:
- In breads, cakes, and other pastries, nigella seeds can add an intense flavor and a beautiful color. Try adding them to a loaf of sourdough or rye bread, or to a chocolate cake or cupcake batter.
- Adding nigella seeds to muffins, scones and other quick breads will give them a lovely depth of flavor and coloring. For extra visual appeal, you could also try sprinkling them on top before baking.
Possible risks and side effects of black seeds:
Nigella seeds are considered safe to use.
However, black seed oil may cause an allergic reaction when applied to the skin or ingested.
Always do a patch test by applying a small amount fast to see whether you’ll experience any reaction.
Kalonji may also facilitate blood clotting, so avoid it if you take blood-clotting medications, or talk to your doctor first.
Also, its safety in pregnancy has not been well established. Lab studies show it may slow uterine contraction when used in large amounts.
Final thoughts on nigella sativa seeds
Nigella seeds come from the nigella sativa tree and are commonly used to prepare the famous black seed oil.
Traditionally, these seeds have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
They are rich in health-promoting nutrients, including various powerful antioxidants.
Regular consumption may boost your health in various ways.
These include fighting infections, preventing inflammation, protecting against cancer, improving liver health, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood glucose levels, and protecting against stomach ulcers.
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