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Nigella sativa

Nigella sativa (Black Cumin) is a medicinal spice that appears to be active in the dose used to season food products. It has a potent bioactive known as thymoquinone which shows promise in treating epilepsy, allergies, and boosting the immune system.

Our evidence-based analysis on nigella sativa features 128 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Nigella sativa

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

When looking at the human evidence in particular, nigella sativa appears to have a general health protective effect of a very small magnitude. It is able to reduce triglycerides and glucose when elevated and can normalize cholesterol metabolism (although not HDL-C) as well, but the amount of benefit it confers is too small for it to be considered a good intervention. As a general antiinflammatory agent (such as its usage in rheumatoid arthritis) it also seems modestly effective.

It does appear to have more promise as an immune booster (no evidence on rates of sickness, but it appears to increase the ability of macrophages to attack invaders) and an anti-allergic compound (with efficacy against allergic rhinitus, asthma, and eczema). One study that used nigella sativa alongside a proton pump inhibitor noted that the seed extract was potently anti-bacterial against heliobacter pylori with a comparable potency to the reference drugs used.

Although much more evidence is needed on this last claim, in men with central obesity the seeds have been noted to greatly improve subjective symptoms of obesity. Symptoms such as loss of libido (affected 84% of men), forgetfulness (89%), high appetite (73%), aches and arthalgia (74%), sleeplessness (54%), and laziness (74%) amongst others were noted to be outright abolished despite no changes in placebo.

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How to Take

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Supplementation of the seeds of nigella sativa usually use the basic seed extract (a crushed powder of the seeds with no further processing or concentration) or the seed oil, both of which do not require a large degree of processing as the medicinal dosage is close to the raw product's natural state.

While 1 gram of the seed tends to always underperform relative to 2-3 grams, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest which of those two higher doses is 'better' and thus something within that range is recommended.

As the seeds are about a quarter to one third fatty acids (ie. the seed oil) then supplementation of any black seed oil product would be 3-4 times lower than the aforementioned range (giving a recommended range of 250-1,000 mg daily).

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Nigella sativa has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 4 studies
The reduction in blood pressure is only seen in hypertensives and very mild (1-3mmHg), likely not practically relevant at all.
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 8 studies
Reductions in LDL-C are mild at best and only occur in persons with impaired lipid profiles (high cholesterol or dyslipidemia), but they do appear to occur with ingestion of the seed extract
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 8 studies
Decreases have been sporadically noted in persons with high cholesterol initially, the cholesterol reductions are mild at best and do not affect persons with normal cholesterol.
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 8 studies
The decreases in triglycerides only affect those with high triglycerides, and the decrease scales with severity of hyperlipidemia (mild elevation of TGs is met with a 1-5% decrease, significantly elevated TGs are met with a 15-20% reduction).
grade-b Minor Low See all 4 studies
One study has noted weight loss, but due to the reduction in appetite and no records of food intake the possibility of subjects losing weight due to eating less cannot be ruled out. Other studies have failed to find an influence of treatment.
grade-b - Very High See all 8 studies
Mild increases have been reported in some cases, but for the most part nigella sativa does not influence HDL cholesterol in the active dosage range.
grade-b - High See all 5 studies
There may be a reducing effect in instances of liver damage (this curative effect needs to be explored more), and there are no alterations in liver enzymes that would be indicative of liver damage.
grade-c Notable Very High See all 4 studies
Supplementation of the seed appears to beneficially influence most symptoms associated with allergies and most causes of the allergies (rhinitus, eczema, asthma, etc.), with the magnitude being somewhat notable among supplements.
grade-c Notable - See study
Although only based on one study, in men with central obesity and a wide variety of general health complaints supplementation has outright abolished all measured complaints such as loss of libido, high appetite, pain, and forgetfulness.
grade-c Minor - See study
The side-effect of 'high appetite' was effectively abolished in men with central obesity, which may underlie the observed weight loss; food intake was not reported in this study.
grade-c Minor - See study
Attention processing on trail making tests appears to be increased.
grade-c Minor - See study
A slight improvement in cognition has been noted with supplementation of nigella seed extract in older persons
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
While the magnitude of benefit has not yet been compared to reference drugs, nigella sativa extracts appear to benefit lung function in both asthmatics and persons with otherwise damaged lung function; no studies in otherwise healthy persons.
grade-c Minor - See study
There appears to be a small but respectable (15-20% higher than baseline) improvement in logical memory and 30 minute recall in older subjects supplementing the seeds in their daily lifestyle.
grade-c Minor - See study
Nasal congestion as a side-effect of allergic rhinitus is slightly reduced following the treatment of rhinitus with nigella sativa seeds
grade-c Minor - See study
Pain as a side-effect of rheumatoid arthritis is modestly reduced.
grade-c Minor - See study
Trail making test time in older adult men appears to be reduced modestly with daily supplementation of nigella seed extract
grade-c Minor - See study
Seizure frequency in children with poorly controlled epilepsy is significantly reduced with a seed extract, and while it was quite notable in some children it was variable enough to also be quite modest in others. Needs more research to assess potency.
grade-c Minor Moderate See all 3 studies
An increase in serum albumin has been noted, and the reason for this currently unknown.
grade-c Minor - See study
A modest reduction in symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (9%) has been noted with ingestion of the seeds
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on adiponectin concentrations
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
Despite treating the viral load of hepatitis C, no significant changes in serum bilirubin exist.
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
Although the best evidence to date shows no change in blood glucose, these studies were not structured to assess the influence on diabetics; in diabetics, there appears to be a significant reduction in glucose.
grade-c - - See study
The alterations in C-reactive protein failed to reach statistical significance, but are otherwise not very well explored.
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No significant influence on serum creatinine
grade-c - - See study
No significant alterations in food intake associated with ingestion of nigella sativa.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on circulating free testosterone concentrations in men with central obesity
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on heart rate or pulse rate.
grade-c - - See study
No significant improvements in the accuracy of cognitive processing appears to occur with supplementation of nigella sativa seeds.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on the rate of proteinuria, suggesting no kidney damage associated with supplementation.
grade-c - Moderate See 2 studies
No statistically significant alterations in uric acid concentrations in serum
grade-c - - See study
Despite improvements in logical memory and 30 minute recall, digit span tests are not affected by supplementation of nigella sativa.
grade-d Notable - See study
A pilot study in hepatitis C noted that the viral load was reduced to 38.6% of baseline with a modest dosage of the seed oil, a fairly drastic reduction.
grade-d Minor Very High See 2 studies
Asthmatic symptoms appear to be reduced with supplementation of nigella sativa seeds, in part due to benefits to lung function and in part due to its anti-allergic properties. Potency has not been adequately assessed
grade-d Minor - See study
A mild decrease in HbA1c has been noted in diabetics given the seeds as an adjuvant to standard therapy
grade-d Minor - See study
Macrophage phagocytic activity and killing potential is increased following oral ingestion of the seed extract.
grade-d Minor - See study
A normalization of RBC count has been noted in the treatment of hepatitis C with the seed oil of nigella sativa
grade-d Minor - See study
A normalization of WBC count has been noted in persons with hepatitis C being treated with the seed oil.
grade-d - - See study
No significant alterations in cortisol concentrations seen with supplementation of the seeds.

Studies Excluded from Consideration

  • Pharmacokinetic study[1]

  • Confounded with Phyllanthus niruri[2]

  • Confounded with pharmaceuticals[3][4]

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Things to Note

Is a Form Of

Primary Function:

Also Known As

Nigella cretica, Black cumin, Black seeds, Roman coriander, Nutmeg flower, Fennel flower, Ajaji

Do Not Confuse With

Black pepper, Black Cohosh, Cumin (which is 'true' cumin, or Cuminum cyminum), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Nutmeg (Myristica genus)

Caution Notice

Known to interact with enzymes of Drug Metabolism

  • Contact dermatitis has been reported with topical application of the seed oil; the frequency of this is unknown

  • Nigella sativa can inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme activity, although it is possible that this is not too potent and relevant to supplementation (mixed evidence, possible inhibition followed by recompensatory induction)

  • Nigella sativa appears to inhibit CYP2D6, and may inhibit either CYP2C9 or CYP2C19 (or both)

  • Nigella sativa may possibly induce P-glycoprotein activity

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Click here to see all 128 references.