Would you agree with me If I said, going on a vacation with kids is exhausting?! Although I enjoy, I also complain at the end of every summer outing! Does that sound like you? Read on.
This year my vacation plans with the family are rather simple, inexpensive but also a lot of quality time to spend with dear ones. I just made a list of must-watch movies, with some great ideas for snack accompaniments.
One of my all-time interests has been learning about Egyptian Culture, Tombs, and pharaohs. This time I remembered to include in my list, a documentary film on the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen.
Here is the connect, while I had just started to write my next blog article on black seed oil, I was pleasantly surprised to know that black seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen! WOW! What more do I need to lift up my enthusiasm to write on Nigella Sativa?
According to Wikipedia, Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to a large region of the eastern Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and West Asia.
It is also known by the names black caraway, black cumin, nigella, Kalo jeera, kalonji, or kalanji. Or just simply referred to as the black seed in popular culture.
The morphology of the plant is referenced from a review study on the medical herb, Nigella sativa. It is an annual flowering plant that grows from 20-90 cm tall. Its flowers are bright white, yellow, pink, pale blue, or purple with 5 to 10 petals. Its leaves look unique, as you see in the picture above, they are narrow and needle-shaped. The central fruit part is large and resembles a puffed capsule composed of 3-7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds.
A study titled “From here to eternity – the secret of Pharaohs: Therapeutic potential of black cumin seeds and beyond” quotes that black cumin is a worthy accompaniment ‘From Life here to Eternity’.
Further, the use of these seeds could be traced from the classical Greek period, in biblical references, and in ancient Egyptian culture. Although each culture refers to Nigella sativa in different names, such as ‘Panacea’ in old Latin meaning ‘cure-all’, ‘Habbah Sawda’ translated in Arabic as ‘Seeds of blessing’. Kalonji in India, and Hak Jung Chou in China. Hence, it is evident that the medicinal herb has been valued since time immemorial.
According to a study, Black seeds are very popular in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha.
A review reported that King Tutankhamen kept a bottle of black seed oil in his tomb. It is believed that some physicians in Pharaohs times used black seed for treating common colds, headaches, respiratory and digestive disorders, toothaches, infections, inflammatory disorders, and allergies. It is astonishing to note that shreds of evidence that Cleopatra used Nigella sativa for her beauty and health; Queen Nefertiti used black seed oil to bring shine and beauty to her hair and nails.
Pharmacology of black seed, black seed oil
Several studies have reported on the numerous pharmacological benefits of Nigella sativa and it is one of the top-ranked evidence-based herbal medicines.
For example, according to a 2013 review report some of the medical symptoms that black seeds are that they are antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulator, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepatoprotective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties, etc.
Some of the health conditions that black seeds are popularly used for are:
Studies show that black seeds help regulate the immune system and are beneficial in treating chronic, allergic, and hormonal diseases.
Nigella sativa could be used in many forms. For example, just the raw seeds, powders, paste, and oil.
For example, chewing and swallowing a spoon of roasted black seeds could stop vomiting, a tincture prepared from the seeds is useful in indigestion, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, dropsy, amenorrhoea, and dysmenorrhoea. They are also used in the treatment of worms and skin eruptions. Black seed oil could be safely used for external application on skin as an antiseptic and local anesthetic.
Black seed in Cuisine
We have understood that Nigella sativa has occupied a strong historical background, both for its use and its significance in folklore remedy. Having said that, it is reasonable to connect its value in the cuisines of various cultures across the globe.
Firstly Nigella sativa seeds have a distinct taste and flavor that is pungent, bitter, and mildly spicy. Therefore, it blends well as a seasoning agent for any recipe including pickles, curries, salad, etc. It is also added into bread, yogurt, sauces, etc.
Secondly, most traditional spices have always been incorporated into an everyday diet that not only adds flavor but also enhances overall health.
For example, black seeds popularly known as ‘Jeera’ in Indian cuisine comes in two different colors brown and black. Both are interchangeably used in soups, tea, porridge, appetizers, main course recipes, snack preparations, and savories.
Certainly, black seeds occupy a prominent role in global cuisines adding value to gastronomy and health.
I am eager to hear from you. Do write to me how your culture has embraced this medicinal herb Nigella sativa.
Chemical Constitution of black seed
A 2016 review study on medicinal plant research on Nigella sativa, has reported that black seed contains over 100 phytochemical constituents. These phytochemicals work among each other and produce a synergic effect on the immune system of the body. The study also highlights that out of these 100 components, only sixty-nine have been characterized and identified.
At this point, it is noteworthy to bring in the comparative analysis of Cannabis sativa. There are hundreds of cannabinoids that can be derived from the cannabis plant. Only a few have been considered for research and two are most talked about which are THC and CBD. studies talk about the benefits of Sativa strains of cannabis on the human body.
According to a review study, some of the most active compounds of black seeds are thymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, dithymoquinone, 4-terpineol, t-anethol, sesquiterpene longifolene, α-pinene, and thymol.
A 2017 study indicates that in the year 1959, it was synthesized that the most important bioactive component of Nigella sativa is Thymoquinone which is responsible for its many biological effects.
Moreover, Nigella sativa seeds also contain alpha-hederin, a water-soluble pentacyclic triterpene, and saponin, a potential anticancer agent. Traces of carvone, limonene, citronellol are also found. Several studies report that these black seeds contain protein, fat, carbohydrates, crude fiber vitamins, and minerals.
The seeds also containing a good amount of various vitamins and minerals. For example, the seeds contain carotene which is converted by the liver to vitamin A. The root and shoot of Nigella sativa are reported to contain vanillic acid.
Literature about the pharmacology of Nigella sativa is exhaustive, therefore, in short, we can draw to close that most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone (TQ) which is a major active chemical component of the herb.
Therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa
Besides the numerous pharmacological benefits that have been discussed above, literature reviews of Nigella sativa indicate some key therapeutic potential.
They can be summarized as:
- A 2019 study emphasizes on the oxidative stress in pathological conditions, that triggers various neurological disorders and endocrine illnesses. And, among the various naturally occurring medicinal plants, Nigella sativa has been reported for its effective antioxidant activities.
- Further, antioxidants activities have a remarkable effect on Male infertility. Sperm dysfunction being the core problem of this condition, antioxidants improve fertility status by increasing spermatozoa counts.
- The 2013 study reports that thymoquinone (TQ) plays a protective role in testicular toxicity on men. Administration of TQ may decrease the destructive effects of methotrexate ( immune system suppressant) on the testicular tissues.
- The same study also draws attention to the effects of Nigella sativa on the Pulmonary-protective activity and anti-asthmatic effects, as it has the potential to clear tracheal congestion. The study concludes positive effects from controlled group experiments conducted on asthmatic patients who were administered Nigella sativa infusions.
- In short, Nigella sativa’s key component Thymoquinone along with hundreds of other compounds produces numerous positive effects for maintaining perfect homeostasis in the body.
Times have changed, lifestyles have changed, as a result, our food habits have also changed. This has led to the outbreak of several new diseases that calls for a more conscious action towards maintaining good health.
Increasing importance given to disease prevention and management has laid a path to seeking safe remedies such as Alternative and complementary medicine. Awareness about incorporating plant-based derivates, herbs, spices in your everyday diet is a healthy trend that is igniting the spirit of netizens. The most common subject that is connecting people across the world is gastronomy. People are trying out new cuisines, drawing inspirations and good practices from global cultures. If this interests you too, read about how you can improve your gastronomical quotient.
A study on Nigella sativa reports that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than three-fourths of the communities in resource-limited countries rely upon medicinal plants for their primary health care needs. This is definitely an issue of concern as more than 60% of the societies are unable to have access to proper health care and afford allopathic medicines.
Traditional medicinal plants are certainly drawing more thought and application. If this trend multiplies on a positive path, plant-based medicines could become more accessible and affordable to different sections of society.