Black Cumin, Black seed or Nigella sativa, is one the most revered medicinal seeds inhistory. Black cumin seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and they are mentionedin the Bible as well as in the words of Mohammed. Today they are used for a wide variety ofconditions including cancer, immune disorders, asthma, digestive disorders and much more.The famous Greek physician Dioscorides used black cumin seeds to treat headaches andtoothaches. Mohammed said that black cumin cures every disease but death itself. Thereason might be found in the complex chemical structure of the seeds. These little seedshave over one hundred different chemical constituents, including abundant sources of all theessential fatty acids. It is the oil that is most often used medicinally, but the whole seeds,which are a bit spicy, are often used whole in cooking-curries, pastries, and Mediterraneancheeses.Although black cumin seed has been used medicinally for at least 3,000 years, until about 40years ago it was not well understood and lightly researched. Since that time, more than 200studies have been conducted in universities and other research facilities which have shownthat compounds from the seeds show that they boost the production of bone marrow, naturalinterferon, and immune cells, helping to fight off diseases. Several of the studies have shownthat black cumin seed extract could assist individuals with autoimmune disorders, and couldpossibly help to fight cancer as well.The first major study of Nigella sativa in cancer prevention and treatment was performed byscientists at Cancer Immuno-Biology Laboratory of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Theyconcluded that a healthy immune system will detect and destroy cancer cells before thecancer endangers the patient. The immune system does this by supporting increasedproduction of immune cells, bone marrow cells, and B-cells that produce antibodies. Blackcumin stimulates neutrophil activity. These are the short-lived immune cells that are normallyfound in bone marrow but mobilized into action when there is a bacterial infection. Extracts ofblack cumin have also been shown to modulate production of interleukins, a quality it shareswith some other highly revered herbs: ginseng, astragalus, mistletoe, garlic, and cat's claw.In animal studies, while none of the subjects in the control group survived, two-thirds of themice that had been given black cumin seed oil were still alive 30 days after deliberate effortsto cause cancer in the subject groups. Black cumin is particularly useful in aggressive cancerswhose growth depends on angiogenesis.In vitro studies performed in Jordan and the United States have determined that the volatileoil is anti-leukemic. Studies performed in Spain as well as England found that the fixed oil isuseful in the treatment of rheumatism and other inflammatory diseases. This property isattributed to thymoquinone which is as high as 25% in the Egyptian seed and missing entirely in some seeds.One of the more recent studies on black cumin seed oil demonstrated that it was effective against the very difficult pancreatic cancer - one of a very few botanicals that have shownsuch effectiveness (the other most notable one is oleander extract) 1996, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a medicineincorporating an extract of black cumin seeds for immune system support. Naturopathssometimes recommend regular doses of black cumin seeds to patients with weakenedimmune systems, as the whole seeds have been shown to boost the immune system.Black cumin extract has a reputation for exceptional results in treating allergies and asthma.These two ailments are known to react to the extract rather speedily unless there is aninfection, in which case, the infection should be done away with before treatment. If the blackcumin seed is used regularly for a period of six months or more, the typical results areobvious. The extract has also been shown to regulate the production of lymphokines that playa role in cell-mediated immunity. Black cumin seeds mixed with honey and garlic are excellenttonics for people with asthma or coughs as well as those who want to enhance their immunityduring cold and flu season or when an infection is setting in.Black cumin seeds have been used for centuries in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Indiato treat a variety of ailments, and have been adopted for homeopathic use in Europe andother nations as well. Both the seeds and potent extracts can be found for sale in natural foodstores, and doctors who practice complementary alternative medicine may prescribe them fora wide variety of conditions. The unique nutritional composition of black cumin seeds, whichincludes numerous essential fatty acids, appears to support the immune system, improve theskin, help with respiratory ailments, and address digestive conditions.The seeds of the black cumin plant have very little aroma but are carminative, meaning theytend to aid digestion and relieve gases in the stomach and intestines. They aid peristalsis andelimination. The essential oil of black cumin is antimicrobial and helps to rid the intestines ofworms. The plant on which black cumin seeds grow is a member of the buttercup family. Theyare not related to the common cooking herb, cumin, from the Cuminum cyminum plant,although the two look similar. Black cumin seeds are very dark, thin, and crescent shapedwhen whole. They are available for cooking use in many Middle Eastern and Indian supplystores, but seeds designated for cooking may not be as potent or as pure as seeds intendedfor medicinal use. In some regional cuisines, they are also used in cooking, as they add aunique nutty flavor to food and appear to have health benefits.Black cumin seeds are small. They can be used to make tea by simply pouring hot water overthe seeds and letting the brew steep for 10 minutes, about a tablespoon makes a nice cup oftea, but it is better to keep the cup covered until ready to drink so as to prevent the aromafrom escaping. Some people add a few seeds to their favorite tea or coffee and allow theirimaginations to conjure up images of camels and nomads. The seeds can also be added tocasseroles or breads, used in canning, or extracted in wine or vinegar. Some people grind theseeds and mix them with honey or sprinkle them on salads. They make a nice addition tosalad dressings and even stir fry dishes, especially when combined with lemon, cilantro, and tahini.Black cumin plants are native to the western parts of Asia. It is grown both in the wild andcultivated on farms. Egypt, India and the Middle East also produce this medicinally reveredherb. The best seeds come from Egypt where they grow under almost perfect conditions inoases where they are watered until the seed pods form. Other names for black cumin extractare nigella, Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Damascena, Devil in-the-bush, Fennel flower,Melanthion, Nutmeg Flower, Roman Coriander, and Wild Onion Seed.
(Note: Some of those same names are also used for other plants. This article refers ONLY to Nigella sativa black cumin.)
Most people seeking the benefits of black cumin take the oil in capsule form. Over a period oftime, usually a few months, the hair and fingernails are strengthened and have more luster.However, some people use the oil externally, for beauty as well as for treating skin conditionssuch as psoriasis and eczema. One can buy a ready-made cream, add some oil to a favoritecream, or make one's own cream from scratch by warming equal parts (by volume) of blackcumin seeds and a nice carrier oil, like shea butter or jojoba. It's best to use a double boiler orbe lazy (like me) and use a yogurt maker because the temperature is very even so you cansafely ignore the process for hours. The oil will darken. When you feel this has been warmedlong enough, melt a little beeswax into the warm oil. Stir it with a glass rod or new chopstick. Ifyou like, you can add an essential oil or combination of oils just before the beeswax stiffens.Choose this for aesthetic or health reasons. Some people use such mixtures on burns or skininfections; some just use these creams to feel good, moisturize the skin, relieve joint or pain,or make wrinkles vanish.Many combine vinegar and oil. In this case, mix one cup of black cumin seeds in organicapple cider vinegar. Let this sit anywhere from a few days to two weeks. Then, strain themixture, first through a conventional strainer, then through a finer filter, like cheesecloth or achemical-free coffee filter or tea bag. Mix the remainder with equal parts black cumin vinegarand black cumin oil. Heat this for a few minutes and then put into a mason jar and refrigerate.Apply this to problem skin such as areas with acne or take one tablespoon before meals forflatulence and digestive problems.With a seed containing so many constituents and having such a long ethnobotanical history, itis not surprising that many throughout the Mediterranean and Asia believe that black cumin isbasically good for all that ails us. However, the claims are not outrageously far-fetched if oneconsiders how complete the seeds are in terms of their many chemical constituents,especially the major essential acids which make up the bulk of black cumin seed oil.
Black Cumin Seed Oil Composition:oleic acid - 49%linoleic acid - 38%linolenic acid - 2%
Since black cumin is regarded by many as a virtual cure-all, it may not be taken seriously bysome, but for those inclined to dismiss folklore, it should be noted that these humble seedshave been found superior to almost every other natural remedy when used for autoimmunedisorders, conditions in which patients suffer greatly because their own systems attack theirbodies. Black cumin, especially when combined with garlic, is regarded as a harmonizer of  the imbalance which allows immune cells to destroy healthy cells. The technical language todescribe this property is "immunomodulatory action." The difference between black cumin andinterferon is that there are no known side effects with black cumin when administered innormal dosages. The saying goes that the beauty of black cumin is their capacity to restoreharmony.NOTE: More than one plant is often called "Black Cumin". Only the genuine Nigella sativa isreferred to in this article.
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