Black Seed Oil: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts & Uses

Black seed oil
iStock: Piotr_malczyk

What Is Black Seed Oil?

Black seed oil is derived from the seeds of the Nigella sativa plant, a small bush with purple or white-dyed flowers. The seed of the flowering herb has been used medicinally for centuries, predominantly for beauty and skincare purposes. But did you know its uses extend to the kitchen?

Also called black cumin, fennel flower, black caraway, and more, these seeds can be included as an ingredient in many meals. Used for flavor in curries and stews, they taste rather bitter and are most often compared to cumin.

Black seed oil can also be used for baking and giving your drinks an extra kick.

More recently, the oil has been explored for benefits related to heart health, arthritis, weight loss and much more.

When pressed into oil, N. sativa is used medicinally as a topical oil or taken as capsules. Although the oil has a high level of antioxidant compounds, one in particular is believed to be behind black seed oil’s healing powers. Thymoquinone may be responsible for its strong anti-inflammatory capabilities that might make it useful for a number of conditions.

Black Seed Oil Nutrition

Black seed oil is high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and omega-6 monounsaturated fats, which may play a role when the oil is used for beauty purposes.

It is also a decent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and niacin, as well as several minerals.

Nutrient Quantity
Protein 208 mcg/g (micrograms per gram)
Thiamin 15 mcg/g
Riboflavin 1 mcg/g
Pyridoxine 5 mcg/g
Niacin 57 mcg/g
Folacin 510 IU/g
Calcium 1.86 mg/g
Iron 105 mcg/g
Copper 18 mcg/g
Zinc 60 mcg/g
Phosphorus 5.2 mg/g

Potential Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil

1. Allergy Relief

A small study has shown that black seed oil can help with seasonal allergies. After six weeks of putting black seed oil drops in their noses, an overwhelming number of participants (more than 90%) said that hay fever symptoms went away or remarkably improved.

The black seed oil helped with:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Runny nose

You may notice some benefits of black seed oil to help treat allergy symptoms; however, more work must be done to determine whether it is truly effective.

2. Skin Benefits

There are number of areas where black seed could be used for improved skin health and skincare. There is evidence to support its use for acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

  • A study published in the Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery showed that applying a lotion with 10% black seed oil was able to significantly reduce the appearance of acne over two months.
  • A small study looking at the effects of black seed oil on eczema found evidence of therapeutic benefits. Participants applied it on their hands and noticed improvements in their condition.
  • There is some evidence that black seed oil may limit the incidence of psoriasis in mice. More work in humans is required for a definitive conclusion.

Black seed oil may also help to soften and moisturize skin and hair.

3. Heart Health

Black seed oil may be useful in lowering the risk for heart disease. Research has shown taking black cumin seed extract may reduce high blood pressure. Interestingly, these benefits were not confined to people with hypertension, but were also observed in those who had mild elevations in blood pressure.

Other research has shown black seed oil can help to lower cholesterol. The healthy fatty acids may help to improve overall cholesterol levels and potentially remove unhealthy LDL deposits from arterial walls. Powdered crushed seeds are the form of N. sativa that appear to promote improvements in cholesterol profile.

4. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another small study has indicated that black seed oil may have benefits for people battling rheumatoid arthritis. Research suggests that taking a daily dose of black seed oil each day can quell painful symptoms like joint stiffness and swelling. This result may be due to the anti-inflammatory effects provided by the healthy fats and antioxidant compounds in the oil.

6. Asthma

Black seed oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits may also extend to alternative asthma treatment. There is evidence to suggest that it may help open up constricted airways to encourage improved airflow.

7. Weight Loss

There is research indicating that supplementing with black seed oil may help to improve body composition. One study showed black seed oil contributed to a reduction in BMI (body mass index), while a larger review found it could be a useful tool in battling obesity.

8. Cancer

In lab tests, studies have shown that thymoquinone can kill cancerous cells. This may mean it can have benefits for skin cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, and more. It is essential to note, however, that these findings have been limited to lab settings and any evidence of human benefit still requires further investigation.

Black Seed Oil Uses in the Kitchen 

Black seed oils and capsules can be purchased online and at most health food stores and pharmacies. That said, you can also use the seed in ground and whole form to add some flavor to your food and increase your overall spectrum of antioxidant intake.

The seeds are typically used as a garnish or seasoning, and are unlikely to provide a life-changing boost to your health. They can, however, be a useful tool in any diet that prioritizes overall health and prevention.

You can include black seeds in your diet by:

  • Grinding to use them as a seasoning or mixing with other spices like cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, or fennel
  • Sprinkling toasted seeds over flatbreads (naan) or bagels, chips or crackers
  • Adding to pre-cooked soups, curries, or stir-fries

You can also drizzle high-grade black seed oil over salads, or stir it into a thick smoothie and strong teas and coffees. Because the oil can be quite bitter, some prefer to mix it with equal parts lemon juice or honey before consuming.

Cooking the oil will only break down its valuable nutrients, so avoid using it to pan-fry vegetables.

Recommended doses range from one to three teaspoons a day.

Black Seed Oil Side Effects and Precautions

Like other herbal supplements, black seed oil may interfere with the efficacy of prescription medications. Specifically, it might impact the function of a class of medicines called beta-blockers. Common beta-blockers include metoprolol (“Lopressor”) and warfarin (“Coumadin”).

Taking too much black seed oil may harm your kidney and liver, so if you have any conditions affecting these organs, talk to your doctor before using.

In some cases, swallowing black seed oil can lead to stomach problems. And, as a general rule, avoid usage if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Also, if you’re planning to use black seed oil as a topical cream to treat skin conditions or as a moisturizer, test it on a small patch of skin first. In some people, it may lead to an allergic reaction that can irritate the skin.

The most important thing to consider if you’re using black seed oil for therapeutic purposes is that it’s not necessarily guaranteed to work. Research showing benefits is relatively sparse. At this point, it’s not safe to recommend using it as a medicinal replacement.

Black Seed Oil: A Nutritious Source of Fatty Acids and Antioxidants That May Boost Health

Don’t be afraid to add some black seeds or black seed oil to your diet. Nigella sativa seeds present a host of promising health benefits and could be useful as anti-inflammatory agents. The fact that the oil has been used for centuries to treat a variety of illness certainly says something, and when taken in moderation, it may be able to complement a number of treatments.

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