Black seed is a plant. People have used the seed to make medicine for over 2000 years. It was even discovered in the tomb of King Tut.
Historically, black seed has been used for headache, toothache, nasal congestion, asthma, arthritis, and intestinal worms. It has also been used for “pink eye” (conjunctivitis), pockets of infection (abscesses), and parasites.
Today, black seed is most commonly used for asthma, diabetes, hypertension, weight loss, and many other conditions.
How does it work?
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that black seed might help boost the immune system, fight cancer, prevent pregnancy, reduce swelling, and lessen allergic reactions by acting as an antihistamine, but there isn’t enough information in humans yet.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Asthma. Research shows that taking black seed by mouth along with asthma medicines can improve coughing, wheezing, and lung function in some people with asthma. But it seems to work only in people with very low lung function before treatment. And it does not seem to work as well as the drugs theophylline or salbutamol.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that taking black seed powder can improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Black seed might also improve levels of cholesterol in people with diabetes. Doses of 2 grams daily seem to be needed for any benefit.
- High blood pressure. Research shows that taking black seed by mouth might reduce blood pressure by a small amount.
- To improve sperm function. Research shows that taking black seed oil increases the number of sperm and how quickly they move in men with infertility.
- Breast pain (mastalgia). Research shows that applying a gel containing black seed oil to the breasts during the menstrual cycle reduces pain in women with breast pain.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis). Early research suggests that taking black seed oil by mouth daily might improve allergy symptoms in people with hay fever.
- Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). Early research suggests that taking black seed oil by mouth might improve symptoms in people with itchy and inflamed skin. But applying black seed oil ointment to the skin does not seem to help.
- A disease that attacks the thyroid (autoimmune thyroiditis). Taking black seed might improve some but not all measures of thyroid function in people with a disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Damage to the immune system during cancer treatment. Early research shows that taking black seed ass part of the diet while undergoing cancer drug treatment might prevent fever episodes due to low white blood cell counts (neutropenia) in children.
- Mental performance. Early research shows that black seed helps with some but not all measures of memory and attention in boys and men. It’s unknown if black seed improves memory and thinking skills in girls and women.
- Dry nose. Early research shows that using a nasal spray containing black seed oil can reduce dryness, blockage, and crusting of the nostrils in elderly patients with nasal irritation.
- Indigestion. Taking a product containing black seed oil, honey, and water seems to reduce symptoms of indigestion. It’s unclear if this improvement is due to black seed or other ingredients.
- Seizures (epilepsy). Early research shows that taking black seed extract by mouth reduces the number of seizures in children with epilepsy. But taking black seed oil does not seem to work.
- Stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H pylori infection). Some research shows that taking black seed powder along with the drug omeprazole might help eliminate a certain bacterium (H. pylori) in the stomach that can cause stomach ulcers. But not all doses seem to work.
- Hepatitis C. Early research shows that taking black seed oil daily for 3 months reduces viral load in people with hepatitis C. It also seems to reduce lower limb swelling. But it doesn’t seem to improve liver function.
- High cholesterol. Some early research shows that taking crushed black seed increases “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduces total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides in people with borderline high cholesterol. Other research shows that taking both crushed black seed and garlic oil in addition to other products that lower cholesterol, such as simvastatin, can lead to larger improvements in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels than simvastatin alone. However, not all research agrees.
- Leukemia. Taking black seed while being treated for a type of leukemia called acute lymphoblastic leukemia might increase the chances of staying cancer-free once treatment ends. But it doesn’t improve overall survival.
- Metabolic syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a specific black seed oil product twice daily for 6 weeks might reduce total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in people with metabolic syndrome.
- Reducing harmful effects of a medicine called methotrexate. Early research shows that taking black seed might reduce liver damage caused by a certain drug used to treat cancer in children with a type of leukemia.
- Obesity. Some research shows that taking black seed oil or powder might improve weight loss by a small amount in people who are obese or overweight. But other research shows no benefit. Studies are generally small and low-quality, so more research is needed.
- Relieving symptoms related to opioid withdrawal. Early research shows that taking black seed extract by mouth three times daily for 12 days might reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that applying black seed oil to the knee for 3-4 weeks can help relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research shows that taking black seed oil improves pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis who are already taking methotrexate.
- Sore throat and swollen tonsils (tonsillopharyngitis). Early research suggests that taking a combination of chanca piedra and black seed by mouth for 7 days relieves pain in people with sore throat and swollen tonsils.
- Birth control.
- Boosting the immune system.
- Cancer prevention.
- Digestive problems including intestinal gas and diarrhea.
- Increasing breast-milk flow.
- Menstrual disorders.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of black seed for these uses.
Side Effects & Safety
Black seed, when taken by mouth in small quantities, such as a flavoring for foods, is LIKELY SAFE for most people. Black seed oil and black seed powder are POSSIBLY SAFE when medical amounts are used short-term. There isn’t enough information to know if larger, medicinal quantities are safe. Black seed can cause allergic rashes when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. When taken by mouth it might cause stomach upset, vomiting, or constipation. It might increase the risk of seizures in some people.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Black seed seems to be safe in food amounts during pregnancy. But taking larger medicinal amounts is LIKELY UNSAFE. Black seed can slow down or stop the uterus from contracting.
Not much is known about the safety of using black seed during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Black seed oil is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth short-term and in recommended amounts.
Bleeding disorders: Black seed might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. In theory, black seed might make bleeding disorders worse.
Diabetes:Black seed might lower blood sugar levels in some people. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use black seed.
Low blood pressure: Black seed might lower blood pressure. In theory, taking black seed might make blood pressure become too low in people with low blood pressure.
Surgery: Black seed might slow blood clotting, reduce blood sugar, and increase sleepiness in some people. In theory, black seed might increase the risk for bleeding and interfere with blood sugar control and anesthesia during and after surgical procedures. Stop using black seed at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For asthma: 2 grams of ground black seed has been used daily for 12 weeks. Also, 500 mg of black seed oil has been taken twice daily for 4 weeks. In addition, 15 mL/kg of black seed extract has been used daily for 3 months. A single dose of 50-100 mg/kg has also been used.
- For diabetes: 1 gram of black seed powder has been used twice daily for up to 12 months.
- For high blood pressure: 0.5-2 grams of black seed powder has been taken daily for up to 12 weeks. Also, 100-200 mg or 2.5 mL of black seed oil has been used twice daily for 8 weeks.
- To improve sperm function: 2.5 mL of black seed oil has been used twice daily for 2 months.
ON THE SKIN:
- For breast pain: A gel containing 30% black seed oil has been applied to breasts every day for two menstrual cycles.