From the pages of magazines to the social media posts of health and wellness influencers, there is a lot of buzz today about superfoods. Nigella seeds are one food that keeps coming up, and you may find yourself wondering just what their benefits are. Read on to answer your questions about black cumin seed benefits and how to cook with black cumin seeds.
What Are Nigella Seeds?
Nigella seeds come from a small shrub called Nigella sativa that is known for its purplish-white flowers and grows wild throughout Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East. Those flowers give rise to fruits that are loaded with nigella seeds. Because of its appearance, nigella seed is sometimes referred to as black seed. Other names for the seed include black onion seed, black cumin, black caraway, black sesame, and kalonji. Although these names are similar to other herbs and spices, Nigella sativa is unrelated to the plants. Scientists categorize it as a part of the Ranunculaceae family, making it a cousin to buttercups, delphiniums, and similar plants.
Health Benefits of Nigella Seeds
Archaeologists found black seeds in Egyptian tombs, indicating that they have been used for healing and ritual purposes since ancient times. Today, science has established the potential benefits of black seed oil:
- Antioxidant potential. Research indicates that black seed oil may act as an antioxidant, defending the body against free radicals present in environmental pollutants and cigarette smoke. As a result, they may help to fight against premature aging.
- Heart health. Early studies suggest that black cumin benefits the cardiovascular system. One study found that taking black cumin seed extract for two months led to improvements in blood pressure levels in those with mild hypertension. In addition, the healthy fats found in the seeds may also help to reduce cholesterol levels.
- Joint pain relief. Due to possible anti-inflammatory properties, a reduction in swelling and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis may be a potential benefit of black seed oil.
- Asthma management. There is some evidence to indicate that black cumin seed oil may help alleviate inflammation in the airways to address asthma symptoms.
- Digestive aid. Many individuals eat black seeds or take a black seed oil supplement to promote digestive health. Early scientific research findings show the potential for the seeds to alleviate symptoms such as gas, bloating, and pain associated with ulcers.
Other Benefits of Nigella Sativa
Nigella seeds are also increasingly being added to beauty products due to their possible benefits, which may include:
- Reducing acne breakouts. One study revealed that applying a lotion with 10% black seed oil for two months led to a decrease in the prevalence of acne breakouts.
- Moisturizing. Black seed oil may help to hydrate dry hair to minimize the risk of breakage and split ends. Its potential to act as a moisturizer may soften and smooth dry skin.
- Managing psoriasis outbreaks. With its ability to alleviate inflammation, black cumin seed may help address psoriasis, leading to improvements in the appearance and texture of the skin and fewer outbreaks.
- Promoting wound healing. Research shows that black cumin may help fight bacteria and control the inflammation of wounds to assist with the healing process.
Cooking With Nigella Seeds
If you're looking for an easy way to enjoy black cumin, cooking with the seed is an excellent idea. Black seed adds a strong earthy aroma to recipes, and their flavor is often described as blending hints of nuts, onion, oregano, and black pepper. In addition to searching for nigella seeds recipes online, you can try adding them to:
- Lentil and bean dishes
- Side dishes that contain root vegetables
You can also use them as a topping for:
- Bagels, rolls and other bread
Black Cumin (Nigella Seed) Supplementation
Although black seeds can add a savory note to your recipes, cooking with the ingredient isn't the only way to reap its benefits. Supplements made with black seed oil provide a concentrated dose of the beneficial compounds found in nigella seeds. You can find standalone black cumin supplements or choose a combination product that blends Nigella sativa seed oil with other ingredients that offer similar benefits.
Tips for Taking a Black Cumin Seed Oil Supplement
Keep the following tips in mind when choosing and using a black cumin supplement:
- Consult Your Medical Provider. Although black seeds are natural, they can interact with some medications and may worsen certain preexisting medical conditions. Your medical provider can help you decide whether nigella seeds are right for you.
- Check the Labels. Ensure that you examine the amount of black seed oil present in the products you are considering because dosage levels vary significantly from product to product.
- Use Only As Directed. Unless a health care professional gives you other advice, stick to the dosing instructions printed on the packaging to ensure the best results.