Nigella sativa is a flowering plant found throughout India, Arabia, and Europe. The seeds, commonly known as Black Seeds or Black Cumin, are used in cooking and in traditional medicine for inflammation, infection, and cancer. Constituents from Nigella sativa demonstrated immunomodulatory (1) (2) (11), antioxidant (15), antiparasitic (13) and hepatoprotective effects (14) in vitro and in animal studies. Nigella sativa seed, may be useful in the treatment of asthma (21), hypertension (5) (10) (22), rheumatoid arthritis (26), dyspepsia (27) and diabetes (28) in humans. Thymoquinone, a major constituent of Nigella sativa, exhibited anti-epileptic effects in children with refractory seizures (23). Nigella sativa may also relieve symptoms of allergic reactions (12), but allergic contact dermatitis was reported with topical use (19).
Evidence also suggests that Nigella sativa has anticancer properties. The constituents of the seeds, including thymoquinone, reduced the growth and size of tumors in rats (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) ; thymoquinone also enhanced the anticancer effects of doxorubicin in certain cancer cell lines (25). Nigella sativa oil, when injected, demonstrated a protective effect against tissue damage caused by radiation in rats (15). Human studies are lacking.
Adverse effects are rare, but high doses of Nigella sativa oil caused liver and kidney damage in rats (7).