People have used black seed oil for its therapeutic benefits for thousands of years.
Studies suggest that this oil may offer many health and cosmetic benefits, such as aiding weight loss, improving skin conditions, and even treating cancer and diabetes. In this article, we look at the science behind black seed oil’s benefits and explore the possible side effects and risks.
What is Black Seed Oil?
Black seeds are also known as black caraway, black cumin, kalonji, and black onion seeds. They come from Nigella sativa, a small plant with pale purple, blue, or white flowers that grows in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East. People have used the tiny black seeds of the fruits of N. sativa as a natural remedy for thousands of years.
The seeds can also flavor curries, pickles, and bread in a similar way to cumin or oregano. The black seed oil contains thymoquinone, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that may also have tumor-reducing properties. People can ingest black seed oil in the form of capsules or apply it topically to benefit the skin. It is also possible to add oil to massage oils, shampoos, homemade skin-care products, and fragrances. High-quality black seed oil is also suitable for use in cooking, baking, and beverages.
Benefits of Black Seed Oil
Scientists with a range of specialties have researched the possible benefits of black seed oil.
However, it is important to note that many studies to date have used cells or animals as models, and there is limited research available on the effects of black seed oil in humans.
Benefits for weight loss
Research has shown that black seed supplementation can help lower people’s body mass index (BMI). The study participants did not report any severe side effects from taking this supplement.
A systematic review published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders in 2013 found that black seed oil could be effective in tackling obesity.
Benefits for the skin
Black seed oil may be beneficial for people with the following skin conditions:
- Eczema: According to a small-scale 2013 study comparing the therapeutic benefits of N. sativa with those of prescription medications, black seed oil can reduce the severity of hand eczema.
- Acne: Research suggests that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of black seed oil can improve acne. In one study, 58 percent of participants rated their response to this treatment as good, while 35 percent felt their results were moderate.
- Psoriasis: A 2012 study mice suggests that the oil may also have antipsoriatic benefits.
Black seed oil may also hydrate hair, soften skin, and act as a moisturizer, although there is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm these benefits.
Benefits for health conditions
Black seed oil may also be beneficial for some health conditions, including the following:
Recent studies have shown that the thymoquinone in black seed oil can influence programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in several types of cancer cells. These include brain cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer cells.
However, much of the research on the effects of black seed oil on cancer uses cells rather than live humans, so researchers do not yet know how effective the oil may be to treat people with cancer.
Liver and kidney function
According to a 2013 study on rats, black seed oil may reduce liver and kidney disease complications and improve the organ structures. Researchers do not know if these effects would also occur in humans.
According to an article in the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, black seed oil may have anti-diabetic properties and improve blood sugar levels. Again, this study used animal models, so more research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of oil in humans.
A placebo-controlled clinical trial on men with abnormal sperm and infertility has found that black seed oil can improve sperm movement and increase sperm count and semen volume.
Side Effect And Risks
Although black seed oil seems to offer certain health benefits, this supplement does not replace medication. People taking medication should talk to their doctor before using herbal supplements, such as black seed oil. The doctor can advise on possible interactions with the medication and also discuss the potential benefits and side effects of the supplement. It is essential never to stop taking the medication without a doctor’s advice. As with any supplement, pregnant or breastfeeding women should talk to their doctor to see if black seed oil is right for them before using it.
With topical use, black seed oil can cause an allergic rash in some people. Therefore, it is vital to test it on a small patch of skin first to ensure that it does not trigger a reaction.
People must also take care to keep the oil away from the eyes, nostrils, and other sensitive body parts.
Swallowing black seed oil can sometimes lead to digestive problems, such as stomach upset, constipation, and vomiting.