The title of my post is the translation of an ancient saying (which I loved!) referring to a common Islamic belief that the black cumin seed plant, or Nigella sativa or blackseed, a member of the buttercup family (the Ranunculaceae family), is a panacea for every ailment except aging and death. And everything that I read online yesterday and this morning on different websites would seem to confirm the extraordinary and wide-ranging healing properties of this plant. Wikipedia, for instance, informs us that Nigella sativa has been used for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, by people in Asia, Middle East, and Africa for medicinal purposes. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general overall well-being. In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available. So here we have a plant extract that was and is used to treat ailments ranging from asthma to diarrhea, from skin diseases to nervous disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, worms and parasites. Nigella sativa has antifungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities, and also allegedly strengthens the immune system, cleanses the body, purifies the blood, improves blood circulation, and helps us live longer. Strengthens the immune system? Purifies the blood? Helps us live longer? Sounds too good to be true. Ahhh, but this is just the beginning.
In the past few decades Nigella sativa has been under scrutiny for its anti-cancer potential. Nope, unfortunately I found no black cumin – myeloma studies. But I am still looking! Here follows a selection of the many studies examining the effects of Nigella sativa and its various extracts on cancer. A June 2007 study (abstract: http://tinyurl.com/2zksw6), which I was lucky enough to get my hands on, thanks to a good friend (grazie!), informs us that Nigella sativa has immunopotentiation and antihistaminic, antidiabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial activities. [ ] Furthermore, blackseed preparations may have a cancer chemopreventive potential and may reduce the toxicity of standard antineoplastic drugs. The study looked at the in vitro and in vivo (mice) potential of different extracts of Nigella sativa seeds against several tumour cell lines. The essential oil injected directly into solid tumours inhibited their development, and even decreased their volume after 30 days of treatment. The study concludes: Our results indicate for the first time that intra-tumor treatment of tumor-bearing mice with essential oil may have led to the inhibition of metastasis development [ ]. These results demonstrate either that the essential oil has an anti-metastatic activity in mice or that it inhibits or delays metastasis by rapid reduction of primary tumor volume at the site of induction. [ ] The present study demonstrates that the cytotoxic activity of blackseed extracts is a complex phenomenon depending not only on the nature of the extract and its components, but also on the tumor cell type. An August 2007 study published in “Cancer Research” (http://tinyurl.com/266rlg) examines the in vitro and in vivo effects of one of Nigella sativa’s active compounds, thymoquinone, on prostate cancer, concluding that it “may prove to be effective in treating hormone-sensitive as well as hormone-refractory prostate cancer. Furthermore, because of its selective effect on cancer cells, we believe that thymoquinone can also be used safely to help prevent the development of prostate cancer.” The cytotoxicity of Nigella sativa purified extracts, thymoquinone (TQ) and dithymoquinone (DIM), against a variety of tumour cells had already been examined in 1998 (http://tinyurl.com/33woyf). With very good results, I should add. A 2005 article (http://tinyurl.com/2u9arx) mentions the protective effects of TQ and the volatile oil against the nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity induced by either disease or chemicals. The seeds/oil have antiinflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antimicrobial and antineoplastic activity. The oil decreases blood pressure and increases respiration. Treatment of rats with the seed extract for up to 12 weeks has been reported to induce changes in the haemogram that include an increase in both the packed cell volume (PCV) and haemoglobin (Hb), and a decrease in plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose.” Well, all this is truly remarkable, to say the least. As I do with all the substances on my research list, I checked to see if there was any mention of clinical trials. I was actually not surprised to find only ONE (see: http://tinyurl.com/34kv6e), which tested Nigella sativa on dyslipidemia, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. No cancer trials. Not one! This sounds all too familiar, unfortunately. (Big sigh.)
My own experience with Nigella sativa. My interest in this remarkable plant was sparked at the beginning of 2006, after I read that black cumin seeds had been found in the tomb of Tutankhamen (how about that for a fascinating historical detail?). That reminds me: I have not yet mentioned that the seeds are used in Middle Eastern cooking to flavour breads, cakes, and even alcoholic beverages. And oh, by the way, Nigella sativa should not be confused with the herb and spice known as “cumin,” which is a member of the parsley family (I made that mistake until I looked it up). In April, I took black cumin oil capsules, a total of two grams a day, then I ran out of them and didn’t place another order since by then I had flaxseed oil capsules. However, I wonder if the black cumin oil might have had a positive effect on my good IgG increase in June ? And possibly on the improvement in my rosacea? Hard to say, now. I wasn’t paying much attention to these oil capsules at the time, I confess, since I hadn’t done much research at that point and was using them mainly to enhance curcumin bioavailability. Well, after what I have read in the past two days, I will reorder black cumin oil capsules and test them as a holistic remedy. Soon. In fact, I am going to see if I can grow the plant in my back yard with the rest of my herbs. My Nigella sativa story doesn’t end here!
My sincere compliments to you on your assiduous pursuit of anything, any substance that might affect the course of cancer, particularly MM. Your constant outpourings of new possibilities bring into sharp focus that there are no lack of possibilities. But there is a great lack of proof, particularly in humans, and particularly proof coupled with comparative efficacy to other available drugs for treating/preventing cancer. As you know, my concern is Alzheimer’s, which I constantly study for the benefit of my wife. And I find the same problem: many possibilities but little proof, almost no clinical trials on humans and little comparisons of the possibilities.
With so many possibilites and so little basis for choice, what does one do, what do you invest your time in trying? It is evident that there are many natural substances that have been found that can affect the course of many diseases. But there is a near total lack of incentive of those with the cash to use any of it to fund clinical trials to attempt to sort out the big winners from the also rans. Yet the need is huge and the response is nil.
What is needed is a funding program to enable more clinical trials to be run to give patients/victims and their caregivers the facts to enable rational decisions about what to use to supplement the often very meager benefits that available FDA approved drugs offer. In my own area of interest and specialization–Alzheimer’s disease–I know that the necessarily expensive FDA drugs are virtually useless. They offer brief treatment of symptoms and do not affect the course of the disease. Yet there are many substances that appear to offer hope, based on animal tests, that they might provide greater benefits than the few available FDA drugs. These alternative substances you can buy, but you can’t find any information about what the proper human dose is to obtain a meaningful effect, and what the safety and side effects are at those dosage levels. The tests haven’t been run.
Every disease has its association or organization which collects money to fund some research. But this money almost never goes to alternative, natural substance tests, even when some indication exists that it shows some efficacy in animal trials, and anectdotal info abounds from people who take the stuff and find it helps some of them. The perceived funding needs of the conventional medical approachs always seem to win out in the allocation of research money.
Yet in the area I know best, Alzheimer’s disease research, the results of conventional medical approachs have been totally underwhelming. The new drug candidates that have gone into trials have all fallen by the wayside and not a single new drug class for AD has appeared in the past ten years. Oh yes, there is great joy at all the new depth of knowledge that the research has brought forth. But where is the new treatment? Ten years ago when I started researching AD, much like you Margaret have been researching MM, I felt that if I could just find something to keep my wife alive and healthy for five more years then the then ongoing research would have something for her. She is still alive and healthy (except for having late stage AD) ten years later, but no new drug has appeared to help her in that time. The medical/pharmaceutical industry as miserably failing her, in my view, and millions of others in the same boat.
Yet there are different substances out there, like curcumin and resveratrol, omega-3 fish oils and others, that show significant promise from in vitro and in vivo animal trials. But almost no clinical trials to evaluate them. Yes, there are several clinical trials now being organized to test curcumin against different cancers, including MM. One clinical trial against each cancer type is still a minimal effort. And in AD there is only one small clinical trial organized for curcumin against AD, and it may well fail to show results because I suspect that the dosage level is too small. One clinical trial with fish oil against AD was done in Sweden, with almost no benefit shown, again because they did not know what dosage level to use, and used too little, in my knowledge and experience. With only limited funds for their trial they short cut the Ph. I and Ph. II parts, that are supposed to establish the effective & safe dosage level.
So there is a desperate need for the evaluation of these alternative substances, so that those that really do work can be revealed. The people with the money, the pharmaceutical companies, will not do it because they could never recover that expenditure in sales of a non-patentable product. But the other people who have money and could fund the trials are the victims. But they are not organized and any donations they might give will only go where the conventional medical research points.
And finally I get to my question: do you feel that there is some possibility of a grass roots movement to:
1. establish a vehicle to direct the flow of money that the patients/victims might donate toward clinical trials of these natural, unpatentable substances only;
2. organizing fund raising donations amongst interested/affected parties to donate for the exclusive use to fund such clinical trials, the results of which would be published and freely available to all?
I am tired of being stuck in this abyss of ignorance about which of these substances that nature has given us will actually work. Your and my feeble efforts to uncover the names of them are only the first step.
How do we take the next steps?
What say the rest of you out there?
I grow it all over my property- it reseeds easily and has lovely blue flowers- now I will start saving seed and try for myself – Thannks-
P.S. They’ll never study an herb they can’t patent and take you for all your money.
Wally has made a very eloquent point – there is (and has long been) a deep need for clinical trials of natural substances to be used to fight diseases. This is being done on a very limited basis on college campuses around the world, but not nearly enough to look at the millions of alternative possibilities out there. The big drug companies have so much money at their disposal – they tie up the best research facilities. It should be noted, too, that some drugs do have a natural basis, but the pharmaceutical companies patent synthetic molecular copies of the natural substances.
What is really needed is for a huge charitable organization to agree to begin these trials. It is unlikely, given the amount of money involved , that donations would be adequate. I was thinking of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. They have tons (= $billions) of money given by Hughes, and are said to be an outstanding medical facility. Or perhaps some other philanthropic billionaire might be inspired to sponsor some of this alternative research. Who knows? There probably needs to be a greater clamor for someone to step forward. And of course, the drug companies will do all they can to stop any such endeavor. It does seem that now, however, more and more people are looking to natural substances for the cures they need – so there is more hope than ever that this research will take off.
We all need trials and research of natural preventions and remedies.
And most certainly the drug companies…who develop powerful potions will try to stop them.