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!