Thymoquinone (from black cumin) kills multiple myeloma cells…

Since it’s possible (only “possible,” eh!) that my recent good results might have been influenced at least in part by my recently increased intake of Nigella sativa, more familiarly known as black cumin, I thought I would discuss two black cumin studies published in the fall of 2011. By the way, black cumin is not the same as regular “cumin.” 

Well, I just had a brilliant idea. Instead of talking about these seeds in an abstract way, why not take a photo of some of my own (organic) seeds for our “Weird seeds 101” lesson? 😉 Okay, here you can see the black cumin seeds on top; cumin seeds, bottom left, and fenugreek seeds, bottom right. For size comparison, I put a pumpkin seed on the top right-hand side…

For the record: after taking this photo, I poured all the seeds back into their separate containers, but I popped the fenugreek ones into my mouth…and yes, I can confirm that they still taste like burnt celery and are as hard as rocks (so it’s better if you cook them…)!

Before I go on, I should also point out that both the 2011 studies CONFIRM the findings of a 2010 study on thymoquinone and myeloma, which I had discussed in this April 2011 post: Different research teams, eh. 

Okay, back to us, finally. The first on my list is a September 2011 study. I’d meant to report about it ages ago, but…things happen, as you know by now (!)…Studies pile up on my desktop, then get stuck in folders and almost forgotten, sigh (I need a full-time assistant! 😉 ). The full text is available for free online:

The study’s title is daunting, to say the least. But it’s not that complicated, once we know what everything means. For example:

  • CXCL12 is a powerful chemokine (= a cytokine that activates white blood cells during an acute/chronic inflammation), which “lives” in the bone marrow. CXCL12 is one of the super bad guys, mind you, since it fuels both bone destruction AND angiogenesis…aaagh! Oh, as if that weren’t enough, it also activates myeloma cells in the bone marrow…double aaagh! 
  • Chemotaxis are not special taxis that take cancer patients to their chemotherapy appointments (sorry, couldn’t help that one…). Seriously now, it means: “movement toward or away from a chemical stimulus.” Luckily, the study itself provides more details (see the “Discussion” part): chemotaxis is important and critical for the homing, interaction with the BM microenvironment and survival of MM cells. No comment necessary, methinks! But those of you, brave souls!, who would like to read more about chemotaxis and what it means in myeloma can have a look at this 2010 study:
  • Fas-mediated apoptosis: basically, Fas is an apoptosis-signaling receptor molecule. Okay, try this: when cancer cells become resistant to treatment, they thumb their noses at our friend, Mr. Fas, and survive. So we like Mr. Fas. And we don’t want Mr. Fas to be blocked!
  • Thymoquinone, or TQ, is the active ingredient in black cumin oil extract. Like curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. And so on.

Okay, now that that’s clear (?), we can proceed…

When myeloma cells were pre-treated with the black cumin extract (= thymoquinone), CXCL12 and CD45 (another evil guy, in the myeloma patient’s guidebook…) weren’t able to communicate with each other. Even if we don’t understand what exactly happened there, take my word for it: it’s good news for us. 

And another good thing: thymoquinone had a strong effect on myeloma cells but not on healthy PBMCs (= peripheral blood mononuclear cells, or immune system blood cells such as lymphocytes) from healthy folks. That means that it attacked only the bad guys…good to know!

Oh, so many details. For example, the fact that myeloma cells treated with TQ have more CD95 on their surface. And CD95 = death of the myeloma cell, via Fas-mediated apoptosis. Oh, and the death of TQ-treated myeloma cells was increased by up to 85%. Fantastique!!!

Conclusions: the present data expand our knowledge of TQ mechanism of action and suggest that TQ may represent a promising drug candidate for the treatment of patients with MM, providing a rationale for its clinical evaluation. Yesssss!

And now for the second study, published in December 2011 (again, full text available for free online): Note: a couple of the authors are the same as those who worked on the first study. 

The main difference between the two studies is that this one talks specifically about STAT3, which is a hyperactive transcription factor linked to heaps of bad stuff in myeloma. As we know by now, STAT3 is associated with inflammation and the survival, proliferation, metastasis, angiogenesis, and chemoresistance of tumor cells. Blablabla…

Thanks to the 2010 study on the same topic, I was not surprised to read that TQ inhibits the IL-6-induced proliferation of MM cells AND suppresses STAT3 phosphorylation and the expression of its downstream signaling effectors Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL. By inhibiting STAT3, TQ also had a strong effect on many other bad guys in myeloma, such as cyclin D1, the Bcl family, survivin, Mcl-1 and VEGF. Just what we saw happen recently with guggulsterone, incidentally…

Conclusions of study no. 2: Taken together, our data suggests that TQ could potentially be applied toward the treatment of MM and other malignancies. Yes indeedie!

I’m now throwing black cumin seeds into everything we eat, except for our morning cappuccinos 😉 And, when he cooks (he’s a much better cook than I am), Stefano uses it, too…Besides being good for us in more ways than expected (or so I hope, at least!), it also adds a lovely peppery flavour to our food…Give it a try! 


  1. Thanks, Margaret. I found Nigella Sativa at my favorite online store where it’s available in bulk. Caution–I used their search tool and looked for black cumin seed–that product is not the same as Nigella sativa to them.

  2. When I saw you mention CXCL12, it rang a bell and I had to think back to my grad student days… back then it was called stromal-derived growth factor (SDF-1). Funny thing, SDF-1 was identified as a chemokine responsible for communication between cancer cells and their immediate surroundings (stroma). Even more fascinating, in mice it was shown that stromal cells can dictate whether genetically cancerous cells actually do their cancer thing – when they mixed cancer cells with normal stromal fibroblasts and put that “tumor” into mice, the tumor didn’t grow and the cancer cells acted like normal cells, BUT when either cancer cells or normal cells were mixed with carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), they grew into tumors and spread like cancer. EVEN NORMAL CELLS BECAME CANCEROUS IN THE CAF ENVIRONMENT. This worked for breast cancer and prostate cancer cells in the independent studies. One study then went on to characterize SDF-1 as the agent responsible for this phenomenon.

    Why is this so important? Well, besides the amazing scientific stuff, this relates directly to myeloma, in my mind. While my sister was going through her MM battle, I was trying to apply this SDF-1 stuff and my own research to a solution. I firmly believe (and I’m not alone) that many cancers and recurrences are cases of “bad neighborhoods.” The CAF studies support this, as does a ton of other research. Killing mutated cells is great, but it’s like an inner city drug problem: you can bust the dealers, but unless you do some intensive infrastructure work, “urban renewal” if you will, the problem will just come back. Now, with MM the “best” treatment most doctors can tell you is a stem cell transplant, and many of them believe that the reason it’s not a cure is that you don’t kill all the original MM cells with the melphalan and they grow back, etc. I believe they have neglected the stromal effect completely. I was looking to see if there was some drug they’d be willing to give to block CXCL12 post-transplant to see if that would delay or prevent relapse. In my searching I found out that the very drug used to harvest stem cells works in part by blocking the CXCL12 interaction between bone marrow stroma and stem cells, allowing the stem cells to enter circulation en masse. So there was no chance that the doctors would use that or probably even listen to me. I’m still a firm believer that blocking SDF-1/CXCL12 is part of the key to stromal cell “urban renewal” and a full cure. The work that you highlight supports that idea. If you know of anyone in research who can look directly at this, please let them know about this or contact me. I’m out of research now (into teaching), but I’d be happy to get someone else started on this, if it meant others wouldn’t have to suffer as my sister did.

  3. Fascinating comment, Rob, and it all makes a ton of sense to me.
    Funny thing…This morning, just for the heck of it, I searched PubMed for curcumin and CXCL12, and this is the study I found:
    I wonder…
    By the way, I love your inner city image…of course, I agree.
    As for your other point, unfortunately I don’t know any researchers working on this particular issue, but perhaps someone will get in touch with me as a result of my post & your comment (even privately via the Contact form)…
    Rob, thanks a bunch for all your comments, by the way, much appreciated by yours truly. 🙂
    Paula, I found that in English, Nigella sativa has many different names: Black seed, Black cumin, Black caraway, Nutmeg flower, Roman coriander. I know that what I have is indeed Nigella sativa, but I suppose one should be careful when ordering (make sure the Latin name is on the label…something like that). Thanks for making that point! 🙂

  4. I get the seeds at an indian grocer. They are really inexpensive. It is called Kalonji. They also have long pepper powder. Called Lindi pepper powder.

    I grind the nigella sativa seeds in a coffee grinder (fenugreek seeds are real hard and don’t get totally pulverized in the grinder). Use a tbl of black cumin seeds and add in 1/2 tbl of long peper powder to about 6 tbl of fresh cheese (it’s quark cheese that I make myself from a live culture I buy from Danlac Canada) and a small amount of flax oil. I mix in some raw honey and enough water to make about a cup. It doesn’t taste the best due to the flax oil; but, just drinking it down isn’t all that bad.

  5. Swanson sells a black cumin seed extract in a capsule form that is quite inexpensive. I’ve begun to take it every day now.

  6. Thanks for the tip about, Paula. Spent a lot of time searching for the stuff today, without success. Just ordered some from that site.

  7. I bought a pound of high quality nigella sativa seed from a spice company but I wonder if a tablespoon a day is enough or contains enough TQ. They taste good. However, I just ordered capsules of high quality nigella sativa oil in 500mg capsules. I would assume they contain more TQ and are certainly easier to ingest and probably more bioavailable in oil form.

    1. Terry, where did you order the high quality nigella sativa capsul(How do you know they are high quality?) and how muc is it safe to take each day and when and with what other food?
      Thanks so very much.

  8. Hi Margaret,

    Great posting today! I’ve been taking nigella sativa as a supplement, in capsules, for a few months. I can’t remember if you have reported this, but are you taking a supplement as well as adding the seeds to your cooking? If so, what strength?

    Thanks for all you do!

  9. I’ve been taking Nigelia saliva since (@March 2011), I stopped Cyclophosphamide 600 mg once a week and 50 mg prednisone every other day. All I’m on now is 25 mg Prednisone every 3 days ( @ 8.5 mg a day) and Pamidronate every three months and my M-spike is the same or lower than when I was on Cyclophosphomide a year ago. I have NOT had a SCT or any other drugs this past year, just Curcumin, Black cumin seed oil, Milk Thistle, Vit K2, Vit D3, Chlorella, Acidophilus, Calcium, fibre and an Ensure or Boost. I’m a Lambda Light, IgG (09/08) 17.9 now 11.7 , as I’ve said before… I’m Stable

    1. Very interesting. You say you are Lambda Light and stable. My husband too is lambda Light AL primary Amyloidosis and his naturopath Dr. just put him on Black seed capsules. Can you tell me if you too have amyloidosis?

      1. i Cathy, I saw your 2011 comment re lambda light chains. I have had Myeloma for20 years (smoldering) with no treatment until I had a multi system breakdown in the spring of 2015. My light chains went up to 980, started a 9 month chemo program with the light chains coming down to the teen range. Amyloid was found on my lungs and heart. Now 6 months after the chemo treatment the light chains are again climbing however the Kappa/Lamda ratio is still in the normal range. My oncologist has discussed the possibility in the future of going on a maintenance plan with Revlimid and Dexamethasone.
        I noticed your husband’s naturopathic doctor had put him on Black seed capsules. I am most curious as to details of dosage etc and how this approach has played out for your husband regarding both the Myeloma, light chains and amyloidosis. Thanks

  10. In addition, the black cumin seed oil stimulates the bone marrow and immune cells. Increase the production of interferon. Protects normal cells from the cytotoxic effects of the viruses. Destroy tumor cells and increase the number of antibody-producing B cells.

  11. Hello everybody!
    What´s the most effective way to take nigella sativa;
    As a supplement in powder capsules or oil capsules or
    pure and simple seeds? What dosages do You take? If You take seeds, must they be crushed first?

  12. Very interesting post and thanks for sharing (and the good comments). I ordered nigella sativa to give it a try. I expect next week the results of my blood values??, so a good moment for a small adjustment of my supplements list.

  13. Hi Delilah,

    I read your post and was just curious. Did you have CRAB symptoms that led to treatment? For me, I am smoldering but they are watching my hemoglobin closely. It is now about 12.0 which is mild anemia for a 49 year old guy. Like you, I take chlorella (also spirulina) and a super green product called Barlean’s Greens. Hope to boost that blood somehow!Good luck. Terry from Haddonfield, NJ

  14. Terry L

    I see you take chlorella. Just a heads up. It is completely indigestable in its natural form. And the form found in a lot of supplements. You will need to get broken cell wall chlorella to be of any biological benefit. In other words, if it’s not broken cell wall or of a biologically accessible form, your money would be better spent on curcumin or something. Something to think about.

    1. thank you for all and any info as I can be anemic real easy so in a process I found a blood builder without constipation….cancer is out there….I want to stay healthy and not have to take meds which is where I am at now…very helpful web

  15. Good morning, how much do you injest each day of the black cumin seeds? If you are on curcumin is there a certain ratio one should take? Thanks in advance.

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