Black seed oil has traditionally been rich in medicinal properties. All herbal medicine systems (e.g., Unani, Tib, Ayurveda, Siddha3) regard the plant’s seeds and oil as useful in treating various ailments. In Unani, black cumin seed is mentioned as an important remedy.
In Arabo-Islamic culture, black cumin has been prescribed for various ailments, including fever, asthma, chronic headaches, diabetes, digestion, back pain, infections, and rheumatism. In Arabic culture, black cumin is known as habbatul barakah, the seed of blessing.
Since its popularity in the seventh century, black seed oil is still regarded as important family medicine, with the oil most often used medicinally. Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna (980–1037 AD), mentions it in his Canon of Medicine: “That stimulates the body’s energy and helps recover from fatigue or dispiritedness.” The spice is also believed to be good for purification and detoxification of the body; reduction of mucous and improved lung function; fever, coughs, and colds; toothache; headache; skin diseases and wound treatments; intestinal parasites and worms; and poisonous bites and stings.
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, various scientific studies indicate that molecules from the plant have immune-modulating, antioxidant, antiparasitic, and hepatoprotective properties, meaning that the seed of N. sativa may be useful in treating asthma, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, dyspepsia, diabetes, dermatitis, and even cancer. The U.S. FDA has granted two patents to use the oil to treat cancer-related ailments and improve immune systems.
Through experiments, Haq et al. (1999) demonstrated the immunomodulatory effect of proteins in N. sativa seeds. Dada et al. (1995) also found that the species had a hepatoprotective effect on rats. Other scientific studies show that the seed and oil are cardioprotective (El Tahir et al., 1993) and gastroprotective (El-Abhar et al., 2003).