If nothing else, blackseed, or black seed, technically known as nigella sativa, may boost your health, thanks to its antioxidant benefits. You need to consult a health care professional before trying this herb, however, because it can interact with medicines and other supplements, has possible blood-sugar lowering properties and may affect your liver and kidney function.
People have been using black seed for a variety of purposes for well over 3,000 years. Its oil is purported to restore balance and harmony to your body. It is used in folk medicine to improve metabolism, reduce inflammation and heal the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. Among the ailments it's used to treat are hay fever, asthma, bronchitis, allergies, intestinal fungus, high blood pressure, flatulence, premenstrual headaches and fevers.
One of the oil's main constituents, thymoquinone, does have antioxidant properties, note Bharat B. Aggarwal and Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara, authors of the book, "Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices." In all, black seed has eight fatty acids including linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids as well as 32 other identified compounds. In animal studies, black seed extract decreases blood-glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, according to B.H. Ali and G. Blunden, authors of a review on black seed published in "Phytotherapy Research."
The ether extract of black seed has a slight anorexic effect, meaning it might curb your appetite, notes Phuong Mai Le, lead author for a study published in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology." However, Le's research was done on rats, not humans, so more study is needed to see if the extract has the same effect on people.
Black seed's purported weight loss benefits are derived from its possible blood-sugar lowering effects. The theory behind keeping your blood sugar balanced is that it can help you lose weight and improve your health, note the experts at the Mayo Clinic. Substances that help keep your blood-sugar levels steady also help you control your appetite because they reduce your carbohydrate cravings, says Shawn Talbott, author of "The Cortisol Connection Diet." Controlling your cravings can translate to weight loss of two to four pounds per month without you making conscious alterations to your diet, Talbott notes.
You'll find black seed for weight loss available in extract, pill or tea form. However, some proponents believe its most effective form is the oil extract. A typical dose of the extract is 1 to 3 tbsp. daily.
If you want to take black seed for weight loss, be careful about taking it along with medication such as insulin or other herbs that lower blood sugar levels like Panax ginseng or devil's claw, because it may raise your risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia in rare cases leads to seizures and loss of consciousness, but symptoms more often include confusion, heart palpitations, sweating and disturbances in vision, according to Mayo Clinic.
- “Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices”; Bharat B. Aggarwal and Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara; 2009
- PubMed: “Phytotherapy Research”; Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa; B.H. Ali and G. Blunden; 2003
- Mayo Clinic: Glycemic Index Diet
- “The Cortisol Connection Diet”; Shawn Talbott; 2004
- Science Direct: “Journal of Ethnopharmacology”; The petroleum ether extract of Nigella sativa exerts lipid-lowering and insulin-sensitizing actions in the rat; Phuong Mai Le et al.; 2004