Black cumin seeds are native to southwest Asia. They are commonly used for culinary purposes in candy making and preparation of liquors due to their pungent bitter smell and taste. Black cumin seeds have been used for centuries for medical purposes. A study in the August 2000 "Phytotherapy Research" confirms the presence of chemicals in black cumin seeds that offer antioxidant benefits, primarily the chemical thymoquinone. Antioxidants rid the body of free radicals that cause cell damage and promote disease. Consumption of black cumin seeds is considered an herbal, alternative treatment and should be taken under the direction of a physician.
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Several scientific studies examine the effectiveness of thymoquinone from black cumin seeds for cancer treatment. A study in the 2010 issue of "Nutrition and Cancer" shows that thymoquinone promotes anti-inflammatory effects, inhibits cancer cell growth and proliferation and even causes cell death in cancer cells. This study was mostly performed in cell cultures, but the results encouraged further examination of thymoquinone in clinical trials involving the human population.
Immune System Benefits
There is convincing scientific evidence that the consumption of black cumin seeds bestows benefits on the immune system. A study in the June 2010 issue of "Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology" evaluated the use of black cumin seeds on the immune system of study subjects who were exposed to gamma radiation. The results of the study reveal that subjects who were administered black seed oil orally encountered fewer immune system disorders as a result of the radiation exposure than study subjects who were left untreated. The results of this study indicate the oils from black cumin seeds offer immune system protection from radiation exposure.
Scientific studies have also shown that black cumin seeds can offer benefits as an anti-bacterial agent. One study examined the effects of black cumin seeds against the bacterial infection of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA. This study, published in the July-August issue of the "Journal of Ayub Medical College," showed that black cumin seeds offered an inhibitory effect against several strains of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. These results are significant because methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus can become resistant to antibiotics, so use of black cumin seeds may become more prevalent in the treatment of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus if resistance occurs.
There is scientific evidence stating that administration of black cumin seeds can offer anti-convulsive benefits. According to a study published in the "Medical Science Monitor," more than 15 percent of childhood epilepsy cases are resistant to treatment even though anti-epilepsy medications are widely available. This study examined the use of extracts from black cumin seeds on 23 children, ages 13 months to 13 years, with refractory seizure disorder. The results of the study showed a significant reduction of the frequency of seizures in the group treated with black cumin seed extract.