In this article, we look at the science behind black seed oil's benefits and explore the possible side effects and risks.
What is black seed oil?
Black seed oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Black seeds are also known as black caraway, black cumin, kalonji, and black onion seeds.
They come from Nigella sativa, a small plant with pale purple, blue, or white flowers that grows in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East.
People have used the tiny black seeds of the fruits of N. sativa as a natural remedy for thousands of years. The seeds can also flavor curries, pickles, and bread in a similar way to cumin or oregano.
People can ingest black seed oil in the form of capsules or apply it topically to benefit the skin. It is also possible to add the oil to massage oils, shampoos, homemade skin-care products, and fragrances.
High-quality black seed oil is also suitable for use in cooking, baking, and beverages.
Benefits of black seed oil
Scientists with a range of specialties have researched the possible benefits of black seed oil.
However, it is important to note that many studies to date have used cells or animals as models, and there is limited research available on the effects of black seed oil in humans.
Benefits for weight loss
Benefits for the skin
Black seed oil may be beneficial for people with the following skin conditions:
- Eczema: According to a small-scale 2013 study comparing the therapeutic benefits of N. sativa with those of prescription medications, black seed oil can reduce the severity of hand eczema.
- Acne: Research suggests that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of black seed oil can improve acne. In one study, 58 percent of participants rated their response to this treatment as good, while 35 percent felt their results were moderate.
- Psoriasis: A 2012 study on mice suggests that the oil may also have antipsoriatic benefits.
Black seed oil may also hydrate hair, soften skin, and act as a moisturizer, although there is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm these benefits.
Benefits for health conditions
Black seed oil may also be beneficial for some health conditions, including the following:
Recent studies have shown that the thymoquinone in black seed oil can influence programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in several types of cancer cell. These include brain cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer cells.
However, much of the research on the effects of black seed oil on cancer uses cells rather than live humans, so researchers do not yet know how effective the oil may be to treat people with cancer.
Liver and kidney function
According to a 2013 study on rats, black seed oil may reduce liver and kidney disease complications and improve the organ structures. Researchers do not know if these effects would also occur in humans.
According to an article in the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, black seed oil may have antidiabetic properties and improve blood sugar levels. Again, this study used animal models, so more research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of the oil in humans.
Side effects and risks
People should not use black seed oil in place of medication.
Although black seed oil seems to offer certain health benefits, this supplement does not replace medication.
People taking medication should talk to their doctor before using herbal supplements, such as black seed oil.
The doctor can advise on possible interactions with the medication and also discuss the potential benefits and side effects of the supplement. It is essential never to stop taking medication without a doctor's advice.
As with any supplement, pregnant or breastfeeding women should talk to their doctor to see if black seed oil is right for them before using it.
With topical use, black seed oil can cause an allergic rash in some people. Therefore, it is vital to test it on a small patch of skin first to ensure that it does not trigger a reaction.
People must also take care to keep the oil away from the eyes, nostrils, and other sensitive body parts.
To get the safest and most beneficial black seed oil, always choose high-quality, organic black seed oil that is 100-percent pure, therapeutic grade, and USDA certified.
People have used black seed oil for its therapeutic benefits for thousands of years.
Many studies have shown that it may have health and cosmetic benefits for various medical and skin conditions, although these studies often use animal or cell models rather than humans.
More research into the effects of N. sativa in humans is necessary to confirm its benefits.
Always talk to a doctor before taking black seed oil, and choose 100-percent pure, therapeutic-grade, USDA-certified organic black seed oil. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor herbs and supplements for quality and purity, so it is vital to be selective when purchasing these products.