Black Nigella, also referred to as fennel flower or nutmeg flower, is an annual plant native to Asia that bears pale blue flowers. The small black seeds, used as a spice, have a strong and bitter flavor. Scientific research has shown a variety of medicinal benefits for black Nigella. Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before using black Nigella.
Nigella sativa, black cumin seed, may be a useful food preservative. A study published in the December 2010 “Journal of Food Protection” found that extracts of black cumin seed protected milk from spoiling. The cumin seed extract inhibited growth of six types of yeast that commonly spoil dairy products. The researchers concluded that cumin seed extract may prove to be a safe, natural and effective food preservative.
Nigella sativa shows anti-malaria properties, according to a study published in the December 2010 “Parasitology Research” journal. In the study, a dose of 1.25 g per kg body weight of Nigella sativa suppressed malaria infection by 94 percent in laboratory animals. The supplement also showed significant antioxidant activity by decreasing the levels of oxidized lipids and restoring activity of antioxidant enzymes. Nigella sativa was also more effective than the anti-malaria drug, chloroquine, at clearing the malaria parasite from the study animals. The researchers concluded that Nigella sativa shows promise for use as an anti-malaria agent.
An antioxidant compound found in Nigella sativa, known as thymoquinone, protects against bacterial sepsis — a type of blood poisoning, according to a February 2011 report published in the journal “International Immunopharmacology.” In the study, thymoquinone doses of 0.75 mg and 1 mg per kg body weight were given to laboratory mice for three consecutive days. Thymoquinone improved resistance to Escherichia coli bacteria by between 80 and 90 percent and improved kidney and liver resilience, and inflammatory markers decreased significantly at the higher dose. The researchers concluded that Nigella sativa shows promise as an antibacterial agent and recommended human studies be performed to confirm their results.
A study published in the March 2010 issue of the “Indian Journal of Experimental Biology” found Nigella sativa more effective than curcumin — the active compound in the spice turmeric — and grape seed extract at decreasing toxic effects of the breast cancer chemotherapy drug, tamoxifen. All antioxidant compounds tested in the study showed protective effects at restoring levels of liver antioxidant enzymes and reducing the damaging effects of the drug. Additionally, in the study, the compound silymarin — the active ingredient in the herb milk thistle — showed similar levels of protective effects as Nigella sativa.