May 20, 2011 By Jaime Herndon
Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin, nutmeg flower, black caraway and black onion seed, is a plant that contains seeds that can be used in cooking and also for medicinal purposes. These seeds may not be effective for everyone, and even though they are natural, they can still cause adverse effects and interactions with medications. Consult your health-care provider before using Nigella sativa for any health purposes.
Nigella sativa contains a chemical called thymoquinone that is said to have anti-cancer effects. A 2011 study published in “Cell Biology International” found that thymoquinone has an additive effect on cell destruction when combined with radiation therapy for breast adenocarcinoma and ductal carcinoma. If you have cancer, do not take Nigella sativa without first talking to your doctor, because it may interact with medications. It can also have effects on your platelets, which help with blood clotting, says Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This can be dangerous if you are on certain cancer medications.
This plant also has antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are thought to contribute to the development of cancer and other illnesses. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center states that the antioxidant effects of Nigella sativa may have protective effects on tissue that is exposed to radiation therapy. Antioxidants may interfere with cancer therapies like radiation and chemotherapy, so talk with your treatment team before using this herb.
Effects on Hypertension
Hypertension is a condition involving elevated blood pressure, and if not treated, it can lead to heart disease, stroke and other health problems. A 2008 study published in “Fundamental and Clinical Pharmacology,” found that subjects taking Nigella sativa twice daily had significantly lower diastolic blood pressures than those not taking this herb. It was also found to be dose-dependent; that is, the subjects taking 200 mg of the herb had lower blood pressures than those taking 100 mg. The study also found that the herb lowered total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, which may also help lower blood pressure and promote heart health.
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-histamine Effects
Nigella sativa has been traditionally used to help reduce inflammation and may help reduce inflammation in some individuals. Histamine is a cause of allergies, and Nigella sativa may help allergy sufferers by preventing the release of histamine. Nigellone, a polymer of thymoquinone, helps inhibit histamine release, according to a 1993 study published in the “Annals of Allergy.” Memorial Sloan-Kettering says that this has been effective in rats and may have the same effects in humans. More research needs to be done, since allergic dermatitis has been reported with use of this herb. If you want to use Nigella sativa to reduce inflammation of some kind or to minimize your allergy symptoms, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to take before consuming it.