Black cumin seeds in a wooden spoon

The History and Uses of Black Seed Oil

Jane Eklund
This content originally appeared on 

What is Black Seed Oil?

The prophet Mohammed is said to have proclaimed that black cumin seed could cure “anything but death.”

Black cumin seed is mentioned in the Old Testament, too, and was found in the tomb of King Tut.

That’s a pretty good pedigree.

Is Black Seed Used in Medicines Now?

Native to southwest Asia, black seed, also known as Nigella sativa and black cumin, has been the subject of at least four recent metastudies that highlight its potential for use in production of new drugs for a variety of conditions.

There’s no need to wait for pharmacological advances to get the benefits of Nigella sativa, though. The plant is available as a supplement, typically in the form of capsules of black seed oil. The active ingredient that led one researcher to call black seed a “miracle herb” is thymoquinone, which has hepatoprotective (prevents damage to the liver), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and other properties.

Uses and Benefits of Black Seed Oil

  • Skin Health

    Research on the anti-inflammatory effects of black seed indicate that it may be helpful in treating psoriasis and acne. The herb’s antibacterial properties were cited in animal studies showing black seed to be useful in the treatment of staphylococcal skin infections. Black seed has also been used to promote the healing of wounds in farm animals.

  • Antifungal Properties

    In animal studies, black seed extract was found to be significantly effective in inhibiting the growth of Candida albicans. It has also been shown to be effective against other yeasts, molds, and fungi.

  • Anticancer Properties

    Scientists began looking at the effect of black seed on cancer in the 1980s, when patients with advanced cancer who were part of an immunotherapy study that included Nigella sativa seed and other compounds were found to have enhanced natural killer cell activity.

    The authors of one metastudy wrote that “there is a wide consensus in cancer research that TQ [thymoquinone] has promising anticancer activities” and concluded that it “may be useful as a dietary supplement to enhance the effects of anticancer drugs.”

  • Other Uses for Black Seed Oil

    Other conditions for which black seed has been shown to have therapeutic potential include asthma, rheumatism, bronchitis, diabetes, and ulcers and other gastric disorders including inflammatory bowel disease.

Precautions for Black Seed Oil

Black seed oil may interact with other drugs, so check with a healthcare practitioner before taking it. It may also have contraceptive properties, so women who would like to become pregnant or who are pregnant should avoid it.

Click to See Our Sources

“Dermatological Effects of Nigella sativa” by H.M. Salih et al., Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, 7/15

“Nigella Seeds: What the Heck Do I Do with Those?” by Lisa Bramen,, 2/16/11

“Phytochemistry, Pharmacology, and Therapeutic Uses of Black Seed (Nigella sativa)” by W. Kooti et al., China J. Nat Med, 10/14/16

“A Review on Therapeutic Potential of Nigella sativa: A Miracle Herb” by Z. Gholamnezhad et al., Asian Pac J Trop Biomed, 9/13

“Thymoquinone: An Emerging Natural Drug with a Wide Range of Medical Applications” by M. Khader and P.M. Eckl, Iran J Basic Med Sci, 12/14