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Nigella Sativa

  Nigella Sativa

What is Nigella Sativa?

Nigella Sativa is a flowering plant, native to southwest Asia that grows to 20-30 cm tall with linear leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually colored pale blue and white, with 5-10 petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of 3-7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. The seed is used as a spice.

There is a huge understanding about the names of this spice. Nigella Sativa seed is also known as Kalonji (Hindi), Kezah (Hebrew), Habbat-el-barakah (literally seeds of blessing Arabic) or Siyah Daneh (Persian). In English, it is called Fennel Flower, Black Caraway, Nutmeg Flower or Roman Coriander. Other names used, sometimes misleadingly, are Onion Seed and Black Sesame. Frequently the seeds are referred to as Black Cumin; this is, however, also used for a different spice, Bunium Persicum. It is also sometimes just referred to as Nigella or Black Seed. An old English name gith is now used for the corn cockle.

Nigella Sativa belongs to the Plant family of Ranunculaceae (buttercup family). Nigella seeds have little odour, but when ground or chewed they develop a vaguely oregano-like scent. The taste is aromatic and slightly bitter; I have seen it called “pungent” and “smoky” and even compared to black pepper, but I cannot agree with that comparison. There is, however, some pungency in unripe or not yet dried seeds.

Nigella Sativa originated probably from Western Asia. Although nigella is not mentioned in the common Bible translations, there is good evidence that an obscure plant name mentioned in the Old Testament means nigella; if true, this would indicate that nigella is cultivated since far more than two millennia. Today, the plant is cultivated from Egypt to India.

The seeds contain numerous esters of structurally unusual unsaturated fatty acids with terpene alcohols (7%); furthermore, traces of alkaloids are found which belong to two different types: isochinoline alkaloids are represented by nigellimin and nigellimin-N-oxide, and pyrazol alkaloids include nigellidin and nigellicin.

In the essential oil (avr. 0.5%, max. 1.5%), thymoquinone was identified as the main component (up to 50%) besides p-cymene (40%), a-pinene (up to 15%), dithymoquinone and thymohydroquinone. Other terpene derivatives were found only in trace amounts: Carvacrol, carvone, limonene, 4-terpineol, citronellol. Furthermore, the essential oil contains significant (10%) amounts of fatty acid ethyl esters. On storage, thymoquinone yields dithymoquinonene and higher oligocondensation products (nigellone).

The seeds also contain a fatty oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids, mainly linoleic acid (50 – 60%), oleic acid (20%), eicodadienoic acid (3%) and dihomolinoleic acid (10%) which is characteristic for the genus. Saturated fatty acids (palmitic, stearic acid) amount to about 30% or less. Commercial nigella oil (“Black Seed Oil”, “Black Cumin Oil”) may also contain parts of the essential oil, mostly thymoquinone, by which it acquires an aromatic flavour.

Botanical Information

Family: Ranunculaceae

Botanical Name: Nigella sativa L.

Physical Characteristics: The seeds are tiny (1-3 mm long), black, three sided and look a bit like pieces of flint under a microscope having a strong, spicy, peppery taste.

Common Names: Ajenuz, Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Seed, Corekotu, Charnushka, Faux Cumin, Fennel Flower, Fitch, Habba Soda, Habat-al-Baraka, Kaladuru, Kolonji, Kalonji, Nutmeg Flower, Roman Coriander, Schwarzkummel.

Range: N. Africa to Ethiopia and W. Asia

Habitats: Cultivated Beds. Easily grown in any good garden soil, preferring a sunny position. Prefers a light soil in a warm position. This species is often cultivated, especially in western Asia and India, for its edible seed. The seed is aromatic with a nutmeg scent. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes.

Edible Part: Seed

Edible Use: Condiment

Energy and Flavors: Hot energy, Spicy flavor

Systems Affected: Lungs, Stomach, Spleen

Biochemical Constituents: Alanine, arginine, ascorbic-acid, asparagine, campesterol, carvone, cymene, cystine, dehydroascorbic-acid, eicosadienoic-acid, glucose, glutamic-acid, glycine, iron, isoleucine, leucine, d-limonene, linoleic-acid, linolenic-acid, lipase, lysine, methionine, myristic-acid, nigellin, nigellone, oleic-acid, palmitic-acid, phenylalanine, phytosterols, potassium, beta-sitosterol, alpha-spinasterol, stearic-acid, stigmasterol, tannin, threonine, thymohydroquinone, thymoquinone, tryptophan, tyrosine

Historical Background

Nigella Sativa discovered in Tutenkhamen’s tomb, implying it played an important role in Egyptian practices. Though its exact role in Egyptian culture is unknown, we do know that items entombed with a king were carefully selected to assist him in the after life. The most primitive written reference to black cumin is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah contrasts the reaping of black cumin with wheat (Isaiah 28: 25, 27 nkjv). Easton’s bible dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for black cumin, ketsah, refers to without doubt the Nigella sativa. In the Unani Tibb system of medicine, black cumin been regarded as a valuable remedy in a number of diseases. Ibn Sina (980-1037 A.D.), most famous for his volumes called ‘The Canon of medicine’ regarded by many as the most famous book in the history of medicine, refers to black cumin as the seed that stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness and several therapeutic effects on digestive disorders, gynecological diseases and respiratory system have been ascribed to the seeds of Nigella sativa (Ave-sina). It is also included in the list of natural drugs of ‘Tibb-e-Nabwi’, or prophetic medicine, according to the tradition “hold onto the use of the black seeds for in it is healing for all diseases except death” (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592). The seeds have been traditionally used in the middle east and South east Asian countries to treat ailments including Asthma, Bronchitis, Rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to promote digestion and to fight parasitic infections. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and to treat cold symptoms. The many uses of black cumin as earned for this ancient herb the Arabic approbation ‘Habbat-ul-barakah’ meaning the seed of blessing. Dr. M. Tariq Salman 18:27, 26 January 2006 (UTC)

Discover Miraculous Medicinal Uses of Nigella Sativa

The seeds of Nigella Sativa are beneficial for the digestive system, soothing stomach pains and spasms and easing wind, bloating and colic. The ripe seed is anthelmintic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, laxative and stimulant. An infusion is used in the treatment of digestive and menstrual disorders, insufficient lactation and bronchial complaints. The seeds are used in India to increase the flow of milk in nursing mothers and can be used to treat intestinal worms, especially in children. Externally, the seed is ground into a powder, mixed with sesame oil and used to treat abscesses, haemorrhoids and orchitis. The powdered seed been used to remove lice from the hair. The Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) Seed is also a source of calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Required only in small amounts by the body, these elements' main function is to act as essential cofactors in various enzyme functions.

Other Properties

Stimulant, aromatic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, excitant, galactatagogue, purgative, resolvent, stimulant, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, anthelmintic, diaphoretic, parasiticide, and vermifuge. The seed contains about 1.5% essential oil. It is placed amongst clothes etc to repel moths. The seeds can also be put in muslin bags and hung near a fire when they will fill the room with their delicious scent. They need to be changed about every three weeks. The seed contains 35% of a fatty oil. Black seed contains Arginine which is essential for infant growth.

Scientific Analysis of Nigella Sativa

Nigella Sativa contains several ingredients with potential value. The following values reflect the composition of Nagilla Sativa in terms of its active, nutrient components, and any other significant ingredients.

Fundamental Oil Composition (1.4%)

Nigella Sativa













Fatty Acids

Nigella Sativa

Myristic Acid (C14:0)


Palmitic Acid (C16:0)


Palmitoleic Acid (C16:1)


Stearic Acid (C18:0)


Oleic Acid (C18:1)


Linoleic Acid (C18:2)(Omega-6)


Linolenic Acid (18:3n-3) (Omega-3)


Arachidic Acid (C20:0)


Saturated & Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Nigella Sativa

Saturated Acid


Monounsaturated Acids


Polyunsaturated Acids


Nutritional Value

Nigella Sativa


208 ug/g




1 ug/g




57 ug/g


610 IU/g


1.859 mg/g


105 ug/g


18 ug/g


60 ug/g


5.265 mg/g

Nutritional Composition

Nigella Sativa








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