Black seeds are also known as black caraway, black cumin, and kalonji 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 Nigella 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.
The black seed oil contains thymoquinone, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that may also have tumor-reducing properties*.
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 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.
For weight loss
Research* trusted source has shown that black seed supplementation can help lower people’s body mass index (BMI). The study participants did not report any severe side effects from taking this supplement.
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 Nigella 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.
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 cells. 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.
For Liver and kidney function
According to a 2013 study* on rats, black seed oil may reduce liver and kidney disease complications and improve 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 anti-diabetic 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.
Note: 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.