by John P. Thomas
Health Impact News
Black cumin seed oil continues to receive serious attention from medical researchers around the world.
Since Health Impact News first published two reviews of black cumin seed oil research in the summer of 2014, there have been another 215 scientific papers published about this amazing oil.
This article will provide you with a summary of recent findings from early 2016, which can be applied to a variety of health concerns.
Topics in this article include: learning, memory, and anxiety; oral health; diabetic health; radiation exposure; male infertility; female infertility; breast pain; preventing paralysis from aortic surgery; lead poisoning; corneal injury; and MRSA infection. The article concludes with an examination of the safety and potential toxicity of black cumin seed oil, which shows that it is very safe.
Black cumin seeds and the oil from the seeds have been recognized as a cure for treating numerous diseases. In addition, it has an ability to assist the body in its own natural healing process.
Please see the previous Health Impact News articles for an overview of the history and use of black cumin seed oil.
Black Seed Oil Cures Many Cancers According to Numerous Studies (June 27, 2014)
Prevention, treatment, and reduction in side effects from conventional cancer treatment
Black Cumin Seeds Better Than Drugs? A Look at the Science (July 19, 2014)
Obesity, balancing blood chemistry, nasal dryness, anti-inflammation, and immune system functioning
Scientific Research on Black Cumin Seed Oil
Modern scientific research into the therapeutic benefits of black cumin seed and its oil began in the 1970s.
Black cumin seeds, their oil, and certain derived quinone components are reported to provide various therapeutic benefits for patients. They stimulate the immune system and expand the bronchi and bronchioles to help with breathing. They have properties that are anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial. They reduce histamine levels in the body, protect the liver, and protect the gastric mucosa in the stomach from irritating agents. 
The efficacy of black cumin seed oil is mostly attributed to its quinone constituents and to the essential oil components of the oil.
One key component is thymoquinone, which has been widely studied for potential pharmaceutical application. Thymoquinone comprises 30% to 48% of the oil.
Other functional components of black cumin seed oil include p-cymene, carvacrol, thymohydroquinone, dihydrothymoquinone, α-thujene, thymol, t-anethole, β-pinene, α-pinene, and γ-terpinene. 
Improving Learning, Memory, Mood, Anxiety, and Cognition – Hope for the Elderly
Researchers from Malaysia and Pakistan conducted a literature review to examine the effects of black seed products on learning and memory. The authors state:
Considering its significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties, consuming Nigella sativa could be one of the promising health strategies to help prevent the oxidative damage to cells, particularly in the brain regions related to memory functions. 
The researchers indicated that black cumin seed oil possesses mnemonic/nootropic properties. A substance with nootropic properties helps people with cognitive performance. Its mnemonic properties help people with the memorization of facts through structured arrangements. For example the common mnemonic saying, “30 days hath September, April, June, and November – the rest have 31 except for February, which has 28,” is a memorization device that makes it easier to remember how many days are in a specific month.
To test the effectiveness of black cumin seed oil with elderly people, the researchers gave 500 mg capsules of commercially available black cumin seed oil to elderly participants for 9 weeks. The results showed that black cumin seed oil enhanced the executive functions in various memory related tests such as logical memory, digit span, and reaction time.
The effects of black cumin seed oil on mood, anxiety, and cognition have also been investigated in human subjects. The subjects took (1) 500 mg capsule daily of black cumin seed oil as a nutritional supplement for 4 weeks. The results showed that mood was stabilized, anxiety was decreased, and memory was improved.
The researchers concluded:
It appears that enough data has been accumulated to support Nigella sativa [black cumin seed oil] as a potential candidate for a drug discovery program against neurodegeneration related diseases and brain injury affecting learning and memory. 
Given these positive results, it should be clear that the natural form of black cumin seed oil can be used to enhance learning and memory. Pharmaceutical drugs might be developed someday, based on substances extracted from black cumin seed oil. But, the research shows that benefits can be obtained today by simply consuming the oil as a dietary supplement. It might be a useful experiment to use black cumin seed oil on a daily basis if a person has memory problems.
Saudi dental researchers reviewed and summarized studies that used black cumin seed oil and thymoquinone to promote oral health and manage oral diseases. They noted that there were not a large number of studies, but the results revealed that black seed plants have a potential therapeutic effect for oral and dental diseases. They were encouraging further research into the incorporation of black cumin seeds into dental therapeutics and hygiene products. 
For those who make their own toothpaste or powder, you might consider adding black cumin seed oil to your formula. Black cumin seed oil is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. You can use the following link to learn how to make toothpaste. Substitute a little black cumin seed oil for some of the coconut oil in the recipe. Black cumin seed oil has a strong flavor, so add the oil in small amounts to create a flavor that you enjoy. You might consider omitting essential oils such as mint from the recipe until you fine-tune your recipe. Some essential oils might not provide a pleasing flavor when combined with black cumin seed oil.
Many people obtain great benefits from the process of “oil pulling.” To do this – swish oil around in your mouth for a period of 10 minutes. The process collects toxins from the mouth and kills harmful bacteria. The oil should not be swallowed, but discarded when the process has been completed. Coconut oil is commonly used for this process, because of its anti-microbial properties. You can also try adding some black cumin seed oil to the coconut oil when doing oil pulling.
The latest research on black cumin seed oil and diabetic health comes from scientists in the United States and Puerto Rico. PubMed currently lists 66 research articles involving black cumin seed oil and the treatment of diabetes, which go back to 1987. Studies address glucose management as well as managing the health deterioration that commonly occurs with long-term diabetes.
This research, published in 2016, examined the influence of black cumin seed oil and thymoquinone in cells. Researchers found that black cumin seed oil and thymoquinone modulate and enhance the normal activity of cells and pathways that keep blood sugar and insulin properly balanced. These substances also help manage the process through which glucose is converted into fat. 
Based on accumulated research, black cumin seed oil could be considered as a supplement to help manage glucose levels for diabetics. If you have diabetes, and will be using black cumin seed oil, then be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels, because they could begin to change. Black cumin seed oil may also be a helpful supplement for the neurological complications of diabetes.
You also might want to investigate the use of the low-carbohydrate high-fat diet for managing diabetes. Please visit this Health Impact News article for additional information:
Turkish researchers evaluated the usefulness of black cumin seed oil for protecting the healthy mucus lining of the jejunum (middle section of the small intestine) when it is exposed to gamma radiation. Two groups of rats were administered either a dose of saline solution or black cumin seed oil. The dose of black cumin seed oil was 400 mg per kg of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds). Both groups were then exposed to abdominal radiation. The animals were euthanized 3 days later and samples were taken from the jejunum. Biochemical and histological analyses of samples were conducted to measure the extent of mucosal injury.
They confirmed that a single dose of 15Gy gamma-irradiation resulted in substantial mucosal injury. However, the test animals that were given black cumin seed oil before being irradiated experienced significantly less radiation-induced injury.
The researchers concluded that Nigella sativa [black cumin seed oil] has protective effects against radiation-induced damage, suggesting that clinical transfer is feasible. 
People who will be receiving radiation treatment may wish to add black cumin seed oil to their diet on a daily basis for a period of time before receiving radiation therapy. Consumption of black cumin seed oil could also help with recovery from radiation treatment. Though not discussed in the article, I wonder if black cumin seed oil could be a daily tonic to prevent damage from radioactive fallout from nuclear power plants when they malfunction.
United States researchers reviewed the scientific literature concerning treatment of male infertility.
They evaluated the benefits of lifestyle modifications, and the use of holistic, complementary, and alternative therapies. They found that scientific literature shows a positive association between improvements in male fertility and various lifestyle changes such as weight reduction (diet and exercise), smoking cessation, and moderating alcohol consumption. Supplements that have demonstrated positive effects on male fertility in small randomized controlled trials include aescin, coenzyme Q10, glutathione, Korean red ginseng, L-carnitine, Nigella sativa (black cumin seed oil), omega-3, selenium, a combination of zinc and folate, and the Menevit antioxidant. 
The research showed that men could improve their fertility by adding black cumin seed oil to their diet and making various lifestyle changes. However, overcoming infertility is a complex process. The authors of the article mentioned lifestyle factors, which are important.
However, they didn’t mention some of the most important considerations that are associated with infertility. Other factors that appear to be causing male infertility are: the low-fat high-carbohydrate diet, glyphosate in food, vaccines, and numerous other chemicals in the environment and food.
To look at the bigger picture concerning both male and female infertility, please visit the following resources.
Jordanian researchers reviewed the literature on the herbs used by Jordanian women to address various gynecological and pregnancy related problems. Their concern was that some of these herbs might be contributing to the falling fertility rate in Jordan.
They identified Artemisia (Artemisia monosperma Del.), and white wormwood (Artemisia herba-alba) as exerting antifertility effects. The castor bean plant, Euphorbiaceae (ricinus communis L.) and bitter apple (Citrullus colocynthis L.) had antifertility effects in male rats. They found that black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) and cinnamon (Cinnamon zeylanicum J. Presl) were found to enhance fertility.
The researchers warned that couples seeking to achieve pregnancy should not use herbs from the folk medicine tradition of Jordan. Specifically, women with gynecological disorders should avoid using herbs, whether for gynecological or non-gynecological conditions, because of fertility concerns. They concluded their discussion by calling for additional research on this topic. 
Unfortunately their concern about herbs overshadowed the bigger picture of infertility that is associated with lifestyle, glyphosate exposure, and poor diet. Hopefully they will look into the larger picture of modern infertility in future research.
Black cumin seed oil can help address infertility. However, the larger picture described in the articles mentioned above should be seriously considered by couples who are having difficulty conceiving children.
Mastalgia is the medical term for breast pain. It is generally classified as either cyclical (associated with menstrual periods) or noncyclic. Noncyclic pain may come from the breast or may come from somewhere else, like nearby muscles or joints, which may be felt in the breast. Pain can range from minor discomfort to severely incapacitating pain. Many women with mastalgia worry more about the possibility of cancer than about the pain itself. Breast pain is only rarely associated with breast cancer. 
Iranian researchers indicate that cyclic mastalgia is common in women, and has no optimal therapy. Because of the reported analgesic effects of black cumin seed oil, researchers designed an experiment to compare the use of topically applied black cumin seed oil with the pharmaceutical drug diclofenac. Both products were applied to the skin of the breasts.
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that eases pain and reduces inflammation. Diclofenac is used to treat arthritis, sprains and strains, gout, migraine, dental pain, and pain after surgical operations. 
Three groups of women participated in the study. The first received a placebo. The second were instructed to apply 600 mg of black cumin seed oil on painful locations. The third group applied 20 mg of diclofenac to painful locations. The women were to treat themselves twice per day for 2 months.
The study showed that the women who used black cumin seed oil had the same amount of pain relief as those who used diclofenac. Both groups had significant reductions in pain. The placebo group did not experience significant pain reduction. No adverse effect was observed from using black cumin seed oil.
The researchers concluded that topical use of black cumin seed oil is safe, more effective than placebo, and has clinical effectiveness comparable to topical diclofenac in the treatment of cyclic breast pain. 
Based on these results, black cumin seed oil offers promise for pain reduction and can be used safely on the breasts for this purpose. It will be interesting to see if black cumin seed oil can be helpful for pain in other locations of the body. In rare situations, people may react to oils when applied to the skin. To test for reactions, apply a small amount of oil on the skin such as on the inner side of the forearm or wrist and watch to see if you have a reaction. Look for redness, itching, burning, or unusual tenderness in the area.
Neurological Damage during Aortic Surgery
Turkish researchers investigated whether the use of thymoquinone, the main constituent of the volatile oil that is extracted from Nigella sativa seeds could prevent paralysis after aortic surgery. Spinal cord injury, specifically paraplegia, can occur after surgery that repairs aneurisms of the aorta. An aneurism is a bulge in the artery. An aortic aneurism is a bulge in the main artery that leaves the heart. The aorta can develop a weakened section, which can balloon outward and can burst. If the aneurism bursts, the person will quickly bleed to death.
During this type of surgery, the section of the aorta that is being repaired is clamped off while repairs are made. After the 2 to 4 hours of surgery, the clamps are removed and the normal blood flow is restored. In some cases, damage will result to the spinal cord and the person will be paralyzed from the waist down after surgery. 
This type of injury is technically called an ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury. Researchers used a rat model to test whether thymoquinone could prevent spinal cord injury and paralysis. Thymoquinone is reported to have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic properties. Substances with anti-apoptotic properties prevent apoptosis. (Apoptosis is a type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell leads to its death.) 
In this experiment, four groups of rats were used. One group received an abdominal incision and no further treatment. Another group had the aorta clamped off for 5 minutes. A third group had the clamping procedure followed by the administration of methylprednisolone [a steroid that prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation]. The methylprednisolone was injected intraperitoneally (into the body cavity) immediately after the surgery. Group 4 was given 10 mg of thymoquinone per kg of body weight daily for 7 days before the surgery and aortic clamping procedure. The thymoquinone was given intraperitoneally and administration was continued daily until the animals were euthanized. Locomotion function was assessed at 24 hours after the clamp was removed. Spinal cord tissue samples were analyzed.
The results showed that thymoquinone treatment improved neurological outcome for the rats. The researchers concluded that thymoquinone from black cumin seed oil exhibits an important protective effect against ischemia-reperfusion injury of the spinal cord. 
If a person will be having aortic surgery in which the abdomen or chest is opened to repair the aorta, then this research suggests taking black cumin seed oil before the surgery on a daily basis for a period of time to help prevent complications. Most surgery produces inflammation, and since black cumin seed oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-apoptotic properties it could be consumed before and after surgery to prevent unwanted surgical side effects and to aid recovery .
Researchers from Tunisia investigated the use of thymoquinone derived from black cumin seed oil for treating lead poisoning, which often results in liver damage. Adult male rats were randomized into four groups. The control group received no treatment. The second group was given 2000 ppm of lead acetate in drinking water. The third group was given the same amount of lead along with an oral dose of 5 mg of thymoquinone per kg of body weight each day. The fourth group only received thymoquinone. All treatments were applied for 5 weeks.
They found that the lead exposure resulted in an increase of lead content in the liver of the rats, and there was damage to histological structures in the liver. Supplementation with thymoquinone from black cumin seed oil prevented liver damage even though the amount of lead was not significantly reduced. The researchers concluded that there is a protective effect of thymoquinone against lead-induced hepatotoxicity (liver damage) and suggest that this component might be clinically useful in cases of lead poisoning. 
Consuming black cumin seed oil could prevent liver damage for people who are exposed to lead in drinking water. Some older homes and even municipalities still use water pipes made out of lead. Supplementing the diet with black cumin seed oil could be helpful for people who drink water from systems containing lead. In such situations, water filtration that can remove lead should also be used to prevent further exposure. Replacing lead pipes with less toxic alternatives will produce long-term health benefits. The researchers did not measure the mental activity of the rats, so we don’t know if the drop in IQ of children when they are exposed to lead can be avoided by consuming black cumin seed oil.
Corneal Injuries From Formaldehyde Poisoning
Suez Canal University Faculty of Medicine examined the effect of black cumin seed oil on rats that were exposed to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can damage the corneas of the eyes and cause vision loss.
Forty adult male albino rats were divided randomly into 4 groups: group 1 was not exposed or treated. Group 2 was exposed to formaldehyde. Group 3 was given 40 mg of black cumin seed oil per kg of body weight each day via an intragastric tube for two weeks. Group 4 was exposed to formaldehyde and was given the black cumin seed oil the same way as group 3.
The rats were euthanized with ether, the corneas were extracted, and various types of examinations were conducted. The corneas of the rats in group 2 that were exposed to formaldehyde revealed marked disorganization, erosion, necrosis of epithelial cells with loss of parts of epithelial layer. They also had large congested invasion of blood vessels with separation and disorganization of stromal fibrils.
In contrast, the corneas of the rats that received formaldehyde and black cumin seed oil showed intact layers of epithelial cells with appearance close to those of the control group.
The researchers concluded that black cumin seed oil can ameliorate the toxic changes of formaldehyde on rat corneas. 
This was a very specific type of corneal injury. Given the amount of toxic substances that people are exposed to on a daily basis, and the painful injuries that people sometimes experience to their corneas, it would be interesting to see whether black cumin seed oil taken orally could help with the healing of corneal injuries from other causes or prevent corneal injuries among people who are at risk for such injuries.
Researchers from India explored the effects of thymoquinone on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) activity. They studied 99 MRSA strains consisting of 40 types and 59 clinical strains.
Based on the ability of thymoquinone to kill MRSA, its longer Post-Antibiotic Effect (PAE), absence of resistant mutant selection, and damages in cell membrane and cell wall, the researchers concluded that thymoquinone has promising anti-MRSA activity. 
In another research study, researchers from Pakistan and Brazil found that black cumin seed oil has antimicrobial activities against bacterial strains that cause serious illness. They included: Salmonella typhi, Salmonella heidelberg, Klebsiella pneumonia, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium, and Escheria coli (human). Black cumin seed oil was also effective at killing fungal strains such as Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus flavus, and Entomola. 
The experiments were conducted with test-tube specimens, so we have to be a little creative to consider how we can protect ourselves from MRSA infection and other serious intestinal infections. These infections are commonly acquired in hospitals and are highly resistant to antibiotic treatment. They are communicable and can be passed from person to person through physical contact or when they touch improperly sanitized hospital equipment. The infections often start on the skin at the location of surgical incisions, at the location of an IV, or where a surgical drain tube exits the body. 
Black cumin seed oil stimulates the immune system and has antimicrobial properties. Thus, if you will be entering a hospital for tests, surgery, or to visit someone, you could benefit from taking black cumin seed oil for a period of time before you enter the hospital environment.
If I was going to have a hospital-based medical procedure, I would take the oil daily for three weeks in advance to take advantage of the natural three week immune system cycle. If I would be visiting a patient, I would be sure to take some of the oil on a daily basis before I made the visit. If I was a patient in a hospital, then I would insist that nurses and doctors wash their hands in my presence before they touch my body.
The experiments actually applied the oil directly to microbes. So, perhaps there would be value in using black cumin seed oil like an anti-bacterial cleaner just as some people use other essential oils.
Safety and Potential Toxicity of Black Cumin Seed Oil
Iranian researchers conducted an extensive review of the literature focusing on analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of black cumin seed oil. Their review covered research published from 1999 to January 2016. They devoted a large section of their article to the chemical properties of black cumin seed oil and to an examination of the pathways through which it affects health. Their article is the best summary of black cumin seed science I have found at this time. 
An important section of their work focused on the question of whether black cumin seed oil and its components such as thymoquinone are safe to use. We might expect Big Pharma to raise all kinds of objections to the use of these products, and would claim that they are toxic and harmful.
The authors of this scientific review directly addressed these concerns. They also provided data regarding safe levels of consumption of black cumin seed oil.
They noted there are some studies suggesting that therapeutic doses of black cumin seed oil and thymoquinone have low toxicity and a wide margin of safety.
A study using mice was conducted to determine the lethal dose of black cumin seed oil. Most any substance when given to an animal or human in a large enough quantity will cause death. (Even water can be lethal if given in a large enough quantity over a short period of time.) Researchers determined the LD50 for mice. The term LD50 indicates the dose that is needed to kill 50% of the mice.
The LD50 for single doses of black cumin seed oil were 28.8 mL per kg of body weight when given orally, and 2.06 mL per kg of body weight when injected intraperitoneally. If we assume an average mouse weighs 25 grams , then the LD50 for a single dose given orally per mouse equals 0.72 mL. The injected dose would be 0.052 mL per mouse.
Based on my calculations, if we convert the LD50 for mice to the human scale, this would mean that a person who weighs 150 pounds would need to drink approximately 66 ounces or a half gallon of black cumin seed oil in one dose to reach LD50. Similarly, 4.75 ounces of black cumin seed oil would need to be injected into the abdominal cavity of humans to kill 50% of us. Typical human oral doses would be around a teaspoon per day. So, this type of dose is far from the LD50. Thus, black cumin seed oil is not lethal when taken in the proper small therapeutic dose.
To measure chronic toxicity of black cumin seed oil, rats were treated daily with an oral dose of 2 mL per kg of body weight for 12 weeks. Rats vary considerably in weight by sex and by rat strain, but for this analysis, I will use an average weight of 300 grams per rat.  Thus, each rat was given an average oral dose of 0.6 ml. Researchers measured various indicators of health status for the rats and found no changes in the key hepatic enzymes levels including aspartate-aminotransferase, alanine-aminotranferase, gamma-glutamyltransferase, and histopathological modifications in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas after 12 weeks of treatment. The serum cholesterol, triglyceride, and glucose levels as well as the count of leukocytes and platelets decreased significantly compared to the control animals. In contrast, hematocrit and hemoglobin levels increased. I interpret this to mean that the rats remained healthy and strong, and in some ways they became even healthier.
If we convert the daily rat consumption of black cumin seed oil to human terms, then this would be a daily oral dose of 4.6 ounces or 27 teaspoons per day, which is just slightly more than a half cup of black cumin seed oil. This is far higher than the typical 1 teaspoon dose taken by humans.
Various studies on the safety of thymoquinone were also conducted with mice and rats. Thymoquinone is considered to be one of the key active components of black cumin seed oil. Based on these results, thymoquinone has been used for the treatment of human cancers. In a phase I clinical study conducted on adult patients with advanced malignant cancers and treated with thymoquinone, oral doses of thymoquinone were tolerable for patients up to 2600 mg per day. In a recent study using Sprague Dawley rats, animals treated with 20 ml of thymoquinone-rich fraction nanoemulsion (containing 44.5 mg/kg of thymoquinone) appeared normal and there was no mortality or any signs of organ toxicity during the 14-day experimental period.
There should be no concern about toxicity or fear of death from the oral use of black cumin seed oil when taken in typical small doses such as by the teaspoon or in capsule form.
About the Author
John P. Thomas is a health writer for Health Impact News. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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