The spice called nigella might not ring any bells for you, but it goes by many other names that are a little more well known. Its also known as black cumin, black seed, black caraway or known under its Latin name Nigella sativa. Whatever you call it, nigella is related to the more common brown variety of cumin, but the black variety is mainly used throughout Asia and the Middle East. While they are similar in taste and chemical make-up, the black variety has long been known to hold many medicinal qualities. However, it was only more recently that science has been able to back up some of the popular and traditional therapeutic applications.
Even if it remains relatively unknown in the west, Nigella is one of the most revered spices within certain Asiatic and Middle Eastern cultures. For instance, did you know that in the time of Mohammed, he supposedly advocated for its use, stating, “Use this seed often as it is a cure for everything except death.” It seemingly held an important place among many cultures across the old world, including for Egyptian royalty, which is evidenced by the fact that black cumin was discovered within King Tut’s tomb. This puts its use and assumed historical importance to over 3,300 years ago.
Within many religious traditions in Asia and Mesopotamia, black cumin has long been considered to be god’s plant, due to its many perceived health benefits. Back in a time when religion often overlapped with medicinal treatment, it’s no wonder that this plant became not only a powerful herbal remedy but also an important symbol for many religions.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Nigella
One of the areas with the most interest when it comes to the health benefits of nigella, is the potential it has shown to promote cardiovascular health. How has it currently been understood to do so? Research into black cumin and heart health currently leads down a few potential avenues:
Black cumin is thought to help regulate high blood pressure, and help keep it at a healthy level. So far, this theory has only been tested on laboratory animals, but through these in vitro studies, nigella has been found to reduce hypertension through a variety of methods. For example, some of the methods that it was shown to reduce hypertension was by regulating the angiotensin system and reducing oxidative stress. The angiotensin system is a hormonal process that regulates arterial blood pressure.
Obesity and cardiovascular stress go hand-in-hand, which is why another area where black cumin could assist in boosting heart health is through weight management. In one study, it was found that over time black cumin was able to reduce waist circumference and improve overall weight loss.
Never heard of this vital cellular function? You aren’t alone! But no matter how small these endothelial cells are, they still play a major role in heart health. Endothelial cells are a protective barrier that line the inner walls of blood vessels and lymph nodes. When working properly they help to regulate blood pressure, immune function and a few other pretty important processes. When it is dysfunctional, it begins to cause issues with the proper dilation and function of arteries, thereby increasing cardiovascular stress. Recent studies have suggested that one of the chemical compounds found within black cumin can help regulate a dysfunctional endothelial, this substance is called thymoquinone.
Other Benefits of Nigella
Nigella isn’t just effective for treatment of cardiovascular issues, it has a long history of use for many other health issues as well. This has been well documented throughout China and India, as it still maintains a place of prestige as a potent herbal medicinal ingredient in these cultures.
- Digestive Aid: Known to sooth digestion issues such as gas, bloating and constipation, black cumin is a natural way to smooth out painful and embarrassing gastrointestinal issues.
- Skin and Hair Health: Nigella has been used over the ages to promote smooth and supple skin, as well as to increase hair growth. There is also evidence suggesting that black cumin may help prevent the appearance of scar tissue when used daily.
- Asthma Treatment: Perhaps surprisingly, nigella has shown positive results in the treatment of asthma and allergies, in some cases proving to be even more effective than over-the-counter or prescription drugs.
- Managing Blood Sugar: Through a daily dose of nigella, studies have shown a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels, a better management of insulin levels, and improved function of the pancreas.
- Pathogen Killer: Black cumin contains over a 100 chemical compounds, however three in particular have shown to be 100 percent effective in their ability to kill certain human pathogens. The three compounds in question are Thymol, Thymoquinone, and Thymohydroquinon.