Nigella seeds are produced by the Nigella sativa plant, a flowering annual of the buttercup family, native to the Middle East. The seeds are high in essential fatty acids and can be pressed produce an oil.
Nigella seeds are also known as black cumin or black onion seeds and are one of five spices that make up the classical Indian ‘panch phoran’ mix used to flavour dhal and curries, delivering a peppery and decidedly aromatic tang.
Over the centuries Nigella seeds have earned both considerable renown and some legendary advocates. Galen, the famous Roman physician recommended Nigella seeds as a failsafe cure for colds, whilst the Islamic prophet Mohammed went further, proclaiming nigella as “good for all ailments except death”. Perhaps as a result, nigella seeds are commonly used throughout the Middle East and Asia both as a food and medicinal herb.
Nigella’s status in the West may have remained unchanged as culinary obscurity except for the growing weight of research that indicates nigella seeds have an extraordinary array of beneficial properties. There are over 600 peer reviewed studies referencing the benefits of nigella in a wide range of conditions including:
Type 2 diabetes: by reducing fasting glucose and insulin resistance.
Stomach ulcers: by treating helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Epilepsy: by reducing seizures especially where standard medications have failed and
High blood pressure: especially in cases of mild hypertension.
here are also promising results suggesting that nigella seeds may be helpful in tackling golden staph or MRSA Infection, reduce the symptoms of asthma and prevent colon cancer.
What stands out about nigella is the breadth of conditions it seems to influence. Traditional herbal folklore describes the action of nigella as an immune ‘normaliser’ with the unusual ability to treat both overactive inflammatory type conditions as well as conditions where there is immune weakness and lack of inflammatory response.
Whether in the hands of an expert herbalist, sprinkled onto a flatbread, or thrown into a curry, Nigella is another of nature's magical gifts to be cherished.