The History of Black Seed
The Black Seed is believed to be native to the Mediterranean region. It has spread over the years throughout northern Africa, eastern Asia, and southern Europe. In the past few decades, Black Seed found its way into Eastern Europe and North America. The plant is cultivated worldwide for medicinal and culinary uses. The Black Seed is sensitive to climate and soil condition so its production thrives primarily throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin which includes India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan.
Black Seed was often used to spice bread and cakes, and throughout Europe, over the centuries baked goods were spiced with Black Seeds in combination with cumin or coriander.
Black Seed has a long history as a diversely beneficial herb. For over three thousand years, people have used the Black Seed to cure numerous ailments and to maintain and improve general health. The earliest usage of Black Seed is traced back to the Assyrians in ancient Egypt. The Assyrians called Black Seed “tin tir” and took it orally to cure stomach problems. They also used to use it externally for the treatment of eyes, nose, mouth, and inflammations of the skin such as rashes, bites, and sores.
In Egyptian society, people used to use the oil externally to nourish the skin. It was also used extensively as a digestive aid. The oil was a treasured part of daily Egyptian life. The Egyptians knew and used the Nigella Sativa and described it as a panacea (cure for problems and diseases).
In the first century, the Greek physician, Dioscorides recorded that the Nigella Sativa seeds were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache and intestinal worms.
The Persian physician, Ibn Sina, commonly known in the West as Avicenna, gave ample credit to the healing properties of the Black Seed. Ibn Sina wrote ‘The Book of Healing’, which is considered a hallmark in the history of human medicine and the largest volume ever produced by a single person. Ibn Sina praised Black Seed for its preventative and restorative qualities. In his writings, he stated that Black Seed stimulates the body’s energy and helps recover from fatigue or dispiritedness. Ibn Sina also recommended the Black Seed as a remedy for fever, headache, toothache, and common colds; as a soothing agent for skin disorders, wounds and external irritations; and as an anti-fungal and vermicide against parasites and worms.
In the East the Black Seed spread into India where it was used medically to treat digestive ailments and gastrointestinal dysfunction. It was also considered as a metabolic enhancer. Ayurveda, a common medical practice in India which means the science of life, prevention and longevity uses Black Seed for its ability to heal nervous disorders, anorexia, and gynecological problems. It is also used to heighten the mood, stimulate metabolism, and provide the harmonizing benefits of an overall body tonic. Ayurvedic medicine is an approach to wellness based on creating and maintaining an overall balance of energies and biological systems within the body.
In 1959, a group of Egyptian doctors led by Dr. Muhammad Dakhakhnî managed to extract the active principle of Black seed Oil. They called it “Nigellone”. They injected it on test animals and proved that it has no toxic nor harmful effect and that it has the property of dilating the bronchial tubes. This is why it is recommended in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis.
But it was in the middle the 1980s that modern medicine got more interested in the virtues of the Black Seed “Nigella Sativa”. The main author of the first advanced study is Dr. Ahmed al-Qâdî, an Egyptian doctor living in the USA. His friend Shaykh al-Zandânî explained that Dr al-Qâdî thought that “as this Black seed was a remedy for all ailments it should act on the immune system, which is responsible for the defense of the body against diseases”. Indeed, after experiments on patients who suffered from immune insufficiency, the doctor managed to show that taking Black Seed increased the antibodies and significantly reinforced the immune system. From this, Dr al-Qâdî figured out the essential role that may have this seed in the treatment of all diseases caused by a deficiency of the immune system. Zandânî added that the results of the experiences were approved by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and that Dr al-Qâdî was rewarded for his research.
Dr. Hassan Chamsi Pacha (cardiologist) says that the [previous] experimental studies indeed did show that Black seed had the ability to reinforce the immune system, and consequently the faculty to increase to body abilities to fight microbes and viruses.
A study made by King’s College, London, and published in 1997 showed that Black seed oil was composed of two oils: volatile oil that contains its active principle “thymoquinone” at the rate of 0.45% and fatty oil at the rate of 33%. Researchers confirmed that this volatile oil was efficient in decreasing articular inflammation. The study also confirmed the ability of the Black seed to prevent the proliferation of microbes.
Other studies noticed Black seed virtues in the treatment of asthma and bronchial tube inflammation. Another study showed that Nigella Sativa increased the macrophage’s ability to absorb some parasites called “polymorphonuclear leukocyte parasites”.