black seed oil
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Fights Inflammation

Black seed oil has been in use for thousands of years for medicine, food, and even cosmetics. Today, many people reach for it for the same reason you’d take an aspirin or ibuprofen: In hopes that it targets inflammation and tamps it down. It also has substances that can help protect cells from damage.

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woman blowing nose
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In one small study, people put black seed oil drops in their noses to treat mild, moderate, or severe cases of allergic rhinitis, aka hay fever. After 6 weeks, more than 9 of 10 people said their sneezing, itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and other symptoms got better or went away completely. That was true for just 3 in 10 people in the group that used regular food oil. More research is needed. Ask your doctor if black seed oil is right for your condition.

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If Cleopatra had pimples, she probably dabbed on black seed oil to clear them up. For centuries it’s been used to treat rashes, psoriasis, and skin inflammation. Studies suggest that black seed oil may work just as well as benzoyl for acne.

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Nigella Sativa
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Black seed oil is pressed from the seeds of a flowering shrub, Nigella sativa. The plant is packed with thymoquinone, a compound which may have cancer-fighting powers. In rats, it shrank tumors and slowed their growth as well as protected tissue from radiation damage. But we need more proof to know if it might help humans.

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In the Kitchen

The seeds from N. sativa go by the names black seeds, black cumin, black caraway, and kalonji. You can use them or their oil like cumin or oregano to spice curry dishes, pickles, and bread.

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man using inhaler
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This is when your airways swell up and make it hard to breathe. One well-designed but small study found that black seed oil helped control asthma symptoms better than dummy treatments. Researchers think that someday, the oil could be added to regular asthma therapy.

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Heart Benefits

In many parts of the world, Nigella sativa seeds are used as traditional medicine for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In some small studies, supplements made with it have shown to lower levels of cholesterol and blood fats called triglycerides. Taking powdered (but not oil) supplement may even boost your “good” cholesterol when coupled with aerobic exercise.

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man with sore hand
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Rheumatoid Arthritis

This autoimmune disorder can swell your joints and wear down your bones. One small study suggests that taking black seed oil every day may lessen joint swelling and stiffness. With more evidence, it may be a helpful add-on therapy for RA.

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Male Fertility

Studies with both infertile men and rats have found that black seed oil can boost sperm count and help sperm swim faster. Antioxidants in the oil likely help protect sperm from damage. But more clinical trials are needed to know if the oil can be a good treatment for male infertility.

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woman looking at supplements
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Where to Find It

Most people think black seed oil has a very strong, bitter taste. That’s probably why many mix it with sugar or honey. You can buy it in health food stores and online in liquid and capsule form. Lotions, makeup, and other beauty products also use it.

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lab rat
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Side Effects

N. sativa is one of the world’s most common medicinal plants. So it’s generally safe. But large amounts of black seed oil have caused liver and kidney damage in rats. It also may slow blood clotting time and make bleeding more likely.

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We don’t know how much black seed oil is safe to take. But the usual doses that people try are between 200 milligrams and 2,000 milligrams a day. 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/20/2020 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 20, 2020


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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Nigella Sativa.”

Stephanie Ferrari, registered dietitian nutritionist, Stoneham, MA.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Asthma.”

Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism: “Antidiabetic Properties of a Spice Plant Nigella sativa.”

Mayo Clinic: “Rheumatoid arthritis.”

American Botanical Council: “Re: Nigella Seeds Improve Lipid Profile and Body Mass Index in Sedentary, Overweight Women,” “Nigella.”

National Institutes of Health: “Evaluation of topical black seed oil in the treatment of allergic rhinitis,” “A Review on the Cosmeceutical and External Applications of Nigella sativa,” “Effects of black seed oil on resolution of hepato-renal toxicity induced by bybromobenzene in rats,” “Antiatherogenic Potential of Nigella sativa Seeds and Oil in

Diet-Induced Hypercholesterolemia in Rabbits.”

Journal of Herbal Medicine: “Effects of black seeds (Nigella sativa) on male infertility: A systematic review.”

Photochemistry and Photobiology: “In vivo radioprotective effects of Nigella sativa L oil and reduced glutathione against irradiation-induced oxidative injury and number of peripheral blood lymphocytes in rats.”

American Family Physician: “The Effect of Cytochrome P450 Metabolism on Drug Response, Interactions, and Adverse Effects.”

Phytotherapy Research: “Nigella sativa Supplementation Improves Asthma Control and Biomarkers: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.”

Pharmacological Research: “Nigella sativa (black seed) effects on plasma lipid concentrations in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials.”

International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Thymoquinone Modulates Blood Coagulation in Vitro via Its Effects on Inflammatory and Coagulation Pathways.”

Phytomedicine: “Effects of Nigella sativa L. seed oil on abnormal semen quality in infertile men: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.”

International Journal of Pharmacology: “Effect of Fixed Oil of Nigella Sativa on Male Fertility in Normal and Hyperlipidemic Rats.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 20, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.