By Dr. Raiz Ahmed Lone
Medicinal plants have been used for curing diseases for many centuries in different indigenous systems of medicine as well as folk medicines. Moreover, medicinal plants are also used in the preparation of herbal medicines as they are considered to be safe as compared to modern allopathic medicines. Many researchers are focusing on medicinal plants since only a few plant species have been thoroughly investigated for their medicinal properties, potential, mechanism of action, safety evaluation and toxicological studies.
Among various medicinal plants, Nigella sativa (N. sativa) (Family Ranunculaceae) is emerging as a miracle herb with a rich historical and religious background since many researches revealed its wide spectrum of pharmacological potential. N. sativa is commonly known as black seed. N. sativa is native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia and it is cultivated in many countries in the world like Middle Eastern Mediterranean region, South Europe, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia.
Nigella sativa (N. sativa) (Family Ranunculaceae) is a widely used medicinal plant throughout the world. It is very popular in various traditional systems of medicine like Unani and Tibb, Ayurveda and Siddha. Seeds and oil have a long history of folklore usage in various systems of medicines and food. The seeds of N. sativa have been widely used in the treatment of different diseases and ailments. In Islamic literature, it is considered as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine. Among Muslims, it is considered as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available due to it was mentioned that black seed is the remedy for all diseases except death in one of the Prophetic hadith. It has been recommended for using on regular basis in Tibb-e-Nabwi (Prophetic Medicine). It has been widely used as antihypertensive, liver tonics, diuretics, digestive, anti-diarrheal, appetite stimulant, analgesics, anti-bacterial and in skin disorders. Extensive studies on N. sativa have been carried out by various researchers and a wide spectrum of its pharmacological actions have been explored which may include antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulation, analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, hepato-protective, renal protective, gastro-protective, antioxidant properties, etc. Due to its miraculous power of healing, N. sativa has got the place among the top ranked evidence based herbal medicines. This is also revealed that most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone which is major bioactive component of the essential oil. The present review is an effort to provide a detailed survey of the literature on scientific researches of pharmacognostical characteristics, chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the seeds of this plant.
N. sativa has been traditionally used for the treatment of a variety of disorders, diseases and conditions pertaining to respiratory system, digestive tract, kidney and liver function, cardio vascular system and immune system support, as well as for general well-being.
Avicenna refers to black seeds in the “The Canon of Medicine”, as seeds stimulate the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness. Black seeds and their oil have a long history of folklore usage in Indian and Arabian civilization as food and medicine. In Southeast Asian and the Middle East countries the seeds have been traditionally used for the treatment of several diseases and ailments including asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases. Its many uses have earned Nigella the Arabic approbation ‘Habbatul barakah’, meaning the seed of blessing. A tincture prepared from the seeds is useful in indigestion, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, dropsy, amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea and in the treatment of worms and skin eruptions. Externally the oil is used as an antiseptic and local anesthetic. Roasted black seeds are given internally to stop the vomiting.
When you’re buying nigella seeds, remember to check the pack carefully; the seeds are jet black and shouldn’t look stale.
Storing nigella is important. Always store it in a dry place and make sure it doesn’t come in contact with moisture.
Don’t buy large quantities of kalonji. 100 grams can take you a long way, so buy in smaller portions. This will prevent the seed from losing its aroma and benefits by sitting on the shelf for too long.
Author is Scientist-Floriculture and Landscape Architecture, KVK, Srinagar, SKUAST-K., can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org