Nigella Sativa Seeds, a.k.a Nigella Seeds, belong to a flowering plant. They have been used in the culinary world as spices and have been referred to with different names due to the flavor they provide. Studies are also being done to test out their health benefits.
With the numerous nigella seeds benefits, is it time to start using them?
In this article, we’ll explore what nigella seeds are and their benefits, risks, and side effects.
What Are Nigella Seeds?
Nigella seeds are known by a lot of names, such as black seeds, black cumin, kalonji, black onion seeds, fennel flowers, and black sesame seeds. However, they are not related to those other spices, they just all look the same. They are native to Southwest Asia, the Middle East, India, and Europe. 
They are from the Ranunculaceae plant family, which includes buttercup flowers among others. Medicinal and culinary uses of nigella seeds have been documented since their discovery. Their versatility has allowed them to be used throughout the world, even outside of their native habitat.
Benefits of Nigella Seeds
Whether used for food or medicine, nigella seeds have a number of benefits. They can be used as spices or be used as an additional ingredient in medical treatments. The seeds pack a punch in flavor and health benefits due to their natural components.
Here are some of the benefits of nigella seeds:
Blood Sugar Regulation
One of the most known positive impacts of nigella seeds is the impact they can have if you have diabetes. If high blood sugar is left unchecked, it can lead to serious consequences for your health, such as nerve damage and extreme fatigue.
A study showed that the consumption of nigella seeds improved the average blood sugar and levels of fasting.  You can use the oils from the seeds and incorporate them when you drink tea to help you manage your sugar levels.
Rich in Antioxidants
Studies have shown that antioxidants can have a positive impact on health and prevent diseases. Several components of nigella seeds such as carvacrol, thymoquinone, and terpineol, provide the antioxidant properties of the seeds. 
Antioxidants have been shown to help fight several chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is possible to prevent cell damage as well if the body has enough antioxidants. However, more studies need to be completed in order to find out the extent of the benefits of nigella seeds’ potent antioxidant components.
Bacteria can cause diseases and infections such as throat infections and pneumonia. Some studies have shown that nigella seeds have antibacterial properties. In a study, kalonji was found to be an effective antibiotic for treating infants with a staphylococcal skin infection. 
Furthermore, several studies have been conducted that showed how effective kalonji is at inhibiting the growth of MRSA and other strains of bacteria. More human studies have to be done to see what other strains of bacteria can be affected by nigella seeds.
Controls Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to more serious, sometimes fatal, illnesses. It can lead to heart attacks and strokes if not managed properly. Nigella seed/Kalonji oil can help keep your blood pressure under control as long as you take it with a proper and healthy diet. Nigella seeds can’t fix all the problems related to blood pressure.
In 2017, a study was done on how the seeds can curb blood pressure. Nigella seed extract was administered 2x a day for 28 days. Although the blood pressure was reduced, it was not to a significant extent.  Further studies need to be done to know the extent of the benefits.
What Do Nigella Seeds Taste Like?
Nigella seeds are mostly used in Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and Indian cuisines because of the smoky flavor they provide to dishes. Nigella seeds have a hint of cumin, toasted onion, and oregano which makes them great for flavoring food. Aside from the smoky flavor, they can also be a bit toasty which makes them perfect for your savory dishes.
They are very versatile, which makes them popular in the culinary world. The variety of tastes from the seeds gives the dishes a flavorful punch. To maximize the flavor and aroma, the seeds can be toasted to extract the essential oil. Then, you can grind them to add to your dishes. They are perfect for Indian dishes like red curry lentil soup to add some smokiness.
Amongst the continents where nigella seeds are used, bread seems to be the common denominator. This makes them a great substitute for sesame seeds and a popular topping for bread like naan. They are also used in flatbreads in the Middle East and sprinkled on rye bread in Eastern Europe. The herby and slightly bitter flavor of nigella seeds are great additions to bread, soups, and even salads.
How To Use Nigella Seeds?
As mentioned before, nigella seeds are versatile both in medicine and cooking. Add them as spices or transform them into something else for health benefits. For instance, oil can be extracted from nigella seeds, or you can find them in stores as kalonji oil. You can put a few drops of oil in your tea to help manage your sugar or blood pressure.
It can also be mixed with lime juice and applied directly to the skin. You can grind the nigella seeds as well to turn them into powder. Use the powder as a scrub to even out your complexion and unclog pores. They’re great for improving skin texture and clearing skin impurities.
For culinary uses, you can toast or grind them to add some amazing flavor to your dishes. They are definitely a great addition to your pantry. They are especially great on curried soups either from Indian or Southeast Asian cuisine. You can find them in oil or capsule forms in pharmacies or other markets.
Risks of Nigella Seeds
Many are attracted to the use of nigella seeds, whether for food or as an aid in treatment. It is generally safe, however, they are not for everyone, and using them might come with risks.
A study showed that applying the nigella seed oil directly to your skin can result in dermatitis.  Apply a small amount to your skin before applying it to other areas of your body. Test it first to avoid any other skin irritations.
According to a test-tube study, nigella seeds in any form can also cause blood clotting.  It would be better if you consult a doctor to ensure your safety. It’s okay to ask questions first before consuming them regularly.
Nigella seeds are known by their different names and for numerous benefits. They are used as spices for a variety of food like soups and bread. They add some smoky and herby flavor to any dish.
Studies have been conducted on how they can be used for medicine. Nigella seeds have properties that can help manage hypertension or diabetes. They are also useful in treating acne and improving skin texture. The benefits of nigella seeds are immense, backed up by scientific data from multiple pieces of research. However, more studies need to be conducted to know more about the subject and produce more data.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- ScienceDirect. (2004). Handbook of Herbs and Spices, Volume 2, 2004. Retrieved August 20, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/nigella
- Daryabeygi-Khotbehsara, R., Golzarand, M., Ghaffari, M. P., & Djafarian, K. (2017). Nigella sativa improves glucose homeostasis and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary therapies in medicine, 35, 6–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2017.08.016
- Leong, X. F., Rais Mustafa, M., & Jaarin, K. (2013). Nigella sativa and Its Protective Role in Oxidative Stress and Hypertension. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 120732. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/120732
- Rafati, S., Niakan, M., & Naseri, M. (2014). Anti-microbial effect of Nigella sativa seed extract against staphylococcal skin Infection. Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 28, 42.
- Rizka, A., Setiati, S., Lydia, A., & Dewiasty, E. (2017). Effect of Nigella sativa Seed Extract for Hypertension in Elderly: a Double-blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. Acta medica Indonesiana, 49(4), 307–313.
- Steinmann, A., Schätzle, M., Agathos, M., & Breit, R. (1997). Allergic contact dermatitis from black cumin (Nigella sativa) oil after topical use. Contact dermatitis, 36(5), 268–269. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0536.1997.tb00219.x
- Muralidharan-Chari, V., Kim, J., Abuawad, A., Naeem, M., Cui, H., & Mousa, S. A. (2016). Thymoquinone Modulates Blood Coagulation in Vitro via Its Effects on Inflammatory and Coagulation Pathways. International journal of molecular sciences, 17(4), 474. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms17040474