Black seeds

Black seeds are supposed to be good for the respiratory system, in particular nigella sativa, the seeds mentioned (in a hadith?) by the Prophet. These came from the Yemenis’ store, so I’m sure they’re authentic.

Google tells me I can make a tea by pouring boiling water over a tablespoon of the seeds, covering the cup while it steeps, and adding honey. This is the same method I learned in Jordan when one of my students made me a cup of zaatar (fresh thyme leaves, not the dried “zait and zatter” type) for a cold. The taste seemed a bit weak, so this morning I decided to try a seed method I learned in Amman using anise seeds for bronchitis. The herb is boiled in a small espresso pan for several minutes and poured into the glass though a tea strainer. Here it is in an everyday casset shai (tea glass).

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Biblical and Koranic mentions from wiki:

When they have leveled the surface,
do they not sow caraway (“fitches?”… “black poppy?”) and scatter cumin?
Do they not plant wheat in its place,
barley in its plot,
and spelt in its field?…

Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is a cartwheel rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
and cumin with a stick.

-Isaiah 28:25,27

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[Sahih Muslim : Book 26 Kitab As-Salam, Number 5489]
Abu Huraira (Radi Allah Anhu) reported that he heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Nigella seed is a remedy for every disease except death.

Narrated Khalid bin Sa’d :We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar R.A was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Atiq came to visit him and said to us, “Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for ‘Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet (sallalhu-alaihewasallam) saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ ‘Aisha said, ‘What is As-Sam?’ He said, ‘Death.’ ” (Bukhari)

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Avicenna, most famous for his volumes called The Canon of Medicine, refers to nigella as the seed that stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness. It is also included in the list of natural drugs of ‘Tibb-e-Nabavi’, or “Medicine of the Prophet”, according to the tradition “hold onto* the use of the black seeds for in it is healing for all diseases except death” (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592).

*hold onto indicates long term use; studies have reported changes in blood chemistry after several weeks

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2 Responses to “Black seeds”

  1. canehan Says:

    Are the effects of the changes in blood chemistry reported on – positive (in what way), negative, neutral ?

  2. Nijma Says:

    Basically, an antioxidant, lowers cholesterol, raises hemoglobin. Unfortunately it’s hard to sort of the facts from what could very well be hyberbole, especially since this was recommended by The Prophet (PBUH), and I haven’t done a systematic search. Judging by all the herbal writeups, the seed is a genuine cure-all, (sage has a similar reputation), and is good for breathing problems, cancer, vermifuge, you name it. Links to studies about pancreatic cancer keep cropping up and the wiki article even has links to something about sperm, something I am only peripherally concerned about.

    This abstract (source) is about the most scientific and descriptive account I have seen so far (and it looks like they have links to related articles), but keep in mind it’s from the veterinary medicine department of a Saudi university:

    The seeds of Nigella sativa Linn. (Ranunculaceae), commonly known as black seed or black cumin, are used in folk (herbal) medicine all over the world for the treatment and prevention of a number of diseases and conditions that include asthma, diarrhoea and dyslipidaemia. This article reviews the main reports of the pharmacological and toxicological properties of N. sativa and its constituents. The seeds contain both fixed and essential oils, proteins, alkaloids and saponin. Much of the biological activity of the seeds has been shown to be due to thymoquinone, the major component of the essential oil, but which is also present in the fi ed oil. The pharmacological actions of the crude extracts of the seeds (and some of its active constituents, e.g. volatile oil and thymoquinone) that have been reported include protection against nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity induced by either disease or chemicals. The seeds/oil have antiinflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antimicrobial and antineoplastic activity. The oil decreases blood pressure and increases respiration. Treatment of rats with the seed extract for up to 12 weeks has been reported to induce changes in the haemogram that include an increase in both the packed cell volume (PCV) and haemoglobin (Hb), and a decrease in plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose. The seeds are characterized by a very low degree of toxicity. Two cases of contact dermatitis in two individuals have been reported following topical use. Administration of either the seed extract or its oil has been shown not to induce significant adverse effects on liver or kidney functions. It would appear that the beneficial effects of the use of the seeds and thymoquinone might be related to their cytoprotective and antioxidant actions, and to their effect on some mediators of inflammation.

    Studies have been done mostly on the oil and extract, which you can also buy, but at this point I’m mostly interested in it as a folk remedy. I have always liked the cheese with the seeds in it, and when you buy it from a pious clerk they always give you an approving look and do not hit on you, which even at my age can get tiresome after a while.


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