Native to the Middle east, western Asia and southeastern Europe, Nigella sativa are the tiny, black seeds from the annual, pale gray-blue flower of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). It has also been called Roman coriander, black caraway and fennel flower. It has a complex, pungent peppery bitter flavour with an aroma that reminds one of nutmeg.
Historically it has been used as a medicinal seed since the earliest times. It is said that Cleopatra and Nephrititi used it in their beauty regimes and it was found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Apparently, the Greek physician Dioscorides used black cumin seeds to treat headaches and toothaches, while Mohammed said that black cumin cures every disease but death itself. These little seeds have a complex chemical structure including an abundant source of essential fatty acids. Traditionally herbalists have used this oil for many different conditions particularly digestive and skin problems. In 1996 the USFDA granted a patent for a drug based on an extract of black cumin. It is being used for treating cancer and for preventing side effects of anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs and for increasing the immune system function in healing.
The seeds have a yield of around 1.4% essential oil and contain ketones: carvone (around 21%); monoterpenes: a-pinene (around 7%), b-pinene (around 7 – 8%), pcymene (around 46 – 47%); sesquiterpenes: sabinene (around 5.5%), with the balance being made up of other constituents. It is thought to blend well with clary sage, lemon, orange, peppermint, rosemary and tea tree.
The carrier oil is cold pressed from the small, black, tough seeds of Nigella sativa.This dark yellow brown oil has long been a favourite in the Middle East and Asia and the main supply comes from Egypt, Syria and Turkey. The Black Cumin oil from Turkey has quite a strong spice odour but the oil from Syria is milder. Black Cumin seeds are found as a digestive flavouring in many breads throughout the Middle East.
Jan Kusmirek, in his book Liquid Sunshine says that Black Cumin can be compared to Evening Primrose and Borage oils and is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acides. The major constituent is linoleic acid which can be present in amounts as high as 60% making it an excellent food supplement. He suggests that it can be added to salad dressings. It is available as a capsule supplement and the seeds are also used to make an infusion to be used as a digestive. He also suggests that the seeds may be considered as a base for a scrub or exfoliating mixture. Black cumin carrier oil also mixes well with Jojoba to provide a fortifying and emollient blend.
Research has been done on both the essential oil and the carrier oil here are some examples:
Black cumin seed essential oil, as a potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug. Valiollah Hajhashemi, Alireza Ghannadi,Hadi Jafarabadi Article first published online: 15 APR 2004
The steam-distilled essential oil of Iranian black cumin seed (Nigella sativa L.) was investigated for its composition and analgesic and antiinflammatory properties. After oil analysis by GC/MS, 20 compounds were identified in the oil, obtained in 0.4% (v/w) yield. Among them, para-cymene (37.3%) and thymoquinone (13.7%) were the major components. Acetic acid-induced writhing, formalin and light tail flick tests were used for assessment of analgesic activity. Antiinflammatory activity was evaluated using carrageenan-induced paw oedema in rats and croton oil-induced ear oedema in mice.
Black cumin seed essential oil (BCSEO) was found to produce a significant analgesic effect in acetic acid-induced writhing, formalin and light tail flick tests. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, could not reverse the analgesic effect observed in the formalin test. Although oral administration of BCSEO at doses of 100, 200 and 400 µL/kg did not exert a significant antiinflammatory effect in the carrageenan test, i.p. injection of the same doses significantly (p < 0.001) inhibited carrageenan-induced paw oedema. BCSEO at doses of 10 and 20 µL/ear could also reduce croton oil-induced oedema. It seems that mechanism(s) other than opioid receptors is (are) involved in the analgesic effect of BCSEO since naloxone could not reverse this effect. Both systemic and local administration of BCSEO showed antiinflammatory activity. Thymoquinone, as one of the major components of BCSEO, probably has an important role in these pharmacological effects. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Antioxidant activity of Nigella sativa essential oil. M. Burits, F. Bucar Article first published online: 28 JUL 2000
The essential oil of black cumin seeds, Nigella sativa L., was tested for a possible antioxidant activity. A rapid evaluation for antioxidants, using two TLC screening methods, showed that thymoquinone and the components carvacrol, t-anethole and 4terpineol demonstrated respectable radical scavenging property. These four constituents and the essential oil possessed variable antioxidant activity when tested in the diphenylpicrylhydracyl assay for non-specific hydrogen atom or electron donating activity. They were also effective ·OH radical scavenging agents in the assay for non-enzymatic lipid peroxidation in liposomes and the deoxyribose degradation assay.
GC-MS analysis of the essential oil obtained from six different samples of Nigella sativa seeds and from a commercial fixed oil showed that the qualitative composition of the volatile compounds was almost identical. Differences were mainly restricted to the quantitative composition. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Radical Scavenging Activity of Black Cumin (Nigella sativa L.), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), and Niger (Guizotia abyssinica Cass.) Crude Seed Oils and Oil Fractions.Mohamed F. Ramadan, Lothar W. Kroh, and Jörg-T. Mörsel Institut für Lebensmittelchemie, Technische Universität Berlin, Published J. Agric. Food Chem., 2003, 51 (24), pp 6961–6969 DOI: 10.1021/jf0346713 Publication Date (Web): October 24, 2003 Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society
Crude vegetable oils are usually oxidatively more stable than the corresponding refined oils. Tocopherols, phospholipids (PL), phytosterols, and phenols are the most important natural antioxidants in crude oils. Processing of vegetable oils, moreover, could induce the formation of antioxidants. Black cumin (Nigella sativa L.), coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.), and niger (Guizotia abyssinica Cass.) crude seed oils were extracted with nhexane and the oils were further fractionated into neutral lipids (NL), glycolipids (GL), and PL. Crude oils and their fractions were investigated for their radical scavenging activity (RSA) toward the stable galvinoxyl radical by electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometry and toward 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical by spectrophotometric method. Coriander seed oil and its fractions exhibited the strongest RSA compared to black cumin and niger seed oils. The data correlated well with the total content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, unsaponifiables, and PL, as well as the initial peroxide values of crude oils. In overall ranking, RSA of oil fractions showed similar patterns wherein the PL exhibited greater activity to scavenge both free radicals followed by GL and NL, respectively. The positive relationship observed between the RSA of crude oils and their color intensity suggests the Maillard reaction products may have contributed to the RSA of seed oils and their polar fractions. The results demonstrate the importance of minor components in crude seed oils on their oxidative stability, which will reflect on their food value and shelf life. As part of the effort to assess the potential of these seed oils, the information is also of importance in processing and utilizing the crude oils and their byproducts.
I’m certainly going to buy both the essential oil and the carrier oil to experiment.