Nigella sativa – Wikipedia

Nigella sativa

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Nigella sativa
Nigella sativa (left) and Nigella damascena (right)

Nigella sativa (left) and Nigella damascena (right)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Nigella
Species: N. sativa
Binomial name
Nigella sativa
L.

Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to southwest Asia. It grows to 20–30 cm tall, with finely divided, linear (but not thread-like) leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually coloured pale blue and white, with 5–10 petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of 3–7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. The seed is used as a spice.

Nigella sativa seed

Nigella sativa seed

In English, Nigella sativa seed is variously called fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black onion seed. Other names used, sometimes misleadingly, are onion seed and black sesame, both of which are similar-looking but unrelated. The seeds are frequently referred to as black cumin (as in Bengali কালো জিরা kalo jira), but this is also used for a different spice, Bunium persicum. The scientific name is a derivative of Latin niger “black”.[1] An older English name gith is now used for the corncockle. In English-speaking countries with large immigrant populations, it is also variously known as kalonji (Hindi कलौंजी kalauṃjī or कलोंजी kaloṃjī), kezah Hebrew קצח), chernushka (Russian), çörek otu (Turkish), habbat albarakah (Arabic حبه البركة ḥabbatu l-barakah “seed of blessing”) or siyah daneh (Persian سیاه‌دانه siyâh dâne).

A commercial pack of kalonji

A commercial pack of kalonji

This potpourri of vernacular names for this plant reflects that its widespread use as a spice is relatively new in the English speaking world[citation needed], and largely associated with immigrants from areas where it is well known. Increasing use is likely to result in one of the names winning out, hopefully one which is unambiguous.

Nigella sativa has a pungent bitter taste and a faint smell of strawberries. It is used primarily in candies and liquors. The variety of naan bread called Peshawari naan is as a rule topped with kalonji seeds. In herbal medicine, Nigella sativa has hypertensive, carminative, and anthelminthic properties[citation needed]. They are eaten by elephants to aid digestion.[citation needed]

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[edit] Historical accounts

According to Zohary and Hopf, archeological evidence about the earliest cultivation of N. sativa “is still scanty”, but they report that N. sativa seeds have been found in several sites from ancient Egypt, including Tutenkhamen‘s tomb.[1] Although its exact role in Egyptian culture is unknown, it is known that items entombed with a pharaoh were carefully selected to assist him in the after life.

The earliest written reference to N. sativa is thought to be in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament where the reaping of nigella and wheat is contrasted (Isaiah 28: 25, 27). Easton’s Bible dictionary states that the Hebrew word ketsah refers to without doubt to N. sativa (although not all translations are in agreement). According to Zohary and Hopf, N. sativa “was another traditional condiment of the Old World during classical times; and its black seeds were extensively used to flavour food.”[1]

[edit] Use in folk medicine

Nigella sativa has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, in Asia, Middle East, and Africa. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general well-being.

In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available. Prophet Muhammad once stated that the black seed can heal every disease—except death—as recounted in the following hadith:

Narrated Khalid bin Sa’d:We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar 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 andsaid 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 saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ ‘Aisha said, ‘What is As-Sam?’ He said, ‘Death.’ ” (Bukhari)

Ibn Sina, 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 (Muhammad)”, 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).

In the Unani Tibb system of medicine, N. sativa is regarded as a valuable remedy for a number of diseases.

The seeds have been traditionally used in the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries to treat ailments including asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to promote digestion and to fight parasitic infections. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and to treat cold symptoms. Its many uses have earned nigella the Arabic approbation ‘Habbatul barakah’, meaning the seed of blessing.

[edit] Scientific studies

Black cumin oil contains nigellone, which protects guinea pigs from histamine-induced bronchial spasms[citation needed] (perhaps explaining its use to relieve the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and coughing).

The presence of an anti-tumor sterol, beta sitosterol, lends credence to its traditional use to treat abscesses and tumors of the abdomen, eyes, and liver.[2]

[edit] As an anti-parasitic

Anticestodal effect of N. sativa seeds was studied in children naturally infected with the respective worm. A single oral administration of 40 mg/kg of N. sativa seeds and equivalent amount of its ethanolic extract were effective in reducing the egg count in the faeces, with a comparable effect to niclosamide. The crude extracts also did not produce any adverse side effects from all the doses tested.[3]

In 1998, Korshom et al. investigated the anti-trematodal activity of N.sativa seeds against a ruminant fluke (Paramphistomum) in sheep.[4] The methanol extract (1 ml/kg) and powder (200 mg/kg) showed high efficacy, comparable to Hapadex (netobimin, 20 mg/kg). (NOTE: methanol is transformed in the body to formaldehyde, and such raw extracts would not be used in a formulated product.)

In 2005, Azza et al. studied the anti-schistosomicidal properties of aqueous extract of N. sativa seeds against Schistosoma mansoni miracidia, cercariae, and the adult worms in vitro. It showed strong biocidal effects against all stages of the parasite and also inhibited egg-laying of adult female worms. [5]

In 2007, Abdulelah and Zainal-Abidin investigated the anti-malarial activities of different extracts of N.sativa seeds against P. berghei. Results indicated strong biocidal effects against the parasite.[6][7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b (2000) Domestication of plants in the Old World, 3, Oxford University Press, p. 206. ISBN 0198503563.
  2. ^ Look for sterols at http://glycoscience.org/glycoscience/linksPage/links.html Click on the 4th listing for the GlycoScience link. (Link is dead of 2008-1-12)
  3. ^ Akhtar, M.S. & Rifaat, S. 1991. Field trial of Saussurea lappa roots against nematodes and Nigella sativa seeds against cestodes in children. Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 41: 185–187.
  4. ^ Korshom M., Moghney, A.A. & Mandour, A. 1998. Biochemical and parasitological evaluation of Nigella sativa against ruminant fluke (Paramphistomum) in sheep as compared with trematocide “Hapadex”. Assiut. Vaternary Med. J. 39 (78): 238–244.
  5. ^ Azza, M. M., Nadia, M. M. & Sohair, S. M. 2005. Sativa seeds against Schistosoma mansoni different stages. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo. Cruz. Rio de Janeiro 100(2): 205–211.
  6. ^ Abdulelah H.A.A. & Zainal-Abidin B.A.H. 2007. In vivo anti-malarial tests of Nigella sativa (black seed) different extracts. American Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology 2 (2): 46-50, 2007.
  7. ^ Abdulelah H.A.A. & Zainal-Abidin B.A.H. 2007. Curative and prophylactic anti-malarial activities of Nigella sativa (black seed) in mice. Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences 14: 209.

[edit] External links

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