Find out what science says about nigella

The family Ranunculaceae or Ranunculaceae is a fairly old family of plants bringing together around 2000 distinct species, one of which in particular has proven to be of therapeutic interest with high potential: Nigella Sativa.

This spice is widely used in various traditional medicines. Its wide range of pharmacological effects has also attracted the interest of researchers, allowing us to identify a multitude of clinical studies and scientific evidence to date.

Thymoquinone is the main bioactive in the volatile oil of Nigella Sativa seeds.

This monoterpene primarily has anti-inflammatory activity. Clinical trials reported by the University of Nebraska Medicine, in the United States, show a dose-dependent inhibition of inflammatory mediators by microglia cells (immune cells of the central nervous system), cells involved in the exacerbation of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease concluding in a neuroprotective effect of this terpene.

Other inflammatory diseases have therefore been studied in this sense, including rheumatism such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, but also asthma or psoriasis: a meta-analysis of five studies shows that treatment with thymoquinone reduces inflammation induced by TNF-α (for Tumor Necrosis Factor), a protease involved in the inflammatory process of rheumatoid arthritis and thus also has an immunomodulatory effect with a reduction in humoral immunity and an increase in cellular immunity. In addition, a meta-analysis having analyzed a set of research carried out from 1993 to 2018 led to the cautious conclusion of an improvement in the clinical picture of respiratory diseases of an allergic nature and of an obstructive nature such as emphysema by inhibiting in particular an enzyme : elastase. Secreted by our neutrophils, this enzyme has the role of destroying tissues for better repair. However, when chronic inflammation sets in, this system then becomes out of control. We then contribute here to the stability of a degenerative situation in an essential multidisciplinary approach adapted to the severity of the disease.

In addition, direct and indirect antioxidant effects are widely put forward to explain the anti-inflammatory effects observed in these models, attributed in part to thymoquinone but not only. Indeed, Molecules , the main international chemistry journal, publishes a review in 2021 in which it demonstrates the high anti-radical activity of Nigella Sativa seeds, attributed to its high content of phenolic and flavonoid compounds.

As a reminder, antioxidants are natural molecules that neutralize reactive oxygen species , which are extremely reactive and aggressive particles, which humans produce during their day, every day, in their lives. If our immune system is itself capable of neutralizing these particles with harmful potential for our body, it may be overwhelmed at times for multiple reasons, and is no longer able to assume this role. : we then speak of oxidative stress. To date, the main antioxidant micronutrients are vitamin C and vitamin E, polyphenols, carotenoids and terpenes : all things found in nigella sativa (black cumin). Which makes it a plant of exceptional interest for well-being and health.

If the seed gives a fixed oil, by cold pressing, the composition of this oil is extremely rich in antioxidants since it is composed of phenols in particular the group of flavonoids , vitamin E and carotenoids which have antioxidant activity. direct.

And the pharmacological benefits of Nigella sativa don't stop there. Indeed, numerous studies have measured the activity of the plant with respect to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms: broad spectrum of inhibition of bacterial growth initially in the context of food preservation then demonstrated in several clinical trials against antibiotic controls. The antifungal and antibacterial effects are not direct effects of the plant. In fact, they are due to an immunostimulating effect by increasing the release of nitric oxide, toxic for certain strains including Candida albicans ( present in humans in the genital tract, digestive tract, mouth and skin which can sometimes become pathogenic ) by granulocytes and monocytes, by destabilization of membranes and modification of the oxido-pathogenic environment.

Finally, this oil is rich in essential fatty acids: omega 3 and 6 . The National Health Safety Agency (ANSES) informs the public that “in the cardiovascular field, scientific data show that these fatty acids promote a reduction in triglycerides, high blood pressure and therefore a reduction in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality ” .

Written by Doctor Rita Masoud Pharmacist graduated from Paris-Saclay University.


-Cihan Toparslan, CT. (2017). With Nigella Sativa, the amazing black cumin. Amyris.

- Scientific bibliography relating to nigella (Nigella sativa L.): its characteristics, its effects, its possible benefits for health and in cosmetics. - Pharmacognosy laboratory, UMR CNRS 8076 BioCIS, UFR Pharmacie, Université Paris-Saclay (5 rue J.-B. Clément, 92296 Châtenay-Malabry Cedex, France).

- Dalli, M.; Bekkouch, O.; Azizi, S.-e.; Azghar, A.; Gseyra, N.; Kim, B. Nigella sativa L. Phytochemistry and Pharmacological Activities: A Review (2019–2021). Biomolecules 2022, 12, 20.

- Hadi, V., Kheirouri, S., Alizadeh, M., Khabbazi, A., & Hosseini, H. (2016). Effects of Nigella sativa oil extract on inflammatory cytokine response and oxidative stress status in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 6(1), 34–43.

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