Black Seed Oil is a pure fat distilled from the seeds of nigella sativa, a common flower native to south and southwest Asia. This is often referred to as black caraway or simply black seed and is the seed of the fennel plant. The seed of this plant has been used in traditional medicines and food for millennia, with a similar role to other spices found in the Fennel plant.
The use of the oil is considerably different to consumption of the seed, as it is approximately 30% oil, and thus we need to consider the distilled oil as somewhat separate to the seed from which it is produced. The seeds have been used in curries, spiced breads and five spice, among other foods. This article will highlight the health benefits that the science has shown for black seed oil.
What is Black Seed Oil?
Black seed oil is the oil found in black caraway, with the oil being a distilled and purified liquid version of these fats. As an oil, it has a calorie content of 9calories per mg (or 1ml) making it a very high-energy food, though it is definitely not to be consumed in large quantities by those concerned with their bodyweight! It has become popular in recent times with the discovery of various health benefits and immune system perks that can be achieved with a relatively small dose.
Health Benefits of Black Seed Oil
1. Improves Immune Function
Both the spice and the concentrated oil are able to improve immune function in a modest degree when used in culinary doses and cooking methods. This means that there is a relatively easy way to gain the positive effects without an excessive amount of effort – adding black seed oil to curries and cooking processes can be hugely beneficial to health.
2. Balances Cholesterol
The good fats found in black seed oil are effective at increasing the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterols in the blood – this will reduce blood pressure, improve the metabolism of fat and reduce the chance of health problems like atherosclerosis, where the build up of fat-based plaques in the blood stream reduces bloodflow and damages the cardiac system.
3. Anti-Bacterial and Fights Infections
Black seed is primarily effective in fighting various forms of bacterial infection. As a natural anti-bacterial agent it can fight against many bacteria that are either immune or resistant to conventional pharmaceutical interventions. Whilst black seed oil isn’t going to cure any infections, regular consumption may serve to protect against infection and keep you healthy.
4. Fights Harmful Pathogens
Phytochemicals are the chemicals found uniquely in plant foods and are incredibly important for proper health and wellbeing. We’ve known for years that these compounds are good for us – fruit and veg have always been health foods – but phytochemicals themselves are fantastic at battling with pathogens in the body, which are basically any substances that might do us harm. Phytochemicals combat a range of pathogens, reducing the risk of illness, disease and mortality.
Black seed oil, being produced from the seeds of a plant, are incredibly densely packed with phytochemicals and anti-fungal agents. These are great at dealing with the threats posed by tiny fungus particles – primarily those found in foods – and confer 100% protection from many standard doses of these pathogens.
5. Reduces Inflammation
Phytochemicals like ‘TQ’ can also improve the body’s inflammation-suppressing responses both at a superficial level (when applied to the skin) and through consumption as a food. This means that various inflammation-based aches and pains such as joint problems can be reduced in the short term, though it is also important to use this time and pain-freedom to solve the cause.
7. Reduces Risk of Certain Cancers
The phytochemicals described above also possess a number of other qualities that help them reduce the risk of cancer. The mixture of anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects promote a healthy internal environment (preventing cancer in the first place), reduce the possibility of cell damage and reduce the chance of precursor illnesses that might damage the immune system. Black seed oil isn’t going to cure cancer, but it may provide you with an increased safety if consumed over a long period of time.
8. Improves Cognitive Performance
One of our favorite benefits of black seed oil is its ability to inhibit AChE – an enzyme that breaks down Acetylcholine in the body. Acetylcholine is one of the most important and potent compounds produced in the body. This chemical is essential to memory and brain function, but also improves power output in athletes and is used to prevent the symptoms and risks of developing brain and neurological diseases. For example, ACh is used in the treatment of scleroses because it improves the health of the tissues around the nervous system, reducing the chance of damage and inhibition to these tissues.
Acetylcholine is also essential in the combatting of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Not only can it delay the onset of these diseases and reduce overall risk, but it can reduce the progression of such diseases in populations who have already been diagnosed. Amongst healthy individuals it will improve memory, protect against degenerative brain diseases and improve force output during exercise. This is why we love it so much!
9. Supports Liver Health and Function
As the body’s main chemical processor, the liver is not only responsible for producing the chemicals that keep us alive and healthy, but it also converts toxins and other harmful chemicals into more tolerable compounds to be excreted. This means that the liver endures a serious amount of mechanical and chemical stress to keep us alive and the poor diet and lifestyle choices that we make are generally going to catch up with our liver as we age.
Early findings suggest that black seed oil may be one of a number of plant-based oils and supplements that can be used to improve the health and function of the liver. Given that so many people have poor diets, consume too much alcohol and/or drugs (whether recreational or ‘prescription’), we believe it is important to spend some time really looking after the liver. If you’re looking for a way to detox your body, proper care for the liver is the best way to go.
10. Combats Type-2 Diabetes
Many ‘good fats’ are great choices for reducing blood sugar, cholesterols and improving the conditions for those who suffer from type-2 diabetes. However, the effects of black seed are even more impressive than many similar oils due to the improvements that it has shown on the contributing processes in the pancreas, as well as reductions in blood sugar markers and an improvement in the concentration and sensitivity to insulin. Insulin sensitivity has been a buzzword for the weight loss industry in recent years, but for those suffering with Type-2 diabetes it is a serious concern; a concern that black seed oil can improve.
The use of natural anti-diabetics and fostering the improvement of diet and lifestyle is a far more sustainable and responsible approach to the treatment of type-2 diabetes as it is through lifestyle and diet that it is most likely to develop. Clinical pharmaceutical interventions generally have severe side effects whereas natural additions and changes to the diet are likely to be gentler and more effective in the long run.
11. Improves Skin, Eye and Hair Health
Melanin is an important biological compound present in a number of superficial tissues. These are primarily useful in the prevention of damage from low level radiation – usually in the form of sun burn or excessive UV radiation from sunbathing/tanning. Black seed oil improves melanin regulation and the health benefits associated with it. It can also improve the condition of skin suffering from low-level dermatological problems such as dryness and eczema – the consumption of healthy fats generally improves the absorption of vitamins A and E, associated with health of the skin, hair and eyes.
Side Effects and Other Concerns
One of the main health benefits of black seed oil is that it is so neutral when it comes to side effects. There are almost no negative side effects associated with it, even though it contains various phytochemicals that are used as pesticides or skincare products. The fact that it is so kind on the body with almost no negative effects is why it has been so well received by those with an interest in nutrition and health.
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