Black Cumin

Nigella sativa


Uses: Culinary/Medicinal

Duration: Annual

When to Sow: Spring

Ease of Germination: Easy

(Fennel flower; Russian caraway; Black caraway) Commonly featured in Indian dhals and equally at home in Russian rye bread! Aromatic black seeds resemble fennel in aroma and taste something like peppery nutmeg. Seeds can be ground and used with near abandon like black pepper. Its legendary healing powers are summed up in the Arab proverb, “In the black seed is the medicine for every disease except death.”


Cumin   The following information is taken verbatim from the Grieve’s “A Modern Herbal”, 1931 [uncopyrighted]. These volumes are shown below for ordering.
Botanical Name
Cuminum cyminum, Black cumin: nigella sativa
System Affected
breast, amenorrhea, body odor, anti-inflamatory




increased breast size (also for Black Cumin), amenorrhea body odor anti-inflamatory, carpal tunnel syndrome Black Cumin: general healing
brown colored spice

Historically famous for it’s beauty-enhancing properties, Black Cumin’s assets are certainly not confined to beauty. Credited with control of amenorrhea and as a general systemic stimulant; one of the oldest and best-known of the Medicinal herbs, Black Cumin remains another of the finest ‘dual use’ Medicinal and Culinary herbs. Here’s some additional information on Black Cumin along with Ms. Grieve’s write-up.

Nigella Sativa for Beauty

Most people seeking the benefits of black cumin take the oil in capsule form. Over a period of time, usually a few months, the hair and fingernails are strengthened and have more luster. However, some people use the oil externally, for beauty as well as for treating skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. One can buy a ready-made cream, add some oil to a favorite cream, or make one's own cream from scratch by warming equal parts (by volume) of black cumin seeds and a nice carrier oil, like shea butter or jojoba. It's best to use a double boiler or be lazy (like me) and use a yogurt maker because the temperature is very even so you can safely ignore the process for hours. The oil will darken. When you feel this has been warmed long enough, melt a little beeswax into the warm oil. Stir it with a glass rod or new chopstick. If you like, you can add an essential oil or combination of oils just before the beeswax stiffens. Choose this for aesthetic or health reasons. Some people use such mixtures on burns or skin infections; some just use these creams to feel good, moisturize the skin, relieve joint or pain, or make wrinkles vanish.

Many combine vinegar and oil. In this case, mix one cup of black cumin seeds in organic apple cider vinegar. Let this sit for a few days or two weeks. Then, strain the mixture, first through a conventional strainer, then through a finer filter, like cheesecloth or a chemical-free coffee filter or tea bag. Mix the remainder with equal parts black cumin vinegar and black cumin oil. Heat this for a few minutes and then put into a mason jar and refrigerate. Apply this to problem skin such as areas with acne or take one tablespoon before meals for flatulence and digestive problems.

More importantly, enjoy another gift from Nature!

Black Cumin Seed Oil Profile

Botanical Name- Nigella sativa
Origin- USA
Extraction- Cold pressed from whole seeds
Shelf life- 6 months
Kosher Certified- Yes
Notes- Also known as Black Cumin oil, Black oil, or Black seed oil. Best if kept stored in a temperature controlled environment. Refrigeration is not necessary but recommended to help increase stability.
Skin exposure to the undiluted oil will cause irritation to those with sensitivities. Not to be used while pregnant. Seeds are cultivated in Turkey/Egypt and sent to the USA for extraction and the material has tested pesticide residue free. For food and dietary use only.

Color- Deep Amber/Dark
Odor- Characteristic with upper tones
Acid Value- 0.6
Peroxide Value- Less then <0.5
Saponification Value- 183-195
Iodine Value- 110-125
Specific Gravity-pH- 4.14

Fatty Acids
Oleic- 64%
Palmitic- 11.7%
Linoleic- 12%
Linolenic- 70%

Cumin, Black

Botanical: Cuminum cyminum (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

---Synonym---Cumino aigro (Malta).
---Part Used---Fruit.
---Habitat---Cumin, besides being used medicinally, was in the Middle Ages one of the commonest spice of European growth. It is a small annual, herbaceous plant, indigenous to Upper Egypt, but from early times was cultivated in Arabia, India, China, and in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

---Description---Its stem is slender and branched, rarely exceeding 1 foot in height and somewhat angular. The leaves are divided into long, narrow segments like Fennel, but much smaller and are of a deep green colour, generally turned back at the ends. The upper leaves are nearly stalkless, but the lower ones have longer leaf-stalks. The flowers are small, rose-coloured or white, in stalked umbels with only four to six rays, each of which are only about 1/3 inch long, and bloom in June and July, being succeeded by fruit - the so-called seeds - which constitute the Cumin of pharmacy. They are oblong in shape, thicker in the middle, compressed laterally about 5 inch long, resembling Caraway seeds, but lighter in colour and bristly instead of smooth, almost straight, instead of being curved. They have nine fine ridges, overlapping as many oil channels, or vittae. The odour and taste are somewhat like caraway, but less agreeable.

---History---Cumin is mentioned in Isaiah xxvii. 25 and 27, and Matthew xxiii. 23, and in the works of Hippocrates and Dioscorides. From Pliny we learn that the ancients took the ground seed medicinally with bread, water or wine, and that it was accounted the best of condiments. The seeds of the Cumin when smoked, were found to occasion pallor of the face, whence the expression of Horace, exsangue cuminum, and Pliny tells us that the followers of the celebrated rhetorician Porcius Latro employed it to produce a complexion such as bespeaks application to study.

Cumin also symbolized cupidity among the Greeks: Marcus Aurelius was so nicknamed because of his avarice, and misers were jocularly said to have eaten Cumin.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when it was much in use as a culinary spice, its average price in England per lb. was 2d., equivalent to 1s. 4d. at the present day.

Cumin has now gone out of use in European medicine, having been replaced by Caraway seed, which has a more agreeable flavour, but it is still used to some extent in India, in native medicine. Its principal employment is in veterinary medicine and as an ingredient in curry powder, for which purposes it is imported from Bombay and Calcutta, Morocco, Sicily and Malta. It is commonly sold in Malta, where they call it cumino aigro (hot Cumin), to distinguish it from Anise, which they term cumino dulce, or sweet Cumin.

---Cultivation---Although we get nearly all our supplies from the Mediterranean, it would be perfectly feasible to grow Cumin in England, as it will ripen its fruit as far north as Norway. It is, however, rarely cultivated here, and seeds are generally somewhat difficult to obtain.

They should be sown in small pots, filled with light soil and plunged into a very moderate hot bed to bring up the plants. These should be hardened gradually in an open frame and transplanted into a warm border of good soil, preserving the balls of earth which adhere to the roots in the pots. Keep clean of weeds and the plants will flower very well and will probably perfect their seeds if the season should be warm and favourable.

The plants are threshed when the fruit is ripe and the 'seeds' dried in the same manner as Caraway.

---Constituents---The strong aromatic smell and warm, bitterish taste of Cumin fruits are due to the presence of a volatile oil which is separated by distillation of the fruit with water, and exists in the proportion of 2 to 4 per cent. It is limpid and pale yellow in colour, and is mainly a mixture of cymol or cymene and cuminic aldehyde, or cyminol, which is its chief constituent.

The tissue of the fruits contains a fatty oil with resin, mucilage and gum, malates and albuminous matter, and in the outerseed coat there is much tannin. The yield of ash is about 8 per cent.

---Medicinal Action and Uses---Stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative. The older herbalists esteemed Cumin superior in comforting carminative qualities to Fennel or Caraway, but on account of its very disagreeable flavour, its medicinal use at the present day is almost confined to veterinary practice, in which it is employed as a carminative.

Formerly Cumin had considerable repute as a corrective for the flatulency of languid digestion and as a remedy for colic and dyspetic headache. Bruised and applied externally in the form of a plaster, it was recommended as a cure for stitches and pains in the side caused by the sluggish congestion of indolent parts, and it has been compounded with other drugs to form a stimulating liniment.

Bay-salt and Cumin-seeds mixed, is a universal remedy for the diseases of pigeons, especially scabby backs and breasts. The proportions of the remedy are: 1/4 lb. Baysalt, 1/4 lb. Common Salt, 1 lb. Fennel-seeds, 1 lb. Dill-seeds, 1 lb. Cumin-seeds, 1 OZ. Assafoetida; mix all with a little wheaten flour and some fine-worked clay; when all are well beaten together, put into two earthen pots and bake them in the oven. When cold, put them on the table in the dove-cote; the pigeons will eat it and thus be cured.

Nigella sativa is one the most revered medicinal seeds in history. The best seeds come from Egypt where they grow under almost perfect conditions in oases where they are watered until the seed pods form. Black cumin seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Though black cumin seeds are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the words of the Prophet Mohammed, they were not carefully researched until about forty years ago. Since this time, more than 200 studies have been conducted in universities.

Oil Composition

oleic acid


linoleic acid


linolenic acid


The famous Greek physician Dioscorides used black cumin seeds to treat headaches and toothaches. Mohammed said that black cumin cures every disease but death itself. The reason might be found in the complex chemical structure of the seeds. These little seeds have over one hundred different chemical constituents, including abundant sources of all the essential fatty acids. Though it is the oil that is most often used medicinally, the seeds are a bit spicy and are often used whole in cooking—curries, pastries, and Mediterranean cheeses.

Nigella sativa seeds have very little aroma but are carminative, meaning they tend to aid digestion and relieve gases in the stomach and intestines. They aid peristalsis and elimination. The essential oil of black cumin is antimicrobial and helps to rid the intestines of worms.

Black cumin is regarded by many as a panacea and may therefore not be taken seriously by some, but for those inclined to dismiss folklore, it should be noted that these humble seeds have been found superior to almost every other natural remedy when used for autoimmune disorders, conditions in which patients suffer greatly because their own systems attack their bodies. Black cumin, especially when combined with garlic, is regarded as a harmonizer of the imbalance which allows immune cells to destroy healthy cells. The technical language to describe this property is "immunomodulatory action." The difference between black cumin and interferon is that there are no known side effects with black cumin when administered in normal dosages. The saying goes that the beauty of black cumin is their capacity to restore harmony.

The most dramatic results are achieved with asthma and allergies. These respond relatively quickly unless there is infection, in which case, the infection needs to be eliminated before the symptoms of immune weakness subside. Continued use for six months or longer tends to give outstanding results. For extreme fatigue, consider mixing some crushed seeds with some royal jelly.

With a seed containing so many constituents and having such a long ethnobotanical history, it is not surprising that many throughout the Mediterranean and Asia believe that black cumin is basically good for all that ails us. However, the claims are not outrageously far-fetched if one considers how complete the seeds are in terms of their many chemical constituents. Still, it is understandable that anyone who claims that something can do anything from increasing one's sperm count or increasing milk production in a nursing mother to relieving bronchial conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, is not taken seriously. One then wonders if the imagination of the poets has triumphed over the logic of scientists? Just remember: those paying homage to the black seeds of the Egyptian oases were praising the capacity of the seeds to restore normalcy, not cure. This is not unimaginable if the nutrients are sufficient to correct deficiency conditions.

Protects Healthy Cells and Stimulates Production of Natural Interferon

The first major study of Nigella sativa in cancer prevention and treatment was performed by scientists at Cancer Immuno-Biology Laboratory of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. They concluded that a healthy immune system will detect and destroy cancer cells before the cancer endangers the patient. The immune system does this by supporting increased production of immune cells, bone marrow cells, and B-cells that produce antibodies. Black cumin stimulates neutrophil activity. These are the short-lived immune cells that are normally found in bone marrow but mobilized into action when there is a bacterial infection. Extracts of black cumin have also been shown to modulate production of interleukins, a quality it shares with some other highly revered herbs: ginseng, astragalus, mistletoe, garlic, and cat's claw.

In animal studies, while none of the subjects in the control group survived, two-thirds of the mice that had been given black cumin seed oil were still alive 30 days after deliberate efforts to cause cancer in the subject groups. Black cumin is particularly useful in aggressive cancers whose growth depends on angiogenesis.

In vitro studies performed in Jordan and the United States have determined that the volatile oil is anti-leukemic. Studies performed in Spain as well as England found that the fixed oil is useful in the treatment of rheumatism and other inflammatory diseases. This property is attributed to thymoquinone which is as high as 25% in the Egyptian seed and missing entirely is some seeds.

Culinary Uses

Black cumin seeds are small. They can be used to make tea by simply pouring hot water over the seeds and letting the brew steep for 10 minutes, about a tablespoon makes a nice cup of tea, but it is better to keep the cup covered until ready to drink so as to prevent the aroma from escaping. Some people add a few seeds to their favorite tea or coffee and allow their imaginations to conjure up images of camels and nomads. The seeds can also be added to casseroles or breads, used in canning, or extracted in wine or vinegar. Some people grind the seeds and mix them with honey or sprinkle them on salads. They make a nice addition to salad dressings and even stir fry dishes, especially when combined with lemon, cilantro, and tahini.

Black cumin seeds mixed with honey and garlic are excellent tonics for people with asthma or coughs as well as those who want to enhance their immunity during cold and flu season or when an infection is setting in.