< Back to Newsletters

Nigella Sativa

Nigella sativa

Dear Friends,

The world of essential oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, attars and other essences is strongly supported by a variety of important fixed or carrier oils which not only act as natural diluents for the highly concentrated aromatics but have their own unique cosmetic value. Gradually I have been adding a few of these for people who wish to use them in for their fragrant creations. A few weeks back the first monograph on fixed/carrier oils was posted. It concerned Callophyllum inophyllum, a lovely thick green spicy carrier oil.Today we will take up Nigella sativa or Black Cumin a superb cold pressed oil from India. There is some confusion about the Nigella sativa/fixed or carrier oil and the Nigella sativa essential oil and I hope this monograph may clear some of this confusion up. Sometimes the fixed/carrier oil is being sold as an essential oil but there is a great difference in the olfactory properties and the cost of the two. The Nigella sativa fixed oil has the faint peppery/spicy odor of the seed whereas the essential oil is extremely intense and very expensive(and very rarely offered in its pure form) The percentage fixed oil in the seeds is in the range of 35-40% and that of the volatile oil from .5-1.5%. From this alone one can see that the fixed oil will be many times less expensive than the essential oil. The main focus of this article is on the fixed oil but the essential oil is available from one reputable distiller in India and I can procure it if there is sufficient interest.

Nigella sativa/Black Cumin
Simple description
DESCRIPTION: These annuals are found wild in southern Europe, northern Africa and Asia Minor. They are bushy, self-branching plants that may grow upright or sprawling, 1* to 2 feet. Their foliage is finely divided, resembling dill and fennel, and grows up to 3 inches long. The beautiful flowers are finely laced and up to 2 inches across. They may be white or pale to dark blue. Picking off the dead flowers will increase blooming, but prevents the seed capsules, which are valued for drying. N. sativa (Black Cumin, Nutmeg Flower, or Roman Coriander) grows in mounds 18 inches high. It has lacy foliage and pretty blue flowers, which are followed by swollen seedpods. This plant can be grown as a substitute for the spice Cumin (Cuminum cyminum). http://www.botany.com/nigella.html

Images of Nigella sativa
http://www.kapili.com/n/nigsativ.html
nice picture of flower and seed pod
http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/library/kohler/1758_001.jpg
superb botanical drawing

History of Nigella sativa
History of the Black Seed (Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation of a medical system or treatment for disease)

Nigella sativa was discovered in Tutankhamen's tomb, implying that it played an important role in ancient Egyptian practices. Although its exact role in Egyptian culture is not known, we do know that items entombed with a king were carefully selected to assist him in the afterlife. The earliest written reference to black seed is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah contrasts the reaping of black cumin with wheat: For the black cumin is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over the cumin, but the black cumin is beaten out with a stick, and the cumin with a rod. (Isaiah 28:25,27 NKJV). Easton's Bible Dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for black cumin, "ketsah," refers to "without doubt the Nigella sativa, a small annual of the order Ranunculaceae which grows wild in the Mediterranean countries, and is cultivated in Egypt and Syria for its seed."
Dioscoredes, a Greek physician of the 1st century, recorded that black seeds were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache, and intestinal worms. The Muslim scholar al-Biruni (973-1048), who composed a treatise on the early origins of Indian and Chinese drugs, mentions that the black seed is a kind of grain called alwanak in the Sigzi dialect. Later, this was confirmed by Suhar Bakht who explained it to be habb-i-Sajzi (viz. Sigzi grains). This reference to black seed as "grains" points to the seed's possible nutritional use during the tenth and eleventh centuries.
In the Greco-Arab/Unani-Tibb system of medicine, which originated from Hippocrates, his contemporary Galen and Ibn Sina, black seed has been regarded as a valuable remedy  Ibn Sina (980-1037), most famous for his volumes called "The Canon of Medicine," regarded by many as the most famous book in the history of medicine, East or West, refers to black seed as the seed "that stimulates the body's energy and helps recovery from fatigue or disspiritedness." Black seed is also included in the list of treatments of Al-Tibb al-Nabawi, and, according to tradition, "Hold onto the use of the black seed for it has a remedy for every illness except death." The many uses of black seed has earned for this  herb the Arabic approbation habbatul barakah, meaning "the seed of blessing."
http://www.members.aol.com/TheMuslimWoman/BlackSeeds.html
above web site is excellent and goes into many dimensions of Nigella

Nigella sativa in cooking
Nigella is mentioned in the Bible, but today it is well known not only in Western, but also in Central and South Asia; its main application area is Turkey, Libanon and Iran. Turkish bread frequently shows the characteristically shaped black grains; another spice sometimes used to flavour Near Eastern bread are mahaleb cherry stones. From Iran, nigella usage has spread to Northern India. The spice is mostly used for vegetable dishes (aubergines, pumpkin). It should be fried or dry-roasted before usage to enhance the taste. In the Indian union states West Bengal and Sikkim, as well as in Bangladesh, a spice mixture named panch phoron (five spices) is very popular, especially for meat dishes. It contains nigella, fenugreek, cumin, black mustard seed and fennel, usually at equal parts; further optional ingredients are ajwain (sometimes instead of cumin) or black pepper. This mixture of whole spices must be fried in oil before usage; to be authentic, use mustard oil - but be sure to read this link before!
http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/generic_frame.html?Nige_sat.html

Other uses
Oil; Repellent.
The aromatic seed contains about 1.5% essential oil[240]. It is placed amongst clothes etc to repel moths[4]. The seeds can also be put in muslin bags and hung near a fire when they will fill the room with their delicious scent[245]. They need to be changed about every three weeks[245]. The seed contains 35% of a fatty oil[74, 240].
http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/cgi-bin/pfaf/arr_html?Nigella+sativa&CAN=LATIND

Chemicals in: Nigella sativa L. (Ranunculaceae) -- Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Fennel-Flower, Nutmeg-Flower, Roman Coriander
Chemicals ALANINE Seed 8,000 - 10,255 ppm DUKE1992A ALPHA-SPINASTEROL Seed: DUKE1992A ARABIC-ACID Seed: DUKE1992A ARGININE Seed 41,500 - 53,050 ppm UKE1992A ASCORBIC-ACID Leaf 2,577 ppm; DUKE1992A ASH Seed 38,000 - 53,000 ppm DUKE1992A ASPARAGINE Seed: DUKE1992A ASPARTIC-ACID Seed 10,670 - 13,650 ppm DUKE1992A BETA-SITOSTEROL Seed 3,218 ppm; DUKE1992A CALCIUM Seed 10,600 ppm; DUKE1992A CAMPESTEROL Seed: DUKE1992A CARBOHYDRATES Seed 339,600 ppm; DUKE1992A CARVONE Seed 2,250 - 9,600 ppm DUKE1992A CHOLESTEROL Seed: DUKE1992A CYMENE Seed: DUKE1992A CYSTINE Seed: DUKE1992A D-LIMONENE Seed: DUKE1992A DEHYDROASCORBIC-ACID Leaf 295 ppm; DUKE1992A EICOSADIENOIC-ACID Seed 8,979 - 10,525 ppm DUKE1992A EO Seed 4,000 - 16,000 ppm DUKE1992A FAT Seed 354,900 - 416,000 ppm DUKE1992A FIBER Seed 55,000 ppm; DUKE1992A GLUCOSE Seed: DUKE1992A GLUTAMIC-ACID Seed 28,085 - 35,900 ppm DUKE1992A GLYCINE Seed 8,840 - 20,700 ppm DUKE1992A HEDERAGENIN Seed: DUKE1992A IRON Seed 140 ppm; DUKE1992A ISOLEUCINE Seed 8,570 - 10,960 ppm DUKE1992A LEUCINE Seed 23,130 - 29,595 ppm DUKE1992A LINOLEIC-ACID Seed 128,124 - 233,459 ppm DUKE1992A LINOLENIC-ACID Seed 2,484 - 2,912 ppm DUKE1992A LIPASE Seed: DUKE1992A LYSINE
Seed 16,200 - 20,700 ppm DUKE1992A MELANTHIGENIN Seed: DUKE1992A MELANTHIN Plant 15,000 ppm; DUKE1992A Seed 15,000 ppm; DUKE1992A METHIONINE Seed 13,100 - 16,750 ppm DUKE1992A MYRISTIC-ACID Seed 567 - 1,082 ppm DUKE1992A NIGELLIN Seed: DUKE1992A NIGELLONE Plant: DUKE1992A OLEIC-ACID Seed 89,911 - 184,912 ppm DUKE1992A PALMITIC-ACID Seed 22,464 - 50,523 ppm DUKE1992A PHENYLALANINE Seed 16,850 - 21,560 ppm DUKE1992A PHYTOSTEROLS Seed 5,100 ppm; DUKE1992A POTASSIUM Seed 5,820 ppm; DUKE1992A PROLINE Seed 11,350 - 14,520 ppm DUKE1992A PROTEIN Seed 212,600 - 271,900 ppm DUKE1992A RESIN Seed: DUKE1992A SERINE Seed 4,210 - 5,385 ppm DUKE1992A SODIUM Seed 980 ppm; DUKE1992A STEARIC-ACID Seed 8,722 - 10,192 ppm DUKE1992A STIGMASTEROL Seed: DUKE1992A TANNIN Seed: DUKE1992A THREONINE Seed 2,615 - 3,345 ppm DUKE1992A THYMOHYDROQUINONE Seed: DUKE1992A THYMOQUINONE Seed: DUKE1992A TRYPTOPHAN
Seed: DUKE1992A TYROSINE Seed 12,925 - 16,530 ppm DUKE1992A VALINE Seed 6,500 - 8,325 ppm DUKE1992A WATER Seed 55,000 ppm; DUKE1992A
http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/farmacy2.pl