Annual herb growing to 1 ft (30 cm). Has an upright branching stem, fine deeply cut leaves, gray-blue flowers, and toothed seedpods.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to western Asia, black cumin is grown throughout much of Asia and the Mediterranean region for its seeds and as a garden plant. The seeds are gathered once they are ripe.
The seeds contain 40% fixed oil, a saponin (melantin), alkaloids, and up to 1.4% volatile oil.
History & Folklore
Black cumin was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, but its role in ancient Egypt, medicinal or otherwise, is unknown. Dioscorides, a Greek physician of the 1st century CE, recorded that black cumin seeds were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache, and intestinal worms, and, in large quantities, as a diuretic, to promote menstrual periods, and to increase breast-milk production.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Like many culinary herbs, black cumin seeds are beneficial for the digestive system, soothing stomach pain and spasms and easing gas, bloating, and colic. The seeds are also antiseptic and are used to treat intestinal worms, especially in children. Cumin seeds are much used in India to increase the production of breast milk.
Recent research indicates that black cumin seed may prove useful in metabolic syndrome, a condition that typically involves raised cholesterol levels, raised blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The seeds are also antiviral and show promise in the treatment of chronic viral infections, such as hepatitis C.
Love-in-a-mist (N. damascena) should not be used as a substitute for black cumin seeds.