Life Style

This article had been published in the Minaret Magazine issue 24, but for wider readership and knowledge dissemination the author gave us permission to publish it on Ummah as well.

The seeds of Nigella sativa (N. sativa), commonly known as Black Seed, Black Cumin, Habbat al-sauda and Habbat Al-barakah in Arabic, Shuneiz in Persian, and Kalvanj’ in Urdu and some local languages in the Indian Subcontinent, are used in ethnic medicine, all over the world for the prevention and treatment of a number of diseases. An authentic saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the black seed states: Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said “Use the black seed, which is a healing for all diseases except As-Sam and As-Sam is Death.”

With the recent realization of its health and therapeutic benefits among the scientific community, there has been a growing interest in the investigation and development of novel pharmaceutical regiments from the seeds.

Within the tiny seed, measuring no more than 3mm in size, are numerous pharmacologically active constituents, of medicinal value, which include: Nigellicine, nigellimine-N-oxide, nigellidine, thymoquinone, dithymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, nigellone, thymol, arvacrol, oxy-coumarin, 6-methoxycoumarin and 7-hydroxy-coumarin, alpha-hedrin, steryl-glucoside as well as rich amounts of flavinoids, tannins, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, ascorbic acid, iron and calcium.

Numerous articles, published in influential journals, are available regarding studies on the medicinal properties of N. sativa seeds, and their derivatives. Below are some of the beneficial properties.

1. Management of diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus is the common term for several chronic disorders that result in abnormally high blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is normally controlled by complex hormonal and chemical mechanisms, failure of which results in the condition. N. sativa seeds have been shown to lower blood glucose by inhibiting hepatic gluconeogenesis (synthesis of glucose in the liver), thereby helping to regulate glucose in the body.

2. Management of hypertension

Hypertension is a disease characterized by chronic elevation of blood pressure. Calcium is necessary for the heart muscle to contract and pump blood. N. sativa has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure by blocking the entry of calcium into the heart muscle, a mechanism explored by commonly used antihypertensive drugs such as nifedipine.

3. Prevention of heart attacks and strokes

A thrombus is a blood clot forming within the heart and / or blood vessels thereby impeding normal circulation of blood. This results in reduced blood flow to tissues supplied by a specific vessel, causing tissue injury and death. This is one of the causes of coronary heart diseases, characterized by reduced blood supply of the heart, a major cause of death all over the world. Reduced blood to the brain on the other hand causes strokes. N. sativa has been shown to have thrombolytic (breakdown of blood clot) properties, more potent than aspirin which is commonly used for this purpose. This prevents thrombus formation.

4. Treatment and prevention of high blood cholesterol

When a person has too much “bad” blood cholesterol (Low density lipoprotein) and fat (triglycerides) it is deposited in blood vessels to result in their thickening and narrowing. This causes blockage of the vessels, another mechanism to cause the above reduced blood supply of tissues and organs. This is the commonest cause of coronary heart diseases. N. sativa has been shown to lower these bad cholesterol and fat, and raise the levels of “good” cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) which helps in clearing “bad” cholesterol from vessels thereby preventing their blockage.

5. Treatment of ulcers, and acidity

An ulcer is a discontinuity in body membranes. Of interest here is the discontinuity of mucosal membrane/lining of the stomach and duodenum, referred to as peptic ulcer, caused by an imbalance between the destructive properties of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, and the mucosa’s protective mechanisms.

This causes abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. Severe forms may cause vomiting of blood, and result in perforation of the stomach or duodenum, which aside from being extremely painful requiring urgent surgery, may be fatal. Treatment of the condition is focused on protection of the mucosa, and reduction of acid production, both of which have been demonstrably observed through the use of the seed.

6. Treatment and prevention of allergies

An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to harmless substances in the environment, leading to the release of chemical mediators, commonest being histamine, from immune cells. N. sativa possesses anti-histamine properties, blocking the effect of histamine, a property similar to many commonly used allergies medications e.g. piriton.

7. Treatment of anaemia

Anaemia is the most common disorder of blood, characterized by reduced red blood cell counts and haemoglobin levels. Haemoglobin is vital in the transport of oxygen to cells in the body necessary for energy production. N sativa increases red blood cell count, and haemoglobin levels partly due to its iron content.

8. Anti-oxidative properties

The generation of free radicals is partly the basis of many human ailments, due to their destructive nature. Constituents of N. sativa have been shown to have anti-oxidative properties, thereby preventing and managing such ailments.

9. Prevention of tumours and cancers

A mutation is a spontaneous change in the genetic makeup of a cell, where as neoplasia is the abnormal grown and multiplication of cells. These are the main mechanism in the development of tumours and cancers. N. sativa seeds have been proven to have anti-mutagenic and anti-neoplastic properties therefore reducing the incidence of cancers.

10. Treatment of diarrhoea

Every year there are about two billion cases of diarrhoea worldwide, a condition that ranks as the second leading killer of children below the age of 5 years. Each one of us is prone to an occasional attack. N. sativa relieves diarrhoea by reducing intestinal motility and have anti-microbial properties against the causative organisms.

11. Treatment of pain and inflammation

Inflammation is a complex protective mechanism within tissues of the body that is stimulated to remove an injurious agent, and initiate healing. It appears with swelling, pain, redness, warmness, and loss of function of that particular tissue. Despite being protective, excess of it is harmful.

Nociception on the other hand is perception of pain, produced in the event of tissue injury. It is the presenting complaint in majority of medical cases. It is always present whenever there is inflammation, but inflammation is not always present when there is pain.

N. sativa inhibits enzymes necessary for the inflammation pathway as do common anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. By doing so, it is not only treating inflammation, but also treating pain. Another mechanism in which it treats pain is by binding to pain killing receptors in the brain and spinal cord called opiod receptors, thereby treating pain that occurs without inflammation.

12. Fighting against microorganisms

Many diseases are caused by infections with microorganisms of different species. N. sativa seeds have been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic properties; it is thus useful in treating a wide spectrum of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites.

13. Enhancement of Fertility
One of the characteristics of living things is reproduction, which is necessary in order to sustain a population. As Muslims, we are encouraged to reproduce, so as to grow the Ummah, so long as it is within a lawful marriage. For reproduction there needs to be effective fertility brought about by sufficient fecundity. N. sativa seeds have been shown to improve fecundity through increased testosterone, the principle hormone for male reproduction.

14. Other properties:

The seeds of N. sativa have been shown to enhance immunity, thereby preventing infections. They have, as termed in Medicine, hepatoprotective and nephroprotective properties to protect the liver and kidneys, respectively, from injurious agents. They have also been proven to relieve fever, relieve chest congestion, prevent and ease muscle spasms and cramps, reduce vomiting and loosen bowels in constipation.

No single herb or pharmaceutically prepared regiment has as many therapeutic uses as Nigella sativa. With advancements in analytical sciences, the list of its constituents and their medicinal properties continues to grow. Furthermore, despite all the properties, the seeds have been shown to have an insignificant level of toxicity, thereby causing no major adverse reactions.

To conclude this “medical tract”:-
It is necessary to recall the hadith at the beginning of this write-up and to ponder over the following two well known Divinely inspired Prophetic sayings: “Every illness has a cure and when proper cure is applied to the disease, it ends it, Allah willing”. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) also said “Allah (S.W.T) has not sent down a disease except that He also sent down its cure”.

When the Prophet (P.B.U.H) extolled the use of Habbat Al-baraka as a panacea for all diseases, more than 14 centuries ago, science was rudimentary and analytical science was virtually non-existent! The truth of this is now emerging and with the yet-discovered properties of the N. sativa seed (given the rapid progression in the analytical sciences) cure for the hitherto incurable diseases such as HIV/AIDS is divinely ordained. It has already been demonstrated that the seed enhances the ratio between helper T-cells and suppressor T-cells by 55% with a 30% average enhancement of the natural killer cells activity, a change that would be of benefit to HIV patients.

To the researchers, the N. sativa seed is a miraculous seed that warrants serious study. To the sick, it has the promise of curing all ailments. To the healthy, it is the sustainer of well-being!

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