Playfully referred to as “Love in the Mist”, black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa), also known as “kalonji” or “black caraway” is an annual herbaceous plant used to season curries, vegetables, and pickles. It should not be confused with the herb cumin (Cumunum cyminum). They have little aroma and a herb-like taste similar to oregano. They look similar to onion seeds and are often confused with them.
It is an essential part of the Bengali spice box — paanch phoran.
Traditionally, in many Asian, and African countries, black seed oil was used as a natural remedy for a wide range of diseases. Benefits documented include their use in a headache, toothache, nasal congestion, and intestinal worms. They have also been used for conjunctivitis, abscesses, and parasites.
Their digestive and respiratory benefits have been demonstrated. They are believed to be used for stimulation of menstruation and increasing milk flow during lactation. Several studies attribute and support these effects.
Further, these black seeds are known for a number of other pharmacological effects including analgesic, antihistaminic, anti-asthmatic, anti-bacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic, antihypertensive and hypoglycemic.
Used as a tempering in food, the seeds are a good source of essential components — an analysis revealed that it contains appreciable quantities of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Moreover, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium were predominant minerals, whilst considerable sodium, iron, manganese, zinc, and copper were also present.
Its oil is predominantly rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Significant amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E are also present. The oil is a rich source of phytochemicals and can be utilized against lifestyle disorders like hyperglycemia and hypercholesterolemia. These effects have been supported by some studies.
However, black seed is not recommended during pregnancy. As a therapeutic agent, it would be best to seek advice from a qualified and experienced professional.