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Here's Everything You Need to Know About Black Seed Oil

What exactly black seed oil is:

Black seed—also called black caraway, black cumin, black onion seed and kalonji—comes from Nigella sativa, a flowering shrub that grows in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It contains chemical compounds called thymoquinone and caryophyllene that have been linked to certain health benefits, explains Stephanie Ferrari, a Massachusetts-based registered dietitian. 

The substance has been used medicinally for thousands of years. In fact, historians believe that King Tut, Cleopatra, and Hippocrates ingested black seed for an array of conditions, including malaise, weakness, coughing and skin care.

In recent years, black seed oil (a liquid version of black seed) has gained popularity in the health food sphere as awareness of its purported health benefits spreads.  Here's what you need to know:

Studies have found potential health benefits:

Black seed oil has been used to treat an array of medical conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, cough, headache, eczema, fever, dizziness and the flu. In recent decades, scientific studies, primarily in animals, have preliminarily confirmed its potential for treat or mitigating various diseases.

Black seed oil has been linked to improved liver function and prevention of liver damage, liver disease, and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, explains Cate Ritter, a certified functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner. Plus, its chemical compounds have been shown to provide strong anti-pathogenic and anti-fungal properties.

It may also help improve blood pressure, blood lipids and even fight cancer, says Ferrari.  

“There is also evidence that the seed oil is an antioxidant, and may have antibacterial properties when tested under laboratory conditions,” explains Susan Bowerman, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian. As mentioned, though, there are limited human studies to back up the purported benefits of black seed oil, so it's difficult to draw any hard conclusions on its healing properties (at least, for now.)

There are some health caveats:

Some people have reported experiencing health-related issues after consuming or using black seed oil, including: dermatitis, rash, itching, blistering, pain, tenderness, low blood pressure and medication interactions, warns Ferrari. “It also has potential for allergic reactions, most commonly hives or gastrointestinal symptoms,” she adds.

What’s more, black seed oil may interfere with the action of certain medications, and it may slow blood clotting, says Bowerman, so you should check with your doctor before trying it out, and add it to your list of home medications.

It should be eaten raw:

Black seed oil can be consumed raw, one teaspoon at a time, says Ferrari.

“Avoid heating it to preserve the nutrients,” adds Ritter.

Because of its strong taste, you may want to mix it with honey or lemon juice, Ferrari advises. Just be sure to check and follow the recommended daily dose on the package—most doses will be between 1 and 2 teaspoons.

The oil can also be drizzled on salads like dressings, or mixed into teas, smoothies and coffee (although keep in mind the caveats about its pungent taste).  

The bottom line:

With its potential (though largely unconfirmed) health benefits and culinary versatility, black seed oil may indeed be worth the buzz. Just keep in mind the potential side effects, and check with your doc before giving it a go.

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#UrbanAgriculture #BlackSeedOil

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