Have you heard of black seed oil? While it has been used for thousands of years, black seed oil has only recently started to become widely known in the United States. Part of the increase in popularity has been driven by a growing body of research on black seed oil benefits.
Scientists have studied black seed oil for everything from skin benefits to healthy blood sugar support (already in normal range), with some even calling it a “miracle herb.” But is it really a jack of all trades, or just a master of none? Let’s break down the research on black seed oil benefits to find out!
Black seed oil is made from the seeds of a flowering plant called Nigella sativa. It’s sometimes called black caraway oil or black cumin seed oil, although black seed is different from those two spices.
The N. sativa plant is native to Asia and Mediterranean regions and has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Black seed is referenced in a variety of religious texts and was even found buried with an Egyptian Pharaoh.
The main active ingredient in black seed is a phytochemical called thymoquinone which makes up 30-48% of the compounds. Other active ingredients include dithymoquinone, thymohydroquinone, and thymol. Black seed also contains ﬁxed and essential oils, proteins, alkaloids, and saponin.
Black seed may be eaten in foods or found as an oil or a powder. The oil that is extracted from black seed can be found as a dietary supplement in liquid or capsule form. Black seed oil and topical ingredients made from black seed oil are also used on the skin.
Our discussion of black seed oil benefits will mostly focus on the dietary supplement form.
Black seed has been studied for a wide variety of uses. These include heart health, antioxidant benefits, and healthy blood sugar support for levels already in normal range. It has also been looked at for skin support, fertility support, and many other uses. However, a review of the clinical trials on black seed and thymoquinone states that more research is needed to support some of the potential health benefits.
Let’s take a look at many of the reported potential benefits of black seed oil and see if the research supports them.
Keeping blood sugar levels in a normal range can help support the health of your heart, brain, and overall body.
Researchers wanted to study the impact of black seed on blood sugar levels, so they did a systematic review of the data and found a significant improvement in blood sugar. An earlier review of the available clinical trials at the time also found that black seed was supportive of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and markers already in normal range.
Additionally, an animal model found that thymoquinone (an active phytochemical in black seed) can support blood sugar levels and act as an antioxidant.
More research is needed to fully understand the impact of black seed on healthy blood sugar already in a normal range. Other ingredients of interest are a combination of chromium and apple for maintaining blood sugar levels already in normal range, while also supporting healthy metabolism, and maintaining muscle mass and tone.
We’ve already discussed that black seed oil has antioxidant properties and this may be why it has been found to support heart health.
One study in healthy volunteers found that black seed oil may help support maintenance of healthy blood pressure levels already in a normal range.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials (a very high-quality type of review!) found that black seed oil may help support healthy cholesterol levels already in normal range. They actually compared black seed oil to black seed powder and found that the oil had a larger impact on certain heart health markers.
Other ways to support heart health include exercise and a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends 2 servings of fatty fish each week. If you do not eat fish, a fish oil supplement or a vegan version can help fill in those nutrient gaps. Before starting black seed oil for heart health, consider reviewing your options for heart health supporting supplements and talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.
Can black seed help support a healthy body weight?
When looking at research studies, the gold standard is a “systematic review and meta-analysis”. This means researchers review the available data based on certain criteria and analyze the findings from a variety of studies to see if there is an overall benefit.
This systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of N. sativa (black seed) on weight found benefits. The authors concluded that black seed led to a “moderate” reduction in body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. But they also suggest that more research is needed since there was a lot of variety in the designs.
A study published after that review looked at the impact of black seed oil on appetite and certain body measurements over a four month period. This study found that black seed oil led to a decrease in BMI and a significant decrease in appetite.
A group of researchers designed a clinical trial to see the impact that black seed oil combined with a low-calorie diet could have on body weight and heart health markers. The group that received black seed oil lost significantly more weight and had a significant decrease in waist circumference compared with the control group. Note the control group still ate a low calorie diet, but did not take the black seed oil. They also found that the black seed oil group had a significant improvement in triglycerides and VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein).
All this said, it’s still important to keep in mind that you can’t replace diet and lifestyle with supplements in order to support healthy body weight. A holistic approach to health should include exercise, healthy diet, stress management, adequate sleep, and hydration.
Can black seed oil really help your hair? There isn’t much information available about taking a black seed oil supplement for hair, but it may be useful if applied to the hair.
A review of the data discusses the benefit of using of black seed in hair products.
Here is a list of the 6 Best Vitamins and Supplements For Thick Hair Growth!
Black seed has been used to help with acne. A topical “hydrogel” that is applied to the skin was shown to be helpful in this clinical trial. Note that this was a specially made gel and the findings do not mean that applying black seed oil directly to the skin is going to be helpful.
These findings have also led some people to wonder if taking black seed oil as a supplement can help with acne, but the research isn’t there yet. You should always talk to a dermatologist about skin concerns.
Beyond acne, researchers have also looked at black seed for other skin health benefits. They found that there may be skin benefits when used as a dietary supplement and as a topical.
While we await more research, it may be helpful to look into additional dietary supplements for skin health support.
Since black seed has antioxidant properties, scientists wanted to know if it could have any impact on fertility. Since research has shown that antioxidant supplements may be beneficial for semen, researchers have focused on those with male anatomy.
One study found that black seed oil was supportive of semen quality. A systematic review found that black seed “can positively influence sperm parameters, semen, Leydig cells, reproductive organs and sexual hormones.”
Additional studies are needed to fully understand the benefits. Getting antioxidants through a healthy diet is a good place to start to help support fertility for those with male anatomy.
Most of the research studies noted that black seed has “minimal side effects”. However, caution should be taken for pregnant people, those lactating, and for children.
It’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any dietary supplement, including black seed oil.
The studies included above used a wide variety of black seed dosages, so it’s best to read the label instructions carefully if using it as a dietary supplement. Do not exceed the amount recommended on the label unless instructed by your doctor.
While black seed may not be a “miracle herb,” it could potentially support healthy blood sugar levels already within a normal range. It may also support heart health. Other black seed oil benefits such as skin health support and fertility are exciting, but need more research.