URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/901.html

Black Seed

What is it?

Black seed is a plant. People have used the seed to make medicine for over 2000 years. It was even discovered in the tomb of King Tut.

Historically, black seed has been used for headache, toothache, nasal congestion, asthma, arthritis, and intestinal worms. It has also been used for "pink eye" (conjunctivitis), pockets of infection (abscesses), and parasites.

Today, black seed is most commonly used for asthma, diabetes, hypertension, weight loss, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): There is no good evidence to support using black seed for COVID-19. Follow healthy lifestyle choices and proven prevention methods instead.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for BLACK SEED are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Acne. Research shows that applying a gel containing black seed extract to the skin might help to improve acne.
  • Hay fever. Research shows that taking black seed oil by mouth daily might improve allergy symptoms in people with hay fever.
  • Asthma. Research shows that taking black seed by mouth along with asthma medicines can improve coughing, wheezing, and lung function in some people with asthma. But it seems to work only in people with very low lung function before treatment. And it does not seem to work as well as the drugs theophylline or salbutamol.
  • A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). Research shows that taking a specific black seed oil helps to improve lung function in people with COPD who are also using prescribed inhalers.
  • Diabetes. Research shows that taking black seed can improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. But it doesn't seem to work as well as the diabetes drug metformin. Black seed might also improve levels of cholesterol in people with diabetes.
  • A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). Some research shows that taking black seed powder along with other medications might help to get rid of this infection. But not all doses seem to work.
  • High blood pressure. Research shows that taking black seed by mouth might reduce blood pressure by a small amount.
  • Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). Research shows that taking black seed oil increases the number of sperm and how quickly they move in men with infertility.
  • Breast pain (mastalgia). Research shows that applying a gel containing black seed oil to the breasts during the menstrual cycle reduces pain in women with breast pain.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Heart damage caused by certain cancer drugs (anthracycline cardiotoxicity). Early research shows that taking black seed oil might prevent heart damage in children being treated with a drug called doxorubicin.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Early research suggests that taking black seed oil by mouth might improve symptoms in people with itchy and inflamed skin. But applying black seed oil ointment to the skin does not seem to help.
  • A disease that causes underactive thyroid (autoimmune thyroiditis). Taking black seed might improve some but not all measures of thyroid function in people with a disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
  • Damage to the immune system caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that taking black seed as part of the diet while undergoing cancer drug treatment might prevent fever episodes due to low white blood cell counts (neutropenia) in children.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of a vein caused by cancer drug treatment. Early research shows that applying black seed oil around the area where cancer drugs are injected into a vein might prevent swelling of that vein.
  • Long-term kidney disease (chronic kidney disease or CKD). Some people with CKD follow a diet low in protein and add supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Early research shows that taking black seed oil might help to improve kidney function in these people.
  • Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Early research shows that black seed helps with some but not all measures of memory and attention in boys and men. It's unknown if black seed improves memory and thinking skills in girls and women.
  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). Applying black seed oil to the head each day, starting a few days before menstruation, might reduce menstrual pain by a small amount.
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia). Taking a product containing black seed oil, honey, and water seems to reduce symptoms of indigestion. It's unclear if this improvement is due to black seed or other ingredients.
  • Seizure disorder (epilepsy). Early research shows that taking black seed extract by mouth reduces the number of seizures in children with epilepsy. But taking black seed oil does not seem to work.
  • A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis). Early research shows that applying black seed extract around the teeth and gums might help to reduce plaque, swelling, and redness in people with gingivitis. But it doesn't work as well as a good cleaning by a dentist.
  • Hepatitis C. Early research shows that taking black seed oil daily for 3 months reduces viral load in people with hepatitis C. It also seems to reduce lower limb swelling. But it doesn't seem to improve liver function.
  • High cholesterol. Some early research shows that taking crushed black seed increases "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduces total cholesterol, "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides in people with borderline high cholesterol. Other research shows that taking both crushed black seed and garlic oil in addition to other products that lower cholesterol, such as simvastatin, can lead to larger improvements in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels than simvastatin alone. However, not all research agrees.
  • A grouping of symptoms that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (metabolic syndrome). Most early research suggests that taking black seed oil might reduce total cholesterol, "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood sugar levels in people with metabolic syndrome. But not all research agrees.
  • Toxicity caused by the drug methotrexate. Early research shows that taking black seed might reduce liver damage caused by a certain drug used to treat cancer in children with a type of leukemia.
  • Build up of fat in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD). Early research shows that taking black seed daily for 3 months can improve some measures of liver disease in patients with NAFLD.
  • Obesity. Most research shows that taking black seed oil or powder might improve weight loss by a small amount in people who are overweight. But not all research agrees.
  • Withdrawal from heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs. Early research shows that taking black seed extract by mouth three times daily for 12 days might reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that applying black seed oil to the knee for 3-4 weeks can help relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
  • Skin damage caused by radiation therapy (radiation dermatitis). Applying a gel containing black seed extract to the skin might help to delay this side effect in people being treated for breast cancer.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research shows that taking black seed oil improves pain and stiffness in people with RA who are already taking methotrexate.
  • Dry nose in the elderly. Early research shows that using a nasal spray containing black seed oil can reduce dryness, blockage, and crusting of the nostrils in elderly patients with nasal irritation.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Early research shows that taking black seed powder daily for 6 weeks does not improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
  • A skin disorder that causes white patches to develop on the skin (vitiligo). Early research shows that applying a cream containing black seed oil to the skin for 6 months can improve skin color in some people with vitiligo.
  • Birth control.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Breast-feeding.
  • Bronchitis.
  • Cancer prevention.
  • Congestion.
  • Constipation.
  • Cough.
  • Digestive problems including intestinal gas and diarrhea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.
  • Flu (influenza).
  • Headache.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Infection of the throat and tonsils (tonsillopharyngitis).
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Symptoms of menopause.
  • Vaginal yeast infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of black seed for these uses.

How does it work?

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that black seed might help boost the immune system, fight cancer, prevent pregnancy, reduce swelling, and lessen allergic reactions by acting as an antihistamine, but there isn't enough information in humans yet.

Are there safety concerns?

When taken by mouth: Black seed is LIKELY SAFE when used in small amounts as a food flavoring. Black seed oil and black seed powder are POSSIBLY SAFE when the larger amounts found in medicine are used for up to 3 months. There isn't enough reliable information to know if the amounts found in medicine are safe when used for more than 3 months. Black seed can cause allergic rashes in some people. It can also cause stomach upset, vomiting, or constipation.

When applied to the skin: Black seed oil or gel is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin, short-term. It can cause allergic rashes in some people.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Black seed seems to be safe in food amounts during pregnancy. But taking the larger amounts found in medicine is LIKELY UNSAFE. Black seed can slow down or stop the uterus from contracting.

There isn't enough reliable information to know if black seed is safe to use when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Black seed oil is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth short-term and in recommended amounts.

Bleeding disorders: Black seed might slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bleeding. In theory, black seed might make bleeding disorders worse.

Surgery: Black seed might slow blood clotting, reduce blood sugar, and increase sleepiness in some people. In theory, black seed might increase the risk for bleeding and interfere with blood sugar control and anesthesia during and after surgical procedures. Black seed might also cause your body to have very high levels of a chemical called serotonin. This can cause severe side effects. Stop using black seed at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Amlodipine (Norvasc)
Amlodipine (Norvasc) lowers blood pressure. Black seed also lowers blood pressure. Taking black seed with amlodipine (Norvasc) might lower blood pressure too much. People taking black seed along with amlodipine (Norvasc) should monitor their blood pressure.
Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
Black seed might decrease levels of cyclosporine in the blood. This has not been shown in humans. Theoretically, black seed might reduce how well cyclosporine is able to work.
Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Black seed might lower blood sugar in some people. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking black seed along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), and others.
Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Black seed might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking black seed along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Do not take too much black seed if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.

Some medications for high blood pressure include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
Black seed might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, black seed might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.

Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain (Serotonergic Drugs)
Black seed might increase a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Some medications also increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Taking black seed along with these medications might increase serotonin too much. This can cause serious side effects, including severe headache, heart problems, shivering, confusion, and anxiety.

Some of these medications include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), imipramine (Tofranil), sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig), rizatriptan (Maxalt), methadone (Dolophine), tramadol (Ultram), and many others.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Black seed might slow blood clotting. Taking black seed along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
Black seed might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Using black seed along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
Water pills (Diuretic drugs)
Black seed increases the amount of urine made by the body. This might increase how much potassium and other minerals are lost by the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking black seed along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.

Some "water pills" that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDIURIL, Microzide), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
Black seed might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of blood pressure dropping too low in some people. Some of these products include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lycium, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
Black seed might lower blood sugar. Using it with other herbs and supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of low blood sugar in some people. Some of these products include alpha-lipoic acid, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, and Siberian ginseng.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Using black seed along with other herbs and supplements that can slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Some of these herbs and supplements include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.
Herbs and supplements with sedative properties
Black seed might cause sleepiness or drowsiness. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might make you overly drowsy. Some of these herbs and supplements include 5-HTP, calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John's wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
Herbs and supplements with serotonergic properties
Black seed increases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Taking black seed along with other herbs and supplements that increase serotonin might increase serotonin too much. This can cause serious side effects including heart problems, shivering, and anxiety. Herbs and supplements that increase serotonin levels include 5-HTP, Hawaiian baby woodrose, L-tryptophan, SAMe, and St. John's wort.
Iron
Black seed might increase the amount of iron in your blood. Taking black seed along with iron supplements might increase the effects and side effects of iron.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For hay fever: Black seed oil 0.5 mL or 40-80 mg/kg daily for 4-8 weeks has been used.
  • For asthma: 2 grams of ground black seed has been used daily for 12 weeks. Also, 500 mg of black seed oil has been taken twice daily for 4 weeks. In addition, 15 mL/kg of black seed extract has been used daily for 3 months. A single dose of 50-100 mg/kg has also been used.
  • For a lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD): Black seed oil 2 grams daily for 3 months has been used.
  • For diabetes: 1 gram of black seed powder has been used twice daily for up to 12 months. 1000-1350 mg of black seed oil taken in divided doses daily has also been used for 8-12 weeks.
  • For a digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori): Black seed powder 2 grams daily along with standard medications has been used.
  • For high blood pressure: 0.5-2 grams of black seed powder has been taken daily for up to 12 weeks. Also, 100-200 mg or 2.5 mL of black seed oil has been used twice daily for 8 weeks.
  • For conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility): 2.5 mL of black seed oil has been used twice daily for 2 months.
ON THE SKIN:
  • For acne: A gel containing black seed extract 0.1% twice daily for 60 days has been used.
  • For breast pain (mastalgia): A gel containing 30% black seed oil has been applied to breasts every day for two menstrual cycles.

Other names

Ajenuz, Aranuel, Baraka, Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Cumin Seed Oil, Charnuska, Cheveux de Vénus, Cominho Negro, Comino Negro, Cumin Noir, Cyah Dane, Fennel Flower, Fitch, Graine de Nigelle, Graine Noire, Habatul Sauda, Habbatul Baraka, Kalajaji, Kalajira, Kalonji, Ketsah, La Grainer Noire, Love in a Mist, Mugrela, Nielle, Nigella sativa, Nigelle de Crête, Nigelle Cultivée, Nutmeg Flower, Poivrette, Roman-Coriander, Schwarzkummel, Seed of Blessing, Siyah Dane, Shoniz, Small Fennel, Toute Épice, Upakuncika.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 05/19/2021