Black seeds (Nigella sativa) are used in the Middle East as a condiment and a remedy for many symptoms. N. sativa is used as seeds, oil and as an extract (thymoquinone) for rheumatism, immune support, diabetes, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Nigella has cholesterol-lowering effects in rats, while this study explores the cholesterol-lowering and atherosclerosis-blocking effects of N. sativa seeds and oil in rabbits. Rabbits were fed standard rabbit food, but some were supplemented with 1% cholesterol to raise the blood cholesterol level. Rabbits with high cholesterol were treated with N. sativa powder, or with N. sativa oil, or with simvastatin, and some served as controls.
The study lasted 8 week with weight testing and blood testing, after which the animals were sacrificed. The aortas were removed from the animals, photographed, and prepared for microscopic study. The body weights of the cholesterol-supplemented, untreated rabbits increased during the study. The body weights of the hypercholesterolemic (high cholesterol) rabbits treated with black seed oil and seeds or with simvastatin decreased during the study.
Treatment with 1% cholesterol significantly increased the rabbit’s total cholesterol and LDL levels and slightly reduced the HDL levels. They had plaque formation of the aorta and increased thickness of the aorta with the cholesterol.
Treatment with Nigella seeds and oil significantly reduced the total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels, and increased HDL levels. Nigella and simvastatin significantly reduced the plaque formation and the aortic thickening. Also, simvastatin increased liver weight and mortality in the rabbits.
CONCLUSION: Hypercholesterolemic rabbits were improved by treatment with N. sativa seeds and oil or with simvastatin and aortic plaque formation was blocked. Nigella seeds and oils have the advantage that they improve blood testing without the effects of liver damage and mortality seen with simvastatin.
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