Black cumin seed (Nigella sativa) has been used medicinally for centuries. Nigella is different from common cumin (Cuminum cyminum.) Black cumin is part of the Ranunculaceae family of plants. There is a reference in the Bible to black cumin.
Research on an alcohol extract of Nigella sativa has shown antitumor and “lifespan expanding activity” in mice. Some of the active chemicals in black cumin seeds have been found to be of benefit in a variety of diseases, including cancer.
The primary active chemicals in black cumin are thymoquinones (TQ,) which have antioxidant activity. TQ has inhibits an enzyme, 5-lipoxygenase, which is therapeutic in some cancers such as colon cancer. TQ has chemotherapeutic activity as a result of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. One study showed that TQ has anticancer activity similar to that of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) against a type of colon cancer cells. TQ has shown anti-tumor activity against prostate cancer cells. TQ can induce apoptosis (a natural form of cell death) in cancer cells.
TQ has been shown to be hepatoprotective in liver toxicity, perhaps through antioxidant activity. TQ has demonstrated kidney protection activity. TQ has been shown to have neuroprotective activity in preventing neurodegeneration. Cells which were pretreated with either EGCG or TQ were equally protected from damage by industrial hexane. Nigella extract and TQ prevented the chromosomal abnormalities caused by schistosome infections.
CONCLUSION: This article summarizes the information known about black cumin at the time of the writing. TQ has anti-inflammatory activity, which can improve cancer outcomes. Further studies are needed regarding the therapeutic use of TQ in cancer.
NOTE: The variety of the benefits of black seeds suggests that this truly is a panacea for the people of the Middle East. Read about the use of Nigella sativa against seizures.
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