Black seed(Nigella sativa) is a flowering plant from parts of eastern Europe and western Asia. It is part of the family Ranunculaceae and is an annual with light blue or white flowers.(1) The name Nigella comes from the Latin word “niger'' meaning “black” representative of the color of the seeds. The word Sativa means “cultivated”. The earliest evidence we have of Black seed is from ancient Egypt dating back three millennia and anthropologists found seeds from the second millennium BC in Turkey.(2) The Nigella sativa plant grows up to 3 feet tall and has fruit pods that are filled with the small black seeds.
Black seeds other names:
- Black cumin*
- Black caraway
- Kalanji or spelled kalonji
- Fennel flower
*There is another plant also called black cumin, Bunium bulbocastanum, but that is a different plant. The one we are focusing on is Nigella sativa.
So what are the benefits of black seed? Nigella sativa was declared to be “healing for all diseases except death” by the prophet Mohammed and has a long history of use as a natural medicine. Dating back to the 1st century A.D., it was used as a digestive remedy and even an ingredient in a remedy for snake bites. It is widely used today in many areas of the world for:(3)
- Pain during menstruation
- Lower blood pressure
- Diabetes management(6)
- Decongestant and respiratory illness
- For bacterial diseases
- Eczema, acne and psoriasis
- Pain medication
- Increase milk supply
Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine dysfunction that can create complications including difficulty conceiving, miscarriage and low milk supply. Black seed is an effective herb for use before pregnancy as well as during breast/chestfeeding. Pump Princess from Legendairy Milk contains Black seed and is used to support lactation and increase milk supply.
Because of its antioxidant properties, it can be beneficial for some fertility issues. It has been shown to help regulate hormone levels for people who have hypothyroidism. It appears to raise T3 and T4 levels and lower TSH.(7)
During the postpartum period, people with thyroid imbalance can have symptoms such as excessive hair loss, trouble losing weight, low milk supply, hoarseness, fatigue, muscle weakness, constipation and sensitivity to cold. Getting bloodwork done to detect hormone levels that are low or elevated gives information about how to best support your body. Work with an IBCLC who has experience in this area as part of your care team if you are experiencing symptoms like low milk supply affecting breast/chestfeeding.
Black seed is also beneficial for insulin resistance. Insulin plays an important role in lactation.Glands that make milk become insulin sensitive during lactation and can affect the amount of milk able to be made.(8) Because black seed helps regulate blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity, it may help your breasts refill with milk faster. Over a 24 hour period of time, if your milk refill rate is increased, you will be making more milk altogether.
In animal studies, Black seed has been shown to increase prolactin which is the key hormone responsible for milk production. More milk being able to be removed, signals the body to keep producing even more milk. In one study of lactating rats, the group given black seed produced 37% more milk and increased the development of mammary tissue compared to the group taking a placebo.(9) In another study with mice taking black seed, the results showed an increase in prolactin levels as well as better weight gain in the babies on day 15 of the study.(10)
Black seed has high nutritional value:
- Thiamin (vitamin B1)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Fatty acids
Black seed side effects & cautions:
- Can cause some people to have an upset stomach or constipation, but it usually goes away in a day or two
- Because it can lower blood sugar, you should discuss taking Black seed with your health care provider first if you take diabetes medication
- It may slow blood clotting if you are on an anticoagulant(11)
- It is not recommended to take during pregnancy larger doses found in supplements but is likely safe when used as seasoning for your food.