In the Spring of 1996, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted a patent for drug use as an immune system stimulant. The drug is based on extracts of ‘nigella sativa’, more commonly known as the black seed to Muslims or black cumin. The patent was based on ‘a pharmaceutical composition containing an extract of the plant Nigella sativa … for treated cancer, preventing the side effects of anticancer chemotherapy, and for increasing the immune function in humans.’
Muslims have been using and promoting the use of the ‘black seed’ or ‘al-habbastus-sawdaa’ for hundreds of years. The black seed has become very popular in recent years and is marketed and sold by many Muslim and non-Muslim businesses. A large part of this herbal preparation’s popularity is based on the teachings of the Prophet. Bukhari reported that the Prophet [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said, ‘There is a healing in the black seed for all diseases except death.’ However, the many products that are presently sold as the ‘black seed’ may be black cumin, black caraway, and even coriander. As-Suyuti’s Medicine of the Prophet, has the black seed listed as coriander seeds, with arguments presented for black cumin, terebinth, and even mustard. However, research seems to favour ‘black cumin’ or Nigella Sativa as the black seed. Black cumin may be referred to as nutmeg flower or roman coriander, and even fennel flower by gardeners.
Black cumin has been used for a variety of medical problems for several thousand years. These uses range from stomach aches to asthma, cancer to coughs, and the traditional use as a spice. Black cumin is also used as a carminative (rids the body of gas from the intestines), a digestive (aids in the digestion of foods), a diuretic (increases urine flow by ridding the body of excess water), an emmenagogue (promotes and regulates menstruation), a galactagogue (increases the production of milk), a resolvent (dissolves boils and swelling), a stimulant (increases the flow of adrenaline and energy), a stomachic (relieves stomach disorders), a sudorific (increases perspiration), a tonic (improves bodily functions), and a vermifuge (expels worms). Caution should be taken when using the black seed by pregnant or potentially pregnant women, as high doses of this product could induce spontaneous abortions.
There are several beneficial uses for the black seed. However, to insure that you are taking the black seed look for the words Nigella sativa. Only this plant, as opposed to true cumin or coriander has the ability to ‘heal all diseases’. Research suggests that the black seed is an effective antitumor treatment for certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease. The black seed may also be of possible benefit in treating high blood pressure. Except its potential to cause spontaneous abortion (and only at high dosages), there may be little if any toxic side effects to using the black seed. There is even some research on the possible contraceptive abilities of the black seed.
More research is being done on the effectiveness of the black seed. Research trials are also being planned in various countries to study its actual effects on humans. However, we don’t need to look any further than the Prophet’s words that tell us there is healing in this plant. As long as we trust in Allah and take the prescription His Prophet has given us, we will all be evidence of this magnificent plant’s abilities to heal all diseases. Nonetheless, more needs to be learned about the appropriate doses of this herb for various medical problems. I pray that Allah may guide Muslim physicians to take a close look at this plant and begin prescribing it for all of our physical ailments.