A prominent example of a fascinating therapeutic oil that I encountered through my travels (and wrote about in my book) is black cumin seed oil.
This oil is extracted from the seeds of Nigella sativa (habet el-Baraka in Arabic). The black seeds are contained in seed pods and have an odor similar to caraway. Believed to originate in Egypt, the plant is now cultivated in North Africa, Asia, and Europe. The ancient Egyptians used the black cumin as a digestive aid and as medicine for colds, headaches, and infections. A bottle of black cumin medicine was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun for his use in the afterlife. Black cumin seed is also mentioned in the Bible as “fitch,” and both the Ancient Egyptians and Hebrews cultivated it. Its oil was used in Hebrew circumcision ceremonies as an antiseptic. The herb was also valued in Europe for healing and as a spice until the 18th century, when it began to be used as a decorative plant in gardens.
Black cumin seed is biochemically extremely complex and contains more than 100 ingredients, mostly essential fatty acids, volatile oils, trace elements, vitamins, and natural antihistamines and analgesics.
Here are seven of its benefits:
1. It makes your hair grow.
When applied to the hair, it imparts conditioning, softness, luster, and strength to the strands. It's been used in many cultures historically to promote hair growth—just rub it into the scalp and let it sit for an hour or so to take effect.
2. It improves the immune system.
The plant is now gaining worldwide recognition as a powerful immune-supportive and anticancer cell-growth inhibitor. Nigellone semohiprepinon, an active healing ingredient in black cumin seed, is known for its immune-boosting properties and is also a bronchiodilator (it relaxes and expands lung airways). Black cumin seed also reduces the release of histaminies into the bloodstream, which makes it a natural aid for alleviating allergic responses.
3. It acts as a natural pain reliever.
Thymohydrocquinone, another of its active ingredients, also acts as an antihistamine and pain reliever.
4. It aids in weight loss.
The phytochemicals contain anti-obesity properties. Although Nigella sativa is not traditionally believed to treat obesity, it is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent that helps people lose weight in the same way that it helps diabetic sufferers: by regulating insulin and hormone levels that help promote weight balance.
5. It helps boost sex drive.
In ancient times, it was used to increase sex drive and treat sexual disorders, and this claim has been backed up in the modern era, with multiple studies showing its ability to increase sperm count and increase libido.
6. It helps with infections—even those resistant to antibiotics.
Importantly, as many strains of bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant, black cumin seed has been found to inhibit the growth of dangerous bacteria. In a study of 144 strains of bacteria, black cumin seed was found to inhibit 97 types, far outperforming traditional pharmaceutical antibiotics.
Want to add black cumin seed oil to your daily regimen? Look for one that's cold-pressed and organic. You can take a teaspoon by mouth as a supplement, or use it in salad dressings or smoothies (you don't want to cook with it, as it diminishes its therapeutic potency). The flavor is quite spicy, but overall pleasant—never bitter.