Black Seed Oil (Nigella sativa, Black Cumin) is an annual herb and spice belonging to the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family of flowering plants.
Black Seed Oil is native to the Middle East, Southern Europe and North Africa. And has been used for millennia for a variety of illnesses.
It’s main active compound thymoquinone (TQ) has been shown to benefit cognitive and mental illness, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and infertility.
And Black Seed Oil has been used for a variety of bacterial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections. It’s even showing promise in early studies to be effective against HIV/AIDS.[i]
Black Seed Oil is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, reduces tumor necrosis factor-α (TNf-α), and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Here we’ll explore how Black Seed Oil benefits your brain.
Black Seed Oil helps:
- Neurotransmitters: The compound thymohydroquinone in Black Seed Oil is one of the most potent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors on the planet.[ii] By increasing acetylcholine, AChE inhibitors have been found to be helpful in treating apathy, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s Disease.[iii]
- Anxiety & stress: Black Seed Oil increases L-Tryptophan and serotonin levels in the brain. Providing an antidepressant effect following repeated dosing.[iv]
- Learning & memory: Black Seed Oil has been shown in animal and human studies to support neurogenesis and long-term potentiation. Showing positive effects on learning and memory. Particularly working memory.[v]
Table of Contents
Black Seed Oil (Nigella sativa, Black Cumin) is extracted from Nigella sativa, a plant belonging to the family Ranunculaceae (Buttercup).
It’s native to southern Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. And known as “Black Seed” because when the seeds are exposed to air, they turn black.
Black Seed has been used for millennia as mentioned in ancient texts for a variety of health issues. Several archaeological sites in Egypt including King Tut’s tomb contained Nigella sativa seeds.
Queen Nefertiti is reported to have been a devoted user of Black Seed Oil and gave it credit for her beautiful complexion.[vi]
The earliest written reference is in the book of Isaiah where it was referred to as ketsah in Hebrew. And was used as a baking spice.[vii]
The Prophet Mohammed described the curative powers of Black Seed saying, “it has a remedy for every illness except death”.[viii]
Persian physician and philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna) recommended Black Seed Oil in his “Canon of Medicine” as a remedy for colds, fever, headache, toothache, skin diseases, wounds, fungus, parasites, warts, and insect bites.
The main bio-active compounds in Black Seed Oil include thymoquinone (37.6%) followed by p-cymene (31.2%), α-thujene (5.6%), thymohydroquinone (3.4%), and longifolene (2.0%).[ix]
Most of the nootropic benefit of Black Seed Oil is attributed to thymoquinone (TQ).
How does Black Seed Oil work in the brain?
Black Seed Oil boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.
- Black Seed Oil for attention, cognition and memory. Animal studies show that Black Seed Oil is effective for boosting memory in aged rats. And these findings were also demonstrated in human experiments.
One study by the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh recruited 40 elderly volunteers and divided them randomly into groups A and B. Group A were given 500 mg Black Seed Oil twice a day for 9 weeks. Group B received a placebo.
Neurological measures for this trial included a logical memory test, digit span test, Rey-Osterrieth complex figure test, letter cancellation test, trail making test and Stroop test.
The Rey-Osterrieth complex figure test is particularly interesting. People are asked to reproduce a complicated line drawing first by copying it freehand, and then drawing from memory.
- Black Seed Oil reduces seizures (sometimes). Black Seed Oil is known to have anticonvulsive effects in ‘traditional medicine’. And because many epileptic children do not respond to modern anti-seizure medication, researchers have been conducting studies to find out if Black Seed Oil could fill this need.
One study in Iran worked with 22 patients who were divided into two groups.
In this double-blind crossover study thymoquinone was compared to standard anti-epileptic drugs over a period of 4 weeks.
The study concluded that thymoquinone, the main active compound found in Black Seed Oil has anti-epileptic effects in children with refractory seizures.[xii]
But other studies have not been as promising. One study worked with 30 intractable epileptic children and 5 healthy kids used as controls. Here again Black Seed Oil was compared to anti-epileptic drugs over the 4-week trial.
Researchers in this study found that 40-80 mg/kg/day of Black Seed Oil as add-on therapy did not alter seizure frequency or severity in intractable epileptic patients.[xiii]
But another study with 20 epileptic children aged 13 years used an aqueous extract of Black Seed Oil (40 mg/kg) 3-times per day for 4 weeks. In this study, seizure frequency was reduced significantly during treatment.[xiv]
The takeaway here for using Black Seed Oil if you are hoping to reduce the number and frequency of epileptic seizures – it may or may not work. But it doesn’t hurt to try.
How things go bad
Seems many of the cognitive ailments we suffer from today are nothing new. Our ancestors thousands of years ago were dealing with many of the same issues we face today.
As we get older, our brain chemistry and energy metabolism changes. This can happen at any age once we enter our adult years.
↓ Chronic inflammation
↓ Cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, atherosclerosis)
↓ Metabolic disease (diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease)
↓ Bacterial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections
Avicenna, the famous 10th century physician in his book “The Canon of Medicine” recommended Black Seed Oil for enhancement of body’s energy and support during recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness.[xv]
What’s old is new again and we’re re-discovering the healing benefits and nootropic value of this ancient remedy for a variety of diseases.
Black Seed Oil to the rescue
Thymoquinone (TQ) is the primary active component of the volatile oil in Black Seed (Nigella sativa) and most of its effects and actions are related to TQ.
Black Seed Oil is anti-tumor, anti-microbial, anti-histamine, it modulates your immune system, is an anti-inflammatory and acts as an antioxidant.[xvi]
In the traditional system of medicine practices in the Arabian Gulf region, Black Seed is recommended for fever, cough, bronchitis, asthma, chronic headache, migraine, dizziness, chest congestion, obesity, diabetes, paralysis, back pain, infection, inflammation, rheumatism, hypertension, and gastro issues like dyspepsia, flatulence, dysentery and diarrhea.
Over 150 clinical studies over the last 5 decades have investigated the chemical and health benefit properties of Black Seed Oil. And these studies justify the broad and traditional therapeutic value of Black Seed.
How does Black Seed Oil feel?
If you have not yet experienced the benefits of Black Seed Oil, check out some of the comments and reviews left by others who have.
Neurohackers report that using Black Seed Oil daily makes them feel better and they’ve got more energy.
Several people say using Black Seed Oil helps relieve their migraine symptoms.
A couple of people commented that Black Seed Oil gave them vivid dreams.
Some say it helps keep their allergies under control. And like Queen Nefertiti, some report their skin looks more youthful.
Black Seed Oil is said to reduce inflammation and balance hormones. Others say they get powerful relief from pain.
One person reported that she had lost 11 pounds, her joints weren’t aching, no more constipation and her sleep had improved tremendously – and she was only 1/4 of the way through the bottle.
Another long-time user of Black Seed Oil said he hadn’t been sick in over 2 years.
And several neurohackers say Black Seed Oil helps them quickly fall asleep.
Black Seed Oil boosts memory
40 elderly volunteers were recruited by researchers at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The study was conducted to see if memory improvements from Black Seed Oil with animals also worked in humans.
Half of the group were given a 500 mg Black Seed Oil capsule twice daily for 9 weeks. The other half received a placebo.
The university research team found a significant improvement in memory, attention and cognition in the group using Black Seed Oil. With no significant improvement in the placebo group.
Black Seed Oil for anxiety
A study with 48 healthy human male volunteers aged 14 – 17 years were recruited and split into two groups.
Group A received a 500 mg Black Seed Oil capsule once daily for four weeks. And Group B received a placebo. The volunteers were assessed for cognition using a verbal learning test, mood and anxiety. Tests were done at the beginning of the trial and after 4 weeks of supplementation.
The research team concluded that after 4 weeks of using Black Seed Oil that there was a significant mood improvement, decreased anxiety, and a boost in cognition.[xix]
Black Seed Oil reduces seizure frequency
Several different drugs and drug combinations are prescribed to reduce seizures in epileptic children. But nearly 15% of children are resistant to treatment.
Black Seed Oil is known to have anticonvulsant effects which are mainly attributed to thymoquinone.
A double-blind crossover clinical study was conducted in Iran with epileptic children. 22 patients were divided into two groups with one group receiving thymoquinone and the other a placebo for 4 weeks. They each had a one week wash out period. And then the groups were switched and dosed for another 4 weeks.
The parents were happy with the results of the trial. Because the children had significantly fewer seizures when using thymoquinone.
The researchers concluded that thymoquinone has anti-epileptic effects in children with refractory seizures.[xx]
Black Seed Oil for opiate withdrawal
Opioid addiction is a major problem in our society. With headlines every week about the number of deaths from opiate overdose.
The most successful treatment we have so far for quitting opiates are 12-step programs. But success rates in recovery and those ending up in relapse demonstrate how difficult it is to get off these powerful drugs.
But a new and novel treatment for dealing with opiate withdrawal symptoms may help.
A study was conducted in Karachi to find a non-opiate treatment for opiate withdrawal. 35 opiate addicts were recruited for this clinical trial.
While details are sketchy, the study found that 500 mg Nigella sativa significantly reduced opiate withdrawal symptoms.
The researchers concluded, “Non opioid drug Nigella sativa is effective in long-term treatment of opioid dependence. It not merely cures the opioid dependence but also cures the infections and weakness from which majority of addicts suffer.”[xxi]
Recommended dosage of Black Seed Oil is 1 – 3 teaspoons per day.
If you’ve never used Black Seed Oil before, start with ½ a teaspoon and see how your body reacts.
Children under 11 years should only use half the adult dosage. And kids under 5 years, only a drop or two to start with.
Nigella sativa extract seeds or powder dosage is 1 – 3 grams per day.
Potency can vary between brands which can affect dosage. So check labels carefully.
Black Seed Oil is considered non-toxic and safe to use at recommended doses. (More is NOT better).
Black Seed Oil has a nasty taste. To me it tastes a lot like gasoline. So beware if this is your first time. And have something handy to chase it with especially if you don’t like the taste.
You should not use Black Seed Oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s best to check with your doctor before using Black Seed Oil, especially if you’re dealing with a chronic health condition or are currently taking medication.
Do not use Black Seed Oil if you have a bleeding disorder or plan on doing surgery of any kind.
If you have low blood pressure Black Seed Oil could make this condition worse.
And too much Black Seed Oil (more than the recommended dosage) could cause liver or kidney damage.
On your skin, Black Seed Oil may cause a rash or hives. Best to do a small patch test before using a regular dose.
Black Seed Oil is easily found in most health food stores and vitamin shops worldwide. You can get Black Seed Oil in a bottle. Or Black Seed extract as a powder. The Oil version in a bottle is most common.
Always go for organic Black Seed Oil to ensure you are not getting any toxic pesticides or herbicides contaminating your oil.
And select Black Seed Oil that comes in a dark amber glass bottle which helps prevent it from going rancid.
Choose an oil that is cold-pressed because other methods of extraction involve high heat. Which can damage the beneficial compounds and fatty acids in the oil. And you’ll end up with Black Seed Oil that’s useless.
I recommend and use Amazing Herbs Egyptian Black Seed Oil because it’s milder tasting. It works and has good reviews.
They also sell Black Seed Oil Soft-Gels if you can’t stand the taste. Each soft-gel is equivalent to ¼ teaspoon of oil.
Nootropics Expert Recommendation
I recommend using Black Seed Oil as a nootropic supplement.
Your body does not make Black Seed Oil on its own. So to get its benefits you must take it as a nootropic supplement.
Recent research shows depression may be caused by inflammation. Black Seed Oil may reduce symptoms of depression because it decreases levels of inflammatory markers like interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-13 (IL-13) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a).[xxiii]
Black Seed Oil can increase learning and memory within 20 weeks of consistent, daily dosing.
If you’ve tried other meds to reduce seizures with no luck, try Black Seed Oil next. Because it’s been shown to be effective with some types of epilepsy.
And two decades of research shows Black Seed Oil may be effective in suppressing tumor development, growth, and metastasis for a wide range of brain tumors. Including glial tumors which cannot be treated by modern medicine.
Black Seed Oil is a powerful but ancient nootropic supplement. If you’ve tried everything else including the latest mainstream medicine has to offer and have had no luck, try Black Seed Oil.
You can safely take up to 3 teaspoons of Black Seed Oil daily if needed. Split into smaller doses 2 – 3 times during your day. But do NOT exceed 3 teaspoons.
[i] Yimer E.,M., Tuem K.B., Karim A., Ur-Rehman N., Anwar G. “Nigella sativa L. (Black Cumin): A Promising Natural Remedy for Wide Range of Illnesses” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2019; 2019: 1528635. (source)
[ii] Jukic M., Politeo O., Maksimovic M., Milos M., Milos M. “In vitro acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties of thymol, carvacrol and their derivatives thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone.” Phytotherapy Research. 2007 Mar;21(3):259-61. (source)
[iii] Čolović M.B., Krstić D.Z., Lazarević-Pašti T.D., Bondžić A.M., Vasić V.M. “Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors: Pharmacology and Toxicology” Current Neuropharmacology. 2013 May; 11(3): 315–335. (source)
[iv] Perveen T., Haider S., Zuberi N.A., Saleem S., Sadaf S., Batool Z. “Increased 5-HT Levels Following Repeated Administration of Nigella sativa L. (Black Seed) Oil Produce Antidepressant Effects in Rats.” Scentia Pharmaceutica 2013 Nov 5;82(1):161-70 (source)
[v] Sahak M.K.A., Kabir N., Abbas G., Draman S., Hashim N.H., Adli D.S.H. “The Role of Nigella sativa and Its Active Constituents in Learning and Memory” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2016; 2016: 6075679. (source)
[vi] Luetjohann S. “The Healing Power of Black Cumin”. Silver Lake, Wis, USA: Lotus Light; 1998.
[vii] Corneanu G., Corneanu M., Crăciun C., Ciupină V., Zagnat M., Atyim P. “Bioactive substances from the Nigella sativa seeds”. Annals of the Academy of Romanian Scientists: Series on Agriculture Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Sciences. 2012;1(1):13–28. (source)
[ix] Singh S., Das S.S., Singh G., Schuff C., de Lampasona M.P., Catalán C.A. “Composition, in vitro antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oil and oleoresins obtained from black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa L.).” Biomed Research International. 2014;2014:918209 (source)
[x] Bin Sayeed M.S., Asaduzzaman M., Morshed H., Hossain M.M., Kadir M.F., Rahman M.R. “The effect of Nigella sativa Linn. seed on memory, attention and cognition in healthy human volunteers.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2013 Jul 30;148(3):780-6. (source)
[xi] Bin Sayeed M.S., Shams T., Fahim Hossain S., Rahman M.R., Mostofa A., Fahim Kadir M., Mahmood S., Asaduzzaman M. “Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety and cognition in healthy adolescent males.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2014 Feb 27; 152(1):156-62. (source)
[xii] Akhondian J., Kianifar H., Raoofziaee M., Moayedpour A., Toosi M.B., Khajedaluee M. “The effect of thymoquinone on intractable pediatric seizures (pilot study).” Epilepsy Research. 2011 Jan;93(1):39-43 (source)
[xiii] Shawki M., El Wakeel L, Shatla R., El-Saeed G., Ibrahim S., Badary O. “The clinical outcome of adjuvant therapy with black seed oil on intractable paediatric seizures: a pilot study” Epileptic Disorders September 2013, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 295–301 (source)
[xiv] J. Akhondian, A. Parsa, and H. Rakhshande, “The effect of Nigella sativa L. (black cumin seed) on intractable pediatric seizures,” Medical Science Monitor, vol. 13, no. 12, pp. CR555–CR559, 2007. (source)
[xvi] Samarghandian S., Farkhondeh T., Samini F. “A Review on Possible Therapeutic Effect of Nigella sativa and Thymoquinone in Neurodegenerative Diseases.” CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets 2018;17(6):412-420. (source)
[xvii] Elmaci I., Altinoz M.A. “Thymoquinone: An edible redox-active quinone for the pharmacotherapy of neurodegenerative conditions and glial brain tumors. A short review.” Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy. 2016 Oct;83:635-640 (source)
[xviii] Bin Sayeed M.S., Asaduzzaman M., Morshed H., Hossain M.M., Kadir M.F., Rahman M.R. “The effect of Nigella sativa Linn. seed on memory, attention and cognition in healthy human volunteers.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2013 Jul 30;148(3):780-6 (source)
[xix] Bin Sayeed M.S., Shams T., Fahim Hossain S., Rahman M.R., Mostofa A., Fahim Kadir M2, Mahmood S., Asaduzzaman M. “Nigella sativa L. seeds modulate mood, anxiety and cognition in healthy adolescent males.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2014 Feb 27;152(1):156-62. (source)
[xx] Akhondian J., Kianifar H., Raoofziaee M., Moayedpour A., Toosi M.B., Khajedaluee M. “The effect of thymoquinone on intractable pediatric seizures (pilot study).” Epilepsy Research. 2011 Jan;93(1):39-43 (source)
[xxi] Sangi S., Ahmed S.P., Channa M.A., Ashfaq M., Mastoi S.M. “A new and novel treatment of opioid dependence: Nigella sativa 500 mg.” Journal of Ayub Medical College Abbottabad. 2008 Apr-Jun;20(2):118-24. (source)
[xxiii] Hosseini M., Zakeri S., Khoshdast S., Yousefian F.T., Rastegar M., Vafaee F., Kahdouee S., Ghorbani F., Rakhshandeh H., Kazemi S.A. “The effects of Nigella sativa hydro-alcoholic extract and thymoquinone on lipopolysaccharide - induced depression like behavior in rats.” Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. 2012 Jul;4(3):219-25. (source)