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Black Cumin Seed (Nigella Sativa) & Covid: What Does The Science Say



Black Cumin Seed (Nigella Sativa) & Covid: What Does The Science Say

Black Seed Oil and Covid-19: What Does The Science Say?

Experimental vaccines have been given to billions of people, but still the pandemic rages on with more European countries heading back into lockdown.

Over the last two years, there has been a desperate bid to find effective treatments, with doctors and scientists all over the world scrambling to test existing and novel medicines for efficacy against the virus. What most people do not know, is that herbal medicines have featured extensively in this quest.

Black Cumin Seed is one of the herbs that was investigated since it has long been known to possess anti-viral, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing and other properties which we will discuss in this article. And the results so far are very positive. For example, a randomised, placebo-controlled study carried out in Pakistan, showed that Black Cumin Seed, given alongside honey, had a remarkable effect in treating both severe and mild covid cases. There was a four-fold reduction in mortality, much faster viral clearance, and faster recovery from symptomatic illness in the patients given black cumin seed and honey. You can read the study here.

The medical lecturer, Dr Bean, has made a detailed video about this study which is well worth a watch.

Unfortunately, even with this evidence in front of them, many people are incredibly doubtful about herbal medicine. There is a tendency to see it as unscientific, and it is generally described as “alternative”, or “complementary” medicine which implies that it is not a valid treatment in itself. Yet, this could not be further from the truth since there is an enormous body of research demonstrating the efficacy of herbal medicines, carried out to the same rigorous scientific standards of pharmaceutical trials. The subtle and incredibly complex way the active compounds in various natural substances interact with our bodies is being gradually uncovered with advances in technology.

It is thanks to this body of research that doctors can choose the herbal medicines that are likely to work. For example, Thymoquinone (TQ), the active ingredient in black cumin seed was suggested as a potential covid treatment based on numerous mechanisms which have been uncovered over recent years. One paper from the British University in Egypt, Cairo, lays out the potential ways that TQ may help. You can read the full paper here.

Anti-Oxidant Effect

Unstable oxygen molecules can damage the DNA of cells, and this “oxidative stress” is one of the primary means by which diseases and various toxins damage the body. But, our own immune systems can also use the same mechanism to destroy pathogens. One of the ways that covid-19 can be deadly is the potential for an excessive immune system response, where the body effectively attacks itself through the process of oxidative distress. The authors of the study suggest the powerful anti-oxidant effect of TQ may mitigate this (anti-oxidants basically “soak up” the unstable oxygen molecules).

Anti-Inflammatory Effect

Inflammation is an essential part of the immune-systems response, but many medical conditions are associated with excessive inflammation. In fact, inflammation can be the difference between covid being like a mild cold or causing certain death. Cytokines are the enzymes that regulate inflammation, and some diseases, including covid, can result in a “Cytokine Storm” which is like an inflammatory domino effect that wreaks havoc with the body. To prevent this nightmare scenario, anti-inflammatory treatments are often used alongside anti-virals.

The authors of the study point out several ways that TQ acts as an anti-inflammatory which they say makes potentially useful in preventing covid deaths.

Immunomodulatory Effect

Black Cumin Seed was so esteemed in the ancient world that it was said to “cure everything but death”. An incredible body of research is now showing that statement is not quite as grandiose as it sounds. The fact-that black cumin seed is effective against so many different conditions has caused research to closely examine its effect on the immune system. Its power to treat so many conditions suggests it must be boosting the body’s natural defences, and scientific research has shown this to be the case. TQ seems to support many aspects of the immune system including T-cells, Natural Killer Cells and Dendritic Cells.  The authors of this study suggest this as another reason that TQ may be useful against covid.

Epigenetic Modulatory Effect

Epigenetics is the cutting edge of science, it is unravelling how genetic data is shared and processed by the body. This does not relate to permanent changes in our genetic makeup, but rather how certain pathogens and internal bodily processes can modify genetic code.

Both diseases and curative substances have epigenetic effects. For example, there is some evidence that the covid spike-protein makes it harder for the body to produce new immune cells by disrupting the process of repairing DNA which had to split when new cells are created. You can find a video about it here. 

One of the reasons TQ is so fascinating is that it works on a genetic level, it has been shown to reprogram cancer cells causing them to die. It has also been shown to affect the telomeres which protect ageing-induced DNA damage (please see our black seed oil information for more on this).

The authors of the study explain several ways that the epigenetic properties of TQ may be beneficial in helping the body beat covid.

Antiviral Activity

The above properties of TQ help to explain why it has been so effective as an anti-viral agent. Numerous studies are showing it is effective against Hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr Virus, and even HIV.

There have been in-vitro studies (in a laboratory environment rather than in humans or animals) where TQ is effective against coronaviruses including covid-19. This gives one of the most compelling reasons to try Black Cumin Seed as a potential treatment.

Molecular Docking

The picture is way more complicated than this because Black Cumin Seed contains thousands of active ingredients, not just TQ. But the above information demonstrates the scientific rigour which is applied when turning to natural substances to cure disease.


Most covid deaths were people with pre-existing medical conditions. Diabetes is a particular risk factor, as is heart disease. Since TQ has been shown to help with a huge number of medical conditions (including heart disease and diabetes) it makes sense for it to be considered in treating covid patients.

Anti-Coagulant Properties

Blood clots are one of the most dangerous complications in covid patients. The authors point out that TQ’s anti-blood-clotting properties give yet another reason to try it with covid patients.  

Trust The Science

So from the above research, it is clear that TQ (the primary ingredient in black cumin seed) could be of potential benefit to covid patients. The above properties may explain the incredibly positive results in the honey and black cumin seed oil we mentioned above. As well as a 4 fold reduction in mortality, the study found that patients treated with honey and black cumin seed cleared the virus faster, was able to leave hospital and return to daily life faster, and reported fewer symptoms. All of these effects were statistically significant.

However, it should be pointed out that TQ is only one of the active ingredients in black cumin seed. The authors of the honey study chose black cumin seed also for its other ingredients which include zinc and vitamin C. Honey contains quercetin, known to help zinc enter cells (vital in fighting viruses). In fact, honey and black cumin seed were not chosen based on folk wisdom, they were both known to possess properties that can fight respiratory viruses, particularly black cumin seed which is known to have anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

We were able to find another study showing the success of black cumin seed treating covid patents, you can read it here. This study was performed on people with mild to moderate symptoms and showed faster recovery times for the patients’ given black cumin seed.  You can read the study here.

We hope this article illustrates how much scientific rigour goes into herbal medicine studies. Human, animal, laboratory and even computer modelling studies provide the groundwork, herbs are then selected and applied to real-world diseases, often with extraordinary results.

Given that black cumin seed has no known side effects, has many well-studied properties that would make it a good candidate for covid treatments, and even has at least two human studies showing it works, you may be wondering why hardly anybody has been made aware of it. Surely in a pandemic that has paralysed the whole world, such treatments should be made available? So why are governments not promoting it? We will leave you to answer that question.

Questions And Answers

Does black cumin seed (Nigella Sativa) treat covid?

There is limited evidence because herbal medicines are rarely subject to large human trials. But we could find two studies showing Black Cumin Seed is effective in preventing mortality and reducing symptoms of covid. In one of the studies, the Black Cumin Seed was combined with honey.

We cannot give medical advice regarding covid-19, but we can report the findings of studies you may find interesting.

Why may black cumin seed (Nigella Sativa) be helpful for covid?

It has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Molecular docking and in vivo studies have confirmed that the active ingredient Thymoquinine  (TQ) can bind to and destroy the virus.

Why Is black cumin seed (Nigella Sativa) normally taken as an oil?

The studies in this article did not use the oil form, but this is usually taken this way because it has a high concentration of the active ingredients which can be preserved if the oil is pressed soon after harvesting the seeds (otherwise they dry out).  We assume the black cumin seed and honey study used fresh seeds which retained all the active ingredients. We generally recommend people to take the oil though, for the above reasons.

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