Pat SchervenBlack cumin seed has been referred to as the amazing cure-all due to its therapeutic powers touted from religious pundits to ancient scholars.

Black cumin seed, a jet-black spice is a native of the Middle East and Western Asia, and is formerly known as Nigella Sativa. Scientific studies have indicated that this spice is among one of the most promising medicinal plants, but it’s yet to be fully understood.

Research suggests that black cumin seeds may help to prevent and treat a wide range of chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and asthma, to name a few.  The main component in black cumin is a unique potent anti-oxidant referred to as thymoquinone (TQ), a component yet to be found in any other plant. It’s rich in many nutrients including essential amino acids (proteins), essential fatty acids(fats), the vitamin beta-carotene and minerals calcium, iron and potassium. There are over 100 compounds in the seeds yet to be fully explored.

Immunity declines with age, and some believe that this is part of the aging process. Black cumin seed has shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells, which are immune cells that protect from viruses and prevent tumors.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine stated that  75%  of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease, and the more belly fat those people have, the higher risk. The study in Pakistan included 123 people divided into two groups. Half of the group took black cumin supplements for 10 months and the other took a placebo.  The group receiving the supplements had significant favorable results. The spice has proven to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Numerous studies have indicated that TQ and black cumin seed can fight cancer by  preventing proliferation of cancer cells (from dividing and multiplying); preventing metastases or cancer cells moving from the initial tumor to others areas of the body; and preventing angiogenesis, the formation of a new blood supply to a tumor. Studies indicate that black cumin seed can actually stimulate apoptosis, the death of cancer. Research  continues in the hope that this spice may provide an alternative treatment in cancer prevention therapy.  Other conditions black cumin has shown to positively affect include; ulcers, pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, asthma, allergies and dermatitis.

Black cumin should not to be confused with cumin, are both very commonly used in Indian cooking. They do not look alike, have extremely different flavors(tastes) and are not from the same botanical family.  For further information about cooking with black cumin seed seek out an Indian grocery or cookbook, special spice shops or Google.