Nutraceuticals are poised to experience exceptionally strong growth, with Black seed oil expected to see volumes upwards of 130 tons in a few years. The market size of black seed oil is touted to grow explosively touching 25 million dollars by 2025. This has been attributed to the changed preferences of consumers – a desire for natural ingredients and products. Additionally, black seed oil is increasingly used in various processed food products for the value addition through aroma and flavor. The oil has been traditionally used in the treatment of various conditions and immense health benefits have attributed to the oil. We will look at scientifically supported evidence to understand the efficacy of the oil and its use cases.
What is the source of black seed oil? Are there other names commonly used ?
Before we look at the source of black seed oil, let us look at the other names commonly used. Black seed oil is also known by as many as 43 other names – the most commonly or popularly used names include Black Cumin, Black Caraway, Fennel Flower, Fitch, Nigella sativa, Nutmeg Flower, and Seed of Blessing. It is probable that you may have come across some of these names in the past. Now that we have established this little connection, let us look at more details about black seed oil.
Black seed oil is sourced from the flowering plant Nigella Sativa which is typically cultivated in the northern parts of Africa, the eastern Mediterranean area and parts of West Asia and the Indian sub-continent. The seeds are present in the fruits of the plant which is characteristic with its blue and white petals.
Are black seeds spices?
The US Food and Drug Administration classifies black seeds as a spice, and it is typically used as a seasoning ingredient and for flavoring. Black seeds are commonly used in many cuisines – Polish, middle Eastern and Indian – during the preparation of certain dishes. The seeds are pungent in nature and this is perhaps one of the reason why it is also called as onion seeds. Another reason or the classification of black seeds as spices is the taste – it tastes more like a blend of various commonly sued spices such as pepper, onion and oregano. This is a natural choice for use in cuisines that involve the use of spices and herbs.
What are the other preparations where black seeds are commonly used?
Black seeds are also commonly used in processed food products, such as breads, curries, various bakery products, vegetables and pulses. Black seeds are an ingredient in certain varieties of cheese, and are used as seasoning in poultry products, and salads. The use of black seeds for an extensive range of products has made it a hugely popular and essential ingredient. This explains the demand, and the extraction of black seed oil for other uses has helped to increase the demand for black seeds.
Various applications and properties of black seed oil
Black seed oil is presently used in various applications – Pharma, Skin & Hair care, Nutraceuticals including food supplements, flavoring and culinary. The product has also found use in fitness programs and studies have been conducted to verify its efficacy in lowering body mass. Black seeds are also used as herbal medicine to treat various conditions including sores, inflammation of the skin, rashes, and various insect bites in addition to treating skin irritation. Other use cases include treatment of headache, pain from dental issues, asthma, congestion in the nasal passage and arthritis, apart from treating worms in the intestines. Black seeds have also been historically associated with treatment options for conjunctivitis and abscesses. Traditional medicine forms involve the use black seeds for treating asthma, hypertension, and diabetes. The impressive list of applications of black seed oil are attributed to the mechanism of action and the properties of black seed oil. Some of the properties that have helped to make black seed oil popular and useful include the following :
· Anti-fungal properties
· Anti-bacterial uses
· Powerful anti-oxidant properties
· Immune system boosting properties
· Properties similar to antihistamines
Nutrition profile of black seed
Black seed has an impressive nutrition profile, which makes it powerful in various applications. It is rich in the following :
· Steric acid
· Vitamins B1, B2,B3
In addition to the above, black seed comprises amino acids, carbohydrates, volatile oils, fiber, monosaccharides, calcium, and sodium. The plant saponin in black seed makes it a highly nutritious ingredient to consume. Let us now look at the standout benefits of black seed and the oil extracted from the seeds.
Standout advantages of black seed oil
Among the various health benefits attributed to black seeds and the extracted, the notable and more popular advantages are listed below:
Treating obesity and weight loss – Studies have indicated that black seeds are potent and effective in helping individuals achieve weight loss. Specifically, encouraging results have been reported among individuals who used black seed as a dietary ingredient to achieve reduction in body mass index. It is true that there are various options presently available for reduction of body mass index. However, many are known to have side effects that seriously impact outcomes. Black seeds are effective in achieving reduction in BMI without any side effects.
Skin care/cosmetics – This has been traditionally used in a range of skin care formulations and the increased focus is mainly as a result of greater awareness about the therapeutic benefits of black seed oil in managing challenging skin conditions. In addition to the known benefits – such as hydration of skin, hair and its use as an effective moisturizer, black seed is proven to be effective in treating patients with eczema and acne. This is attributed to the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of the seeds, which help in managing the condition effectively and naturally.
Cancer treatment – Research has been carried out with lab to ascertain the effects of black seeds in treating cancerous cells. The results have been encouraging and are holding out a ray of hope to patients suffering from cancer, including brain cancer and breast cancer. In most of the cases involving the use of black seeds or black seed oil the treatment is always as part of a combination therapy or as one dimension of a multi-pronged holistic approach to manage a specific condition. Black seeds offer multiple benefits, but the benefits are best experienced when black seeds combine with other treatment options.
Anti-diabetic properties and fertility – In addition to the above health benefits, black seeds are popularly used by patients suffering from diabetes. The anti-diabetic properties of black seeds help in the control of blood sugar levels. While extensive studies have been carried out to prove the effectiveness of black seeds, the research is presently limited to lab mice and the documented results therefore require further tests and validation on humans. Similarly, black seeds have proven benefits in improving the fertility in males. Tests have clearly established that the use of black seeds contribute significantly to the improvement of sperm count, volume and movement. This makes it an effective and natural remedy for individuals grappling with infertility issues.
Side effects of black seed oil that requires caution
It is hard to imagine products that deliver health benefits or nutrition without any side effects. Black seeds and the oil extracted from black seeds are no exception. There are possible side effects from black seed that can affect individuals to varying degrees depending on the type of side effect. The common side effects include allergies, rashes, an stomach upset, constipation and vomiting. Individuals are also known to suffer from seizures as a result of black seeds. It is necessary to highlight the fact that allergies and interactions are experienced by a small percentage of individuals who are exposed to certain conditions or suffering from allergies. It is incorrect to assume that everyone who uses black seed oil will suffer from allergies.
Certain categories of individuals are always recommended to consume supplements and products used as part of natural or herbal medicine in moderate quantities. This is intended to protect the individuals from possible adverse effects. For instance women who are pregnant with infants who are breast fed need to consult a specialist before using supplements. In most cases there are no documented effects that speak in favor or against the use of supplements by these categories of users. I tis therefore advised to exercise caution and self-restrict the quantity and frequency of consumption. This will help to keep the exposure and possibility of adverse effects as low as possible.
Higher risk of side effects
The potentially higher risk of side effects in black seed oil are limited to specific circumstances and categories of individuals. For instance, black seed is highly likely to affect the clotting of blood. Consequently, this may complicate bleeding disorders and individuals with such disorders are expected to avoid black seeds or the extracted oil. This is especially important in the case of individuals who are slated to undergo surgery. Blood that does not clot during surgery can turn out to be complicated and patients who are scheduled to be operated upon, need to go off black seeds for a specific period prior to the procedure. Similarly, individuals with low blood pressure are advised to avoid black seeds as the seeds are known to lower blood pressure levels. This is suitable for individuals with high blood pressure and not for individuals with low blood pressure.
The role of extraction process in the qualities of black seed oil
The type of processes used for extracting black seed oil from the seeds have an important role to play in the quality of the oil and the ensuing benefits. For the purpose of comparison, two different types of extraction are briefly outlined below. The first is supercritical fluid extraction and the second is cold extraction. Supercritical fluid extraction, commonly known as SFE involves the process of separating compounds through extracting solvents. The process is designed to remove substances or to bring about a collection of a product. By virtue of being similar to essential oils, complete extraction is not practiced, with only 70-80% yield targeted.
Cold extraction, also known as cold press extraction is a mechanical process used for extracting oil. This involves the carrying of essence by water, which is then decanted slowly to separate the oil from the liquid. This is one of the oldest, and traditional methods of oil extraction. While this is still used for the purpose of extracting oils, especially from citrus fruit family, it is is being replaced by other methods of oil extraction from other fruits.
The comparison of the properties of black seed oil extracted through both the methods have delivered interesting results. Oil extracted through the first method – supercritical fluid extraction, reportedly had a higher concentration of compounds that enhanced the quality of the oil. Additionally, the antioxidant levels in the oil extracted through this methods were relatively higher than the oil extracted through cold press method. While the comparison reported that there were limited differences in the thermal properties and the weight of oil extracted through both methods, the overall results indicated that the supercritical fluid extraction method was a better option. This method boosted the quality of the extracted oil, when compared with the supercritical fluid extraction method. As the oil is used mostly for health benefits and as part of treatment remedies, it is important to choose oil that has greater potency.