Nigella sativa: The Black Beauty of Skin Health

Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

Who is the black beauty known as nigella sativa?

Nigella Sativa, is a traditional panacea for many illnesses and has the reputation of being a blessed healer testified by a prophet and a holy book (1). History shows that she was humble enough to have been the reliable provider of effective remedies for the most underprivileged at minimal cost (2). A legendary reputation was woven around her until she became popular enough to line the prescriptions of some of the most trusted practitioners of modern alternative medicine. Companies started competing at being the best to make an extract of her essence (3). When the best of  biochemical lab techniques was utilized, she elegantly revealed a few of her secrets. Though that reveal made her more reliable, it was not free of reference to the dark side of her reputation, an intense edge that is evident every time you taste her essence. It might sound like historical records describe Nigella Sativa in hyperbolic, poetic terms, but it must be emphasized that the introduction of Nigella to evidence-based medicine did not take away her magic. On the contrary, it can be argued that the rigorous taste of evidence-based medicine revealed answers that made Nigella more alluring and mysterious than she ever was. The results added to her desirability and established her reputation as a medical-grade ingredient. She shines in single-ingredient botanical preparations that are incomparable to anything artificially made. (21)

So what does Nigella really do?

Getting down to serious business is not at all problematic with Nigella sativa. Any quick look through a reputable journal of medicine reveals a plethora of evidence that takes her side. Many seemingly unrelated conditions show significant improvement with either the whole seeds or their oil. 

What role does nigella sativa play in dermatology? 

Black seed is a powerful internal as well as external manager of many stubborn dermatological conditions. Internal pathways modulate immunity and facilitate a less inflammatory state, the following, however, is a literature review of some of the topical applications of black seed oil as a singular treatment: 

Topical application
Significant reduction side of lesions upon 6 months of topical application 7
Topical application 
NS may be as effective as betamethasone in enhancing quality of life and alleviating the severity of eczema and that both were more effective than eucerin8
It was observed that Nigella sativa has a better antipsoriatic effect than the treatment in comparison. It was concluded that the benefits of Nigella sativa can be best derived for psoriasis when it is applied in both ointment and internal forms.
Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is an autoimmune disease caused by Celiac Disease
Internal use
chronic dermatitis, a burning sensation & itchiness Dermatitis herpetiformis 10
Arsenical keratosis
500 mg BSO &
200 mg Vitamin E
Decrease in arsenic load and better skin 11
Acute radiation dermatitis in breast cancer
5% topical Gel 
The preventive use of the N. sativa gel significantly decreased and delayed the incidence of ARD and related symptoms 12
Behcet’s disease
is a chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by recurrent oral and genital aphthous ulcers, uveitis and skin lesions.
1000 mg/day NS oil
Improved inflammatory and autoimmune markers 13

The Medical Explanation of How a Single Botanical Can Do All This?  

The dark beauty of the middle east is a plant faithful to the traits of her homeland. To the foreigner, it might be odd that the middle east is both the land of holy whirling dervishes as well as the seductive belly dancers. Those same dichotomies are a natural component of Nigella as it is strong enough to enhance male fertility (14), maintains the beauty and enhances skin health and acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory strong enough to assist with autoimmune disease (15). When evaluated from the perspective of Unani Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine and Chinese Medicine, Nigella sativa is not hard to understand. When evaluated from the point of view of modern western medicine, even with all the evidence in the literature, Nigella is hard to believe and understand. 

Nigella is hard to understand from an allopathic point of view because she practices holistic medicine. The constituents in black seed affect the internal composition of the body signaling for better modulation of inflammatory markers and taking away the resources from the synthesis of harmful autoimmune components. The best allopathic medication to compare the multi-tasking ability of Nigella sativa with is corticosteroids (8,16). Though the comparison is unfair with the side effects are taken into account, overall corticosteroids have as diverse of a profile of use as Nigella. The diversity is due to the compounds focusing directly on modulating immunity which can readily affect many bodily functions almost immediately. See the following example of how Nigella Sativa may potentially benefit the general appearance of someone with Hashimoto’s Tyroiditis (17).

health benefits of nigella sativa

It is worthy to note that on topical applications, the medication that kept showing as significant of an effect as Nigella was of the corticosteroid family. Nigella sativa is not in any way, shape or form a corticosteroid. After all, unlike corticosteroids, nigella enhances immunity, supports bone formation, stabilizes hormones and acts as a significantly potent anti-microbial (8,17)

Talking About The Black Beauty In Her Own Language 

In order to understand Nigella better, it would help if one can speak her holistic language. To do so is to speak of the language of the holistic systems of medicine who first stumbled upon the black beauty. Ancient systems of medicine navigated the natural world with the senses as the only tool provided by the body to heal the body. They developed a secret code with nature where their senses can guide them to the components of the natural world that can be effective at healing an illness. Then, they followed by perfecting those methods with rigorous observation and trial and error. The most prominent word currently used by herbalists to describe a plant is “its energy” and while that word seems to invoke many connotations of an esoteric form of practice, really all it means is the flavour. The flavour of plants and foods is a powerful indicator of the chemical constituents in them. Those ancient medical practitioners perfected the art of “taste” and used their mouths of mini laboratories to identify what they called “healing flavours”. They scribed standardized systems of flavour such as the Chinese Medicine 5 Element Theory that used nature as a metaphor for what is going on in the body. As nature was what they knew best, they organized the organs of the body into a natural circle that was updated by generations of humble, rigorous medical observers. As the code has been ciphered and the words may now be understandable, let’s talk about Nigella in her own language. 

In the case of Nigella Sativa, never forget her dark reputation as that reputation is a part of the cure. Nigella sativa is a botanical of a very interesting, invigorating flavour. Nigella is of a warm temperature and dry, pungent energy. Such an energy imprint or simply, such foods that contain chemicals that “taste” warming, dry and pungent (aromatics, like garlic), fit the healing profile of the following conditions (18)

  • Cold digestive conditions

  • Stomach pains

  • Gastrointestinal spasms

  • bloating/ colic

  • Helmets manifestations 

  • Intestinal worms 

  • Late menstrual periods

  • As a galactagogue (milk production)

  • Diuretic & laxative 

  • Abscesses

  • Harmooroids

  • Orchitis (testicular inflammation) 

Neuropsychoimmunology: The Eastern Medicine Way! 

In the Middle Eastern system of medicine, black seed was seen from a much darker point of view. Evident from the prophetic proverb that it is tied to “black seed being a cure for everything, but death”. In his Cannon of Medicine, Avencina focused more on the “bitter, pungent” aspect of the flavour and wrote of its uses as an agent of diabetic management (19). Some rare records also refer to it as an agent that prevents illnesses from grief. Grief is an interesting aspect to consider when it comes to Black seed. Some studies point to the effectiveness of black seed as a potential anti-depressant, but the verdict on such studies is still not final. What is much more intriguing than the anti-depressant potential of the black seed is that it was classified in a way that supports its function from a modern medicine point of view. 

Due to its pungent, bitter flavour and its association with weakness, depression and grief, black seed was used for those who suffer grief as a potential protective agent from lung and skin illnesses. In many eastern systems of medicine, there is a strong relationship between the lung, immunity, skin and the emotion of grief. Ancient medical practitioners noticed that those who go through stress, very harsh stress as that of loss are more likely to develop immune-related manifestations. Much modern research supports how stress can lower immunity and trigger autoimmune manifestations, ancient medical practitioners also noted that when a patient is under stress, it is best to work on the immune system prophylactically. In fact, they were even correct in their choice of “flavour” for such purpose as the flavour associated with “lung and skin” is the pungent flavour. That aromatic quality is the quality of many of the scientifically proven “Immune tonifying” compounds including garlic, oil of oregano, thyme, n-acetylcysteine and, none other, than beautiful Nigella. 

How Does The Black Beauty Support Beauty?

As presented previously, Nigella supports many facets of beauty. Internally it supports beauty through its holistic systemic effects. Externally, warming the skin, increasing blood flow, decreasing inflammation and providing typical protection are some of the few features that black seed provides (19). Upon long-term topical use, the areas where black seed oil was applied show a significant improvement in texture, quality and strength. Most of those effects are attributed to the strong antioxidant property of the oil. Additionally due to containing a high alphalenolinic acid, evidence points to its ability to facilitate faster wound healing, more effective skin damage recovery and a better rate of skin cell growth. Though many of those benefits are experience with internal use, evidence points to the fact they are also a part of the topical healing profile of the lovely black seed (20)

How to Age As well as Nigella?

Nigella has had a successful, loving relationship with humans for thousands of years. Yet, she remains as elegant and alluring as she ever was. Helping the skin with a vast array of nutrients, administered within the protection of powerful antioxidants like thymoquinone can significantly reduce fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. Most of the previously mentioned changes are related to the accumulation of topical trauma that is not affiliated to fully heal. Some of the most prominent compounds found in the oil include linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic, acid, zinc, quercetin, vitamin C, iron, calcium and much more (20, 2)

Examples of Medicinal Topical Uses of Nigella

Winter Cracked Skin Mask

Anyone who has researched Nigella sativa long enough would know that Nigella loves honey! Most of the remedies that use nigella mix nigella with honey for flavour as well as therapeutic enhancement. When cold winters leave the side of the lips, the nose and the folds around the eyes dry, a topical lubricant may be all one needs. But, for the purposes of those beautiful 15 degrees below zero winters that many Canadians experience in the great white north, most of those dry cracks, unfortunately, become inflamed as they are dehydrated daily with the exposure to harsh weather. 

Mix 1 teaspoon of Black Seed oil with 1 teaspoon of Manuka honey, high UMF, and apply to the broken, dry skin. After the consultation of a medical practitioner, apply the mask weekly and maintain the skin by applying Black Seed oil daily prior to bedtime.

Consult a naturopath about adding some Colloidal Silver to the mask as an extra fold of anti-microbial protection and to promote the healing of infected skin. 

Chubby Cheeks/ Cradle Cap Mask 

Many babies experience those painful bouts of baby cheek eczema. Thankfully, for most babies, cheek eczema is a state that they can easily outgrow. The biggest problem lays in the fact that those itchy, chubby cheeks can easily get infected. To soothe the skin and prevent the possibility of infection, after the consultation of a medical practitioner, make a mix of 1 part olive oil, one part black seed oil and make sure that those cheeks are always drenched in the mask. Bonus, the same mask may be equally as effective for cradle cap. 

Vaginal Black Seed Oil Treatment 

Black Seed oil, though potent is safe enough for topical application to the sensitive regions of the body including the genital region. Studies show that black seed oil is an effective topical anti-viral, anti-yeast, anti-itch as well as anti-ulcer agent. To assist internal, or vaginal preparations in treating a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, black seed oil can be used as a relieving agent that takes care of the discomfort, promotes healing and prevents opportunistic bacterial or viral infections. It also provides a reliable physical barrier that protects sensitive skin from friction. A healthcare practitioner is to be consulted prior to any application as sensitive as such. Note that men may also benefit from the previous treatment for Intertrigo, or scrotal eczema 

There is no doubt that nigella is powerful enough to change your point view about the natural world but it might just also change how you are viewed by the world.



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