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New studies confirm that black cumin seed oil (nigella sativa) can hinder cancer cells’ activity and is an efficient way to treat cancer. At the moment, the research is confined to animal tests only. The black cumin seed oil and its extract (thymoquinone) are a powerful tool against liver cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer, colon cancer and brain cancer. However, even after decades of black cumin oil research, scientists have not made significant advances in human clinical tests, even with almost no risk of side-effects.

As we can see from the studies, this oil is an efficient way of treatment for many types of cancer. However, it is still doesn’t get enough recognition from modern medicine. This article will try to examine the political pressures that might be holding back human clinical trials and will also try to learn why the drug industry wants to subdue the use of black seed oil.

Black seed oil is used for thousands of years

Two studies in 2011 from China and Saudi Arabia were studying the literature on the use of black cumin seed oil as cancer treatment. They established that the oil has been used for centuries as a traditional cancer remedy, and confirmed its anti-cancer properties. The oil and its extract are effective in the treatment of many diseases, including various types of cancer, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, etc.

The scientists noted that the mechanism behind the oil’s anti-cancer properties is not completely understood. Some studies suggest that thymoquinone has an antioxidant role and strengthens the immune system. The fact is that black cumin seed oil induces apoptosis in cancer cells, without compromising the immunity. It controls the AKT signaling pathway as well, meaning that it controls the cell survival throughout the body. Although nigella sativa’s power has been known for millenia, modern medicine has recognized it only recently, in the last two or three decades.

Traditional medicine is right – black cumin seed and honey are a wonderful combination

Some Egyptian scientists have been examining the effect of honey and nigella sativa on oxidative stress and cancer by exposing rats to a strong carcinogen. Four groups were exposed to the carcinogen. Next, some groups were fed black seeds or honey, and only one group was fed with both the ingredients combined. After half a year, the rats were examined – the results showed that the rats that ate only black cumin seeds had 80% protection against oxidative stress and cancer formation, but the group that was fed black cumin seeds and honey had 100% protection against oxidative stress, cancer formation and inflammatory responses.

Nigella sativa works well as radiation therapy

In 2014, a Turkish study examined the effects of the oil on cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. They learned that many of these patients experience severe side-effects during and after the treatment. The study explored the effects of the oil on irradiated rats. The rats were first exposed to a single dose of gamma radiation. One group was given a gram of the oil an hour before radiation and received a 10 gr. dose for the next 10 days. The other group was given a simple saline solution. The control group was not irradiated. When the results arrived, they showed that nigella sativa reduces the oxidative stress markers and has strong antioxidant effects, amplifying the antioxidant capacity in the liver tissues of rats. Administering the oil before radiation and for 10 days afterwards protected the rats from the harmful radiation effects.

Another study from India conducted in 2012 explored the effects of the oil on mice exposed to gamma radiation. Two groups of mice were tested: the first group included normal mice and the second was composed of tumor bearing mice. The rodents were given black seed extract before the radiation (100 mg. per 1 kg. of body weight), which protected their spleen, liver, brain and intestines from the harmful effects of the radiation. This confirmed the protective effects of black cumin seed oil against radiation damage and biochemical alterations. The protective effect is due to the antioxidant properties of the seeds and their ability to hunt free radicals. This way, the black cumin seed extract can be used on human cancer patients who are receiving cancer radiation therapy, to subdue the harmful side effects, protect against oxidative stress in the normal issues, and essentially improve the life of the patients.

Black seeds interfere with uncontrolled cell growth and kill liver cancer cells

An Indian study from 2013 explored the effects of thymoquinone (the oil’s extract) in two groups of rats. One group was given 0.01% thymoquinone water to drink, while the other was given water. After 16 weeks, the liver cancer nodules, injury markers and tumor markers were measured – they showed significant decrease in the size of the tumor markers in the group that drank water with thymoquinone. They did not develop new cancer nodules as well. This confirmed thymoquinone’s beneficial role in treatment of liver cancer, and its potent ability to prevent proliferation of cancer cells.

A 2012 Egyptian study explored the anti-tumor effects of the combination of bee honey and black cumin seed oil on human liver cancer cells in laboratory experiments. The antioxidant capacity of both the honey and oil was examined, as well as their abilities to eliminate cancerous cells. The results showed that both ingredients were efficient in reducing the feasibility of cancer cells, and improved the antioxidant status of cells along with inducing apoptosis.

Black seeds oil kills lung cells

In 2014, Saudi Arabian scientists stated that nigella sativa has a long history of use in traditional medicine for treatment of various disease. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of this plant are well-known. The Saudi Arabian scientists conducted a study which investigated the anti-cancer activity of the black seed oil and its extract against human lung cancer cells in a laboratory environment. The cancer cells were exposed to 0.01 mg/ml of the oil and 1mg/ml of the extract, with the cells’ viability evaluated afterwards. The results showed that both the extract and the oil considerably reduces the population of the living cancer cells and changed their cellular morphology. They also concluded that the level of cell death increased with the greater concentration of the oil or extract. The cells lost their typical appearance and became smaller in size as well.

Black Seed components kill malignant brain cancer cells

Scientists at the Ohio State University published a study in 2013 that suggested that glioblastoma is the most aggressive and most common form of malignant brain tumor in humans. They said that there was a greater need for additional therapies to successfully treat this type of brain tumor. As natural phytochemicals have strong tumor killing abilities, the study focused on thymoquinone, the black oil’s extract. Thymoquinone possesses selective cytotoxic properties for human cells – it kills the cancer cells and leaves the normal cells unharmed.

The study focused thymoquinone’s ability to selectively inhibit the cancer cells of the brain and spinal cord to make clones of themselves, while not inhibiting the normal cell activity in these two organs. The black seed extract can also obstruct the autophagy genes in cancer cells, which enable the continued growth in cancer cells by keeping the cellular energy production. When inhibited, the energy production suffers, resulting in tumor regression and extending the survival of the tumor affected organs. This proves that thymoquinone offers a completely new strategy that can be used to defeat cancer.

Black seeds inhibit breast cancer cells

A 2013 Malaysian study examined the anti-cancer properties of thymoquinone on human breast cancer cells. The extract showed a strong ability to inhibit the cancer cells proliferation when used for a longer period. The size of the dose determined the length of the inhibition – the larger the dose, the greater the inhibition.

The same Malaysian study also stated that there was a growing interest about the use of natural compounds with anti-cancer properties from traditional medicine. Nigella sativa was one of the most studied plants. This amazing herb grows in countries around the Mediterranean Sea and India. The study focused on thymoquinone’s effects and its induction of apoptosis in an acute leukemia cell lines. The results from the study clearly showed that thymoquinone signals promising signs for its use in the treatment of leukemia.

Nigella sativa successfully kills colon cancer cells

According to scientists from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, 5-fluorouracil, a chemotherapy drug is still the best way for treatment of colon cancer. However, they noted that the drug has awful side-effects due to its ability to attack the healthy and cancerous cells simultaneously. They went back to some previous research that explored the effects of antioxidants on cancer. The scientists studied epigallocatechin-3-gallate closely – this is the primary catechin of green tea; it is similar to the thymoquinone in black seeds. The black cumin seeds are known for ability to hunt down free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.

The study tried examining the role of sustained delivery of thymoquinone from black seeds, catechin from the green tea and 5-fluorouracil on the metabolic activity and structural alterations in human colon cancer cells. The results showed no difference between the effects of both natural ingredients and the chemo drug. They induced apoptosis and hampered with many cellular metabolic functions. The cellular changes occurred after 24 hours of exposure to the green tea catechin or thymoquinone – this is comparable to the cellular changes seen in the cells exposed to 5-fluorouracil, meaning that the natural way of treatment is a good substitute for chemotherapy in cases of colon cancer.

Earlier, in 2004, a team of Lebanese scientists conducted a study that recognized the strong anti-cancer effect of nigella sativa. The scientists noted that the oil from the plant was used in Asia, Africa and the Middle East for a long time in order to preserve health and fight diseases. The research said: “Thymoquinone, the most abundant constituent present in black seed, is a promising dietary agent for preventing cancer. We investigated the effects of thymoquinone against human colon cancer cells. We report that thymoquinone inhibits the growth of colon cancer cells. Our data support the potential for using thymoquinone for the treatment of colon cancer.”

Black seeds oil is helpful against Helicobacter Pylori infection

Saudi Arabian scientists in 2010 linked many diseases to H. Pylori, including chronic active gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Treatment of the bacterium with antimicrobial agents can lead to regression of the diseases related to H. Pylori. However, the bacterium is rapidly increasing the resistance to certain medications, so it is necessary for new alternative treatments to be found. That’s where the black seed oil jumps in.

The study studied the efficiency of the black seed oil in treatment and elimination of H. Pylori. The subjects were divided into four groups which received different combinations of antibiotics (clarithromycin and/or amoxicillin) or anti gastric reflex (omeprazole) and black seed oil. The results proved that the black seeds oil has anti-H.Pylori activity comparable to all three other drugs tested.

What is the future of Nigella sativa?

Combining thymoquinone with conventional cancer treatments

In 2011, German scientists recognized doxorubicin as the backbone of chemotherapy treatments even with its cardiotoxicity and limitations to treat drug-resistant cancers. However, new studies have been suggesting that thymoquinone can have a preventive effect against the cardiotoxicity caused by doxorubicin. The studies show that thymoquinone boosts doxorubicin’s anti-cancer effect in some cancer cells’ lines.

Singapore researchers stated in 2013 that there are limited numbers of therapeutic agents for cancer, and their number is reducing rapidly as cancerous cells are developing resistance to drugs. There is a growing need for alternative treatments. Thymoquinone showed promising results in mice with breast cancer – it blocked tumor growth, and this effect was doubled when the extract was combined with doxorubicin.

Clinical trials with human cancer patients

Scientists from the Wayne State University in Michigan stated that there is a growing need for more detailed studies about the effects of nigella sativa, especially some that examine the bioavailability and Phase-I toxicity profiling in humans. The results from these studies can be crucial for advancements in this field. An Oman based researcher says that thymoquinone has been tested thoroughly, and considerable data from the research has been gained, providing a better understanding of the abilities of the extract. He thinks that now’s the time to move thymoquinone from lab tests to human clinical trials.


After so many studies involving thymoquinone, you must wonder why there isn’t a clinical trial with cancer patients yet. If the black seed oil is so effective against cancer, and is not toxic, why is it still being confined to lab tests? Its history of use of the oil is well known – traditional medicine has been using it for thousands of years. The oil was present on many historic sites: it has been found in the tomb of Tutankhamen and a combination of honey bee and black seed oil was found in a pilgrim’s flask from the old Hittite Period of Boyali Höyük in Central Turkey, dating from about 1650 BC! The black seeds oil saw extensive use in treatment of various diseases.

However, this amazing cancer-fighting ingredient is still stuck in the lab, treated like an unproven toxic substance. The black oil and seed are foods safe to eat; they have been used as a remedy and food coloring for millennia, so it’s high time to move the research from animal studies to human clinical trials. It is clear that both the oil and thymoquinone have anti-cancer properties, so we think it’s time to finally start testing it on humans.

Why is clinical research on the black seed oil as a treatment for cancer so rare?

Simple: the answer involves the powerful pharmaceutical companies. As many studies have confirmed, conventional chemo drugs are becoming less effective. In some studies, the oil and its extract were used along conventional chemotherapy drugs – the results showed that in many cases the oil and thymoquinone had better effects than the harmful chemo drugs, making them easily replaceable with free natural solutions. This is great news for cancer patients, but bad news for the profitability of the pharmaceutical companies. There’s a growing trend where the pharmaceutical companies take control over a natural product and prevent its accessibility. They add the substance to a drug with an expiring patent, and create a new drug which they patent under a new name. This strategy is used by the companies with the help of the FDA for the use of folate (vitamin B9). They are trying to take a natural vitamin and make a folate combination to create a new drug which they can patent. This is the case with the effective form of vitamin B9 – folic acid.

This is what can and probably will happen to thymoquinone if it falls in the industry’s hands. The companies will try to include it in their failing drugs, creating a new drug which would have improved performance. This is already happening as we write this! Some studies have shown that thumoquinone is better than many chemotherapy drugs, but the companies cannot sell the oil or thymoquinone and make a profit out of it, as they can’t patent the oil.

Compassion for people with cancer

Watching someone you know and love suffer from cancer is tough. People are trying to find a natural substitute for the harmful radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and studies have shown that the black seed oil and its extract (thymoquinone) can substitute them. They even prevent radiation damage, so the fact that it still isn’t moved to human clinical trials is offensive to cancer patients and scandalous. There are many websites online which explain the true potential of nigella sativa. They also recommend ways of using the oil, but from what we’ve seen in the studies, the oil works best if it is taken daily.

Black seed oil is not a drug, so taking more of it is not necessarily better. The recommended dosage for many conditions is 1-3 teaspoons daily. One teaspoon acts as a health booster, while taking more has medicinal value. When it’s combined with honey, the oil can be used to treat various skin conditions. Do your own research, and find the best dose depending on your condition.