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Known mostly as a food condiment, this little black seed carries a medicinal punch so powerful it is being studied to treat some of the world's most deadly diseases
Nigella sativa (a.k.a. Black seed), a food-condiment and medicine that has long been revered in the Middle East as 'the remedy for everything but death,' has been undergoing something of a scientific revival in the past few years. Whereas in the recent past, folkloric medicine was largely considered a byproduct of pre-scientific 'magical thinking,' a veritable tidal wave of modern biomedical research is lending validation to the 'wisdom of the ancients' and their near universal adoption of food- and spice-based medicine as their default medical system.
You can dive deep into this accumulating literature on the GreenMedInfo.com Research Dashboard, where you will find over 10,000 natural substances and diseases indexed, with 100 different health conditions researched on Black Seed alone.
True to its legendary status, reports on its death-defying health benefits have been trickling in, with this recent case report on black seed inducing the remission of an HIV patient especially compelling: Black Seed Extract 'Cures' HIV Patient Naturally.
Another study -- but this time a human clinical trial -- reveals it might provide a safe, affordable, and effective alternative to pharmaceutical treatment for another potentially fatal viral infection: Hepatitis C.
Published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2013 and entitled, "Effects of Nigella sativa on outcome of hepatitis C in Egypt," researchers evaluated the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of Nigella sativa in patients with hepatitis C infection who were not eligible for the standard treatment of interferon (IFN)-α, due to either debilitating side effects or financial constraints.
Hepatitis C infection is one of the primary risk factors for hepatocellular (liver) cancer. It is believed that as many as 23% of Hepatitis C infection patients will develop liver cancer.1 All too often the conventional standard of care is prohibitively expensive or results in side effects that can lead to severe debilitation. While there is plenty of preliminary research on natural substances which may address both hepatitis C infection and liver cancer, human clinical data is still sorely lacking. The new study, therefore, sheds much needed light and validation on the topic.
The new study excluded the following patients:
"Patients on IFN-α therapy, infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis I virus, hepatocellular carcinoma, other malignancies, major severe illness, or treatment non-compliance."
The study was carried out for three months, with the followering parameters tracked:
"[C]linical parameters, complete blood count, liver function, renal function, plasma glucose, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and polymerase chain reaction, were all assessed at baseline and at the end of the study. Clinical assessment included: hepato and/or splenomegaly, jaundice, palmar erythema, flapping tremors, spider naevi, lower-limb edema, and ascites. N. sativa was administered for three successive months at a dose of (450 mg three times daily). Clinical response and incidence of adverse drug reactions were assessed initially, periodically, and at the end of the study."
The patients were given the following treatment:
"[A]ll patients received one capsule of N. sativa seed oil (450 mg) available as soft gelatin capsules (Baraka; Pharco Pharmaceuticals) three times daily after meals continuously for 3 mo. Patients were followed up every 2 wk throughout the study period for assessing treatment adherence, tolerability and incidence of adverse reactions."
The positive results were reported as follows:
"N. sativa administration significantly improved HCV viral load (380808.7 ± 610937 vs 147028.2 ± 475225.6, P = 0.001) and TAC (1.35 ± 0.5 vs 1.612 ± 0.56, P = 0.001). After N. sativa administration, the following laboratory parameters improved: total protein (7.1 ± 0.7 vs 7.5 ± 0.8, P = 0.001), albumin (3.5 ± 0.87 vs 3.69 ± 0.91, P = 0.008), red blood cell count (4.13 ± 0.9 vs 4.3 ± 0.9, P = 0.001), and platelet count (167.7 ± 91.2 vs 198.5 ± 103, P = 0.004). Fasting blood glucose (104.03 ± 43.42 vs 92.1 ± 31.34, P = 0.001) and postprandial blood glucose (143.67 ± 72.56 vs 112.1 ± 42.9, P = 0.001) were significantly decreased in both diabetic and non-diabetic HCV patients. Patients with lower-limb edema decreased significantly from baseline compared with after treatment [16 (53.30%) vs 7 (23.30%), P = 0.004]. Adverse drug reactions were unremarkable except for a few cases of epigastric pain and hypoglycemia that did not affect patient compliance."
The study concluded:
"In conclusion, N. sativa administration in HCV patients is safe and tolerable and results in a significant improvement in viral load, oxidative stress and laboratory markers. Moreover, the clinical improvement and better glycemic control in patients with diabetes indicate a potential role for N. sativa in improving the clinical outcome of HCV patients. We recommend larger controlled multicenter randomized studies for longer periods for evaluation of the potential beneficial role of N. sativa in HCV patients with and without concurrent IFN therapy."
Clearly, this study reveals just how promising the food-based approach to treating disease really is. Not only is using a food like black seed as medicine safer, but pharmaceutical intervention has serious side effects and can cost 15-20,000 dollars per full course of treatment, making it impossible for many who are suffering to afford.
1. Review Cancer and infection: estimates of the attributable fraction in 1990. Pisani P, Parkin DM, Muñoz N, Ferlay J Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1997 Jun; 6(6):387-400. [PubMed]