Arthritis, characterized by aching joints, swelling and stiffness, is widespread in the United States. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 52 million American adults suffer from this painful condition, with the incidence increasing with age. With the “graying” of the population, the need for natural, non-toxic therapies to ease arthritis has never been greater. Now, it appears that black cumin seed oil is uniquely suited to fill the bill.
Black cumin seed oil, derived from the tiny black seeds of the Nigella sativa shrub, has been used since antiquity for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Black cumin seeds were even found in King Tut’s tomb - presumably to protect his health in the afterlife - and are so prized in the Ayurvedic healing system (where they are known as kalonji) that they are referred to as “seeds of blessing.” Now, this remarkable anti-inflammatory oil is emerging as an MVP of natural arthritis relief.
Good news: Black cumin seed oil modulates the inflammatory response
The two most common types of arthritis - osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – are both triggered by the “I” word: inflammation. While acute inflammation following injury or infection is a normal, necessary part of healing, chronic long-term inflammation can trigger degenerative illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation becomes more common with age – in fact, aging and inflammation are so closely linked that some scientists conflate the two terms into one word: “inflammaging.” Inflammaging can cause inappropriate, excessive, systemic inflammation, while at the same time suppressing “good” immune response – such as the ability to repel pathogens and destroy malignant cells.
The great gift of black cumin seed oil to the body is its ability to rebalance the inflammatory response, allowing for normal inflammation while suppressing excessive inflammatory molecules. And, the proof is in the pudding ...
One placebo-controlled study published in Phytotherapy Research showed that 500 mg of black cumin seed oil twice a day caused significant improvement in swelling, pain and morning stiffness in 42 percent of patients with arthritis. The researchers praised the oil as an “affordable” therapy, and a potential adjunct to conventional treatment.
In another study, a black cumin seed oil constituent known as thymoquinone reduced levels of matrix metalloproteinase, or MMP, in the body. This protein-dissolving enzyme - which can destroy bone and tissue - is truly “bad news” for patients with osteoarthritis – so the discovery that thymoquinone can reduce it is a very promising development indeed.
Can a natural oil help people suffering with allergies or asthma?
The answer may surprise you!
For example, studies have shown that black cumin seed oil also helps alleviate environmental allergies and asthma, which together affect 36 million Americans. Both are autoimmune conditions involving the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IgE antibodies and interleukins. In several studies, researchers found that thymoquinone in black cumin seed oil can suppress excessive levels of these molecules.
In fact, one animal study showed that thymoquinone worked as well as dexamethasone, a powerful steroid drug used to treat arthritis, in reducing numbers of inflammatory cytokines!
Black cumin seed oil also benefits asthma by causing relaxation of the trachea and bronchi, which can go into spasm during an attack.
If you're dealing with heart-related health issues ... there is HOPE
It’s not only arthritis, asthma and allergies that appear to respond to black cumin seed oil. This remarkable nutrient has antioxidant qualities that allow it to lower risk of heart disease.
Finally, black cumin seed oil has been shown to reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.
Black cumin seeds have a distinctive, sweetish but pungent taste that is sometimes compared to the flavor of fennel seeds. You can add them to recipes for breads, dal, pickles and curries – and can also create a refreshingly tangy salad dressing by mixing the oil with extra-virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, honey and ginger.
Black cumin seed oil also has antifungal, antibacterial and hydrating properties that can benefit the skin. A study published in the well-regarded Journal of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery showed that a lotion containing 10 percent black seed oil significantly reduced the incidence of acne.
Natural health experts report that applying a few drops to the skin can ease the scaling and itching of psoriasis and eczema.
A natural healer might recommend supplementing with black cumin seed oil in amounts ranging from one to three tablespoons a day. As always, consult your own integrative doctor before adding black cumin seed oil to your health regimen. And, for maximum benefit, look for cold-pressed black cumin seed oil from a reputable vendor.
Good to know: In addition to black cumin seed oil’s other benefits, it functions as a carminative, meaning it can reduce bothersome gas and bloating after over-indulging at the table. There is also evidence that thymoquinone in black cumin seed oil may help inhibit acid secretions and even prevent ulcers.
Black cumin seeds may be tiny, but their potent antioxidant and therapeutic powers should not be underestimated.
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