Timeless Black Seed
“There is healing in Black Cumin for all diseases except death.”
With it (water) He produces for you corn, olives, date palms, and grapes and every kind of fruit: Verily in this is a sign for those who give thought. (Al-Qur’an, 16:11)
Narrated by Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) saying “There is healing in Black Cumin for all diseases except death.”
Muslims have been using and promoting the use of the “Black Seed” or “Al-habbat ul Sawda” for hundreds of years, and hundreds of articles have been written about it. Black seed has also been in use worldwide for over 3000 years. However, many Muslims do not realize that black seed is not only a prophetic herb, but it also holds a unique place in the medicine of the Prophet
Black seed is mentioned along with many other natural cures in the Hadeeth (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) and in the Qur’an. However, many herbs and natural cures in the Hadeeth and Qur’an are simply “mentioned” briefly, leaving the bulk of the descriptive narrative up to later Islamic scholars such as Ibn Sina or Ibn Rushd.
Black seed is one of the few that is said to “cure all diseases except death.” It is unique in that it was not used profusely before the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made its use popular, and it is one of the few herbs that is described in great detail in the Hadeeth with recipes and instructions on usage actually being found in the Hadeeth itself. Last, but not least, black seed has been studied by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Although there were more than 400 herbs in use before the Prophet Muhammad and recorded in the herbals of Galen and Hippocrates, black seed was not one of the most popular remedies of the time. Because of the way Islam has spread, the usage and popularity of black seed is widely known as a “remedy of the Prophet”. In fact, a large part of this herbal preparation’s popularity is based on the teachings of the Prophet. The Prophet not only mentioned the usefulness of black seed in his teachings but also gave specific instructions on how to prepare the seed for medical use.
“The Prophet’s Medicine” is a collection of Hadeeth that instruct Muslims on the subject of sickness or medical treatment. Because black seed is mentioned so prominently in these writings, all eminent and famous Hakims of the past and present have written on the medicinal benefits and healing properties of “kalonji.” In fact, since it was made popular in the Seventh Century, there has not been a period in Muslim history when the use of it was ever stopped. At all times the seed was utilized with the belief and faith that benefits will be derived from practicing the Holy Prophet’s Sunnah (Hana, 2001).
The black seed (Nigella sativa) is an example of a prophetic remedy that has been studied extensively by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Nigella sativa has been used since antiquity by Asian herbalists and pharmacists and was used by the Romans for culinary purposes. The name Nigella comes from the Latin word nigellus, meaning black. Nigella sativa is small matte black grains with a rough surface and an oily white interior, similar to onion seeds. The seeds have little bouquets, though when rubbed, their aroma resembles oregano. They have a slightly bitter, peppery flavor and a crunchy texture. The seeds may be used whole or ground and are usually fried or roasted before use (they are easily crushed in a mortar).
However, although the seeds have been used for thousands of years in the kitchen, they have also been useful in the pharmacy. Ahmad Akhtar studied the effects of the black seed on nematode worm infections in children (Akhtar, 1999). The black seeds contain over 100 valuable components. Black seed is also a significant source of fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals. The seeds are rich in sterols, especially beta-sitosterol, which is known to have anti-carcinogenic activity (Tierra). The seeds are also known to repel certain insects and can be used in the same way as mothballs.
Black seed is also used in India as a spice and condiment and occasionally in Europe as both a pepper substitute and a spice. It is widely used in Indian cuisine, particularly in mildly braised lamb dishes such as korma. It is also added to vegetables and dhal dishes as well as to chutneys. The seeds are sprinkled on naan (bread) before baking and to some Garam Masala and Panch Phoran mixtures.
The Indians also use black seed medicinally as a carminative and stimulant, and to treat indigestion and bowel complaints. It is also used to induce post-uterine contractions and promote lactation.
However, despite the cure-all benefits of black seed, it must still be used with wisdom and caution. “The seed yields a volatile oil containing melanthin, nigellone, damascene, and tannin. Melanthin is toxic in large dosages and nigellone is paralytic, so the spice must be used in moderation (the epicenter).