An annual herbaceous plant, black seed (Nigella sativa) is believed to be indigenous to the Mediterranean region but has been cultivated into other parts of the world including Saudi Arabia, northern Africa and parts of Asia.
Tiny and hairy, being no more than 3mm in length, black seed originates from the common fennel flower plant (Nigella sativa) of the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.
The plant has finely divided foliage and pale bluish purple or white flowers. The flowers grow terminally on its branches while the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs, on either side of the stem. Its lower leaves are small and petiole, and the upper leaves are long (6-l0 cm). The stalk of the plant reaches a height of twelve to eighteen inches as its fruit, the black seed, matures.
Nigella sativa reproduces with itself and forms a fruit capsule which consists of many white trigonal seeds. Once the fruit capsule has matured, it opens up and the seeds contained within are exposed to the air, becoming black in color (black seeds).
Nigella sativa and its black seed are known by other names, varying between places. Some call it black caraway, others call it black cumin (Kalonji), or even coriander seeds. In English, the Nigella sativa plant is commonly referred to as “Love in a Mist”. Nevertheless, this is Nigella sativa, which has been known and used from ancient times and is also known in Persian as Shonaiz.
The most pertinent point to be made about black seed is that it should be regarded as part of an overall holistic approach to health and ideally should be incorporated into one’s everyday lifestyle. In this way, the many nutritional and healing properties contained in the seed can help build the body’s immune system over time, supplying it with the optimum resources it needs to help prevent and fight illness.
HOW TO CULTIVATE ?
Potting: These plants flourish in regular, well cultivated garden soil. They need to be set 4 to 5 inches apart to produce healthy, long-lasting flowers. Nigellas don’t need any support. To harvest Black Cumin, pick each pod as it turns yellow. Dry in batches in the sun. Use a catch cloth or bag to catch the seeds as the pods split, then strain the seeds to remove chaff. Black cumin has a strong flavor, resembling fennel. Grind the seeds and use as you would pepper in seasoning, but test first.
Propagation: Seeds may be sown outside in the spring. Don’t sow them too thickly, however, because they will not flourish if overcrowded. They will need to be thinned 4 to 5 inches apart. These plants can easily be cultivated in a greenhouse that has a night temperature of 45 to 50 degrees. They may be sown from September to January to provide flowers from March to June. They may be grown in 5-inch pots or in deep flats or benches. These should be filled with a light, fertile, well drained soil. When transplanting seedlings, make sure not to disturb their roots for they won’t recover very easily. Take care in watering; too much will cause failure and too little will cause their leaves to yellow. Plants that have filled their pots up with roots should be given a dilute liquid fertilizer weekly.
USES OF BLACK SEED
1. Black seed as a daily health supplement
Most medicines work best when given a chance to run their full course, and this too, is the case with black cumin seed. In cognizance of its substantial nutritional components, as well as its specific medicinal properties, the body’s ability to maintain health and promote healing of a lasting nature is best increased through regular use of black seed.
2. Black seed as an energy source
Ibn Sina (980-1037), in describing the black seed as that which “stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue or disspiritedness,” still holds true for Tibb (Islamic Medicine) health practitioners today. The rich nutritional value contained in black seed as outlined by scientific analysis of black cumin seed, also points to it as a great source of energy.
From the Tibb health perspective, the black cuminseed has an ability to maintain and restore body heat. Our Western diet, predominantly made up of cold foods — ice in our drinks, yogurt, pizza, cheese — all deplete the innate heat our body requires in order to optimally function. Tibb holds the view that a reduced metabolic rate (innate heat) is the cause of most illnesses. The body, in losing energy, also loses its ability to fight off toxins, resulting in a greater chance of contracting illness.
3. Black seed and other medication
Black seed may be used in conjunction with conventional or other forms of natural medicine. It is not recommended that black cumin seed be used exclusively in the treatment of serious medical complaints which may require more immediate action. For example, conditions like bronchitis sometimes require conventional antibiotics to prevent the condition from becoming more severe. However, black cumin seed may be used as a therapeutic aid together with this and other forms of treatment to help counteract any side effects experienced from the use of antibiotics or other potent, chemically based medicines.
4. Pregnancy and lactation
The black seed is not recommended during pregnancy, however during lactation It is an excellent form of added nutrition for both mother and the growing child while its immune system boosting properties serve as a natural, safe way to build resistance against illness. In addition, as studies have shown, black seed helps increase milk production during breastfeeding.
Initial trials have shown that black seed may have an ability to increase the male sperm count.
5. Babies and toddlers
In addition to its many nutritional components, black cumin seed contains carotene, which is essential for infant growth. During the toddler years, black seed provides children with all the energy they require for this active stage of life. Regular usage of black seed, which increases its immune system strengthening effect on the body, will decrease the length and severity of natural childhood illnesses, particularly during winter when children are most susceptible to contracting colds and flu.
6. Black seed for the elderly person
Which its rich nutritional, energy-giving value, in combination with immune system strengthening properties, black seed is an ideal health supplement for the elderly person.