Also known as black cumin or by its scientific name Nigella sativa, black seeds are an interesting type of spice that is often used for its health potential. In most cases, the seeds are used in the form of black seed oil, which is different than many other spices.
In particular, using black seed oil for allergies is a common approach – partly because the oil has antihistamine properties. That action suggests that black seed oil can decrease some of the key symptoms of allergies, such as sneezing and watery eyes.
The idea isn’t so surprising either. Instead, the oil is already associated with a range of health benefits – and is sometimes even called a ‘cure all’ or a panacea. At the same time, many other herbs and spices have medicinal value, such as cinnamon, ginger, garlic and turmeric.
With that in mind, we’re looking at the evidence behind black seed oil and allergies – along with whether the oil is likely to help you.
As a general rule, herbs and spices never receive the same scientific attention that drugs and medications do. For one thing, there are simply so many of them out there and each option can potentially affect health in many different ways.
At the same time, pharmaceutical companies typically cannot make much money from herbal supplements. So, natural options like black seed oil often get pushed to the side.
But, even with that issue, there is surprisingly strong evidence linking black seed oil to allergy prevention.
Black Seed Oil and Allergies
For example, one robust experimental study found that supplementing with black seed oil for 30 days was able to lower all the subjective indications of allergies. This includes outcomes like sneezing, congestion, nasal itching and a runny nose (1). In contrast, those effects weren’t seen with the placebo.
Interestingly, the study didn’t find biochemical changes. However, the authors suspected that the outcome was the result of the black seed oil decreasing inflammation.
A second study also found that the oil significantly helped to reduce the same collection of symptoms (2).
Of those two studies, the first just concentrated on allergic rhinitis, while the second also included asthma and eczema, which are both considered allergic diseases as well. The ability of black seed oil to affect multiple types of allergies suggests that the effect is potent and may be relevant to many people.
Black Seed Oil and Asthma
A third study also looked at the impacts of black seeds, this time in the form of a powder and for asthmatic patients (3).
The outcomes were similar for that study as well, with the black seed powder being able to reduce subjective symptoms (4). The powder also promoted better pulmonary outcomes and meant that participants needed less of their normal medication.
Another study had the same general conclusions for patients with asthma, although black seed oil was used in this case, rather than the powder (5). Indeed, the ability to improve respiratory symptoms has also been found in other situations, including one study that looked at the supplement for treating chemical war victims (6).
In a recent animal study using black seed oil extract it was discovered to be effective as an anti-inflammatory agent on mast cells by inhibition of histamine release. Based on the outcomes of the study the researchers stated that Nigella sativa could be considered for the prevention and treatment of asthma.
Black Seed Oil with Other Treatments
Research also indicates that black seed oil may work well in combination with other treatments.
In particular, one study involved the use of immunotherapy along with the Nigella sativa seeds themselves (not the oil). With that study, the seeds helped to significantly reduce symptoms and also improved the effectiveness of the immunotherapy, while the placebo did not.
Research is still ongoing into the field and the mechanisms behind all of the outcomes are not known. However, theories suggest that the biological activity is strongly connected to the compound thymoquinone. Additionally, the seeds have anti-inflammatory properties, which may promote some of the observed effects (7).
All of these studies are consistent with one another, supporting the same general conclusions. Additionally, the impact on allergy symptoms is much higher than you would typically see with a herbal supplement.
That outcome is a key reason why black seed oil has become so popular.
How to Use Black Seed Oil for Allergies
Most of the research into Nigella sativa focused on using the oil form and this is the most practical approach as well.
A common way to use the oil is to simply take up to a teaspoon at a time orally twice per day. You can do this whenever you are starting to get allergy symptoms and it should reduce them promptly. The site Paleo Hacks offers some insight into the topic as well.
The outcomes of the research studies showed that reduction in symptoms can be significant. However, be aware that the oil is unlikely to remove all of your symptoms.
Still, it is well worth taking, especially as there are no significant side effects.
As with any type of oil or supplement, it’s important to look for quality brands. This includes ones that are:
- Don’t contain additives
- Are produced through cold pressing
One interesting brand is the option below:
It is marketed as black cumin seed oil but that’s simply another name. The oil itself has the advantage of being USDA certified organic, fresh pressed and sealed in light-protective glass bottles.
A second option is Kiva Black Seed Oil. This is a more well-known example and has most of the same features. However, the bottle lets in more light, which could mean that the oil goes rancid faster.
If taking the oil directly doesn’t appeal to you, finding a capsule form is another option. There are multiple soft gel versions that simply contain the oil and little more. The product below is one such choice.
In many ways, using the oil itself rather than the supplements is better for health, especially as you can see exactly what you’re consuming. However, supplements are more relevant in some situations, especially if you don’t like the taste or the sensation of taking oil directly.
Generally speaking, black seed oil appears to be safe – especially as it has been used in many studies without significant side effects. Likewise, research indicates that the active component of black seed oil (the thymoquinone) is safe in animals at extremely high doses (8).
Nevertheless, in a few cases, black seed oil has caused contact dermatitis (a type of skin rash) when used directly on the skin (9). That outcome does not occur frequently and isn’t likely to be significant if you are taking the oil orally.
At the end of the day, black seed oil has considerable potential and can noticeably impact the symptoms of allergies. If nothing else, the oil is more natural than allergy medications and is a safe alternative.
The oil is also powerful in many other ways. For example, Wellness Mama talks about various black seed oil benefits in her post on the topic
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