As more and more disease agents are becoming more and more resistant to mainstream pharmacological therapies, more and more researchers are looking into traditional herbal medicine for alternative treatments.
Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson reported about the potential anti-cancer properties of the Middle Eastern herbal seed Nigella sativa. The researchers observed that the oil extract from these seeds can kill pancreatic cancer cells as well as inhibit development of pancreatic cancer.
Nigella sativa seeds are also called fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black cumin. They are commonly used in the Middle East as well as South Asia as a spice and a food ingredient. In India, they are also eaten after a meal because they are believed to help in digestion and relieve gases. In many Eastern countries, they are used as herbal medicine to cure a wide range of health problems from asthma to diarrhea.
The Nigella sativa seeds have a long history. It has been mentioned in the Old Testament and in the writings of the ancient Greeks. It was found in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen.
The Jefferson researchers identified the substance responsible for the seed’s cancer protective properties as thymoquinone, which is a major constituent of the oil extract. The substance in question exhibited anti-inflammatory properties that reduced the release of inflammatory mediators in pancreatic cancer cells.
According to lead Jefferson researcher Dr. Hwyda Arafat
“These are very exciting and novel results. Not only patients with chronic pancreatitis could benefit from this, but also several other groups with risk of development or recurrence of pancreatic cancer, such as high-risk family members and post-surgical patients. These potent effects show promise for the herb as a potential preventive and therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer. More importantly, the herb and oil are safe when used moderately, and have been used for thousands of years without reported toxic effects.”
This isn’t the first study to indicate the potential use of black cumin in medicine. A large number studies on Nigella sativa have been performed over the years. A few are summarized below.
- Iranian scientists reported in 2004 that black cumin seed essential oil is a potent analgesic and antiinflammatory drug.
- In 2007, Moroccan scientists reported observing anti-tumor properties of black cumin when tested in mice.
- Indian researchers wrote a comprehensive review last year of the therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa.