Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to southwest Asia. It grows to 20-30 cm tall, with finely divided, linear (but not thread-like) leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually coloured pale blue and white, with 5-10 petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of 3-7 united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. The seed is used as a spice.
According to Zohary and Hopf, archeological evidence about the earliest cultivation of N. sativa "is still scanty", but they report seeds of this condiment have been found in several sites from ancient Egypt including Tutenkhamen's tomb. Although its exact role in Egyptian culture is unknown, we do know that items entombed with a pharaoh were carefully selected to assist him in the after life.
The earliest written reference to N. sativa is found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah contrasts the reaping of nigella with wheat (Isaiah 28: 25, 27). Easton's bible dictionary clarifies that the Hebrew word for nigella, ketsah, refers to without doubt N. sativa. According to Zohary and Hopf, N. sativa "was another traditional condiment of the Old World during classical times; and its black seeds were extensively used to flavour food."
In the Unani Tibb system of medicine, N. sativa has been regarded as a valuable remedy in a number of diseases. Ibn Sina, most famous for his volumes called The Canon of Medicine regarded by many as the most famous book in the history of medicine, refers to nigella as the seed that stimulates the body's energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness and several therapeutic effects on digestive disorders, gynecological diseases and respiratory system have been ascribed to the seeds of N. sativa (Ave-sina). It is also included in the list of natural drugs of 'Tibb e nabwi', or prophetic medicine, according to the tradition "hold onto the use of the black seeds for in it is healing for all diseases except death" (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592).
The seeds have been traditionally used in the Middle East and Southeast Asian countries to treat ailments including Asthma, Bronchitis, Rheumatism and related inflammatory diseases, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, to promote digestion and to fight parasitic infections. Its oil has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and boils and to treat cold symptoms. The many uses of nigella has earned for this ancient herb the Arabic approbation 'Habbatul barakah' meaning the seed of blessing.
 Use in folk medicine
Nigella sativa has been used for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, by people in Asia, Middle East, and Africa for medicinal purposes. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general overall well-being.
In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available. The prophet Muhammad once stated that the black seed can heal every disease-- except death.
Asthma & Bronchial Problems (Far East, Middle East & Malay Peninsula)
Mix a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil in coffee. Taken twice daily. Also rub chest with Black Seed Oil every night and inhale the vapour of Black Seed Oil in hot water.
Backache & other kinds of rheumatism (Middle East & Malay Peninsula)
Mildly heat a small amount of Black Seed Oil and then stroke the rheumatic area intensely. A teaspoon of the oil should also be drunk three times daily.
Mix a cup of whole Black Seeds, a cup of watercress or mustard seeds, half a cup of pomegranate peel, and half a cup of fumitory. Grind the mixture to powder. Take half a teaspoon of the mixture together with a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil daily before breakfast for one month.
Diarrhoea (India & Middle East)
Mix a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil with a cup of yoghurt. Drinking the mixture twice a day until symptoms disappear.
Dry Cough (Middle East & North Africa)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil should be mixed in coffee and taken twice a day. Rub the chest and back with Black Seed Oil.
Flu & Nasal Congestion (General)
Placing three to four drops of Black Seed Oil in each nostril can relieve nasal congestion and head cold distress.
Hair Greying (General)
Massaging the hair with Black Seed Oil regularly may prevent premature hair greying.
Hair Loss (India & Middle East)
Stroke the scalp thoroughly with lemon and leave for about 15 minutes, shampoo, wash and dry hair thoroughly. Then massage Black Seed Oil into the scalp. Drink a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed in tea/coffee.
Hay Fever (Middle East)
One tablespoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with a glass of lemon should be taken twice daily until symptoms disappear.
Rub the forehead and the sides of the face near the ears with Black Seed Oil and bandage the head. Also a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil should be taken before breakfast.
Healthy Being (General)
To maintain good health take a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with one teaspoon of pure honey, twice daily.
Healthy Complexion (General)
Mix a tablespoon of Black Seed Oil with a tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the face with this mixture and leave it for at least one hour. Wash with soap and water.
Mix any drink with a teaspoon of Black Seed Oil and also take two lobes of garlic every morning with breakfast. Rub all the body with Black Seed Oil and expose your body to sun rays for half an hour once every three days. Repeat for one month.
Laziness and Fatigue (Turkey)
One tablespoon of Black Seed Oil with a glass of pure orange juice every morning for at least 10 days.
Memory Improvement (Middle East)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil mixed in 100mg of boiled mint for at least 15 days.
Muscular pains (General)
Massage the area with Black Seed Oil.
Nervous Tension Stress (India)
A teaspoon of Black Seed Oil with a cup of tea/coffee to be taken three times daily.
Sleeping Disorder (General)
A tablespoon of Black Seed Oil mixed with honey in any hot drink in the evening.
Toothache & Gums (General)
First cook Black Seeds with vinegar. Add Black Seed Oil. Rinse the mouth with this formulation to help the gums and relieve toothache.
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