We are familiar with cumin (Seeragam) and also fennel seeds (Perunjeeragam), but what is black cumin or nigella seeds? The health benefits of cumin and black cumin are of similar nature as they are of the same family. Once a major ingredient of traditional cooking and oily preparations, the black cumin seeds are not considered in our current practice of cooking. But, the most beneficial medicinal properties hidden particularly in black seeds are the pillars of good health.
The Islamic scriptures proclaim its benefits as a wonder drug in treating any kind of illness except death. Similarly, the Christian scriptures also rave about the disease curing properties of black cumin seeds. The Siddha scriptures too enlist the various illnesses such as fever, headache and inflammation of eyes being cured by the seeds.
In Arab countries, the black cumin seeds are considered as ‘blessed seeds’. The Persian doctor, Avicenna mentioned about the benefits of black cumin seeds in his treaties. From the cemetery of Tut, once the king of Egypt, these seeds were found.
Addition of these seeds are more in the food preparations of Kashmir. Kibbeh, a wheat based exquisite food item prepared in the Middle East Countries is added with these seeds. Various drinks prepared in Ethiopia and the Rye-bread in Russia have been added with these seeds, providing unique taste to those items.
The unique active ingredient, Thymoquinone found in these seeds, thymol, pinene, anatole found in the seeds are considered to be responsible for their medicinal benefits. Beta carotene, iron, calcium, sodium, fats, acids, amino acids are some of their other ingredients adding nutritive values to our body.
A research finding states that it induces the immune protective cells that form the first line of defence when there is an occurrence of infection, thereby protecting the body. The seeds have the capacity to provide immunity even at the time of aging. Another research conducted among the population of high blood pressure the seeds were found to minimize the pressure thereby providing benefits to the population.
They also help in preventing angiogenesis, formation of new blood vessels, in tumour growth, thereby preventing us from cancer, thus confirms one of the oncology studies. The Thymoquinone present in the seeds as active ingredient prevents the damage happening during protein synthesis of the genes. The oil extracted from the seeds are helpful against allergy related sicknesses. The factors that lead to increase in bad cholesterol called, LDL, are controlled by the medicinal properties of the seeds.
It has other names such as Upakunjigai and Aranam. Its seeds have the properties of polyuria, anthelminthic, removing toxic effects, and also gastritis related problems. One of the songs of material medica written by Agathiar mentions about its benefits in treating, dermal diseases, body heat, bulging of stomach, cough, vomiting, and inflammation. Body will feel refreshed if the seeds are added to our cooking regularly as they have the taste of pepper as well as kothumalli, cilantro, adding combined taste to foods being prepared.
If a decoction of Nochi leaves, vitex, boiled in water and added with black cumin seed powder, fever will come down. Pressure in head, inflammation of joints can be relieved by applying the seed paste on the affected part. In order to cure chronic hic ups, the seed powder mixed with butter milk will be helpful. Respiratory congestion can be relieved by consuming the seed powder mixed with honey. In order to utilize the medicinal properties of it, the seed powder can be mixed with breads and chapattis.
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek herbal clinician used black cumin seeds to treat some illnesses related to women. The seed powder can be mixed with rice gruel filtered after boiling the rice, and can be used for the treatment of regularizing menstrual cycle. After parturition, the mother can be given these seeds in order to remove the dirt in the uterus after delivery of a baby. To cure obstructive menstrual cycle, its seed powder can be mixed with keezhanelli, phyllanthus, and palm jaggery and consumed.
One of the records of Siddha medicine states that fertility can be enhanced if the oil extracted from the seeds, applied on betel leaves and consumed. If the oil is applied on a piece of cloth and inhaled, it will relive nose block and running nose. In olden days, the oil is also used to cure respiratory infections.
To deworm, the seed powder can be mixed in hot water and consumed or the powder can be mixed with half spoon of castor oil and consumed. For children a small amount of its powder mixed in honey can be given so as to remove the intestinal worms. It enhances appetite. Its powder mixed with Nerunjil seeds and boiled with water if consumed can remove renal stones.
If the seeds are boiled with puthina, mentha, leaves and kothumalli leaves, along with ginger and also cumin seeds, blood pressure will become normal. To treat diabetic foot sores and irritation can be cured if the seed powder is mixed with fenugreek seeds and naaval seeds, syzygium, and consumed intermittently.
The fragrance of food being prepared can be enhanced if the fried seeds are used along with the preparation. There will be a unique taste added to the foods being prepared if the seed powder is slightly sprinkled on them. In non-vegetarian food items, the seeds can be used similar to pepper. The taste of black cumin seed is uniquely different but at the same time retaining cumin’s taste as well.
Black cumin seeds add beauty to the penta-box of spices!
There is no lack of taste!
Attavarkam: The mix of dry ginger, pepper, long pepper, black cumin seeds, cumin seeds, omam, black salt and asafoetida, an integrated herbal medicine, is good for digestion and also curing arthritis.
Five-seeds: Mix the seeds of black cumin, mustard and cumin, each two spoons, along with a teaspoon of fenugreek, fennel seeds (and do not powder them). Add a quarter spoon of the mixture while frying the oil for cooking. These combined seeds provide a unique fragrance to the food being prepared.
Baharat: Take a spoon of each, black cumin seeds, pepper, fennel seeds, cumin, krambu (S aromaticum) and cardamom and slightly fry them. Keep them separately. Then powder jathikaai (nutmeg) and lavangappattai (cinnamon) together. To it add those spices kept separately and continue grinding them together. To it, add a dry powder of capsicum, half a teaspoon. It will provide the mix with a unique hot taste. Baharat powder is largely used in Arab countries, especially with non-vegetarian food items.
South Indian gravy: Take 3 cups of mushroom, almond half a cup and mix them together and fry in oil. Then add oil to a casserole and add a teaspoon of black cumin seeds and fry them for half a minute. After ensuring the extract of the seeds is mixed with oil, add to it ground onion, garlic and ginger paste. Further, add to it, mango powder, fenugreek powder, sambar masala, cumin and mix the content thoroughly for two minutes. Finally, add to it the mushroom and almond mix and also add a little amount of channa grams and cilantro leaves to the mix, making the whole content into a gravy. It can be consumed after mixing with rice, which makes a delicious feast.
(This article written in Tamil by Dr V Vikaram Kumar MD(S) has been translated in English by V Amalan Stanley)
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