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Can Nigella Sativa Help Treat Arthritis?

Nigella's oil (also known as black cumin oil) contains thymoquinone that has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies highlight that the oil, when administered orally in the capsule form, can help reduce the number of swollen joints and the duration of morning stiffness in arthritis patients. However, diabetics and pregnant women should be careful with their dosage.

Nigella sativa, Latin for “black cumin” or “black seed,” is an annual herb with a lifecycle of a year. Called Habbatul barakah (the seed of blessing in Arabic), Nigella has a mighty reputation in various systems of traditional medicine and in different Asian cuisines. The seeds and seed oil of this “miracle herb” even get a mention in the Quran and the Bible. In Ayurveda, too, the seeds of Nigella sativa are used as an astringent, stimulant, diuretic, emmenagogue, and antiparasitic, and to cure jaundice, dyspepsia, intermittent fever, piles, and skin diseases.1

Can This Miracle Herb Cure Arthritis?

Nigella’s therapeutic properties are largely due to the presence of thymoquinone, a major bioactive component of its essential oil.2 Thymoquinone is proven to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and liver-protecting properties.3

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is one of the most disabling illnesses of today’s time, affecting over a million Americans.4 As physicians and rheumatologists try to expand their understanding of this complex autoimmune disease, researchers are also looking at natural cures. And Nigella sativa, endowed with so many curative properties, seems poised to deliver.

One placebo-controlled study examined the effectiveness of Nigella sativa oil in managing RA. Among the experimental group comprising 40 women, the disease activity score DAS-28, a measure of RA activity, significantly reduced after they were given capsules with black cumin oil for a month. There was also improvement in the number of swollen joints and in the duration of morning stiffness. This study recommended that supplementing Nigella with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) could be an affordable adjuvant biological therapy.5

How does Nigella work? There is ample evidence that T lymphocytes – a type of white blood cells produced by the thymus gland in the neck – play a major role in RA.6 Studies show that black cumin oil has the potential to treat RA by modulating the action of T lymphocytes.7

While more than one study has shown the effectiveness of black cumin seeds (or its extracts) in treating the symptoms of arthritis,8 more in-depth studies will help prove the complete efficacy of its properties.


Be really careful when you take either thymoquinone or the seed extract . Thymoquinone has been found to have cytotoxic effects (leading to cell death) and can cause damage to the DNA in liver cells if not used correctly.9 Based on animal studies, the toxicity for humans has been determined to be approximately 0.28 mg/lb/day for thymoquinone extract10 and 0.023 mL/lb/day for the seed extract.11

Also, due to its hypoglycemic properties, the seed extract should be used with caution by pregnant women and children.12 Dosage of below 40mg/lb is considered safe in children.13 However, care must be taken to ensure that weight-adapted doses are administered and only after meals.

Diabetic patients are also advised to consult their physicians before taking black cumin seed extract.14

References   [ + ]

1. Paarakh, Padmaa M. “Nigella sativa Linn.–A comprehensive review.” Indian J Nat Prod Resour 1, no. 4 (2010): 409-29.
2. Ahmad, Aftab, Asif Husain, Mohd Mujeeb, Shah Alam Khan, Abul Kalam Najmi, Nasir Ali Siddique, Zoheir A. Damanhouri, and Firoz Anwar. “A review on therapeutic potential of Nigella sativa: A miracle herb.” Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine 3, no. 5 (2013): 337-352.
3. Khader, Mohannad, and Peter M. Eckl. “Thymoquinone: an emerging natural drug with a wide range of medical applications.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 17, no. 12 (2014): 950.
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
5, 7. Gheita, Tamer A., and Sanaa A. Kenawy. “Effectiveness of Nigella sativa oil in the management of rheumatoid arthritis patients: a placebo controlled study.” Phytotherapy Research 26, no. 8 (2012): 1246-1248.
6. Cope, A. P., H. Schulze-Koops, and M. Aringer. “The central role of T cells in rheumatoid arthritis.” Clinical and experimental rheumatology 25, no. 5 (2007): S4.
8. Umar, Sadiq, Jamil Zargan, Khalid Umar, Sayeed Ahmad, Chandra Kant Katiyar, and Haider A. Khan. “Modulation of the oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokine response by thymoquinone in the collagen induced arthritis in Wistar rats.” Chemico-biological interactions 197, no. 1 (2012): 40-46.
9. Khader, M., N. Bresgen, and P. M. Eckl. “In vitro toxicological properties of thymoquinone.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 47, no. 1 (2009): 129-133.
10. Vaillancourt, France, Patrick Silva, Qin Shi, Hassan Fahmi, Julio C. Fernandes, and Mohamed Benderdour. “Elucidation of molecular mechanisms underlying the protective effects of thymoquinone against rheumatoid arthritis.” Journal of cellular biochemistry 112, no. 1 (2011): 107-117.
11. N. Valizadeh, H. R. Zakeri, A. Shafiee, et al., “The effect of Nigella sativa extract on biochemical bone markers in osteopenic postmenopausal women,” Iranian Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 570–580, 2009.
12. Altan, Mehmet Fatih, Mehmet Kanter, Senayi Donmez, Murat Emre Kartal, and Sadik Buyukbas. “Combination therapy of Nigella sativa and human parathyroid hormone on bone mass, biomechanical behavior and structure in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.” Acta histochemica 109, no. 4 (2007): 304-314.
13. Kalus, Ulrich, Axel Pruss, Jaromir Bystron, Moric Jurecka, Alice Smekalova, Johannes Josef Lichius, and Holger Kiesewetter. “Effect of Nigella sativa (black seed) on subjective feeling in patients with allergic diseases.”Phytotherapy Research 17, no. 10 (2003): 1209-1214.
14. Shuid, Ahmad Nazrun, Norazlina Mohamed, Isa Naina Mohamed, Faizah Othman, Farihah Suhaimi, Elvy Suhana Mohd Ramli, Norliza Muhammad, and Ima Nirwana Soelaiman. “Nigella sativa: A potential antiosteoporotic agent.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012 (2012).

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.