Year : 2020 Month : July Volume : 9 Issue : 30 Page : 2151-2157

The Many Therapeutic Applications of Nigella sativa - A Review of Literature.

Uzma Iqbal Belgaumi1, Satish Patil2, Jotsna Mohanlal Gandhi3, Amol Somnath Shete4

1Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, School of Dental Sciences, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to Be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India. 2Department of Microbiology, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to Be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India. 3Department of Pharmacy, Krishna Institute of Pharmacy, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to Be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India. 4Department of Pharmacy, Krishna Institute of Pharmacy, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to Be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India.


Associate Professor, Department of Oral Pathology & Microbiology, School of Dental Sciences, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to Be University, Karad, Maharashtra, India.
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Medicinal plants have been used since ancient times as therapeutic agents for treatment of various diseases and ailments. Description of medicinal uses of plants are found abundantly in ancient papyrus writings from various civilizations. Indigenous cultures even today use herbs in their healing rituals. Medicinal plants are considered as rich sources of phytochemical ingredients which play a vital role for the development of new drugs.

Nigella sativa (N. sativa) is commonly known as Black seed or Kalongi, sometimes also referred to as miracle herb has been studied extensively for its various medicinal benefits. Apart from being used as a spice it is also used in various traditional systems of medicine including Ayurveda due to its healing properties in the treatment of various diseases. The seeds of Nigella sativa and their oil have been widely used for centuries in the treatment of various ailments throughout the world. And it is an important drug in the Indian traditional system of medicine like Unani and Ayurveda. It has been extensively studied for its biological activities and therapeutic potential and has been shown to possess wide spectrum of activities like diuretic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, analgesic, antiinflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, renal protective and antioxidant properties. Most of the therapeutic properties of this plant are due to the presence of thymoquinone (TQ) which is a major active chemical component of the essential oil.

Research into its therapeutic potential has highlighted its use due to its efficacy as an antioxidant, for glycaemic control, anticancer, antimicrobial and for its various other potential health benefits. Experimental studies have reported that Nigella sativa Oil and Nigella sativa extracts have anti-microbial activity against a wide range of microbes, especially multiple-antibiotic resistant bacteria. The current article tries to present a comprehensive and yet short review of this miraculous herb and its various applications in medicine especially in the backdrop of emerging antibiotic resistant superbugs.




Herbal Medicine, Medicinal Herbs, Nigella sativa, Black Cumin, Kalonji


Ancient papyrus writings as early as 3000 BC, describe medicinal uses of plants. Indigenous cultures have used herbs in their healing rituals. On the other hand, developed traditional medical systems like Siddha, Ayurveda, Unani, and Traditional Chinese Medicine use herbal therapies successfully.1

About two centuries ago, our medicinal practices were largely dominated by plant-based medicines. But, the medicinal use of herbs went into a rapid decline in the West since the introduction of more predictable synthetic drugs with their fast effects and easy availability.2

A German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's once said, "What does not kill me makes me stronger." Today we all are aware of problems that are related to the development of antibiotic resistance, the emergence of superbugs and the grave implications this can have on our existence today and in the future. Tom Frieden has said that “It is the end of the road for antibiotics unless we act urgently.” Herbal medicines have been used since time immemorial for various advantages that they possess but the problem of antibiotic resistance has added a great deal of interest in the research of these compounds. They can provide a potential alternative to this growing problem.

Ethnopharmacology or Herbal medicine or Phytomedicine- Farnsworth and Bingel, 1977 in their book claimed that plant-based drugs have contributed revolutionarily to modern therapeutics. Like, vinblastine from the Catharanthus rosesus is successfully used in treating Hodgkins, choriocarcinoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, leukemia in children, testicular, and neck cancer.3

Miller, 1998 said that with the advancements of scientific methods, the herbal medicines could find place in research and documented for effective use as drugs. Furthermore, in the 1960s, with concerns over the toxic and iatrogenic effects of conventional medicine resulted in desire for safer and economically cheaper drugs to promote “natural health.” Thus, afterwards, there has been a shift in universal trend from synthetic to herbal medicines. Moreover, herbal medicine received a worldwide boost when the WHO exhilarated developing countries to use traditional plant medicine to accomplish needs unmet by modern systems.4

Vickers and Zollman, in 1999 quoted that it has been reported that during 1950-70 about 100 new drugs based on plants were introduced in the US pharmaceutical industry including deserpidine, rescinnamine, reserpine, vinblastine, and vincristine.5

Leslie, in 2000 stated that Medicinal plants play a vital role for the development of new drugs. According to WHO, nearly 25% of the modern medicines have been derived from plants being used in traditional medicine. Many others are synthetic analogs fabricated on model compounds isolated from plants. And now WHO has recognized herbal medicine as a crucial component of primary health care.6

Fabricant and Farnsworth, 2001 in their article state that WHO has reported that 4 billion people (80% of the world’s population) use herbal medicines for one or other aspect of primary health care.7

Maurya et al., 2008 claimed that the use of such compounds has reduced the risk of many human diseases including cardiovascular diseases, hepatorenal diseases, diabetes, cancers, and neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, plants are bestowed with several other pharmacological characters such as antioxidant, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic for human use. Especially, alkaloids reported to possess an antispasmodic, antimalarial, analgesic, and diuretic activities; terpenoids are known for their antiviral, anthelmintic, antibacterial, anticancer, antimalarial, and antiinflammatory properties; glycosides are reported for antifungal and antibacterial properties; phenols and flavonoids have an antioxidant, antiallergic, and antibacterial also stated that properties; and saponins have shown antiinflammatory and antiviral activities.8

Martinez et al., 2008 the pharmacological effects of plants are due to the presence of metabolites, which are organic compounds and classified into primary and secondary metabolites. Primary metabolites such as glucose, starch, polysaccharide, protein, lipids, and nucleic acids are beneficial for growth and development of the human body. More importantly plants also produce secondary metabolites including alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, terpenoids, steroids, glycosides, tannins, volatile oils, etc. to protect plants against microbial infections or invasions by pests. The therapeutic efficacy of plants is because of these secondary metabolites and these are actually termed as “phytocompounds.” Which are pharmacologically active ingredients and are exploited as drugs because of their therapeutic properties.9

WHO, 2008 report states that Ethnopharmacology or Herbal medicine or Phytomedicine is the use of plants for medicinal and therapeutic purpose for curing of diseases and improve human health. World Health Organization (WHO) has defined herbal medicines as finished labelled medicinal product that contain an active ingredient, aerial, or underground parts of the plant or other plant material or combinations.10

Evidenced-based research conducted in herbal medicine over the years has resulted in a paradigm shift toward therapeutic standardization of herbal drugs. Their efficacies have been supported and confirmed through many in vitro and in vivo clinical trials.



The seeds of Nigella sativa and their oil have been widely used in Unani and Ayurveda. It along with its active constituent thymoquinone possesses a wide spectrum of activities like diuretic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anticancer, immunomodulatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, analgesic, antiinflammatory, spasmolytic, bronchodilator, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, renal protective and antioxidant properties. Its potent antimicrobial properties especially can be utilized in various infections since herbal medicinal drugs offer better prospects in the backdrop of emerging antibiotic resistance.







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How to cite this article

Belgaumi UI, Patil S, Gandhi JM, et al. The many therapeutic applications of Nigella sativa- a review of literature. J. Evolution Med. Dent. Sci. 2020;9(30):2151-2157, DOI: 10.14260/jemds/2020/469

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