In English, Nigella sativa seed is variously called Black cumin, fennel flower, nutmeg flower, Roman coriander, blackseed, black caraway, or black onion seed. Other names used, sometimes misleadingly, are onion seed and black sesame, both of which are similar-looking but unrelated. The seeds are frequently referred to as black cumin (as in Bengali কালো জিরা kalo jira), but this is also used for a different spice, Bunium persicum. The scientific name is a derivative of Latin niger “black”. An older English name gith is now used for the corncockle. In English-speaking countries with large immigrant populations, it is also variously known as kalonji (Hindi कलौंजी kalauṃjī or कलोंजी kaloṃjī), kezah Hebrew קצח), chernushka (Russian), çörek otu (Turkish), habbat albarakah (Arabic حبه البركة ḥabbatu l-barakah “seed of blessing”) or siyah daneh (Persian سیاهدانه siyâh dâne)or كلونجى in urdu.
A commercial pack of kalonji
This potpourri of vernacular names for this plant reflects that its widespread use as a spice is relatively new in the English speaking world, and largely associated with immigrants from areas where it is well known. Increasing use is likely to result in one of the names winning out.Nigella sativa has a pungent bitter taste and a faint smell of strawberries. It is used primarily in candies and liquors. The variety of naan bread called Peshawari naan is as a rule topped with kalonji seeds. In herbal medicine, Nigella sativa has anti-hypertensive, carminative, and anthelminthic properties. They are eaten by elephants to aid digestion.
Narrated Khalid bin Sa’d:We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Atiq came to visit him and said to us, “Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for ‘Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ ‘Aisha said, ‘What is As-Sam?’ He said, ‘Death.’ ” (Bukhari)
Maintains A Healthy Immune System
For over 3000 years, Black Seed has been revered by people from cultures around the world for its amazing power to heal and strengthen the body.
Also known as the “Blessed Seed”, Black Seed has been recommended in religious scriptures and was well-known in Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek medicine. It is an important herb in Ayurvedic and Middle Eastern treatments. Traditional uses for Black Seed are numerous and range from digestive complaints and skin problems to asthma and infertility.
In the last few decades, Black Seed has been the focus of numerous scientific and medical studies. The results have far surpassed expectations. Black Seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. An array of over 100 active components act in a unique synergy to strengthen and enhance the body, primarily through the immune system but also through the digestive, circulatory, respiratory and hormonal systems as well.
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Kalonji refers to the small black seeds of the Love-in-a-Mist plant. Sometimes they are confused with “onion” seeds or black cumin or caraway. The seeds are deep black and sharp-cornered.
Kalonji seeds are reported to be beneficial for the respiratory system. They have also been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Crushed kalonji has an aroma somewhat like oregano. They are normally used whole, mainly in breads. The seeds taste pleasantly bitter and slightly pungent.
Kalonji seeds are generally sautéed in Ghee or dry-roasted to release the aroma and flavor and then added to vegetable dishes.
Cultivation of black seed has been traced back more than 3,000 years to the kingdom of the Assyrians and ancient Egyptians. A bottle of black cumin oil was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, perhaps to protect the ruler in the afterlife.
Black cumin was a vital ingredient in many Egyptian dishes. Physicians of the pharaohs used the seeds as a digestive aid after opulent feasts and as a remedy for colds, headaches, toothaches, infections, inflammatory disorders and allergies. Black seed oil has been a beauty secret of women since ancient times. Queen Nefertiti, praised for her exquisite complexion, was an avid user of black seed oil.
Pliny the Elder crushed black seeds, mixed them with vinegar and honey, and applied the paste to snake bites and scorpion stings.
Black cumin and its oil have been used to purge parasites and worms, detoxify, ameliorate amoebic dysentery, shigellosis, abscesses, old tumors, ulcers of the mouth and rhinitis. Recent research confirms these uses for humans, dogs, cats and horses.
More than 200 university studies conducted since 1959 attest to the effectiveness of traditional uses of black seed. The essential oil of N. sativa seeds is antimicrobial and successful in the ratification of intestinal worms. In vitro studies in Jordan and the
United States have shown its volatile oil to be anti-leukemic. Other studies suggest this same active ingredient may serve as an immune-system booster and is proven effective in treating asthma and whooping cough.
Black seed is a complex substance of more than 100 compounds, some of which have not yet been identified or studied. A combination of fatty acids, volatile oils and trace elements are believed to contribute to its effectiveness. As for all the benefits packed into this tiny seed waiting to be discovered, ongoing research will have to judge.