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Nigella sativa - L.                
Common Name Black Cumin
Family Ranunculaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Waste places, arable land and waysides[9].
Range N. Africa to Ethiopia and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

The common name used, Black cumin, is also used for the seeds of Bunium persicum which are a similar shape, but their color is darker brown. When crushed Bunium persicum seeds are highly aromatic, almost piney and less earthy than Nigella seeds. The flavor of Bunium persicum is similarly pine-like, astringent, and bitter.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Nigella sativa is a ANNUAL growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in).
It is not frost tender. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Nigella sativa Black Cumin

Nigella sativa Black Cumin
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Condiment;  Oil.

Seed - raw or cooked. Normally used as a flavouring on bread, cakes, curries, pickles etc[4, 9, 74, 100, 183]. There is a belief that eating the seed will make a woman's breasts plumper[245]. The seed is a very popular spice from the Mediterranean to India. It has a pungent flavour according to one report[46] whilst another says that it has a spicy fruity taste[238] and a third that the scent is somewhat like nutmeg[245]. The immature seed is bitter, but when fully ripe it is aromatic[9]. It is also used as a pepper substitute[4].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anthelmintic;  Carminative;  Diaphoretic;  Digestive;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Galactogogue;  Parasiticide;  Stimulant.

Like many aromatic culinary herbs, the seeds of black cumin are beneficial for the digestive system, soothing stomach pains and spasms and easing wind, bloating and colic[254]. The ripe seed is anthelmintic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, laxative and stimulant[4, 9, 46, 238, 240]. An infusion is used in the treatment of digestive and menstrual disorders, insufficient lactation and bronchial complaints[9, 238]. The seeds are much used in India to increase the flow of milk in nursing mothers and they can also be used to treat intestinal worms, especially in children[254]. Externally, the seed is ground into a powder, mixed with sesame oil and used to treat abscesses, haemorrhoids and orchitis[238, 240]. The powdered seed has been used to remove lice from the hair[245].
Other Uses
Oil;  Parasiticide;  Repellent.

The aromatic seed contains about 1.5% essential oil[240]. It is placed amongst clothes etc to repel moths[4]. The seeds can also be put in muslin bags and hung near a fire when they will fill the room with their delicious scent[245]. They need to be changed about every three weeks[245]. The seed contains 35% of a fatty oil[74, 240].
Cultivation details                                         
Easily grown in any good garden soil, preferring a sunny position[1, 108]. Prefers a light soil in a warm position[37]. This species is often cultivated, especially in western Asia and India, for its edible seed[2]. The seed is aromatic with a nutmeg scent[245]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54].
Seed - sow spring or early autumn in situ[1]. The autumn sowing might not be successful in harsh winters. Plants can be transplanted if necessary[200].
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Nigella arvensisWild Fennel20
Nigella damascenaLove-In-A-Mist, Devil in the bush31
Nigella orientalisYellow Fennel Flower20
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant.
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[54]Hatfield. A. W. How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Interesting reading.
[74]Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR.
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[108]International Bee Research Association. Garden Plants Valuable to Bees.
The title says it all.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Mr. Ahmad Ibn Mader Sun Sep 26 18:01:03 2004
A very Good Plant, I'm going to start Growing it next year in my garden... The health benifits are really good.
Elizabeth H.
wasim khan Sat Nov 10 2007
this page is excellent. i m a registered pharmacist from india . i m wishing for research work on nigella sativa . so pls kindly help me and send valuable imformation regading anticancer & antidiebetic activities. Thanking u.
Elizabeth H.
Mon Jan 8 2007

Biothemen Information on Nigella sativa in German language

Elizabeth H.
Hussien Ahmed Mon Apr 2 2007

science publications In Vivo Anti-malarial Tests of Nigella sativa (Black Seed) Different Extracts

Elizabeth H.
zeeshan ali Fri Dec 7 2007
this page extremely helpful to me, im a scientist doing work on the weed control in nigella sativa.l if anyone have information regarding this experiments plz send to me at zeeshan1497@yahoo.com
Elizabeth H.
frann leach Wed Jul 16 2008
Is anyone aware of any problems with this herb used medicinally by pregnant women?
Elizabeth H.
Sean Mon Aug 18 2008
Very good! I am looking for traditional formulations that utilize this herb, whether they be Ayurvedic, Eurpean, African, Chinese, Islamic, anything. What are the traditional accompanying herbs used in conjunction with this one? Please contact me at merkaba1618@yahoo.com if you have any leads.
Elizabeth H.
Dr. Hasmukh Merja Thu Aug 21 2008
Excellent medicinal use. I tried a few drops mixed in my morning tea and got rid of SI joint pain in two weeks. Seems that it helps in pain and inflamation too.
Elizabeth H.
amreen iqbal Mon Dec 15 2008
Amreen iqbal mon 15 dec 2008 this page is excellent. i m a research scholar from india . i m wishing for research work on nigella sativa . so pls kindly help me and send valuable imformation regading anticancer & antimicrobial activities. Thanking u.
Elizabeth H.
Sat Jan 24 2009
seeds purchases in u.p
Elizabeth H.
Ingrid Naiman Sat Mar 7 2009
Can someone please clarify the climatic zones in which this herb can be cultivated. Thank you.
Elizabeth H.
jaafar assgaf Sat Jul 18 2009

saada safa nutrin nigella sativa oil

Elizabeth H.
fatima Tue Sep 29 2009
I am going work on nigella, as mutation breeding but I feel problem to germinate it in aligarh (U.P.), Any body can please make me clear about the problem or if there is any suggestion for me contect me at faima.alig1@gmail.com thanks you
Elizabeth H.
dr. M Fri Nov 20 2009
i am a final year student of PHARM-D from PAKISTAN, about to start research on this herb. This is a very good article and i hope that it will help me in my work.
Richard M.
Nestle is planning to put a patent on Black Fennel yet there prior art here and elsewhere. Oct 14 2013 12:00AM
Nestlé: Stop trying to patent the fennel flower
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