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Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to south and southwest Asia. It grows to 20–30 cm tall, with finely divided, linear leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually colored pale blue and white, with five to ten petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of three to seven united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. The seed is used as a spice.

Listing Details

Botanical Names
Nigella sativa
Indian Names
Sanskrit : Sthulajiraka Bengali : Mota Kalajira Gujarati : Kalonji jeeru Hindi : Kalaunji Kannada : Karijirige Malayalam : Karinjirakam Marathi : Kalaunji Jire Tamil : Karunjeerakam Telugu : Peddajila karra.
Chemical Constituents
The Nigella sativa seed contains alkaloids nigellicin, nigellidin, quanazoline, tannin, steroid a-spinasterol, campsterol, cholesterol, stigmas 7-en-3-beta-ol, stigmasterol and flavonoids of trigillin quercetin-3-glucoside (1). The seeds contain fixed and essential oils, proteins, alkaloids and saponin. Nigella sativa volatile oil has been shown to contain thymoquinone and many monoterpenes such as p-cymene, and α-pinene. The oil consisted of six phenyl propanoid compounds, monoterpenoid hydrocarbons, monoterpenoid ketones, nonterpenoid hydrocarbons, monoterpenoid alcohols, and sesquiterpenoid hydrocarbons. The oil is characterized by a large amount of phenyl propanoids. The oil presented high levels of trans-anethole and p-cymene. Other important constituents were limonene and carvone (2). α-Thujene α-Pinene, Sabinene, Pinene, Myrcene , α-Phellandrene , p-Cymene , Limonene ,γ-Terpinene Monoterpenoid hydrocarbons Fenchone , Dihydrocarvone Carvone , Thymoquinone , Monoterpenoid ketones
Pesticide Limits
A limit for pesticide is one of the major issues in standardization of medicinal plants and products in view of the worldwide widespread use of pesticides in cultivated plants. The presence of pesticides in extracts increase the health risk by many folds. The pesticides can be extremely irritant on skin as well as in the internal organs hence it is essential to monitor its concentration as a part of GMP. Various analytical methods for the quantitative determination of pesticides by gas chromatography coupled with mass-spectrophotometer are in use. Konark Research Foundation (KRF), a NABL certified lab is well equipped with the latest technology and instruments and monitors the pesticide limit as part of its GMP.
Chromatographic Profile
From the pharmacopoeial perspective, a better quality control of raw material can be achieved by specifying quantitative test procedure for the determination of the range or a minimum content of the active ingredient or marker substances. A chromatographic finger profile represents qualitative/ quantitative determination of various components present in a complex plant extract, irrespective whether or not their exact identity is known. Thin layer chromatographic technique is the simplest and least expensive method that provides plenty of information on the composition of raw herbs and its preparation. For quantitative analysis of active ingredients or marker substances with simultaneous separation and detection High Pressure liquid chromatography is the best technique. We use the latest model of HPLC for all its analysis.
Limits of Impurities
A test requirement for foreign organic matter would ensure the extent of contamination of extraneous matters such as filth and other parts of botanicals not covered by the definition of the herbal drug. Since sand and soil are predictable contaminants of botanicals, test requirements for ‘total ash’, water soluble ash’, ‘acid soluble ash’, residue on ignition and sulphated ash would be expected to limit such contaminants. Test requirement for heavy metals in botanical raw material are probably more relevant for parts of plants growing under ground than for the aerial parts of the plant. The presence of high levels of minerals interacts with the final product there by affecting its keeping quality.
Microbial Limits
If the raw herbs are to be used directly without boiling in water prior to consumption, restrictive limits on microbial contaminants are required for pathogens such as Salmonella sp. Enterobacter and E. coli which are causative agent for various gastrointestinal diseases. A lower level of yeasts and molds and a limit on total aerobes are considered appropriate in plant material for topical use. The presence of aflatoxins detected by chemical means is generally independent of the number of viable molds that are detected using microbiological methods. Aflatoxins in microgram quantity are capable of giving serious hypersensitivity reactions which can be extremely harmful to human health.
The seeds of Nigella sativa have been subjected to a range of pharmacological investigations in recent years. These studies have showed a wide spectrum of activities such as antibacterial, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hypoglycemic, cytotoxic and immunostimulant. Some of these activities have been predominantly attributed to the volatile and fixed oils. (2) Clinical and experimental researches have shown many therapeutic effects of Nigella sativa extracts such as immuno modulator, anti inflammatory and anti-tumour agent. It is active as an aromatic, respiratory stimulant, diuretic, hypoglycemic, anti tumor and an analgesic (3). The effect of alcoholic extract of Nigella sativa was investigated in rats to evaluate the anti-ulcer activity by using two models, i.e. pyloric ligation and aspirin induced gastric ulcer. The results indicate that the alcoholic extract significantly decreases the volume of gastric acid secretion, free acidity, total acidity and ulcer index with respect to control. (4). Diethyl ether extract of Nigella sativa seeds caused concentration dependent inhibition of Gram-positive bacteria represented by Staphylococcus aureus. Gram-negative bacteria represented by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli and a pathogenic yeast Candida albicans. The extract showed antibacterial synergism with streptomycin and gentamicin (5). The effect of an aqueous extract of Nigella sativa seeds was studied on candidiasis in mice. A decrease in Candida in kidneys, liver and in spleen was observed in the groups of animals post-treated with the plant extract. These results indicate that the aqueous extract of Nigella sativa seeds exhibits inhibitory effect against candidiasis and this study validates the traditional use of the plant in fungal infections. (6) A crude gum, a fixed oil and two purified components of Nigella sativa seed, thymoquinone and dithymoquinone, were assayed in vitro for their cytotoxicity for several parental and multi-drug resistant human tumor cell lines (7).The aqueous extract of Nigella sativa was investigated for anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activities in animal models. This study therefore, supports its use in folk medicine both as analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent and calls for further investigations to elucidate its mechanism of action.
Health Benefits
The seeds of Nigella sativa, commonly known as black seed or black cumin are used in herbal medicine all over the world for the treatment and prevention of a number of diseases and conditions that include asthma, diarrhoea and dyslipidaemia. Much of the biological activity of the seeds has been shown to be due to thymoquinone, the major component of the essential oil. The pharmacological actions of the crude extracts of the seeds have been reported including protection against nephrotoxicity and hepatotoxicity induced by either disease or chemicals. The seeds have antii nflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antimicrobial and antineoplastic activity. The oil decreases blood pressure and increases respiration. Treatment of rats with the seed extract has been reported to induce changes in the haemogram that include an increase in both the packed cell volume and haemoglobin and a decrease in plasma concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose.
Research References
1. B. H. Ali and Gerald B. Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa Phytotherapy Research 2003, 17(4):299–305 2. Bahman N., Faraz M., Katayoun J. and Mohammad Ali R. A. Chemical Composition of the Fixed and Volatile Oils of Nigella sativa L. from Iran Z. Naturforsch. 58c, 629D631 (2003); 3. Mehmet K., Omer C. and Mustafa B. Hepatoprotective effects of Nigella sativa L and Urtica dioica L on lipid peroxidation, antioxidant enzyme systems and liver enzymes in carbon tetrachloride-treated rats World J Gastroenterol 2005;11(42):6684-6688 4. B. Rajkapoor., R. Anandan and B. Jayakar Anti-ulcer effect of Nigella sativa Linn against gastric ulcers in rats CURRENT SCIENCE 2002, 82(2):177-179 5. M.S.M. Hanafy and M.E. Hatem Studies on the antimicrobial activity of Nigella sativa seed (black cumin) Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1991, 34(2-3):275-278 6. M. A. U. Khan., M. K. Ashfaq., H. S. Zuberi., M. S. Mahmood and A. H. Gilani The in vivo antifungal activity of the aqueous extract from Nigella sativa seeds Phytotherapy Research 2003 17(2):183–186 7. Worthen D. R., Ghosheh O. A. and Crooks P. A. The in vitro anti-tumor activity of some crude and purified components of blackseed, Nigella sativa L. Anticancer Res. 1998 18(3A):1527-1532. 8. M. S. Al-Ghamdi The anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic activity of Nigella sativa Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2001 76(1):45-48 9. Mastour S. Al-Ghamdi Protective Effect of Nigella sativa Seeds Against Carbon Tetrachloride-induced Liver Damage The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2003, 31(5): 721–728